Dealing With Pride, Part 4
This final sermon on pride discusses the fact that God is able to humble us of pride. The problem is people tend to have the attitude of, “Well, I know I’ve got a lot of pride for God to deal with,” and they know God is able to do it yet there’s no fear and trembling about how God might go about doing that. It’s true that God is able to humble any man of his pride, and in fact every man will be humbled some day but not necessarily unto life or repentance. Some will be humbled right into hell. The point is, God is able to humble, but we should not have an attitude that says, “I know God is able to work, deal with me and deliver me from pride,” without having some fear and trembling. We should not trust in our words and the fact that we say God can humble us, and then become proud of our humility or of our understanding that God is able to cleanse us.
Jeremiah 7:1-2- This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message:”
In other words, Jeremiah is to go to church and stand at the place where everybody enters in to start preaching this gospel.
Jeremiah 7:2- Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD.
He is talking to people who worship and know God, who come in to offer sacrifices, and who come in to praise him.
Jeremiah 7:3- This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.
They are going to church. Do you really think that it crossed their minds that they have anything to change and reform or that they really have something deep and sinister to repent of? After all, they are a people going to church. They are probably thinking, “Well, a lot of other people stay home. At least I’m in church.” Yet Jeremiah is standing right at the door and saying, “Look, you really have something that you need to change.” The people’s reaction is in verse 4.
Jeremiah 7:4- Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”
They are saying, “God is able to humble, he’s able to work and cleanse. I am here before God and all my sacrifices are acceptable. I am at the temple of God.” There are a lot of people running around saying, “I know God is able to humble and break me. He’s able to purify, cleanse, and forgive. This is the temple of the Lord.” Jeremiah says those are deceptive words. Something else has to happen. There has to be a real cleansing of the man. There has to be purity.
Jeremiah 7:5- If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,
There has to be an honest repentance and purification. When we begin to say things like, “God can deliver me and he will work,” while that’s a true statement, there must be within our own hearts some fear and trembling that changes. We must not only say, “This is the temple of the Lord,” we must also say, “If I really change my actions and my ways, I will be forgiven and I will be able to live in this place. I will be able to dwell with God.” To just simply say, “This is the temple of the Lord,” or “God is able to work and deliver,” is not enough. It’s not enough to say, “God can teach me to pray,” without ever bending down to start praying.
Jeremiah 7:6- if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,
He is talking to people who are entering the temple of the Lord and telling them they are worshipping other gods.
Jeremiah 7:7-10- then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. “‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” safe to do all these detestable things?
Most people live their Christian lives with the same attitude thinking they are safe to do all these detestable things. Remember that arrogance and pride are like the sin of idolatry. You can burn incense to Baal all week long without ever bowing down to a Baal. When you are arrogant and rebellious before God, it’s the same thing as idolatry. I guarantee, if you are in pride, you will shed innocent blood. You will condemn those you shouldn’t condemn and exalt those you shouldn’t exalt. You will oppress people because you cannot offer life to them. Don’t think for a moment that we have to kill somebody or take advantage of widows. All we need to do is be haughty and love will not flow from us. Whether that comes out in mass murders, being angry with somebody, making judgments we should not make, or not making judgments that we should make, it is nevertheless an act of idolatry and hatred toward God.
Jeremiah 7:10-and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” safe to do all these detestable things?
They weren’t singing “We are safe to do all these things,” but that’s what was in their hearts. That’s what their lives showed as they were trusting in deceptive words that convinced them they were fine and that a man could somehow offer incense to Baal and still be alright. We say things like, “God can deliver me from pride.” Let us not trust in those deceptive words. Let us seek to really change our hearts and have our lives changed.
Jeremiah 7:11- Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.
Each of you steals pride and praise from one another. God says he’s been watching prideful and arrogant hearts. Romans 2:4 says the same thing as Jeremiah. This is by no means an Old Testament message.
Romans 2:4- Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
Even in the New Testament when Paul was preaching it was the same message as Jeremiah. He is saying, “You are showing contempt for the grace that forgives you.” Instead of leading to repentance, change, honest purification, and humility by the Spirit, it leads you to show contempt and continue to do all those things without ever really changing.
Romans 2:5- But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
He’s speaking to Christians; people who are worshipping God and who know Jesus. These people know the blood of the lamb and are listening to sermons about God. He’s not talking to pagans or idolaters. He is saying, “Because you are showing contempt for the riches of God’s grace that is seeking to purify you and humble you, because you keep trusting in deceptive words, you are storing up wrath for yourselves.” People are constantly claiming, “We know Jesus, and his blood covers us,” without it ever leading to repentance. You are storing up wrath for yourself. It will be much more wrath than toward the pagan. The pagan doesn’t claim to know God. He doesn’t say that he belongs to Jesus Christ. But if a man says he knows the Spirit and belongs to Jesus and doesn’t change, who do you think deserves more wrath? It’s the person who says they know God but refuse to be humble and broken that deserves more wrath than the pagan who says he cares nothing about God. God will deal more harshly with every man who lies and says he knows God, because all that man can do is oppress other people. All he can do is lead them in his own pride. All he can do is make them twice as fit for hell as he is. The blind cannot lead the blind.
