How to avoid being destroyed by the big four tests in life…
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns us that what happened to Israel in the wilderness serves as an example or warning to us to help us avoid a similar outcome of being “overthrown in the wilderness.” (1 Cor. 10:5) Most of the Jews who escaped the oppression of Egyptian slavery did not make it into the “promised land.” They never received what God had prepared for them. Instead, they died in the wilderness under God’s judgment for the sins of rebellion and unbelief. Life, according to Jesus, is a narrow path filled with tests and difficulties. We have a spiritual enemy who tries to destroy us along the way. God wants us to pass each test and cross each hurdle by relying on his faithfulness and grace. Before we get started, you may wish to read the relevant passage by clicking on this link – 1 Cor. 10:1-13.
Idolatry, the Egypt in us
After escaping Egypt, through God’s judgment upon that nation in the form of plagues, and miraculously crossing the barrier of the Red Sea, the Jews almost immediately fell into idolatry. Seeing a miracle and being set free doesn’t mean we are serious about following God yet. There was still a lot of “Egypt” in them. They did not really understand God’s ways yet and they easily caved to their sinful desires still.
So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. 7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” Exodus 32:3-10 (ESV)
They grew impatient with Moses’ foray up Mt. Sinai and, fearing the worst – that he died, they pressured Aaron to mold an idol for them to worship, a golden calf. Then they threw a big party, casting off the restraint of living under God’s authority. God brought them into a place of scarcity and testing, but they preferred to party. They disowned God and renounced his kingship over them. This is the essence of sin, and it’s behind our own sin, too.
Idolatry is always about who is in charge. We create “gods” who will allow us to do whatever we want.
People don’t like being in a place of uncertainty, in which they have to fully trust in God’s character, power, and faithfulness on a regular basis. We want to relax, party, and enjoy a sense of security, even if it’s based on false hopes. There is only one place of complete security – God’s will.
And just in case you think we are above worshiping an idol, think again! We may not bow down to a golden calf, but plenty of Christians bow down to false doctrine, which allows them to do what they want.
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3 (NLT)
Application: If you are growing weary or impatient with God and the path he has for you, if you have become fearful that he will not protect and provide for you, or if you are being tempted to cast off restraint and give way to temptation, take heed! Idolatry is the first of the big four “wipe out” tests. Abandoning God will never get us where we really want to go, and it always brings destruction and judgment into our lives. Hang in there. Keep trusting and obeying. God is faithful and will keep his promises. Pass the first big test by being steadfastly devoted to Christ and patient on the journey. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV)
Sexual Immorality, the infidelity in us
Balaam, a false prophet whom God prevented from speaking curses over the nation of Israel, came up with a devilish alternate plan for bringing destruction to the nation. God did not allow him to curse Israel, so he figured how to destroy Israel another way – by inciting them to sin and incur God’s judgment. He sent idol worshiping Midianite women to lure the Israelite men into sexual immorality, which was clearly forbidden by God. One of the leaders blatantly sinned in full view of the camp, which prompted Phinehas to execute him and the woman by driving a spear through them into the ground. A plague from God erupted in judgment against the nation, killing 24,000 Israelites before it was stopped. (Numbers 25:6-9)
Balaam’s strategy is still operational. Satan cannot curse God’s people, but he can deceive them into destroying themselves.
Temptation to engage in sexual immorality is rampant today. It works because of the sinful infidelity that lurks in the human heart. We are bombarded with graphic sexual images on TV, the movies, and in other forms of media.
Modern culture has acquiesced by declaring that sexual transgressions are not really wrong after all.
Young people are encouraged and expected to engage in sexual activity. Adults consider being sexually active outside of marriage more or less the norm. The availability of birth control and easy abortions encourages people to experiment sexually with little or no fear of consequences, except for the threat of acquiring STDs. Modern medicine has even made this last deterrent less scary.
The culture has capitulated, encouraging multitudes to give in to sexual sin.
Nevertheless, God has not changed his mind about the matter. His commandments always have our best interests in mind, and we violate them at our own peril. Ultimately, we will all give an account to Jesus at the Last Judgment for how we lived and obeyed the Lord. In addition, sexual sin also brings destruction into our lives in the present. Families and lives are ruined by sexual sin. Emotional scars are left, which often last a lifetime. This is serious stuff! God will not be mocked. Sin has consequences, and all of them are bad.
Jude warned us that even some who profess to be followers of Christ will go off the path and try to take others with them.
I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:4 (NLT)
Application: If you have been flirting with or engaging in sexual immorality or if you have been listening to arguments and reasoning that says it’s no big deal, beware! This is the second of the big four wipe out tests. Recommit yourself to setting apart your body and heart for the Lord. Resist sexual temptation and stay away from opportunities to sin. Become accountable to some trustworthy person, who will help you keep your commitments. Don’t throw away your heavenly reward for temporary pleasure. Pass the second test by standing strong against sexual temptation.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:15-17 (ESV)
Putting Christ to the Test, the rebel in us
This test can be linked to the last one, because it includes “grumbling” against God and his delegated leadership. Here is the Bible passage to which Paul referred.
Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.” 6 The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. Numbers 21:4-6 (NASB)
The Israelites basically dared God to judge their lousy rebellious attitude, and he did not disappoint them. We learn from this passage and others like it that God absolutely hates complaining, grumbling, and rebellion against his authority and provision.
Look at what they said. They accused God of bringing them out of Egypt and into the wilderness in order to put them to death. They complained that his provision was inadequate and actually “miserable.” They accused God of being unfaithful!
For those of you who have raised children, you know that sometimes kids start getting “out of hand.” Basically they are asking for some discipline, and until you, the parent, take care of that responsibility, they usually get more and more unruly. As adults, we can get like that, too. We can start grousing and complaining against God and life. If this is a habit for you, you should take note that in God’s eyes it is a serious sin, one which he will judge. Why? Because it reveals a sullen rebellious attitude against him.
Interestingly, God really did bring them into the wilderness to kill them. As a group, they had already defied God by refusing to enter Canaan when he commanded them to go in and conquer. The fear kept them from inheriting what God had promised. Sobering! Here is what they said.
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:1-4 (ESV)
After they refused to obey God, he warned them that they would see their wish come true: all the adults would all die in the wilderness, except the ones who remained faithful- Joshua and Caleb. There “little ones,” however, would be the generation that would obey and go into the land. Fear, grumbling, rebellion, and disobedience were part of putting God to the test.
All of us have the propensity to rebel, complain, and sin against God. All of us have to be taken into the “wilderness” in order to learn how to trust and obey God. The difficulties we endure are custom designed to help us grow spiritually, if we keep our eyes on the Lord. Otherwise, we, as did those early Israelites, may find ourselves on the wrong side of this test.
Application: If we find that we are complaining, it is time to make a quick adjustment. Grousing and complaining reveal hearts that are ungratefully out of sync with God. Faith never complains, because it believes Romans 8:28 – God is working out all things for the good of those who belong to him. Act and speak as if you believe this, and thereby bring glory to God. Pass the third test by being a praiser.
Grumbling against God’s Appointed Authority – the traitor in us
This test is specifically the temptation to speak against and perhaps even try to overthrow God’s delegated authority. We are prone to this temptation because we are proud, rebellious, and judgmental. We realize that leaders are people just like us, who often have quite obvious faults and failings. We can grow dissatisfied with their leadership and start viewing them with a critical eye. If this goes unchecked, it can lead to outright rebellion and participation in an overthrow attempt. Paul refers to one such case in Numbers, when Korah attempted to unseat Moses as Israel’s leader. God promptly destroyed him, his family, and his associates. Those who allied themselves with him likewise perished – a total of 14,700 people! you can read all about it by clicking on this link – Numbers 16:1-35.
Grumbling and complaining against authority are considered to be an American birthright. Our constitutional republic gives us the privilege of electing those who govern. Since their authority indirectly derives from the people via the election process, we feel free to criticize and judge them. But this is not God’s way, especially when it comes to spiritual authority. This can get tricky, because sometimes people in authority abuse and misuse that authority to the harm of God’s people and themselves. In these cases, it is necessary to speak up against these abuses, but it is crucial that we always maintain a humble attitude in the process. It is the cocky defiance that is often behind grumbling and complaining that is such an offense against God.
The Bible teaches that all authority actually comes from God, and even those rulers who misuse their power must be given respect, even when we cannot conscientiously obey them.
Therefore, our relationship with people in authority must include honoring them because of their connection to God’s authority. How much more is this true when godly men exercise authority in Christ’s church in an attempt to discharge their responsibility to oversee God’s people!
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
When Korah defied Moses, he seemed to have some good arguments, but he was fundamentally in the wrong. Like the rest of us, Moses had flaws, but he was still God’s appointed leader. When Korah attacked him, he attacked God’s authority, too. Judgment was swift. Today we don’t always see such quick retribution against those who attack authority, but be assured that God has not changed his mind about this sin. Judgment will surely come!
Application: If you have become critical of those God has placed in authority over you, it is very important for you to change your tune. This is no small matter. If you need to confront a leader for some reason, do so with a humble attitude. No one is saying that leaders should never be questioned, but they should always be respected. Properly regarding, honoring, and obeying God-appointed leadership is crucial to our spiritual well-being. Pass the fourth big test by learning how to properly relate to and live under authority.
Well, how many of these “wipe out” tests have you encountered so far? How many did you pass? If you are still breathing, there is hope, even if you failed one or more of these tests in the past. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes and make corrections. We can still have a great outcome if we do. What do you need to do now? Be sure to take any necessary steps of action or repentance. And once you learn your life lessons well, be sure to be on the lookout for others who may need assistance in making their discipleship journey a success.Follow us on Facebook.