Romans 2:4- Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?
The only reason Jeremiah spent all those years preaching and warning the people was so it might lead to repentance. He simply wanted them to change, but they never did. In Daniel 4:37, Nebuchadnezzar comes to a realization about who God is and what he is able to work.
Daniel 4:37- Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
That is true. God is able to humble any man. He’s able to humble me and you, and he seeks to do that very thing. But let’s back up a little bit and read what Nebuchadnezzar had to go through in order to be humbled. How far are you going to have to push God before you finally lose your pride and surrender it? Granted Nebuchadnezzar finally comes to the light and it dawns on him who God is. He says in all truth that God is able to humble those who walk in pride, but what did Nebuchadnezzar have to go through and what do we have to go through before we are truly humble?
Daniel 4:19-22- Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air—you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.
Nebuchadnezzar was a tremendous source of grace and a place of blessing. His dominion was a place of shelter and life.
Daniel 4:23-25- “You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’ “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.
This man becomes insane in order that he might be humbled. The question isn’t whether God can break me or not. He can do that. The question is, what I am going to have to go through in order to be broken? Will it ever lead to grace and life?
Daniel 4:26- The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules.
So again, we have to ask the question. How much do I have to go through before I will learn to acknowledge that God really does rule in my life and that pride lingers in my heart? I don’t even want to hear the statement that God is able to humble. He is indeed able to do that. But what will he have to put us through in order to get to that place? How much discipline will we have to endure? How many times will we have to be put to shame before we learn to be humbled and to be a broken people?
Daniel 4:27- Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.
In other words, repent! The decree comes down, and we know what God says about pride. We know how sinister it is and how God needs to deal with it. What are we going to have to go through? Can we repent just at God’s word? Are we soft enough and have enough of a noble heart to say, “Yes, that’s true,” or are we going to have to go through some things before we finally wake up and realize that God does deal with his people and he does work to humble? I praise him that he does it. Can I not be a humble man without ever being exalted so that if and when God chooses for me to be exalted, that I will not get puffed up in pride? What good does it do to be exalted only to be shot down again? I know it’s to learn, and praise God that he does it, but what glory does that bring to God? How many people are affected until we finally do get broken? How few people can come to life? How many people remain oppressed until we decide to humble ourselves? At least for 7 years the oppressed remain oppressed because Nebuchadnezzar could not declare that God rules.
Daniel 4:28-29- All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon,
He had a whole year to repent. A whole year. Think about it, if you listen to a sermon now on pride, what will happen in a year from now? Where will your heart be at that point? You may not even remember these words. No doubt Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten totally about the dream. No doubt he’s not even thinking that there’s pride in his heart. I’m sure he thinks everything’s ok.
Daniel 4:30-32- he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
All God is looking for is humility. He’s not looking for some tremendous act of sacrifice. He’s not looking for some magnificent temple to be built. All he’s looking for is a humble heart. No matter how wicked you are, if there’s a little bit of humility in your heart God always responds with grace.
Daniel 4:32- You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.
He is an animal until he finally acknowledges who God is from his heart, not in deceptive words that say, “The temple of the Lord.”
Daniel 4:33- Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
So God is able to humble you, big deal. Do you have to go insane before you learn that? Do you have to live with the beasts of the field and worship with those who are nothing but brute beasts before you learn? There are a lot of people who go to churches that abuse them time and time again. They are there because of their pride. God is trying to break them and show them what the truth is. Why do you think some of us were so long in churches that were so worthless? The word was there. We could hear what Jeremiah said and read what scripture had to say, but why did we remain there? We were with wild beasts, people who abused us and only fed themselves, until we humbled ourselves before God to know the truth.
Daniel 4:34- At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
That’s the sanity God is looking for. That’s the soundness of mind that Jesus wants to work in our hearts. Men say all the time “Jesus is Lord and he rules,” but not from this position of sanity. One can only wonder when we read in Timothy where it says God has given us a sound mind, if he means this kind of sound mind. Our definition of a sound mind is to be in tune with reality. But God’s definition is for a man to humble himself and say by the Spirit that God rules. That is a sound mind. That is the sanity God is looking for.
Daniel 4:35- All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.
He finally sees himself for who he is. He really can acknowledge with conviction from the depth of his soul that he is nothing. All people of the earth are nothing. Men say with their lips, “I know I am nothing,” but they don’t say it with their heart because it’s not in there. They trust in deceptive words.
Daniel 4:35- All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
God is looking for a surrendered life of realizing that he does whatever he pleases. He wants a people who will allow him to work in their lives. All God’s looking for is this kind of humility and surrender. Do we have to become wild brute beasts? Do we have to become a people deranged before we understand? How much discipline do some of us have to go through before we wake up to what’s really in our hearts? How much disfellowship do some people have to go through before they realize they really need God? How much pain, turmoil, and destruction do they have to experience before they finally get the sanity that’s in God? I don’t know.
Daniel 4:36-37- At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that everything God does is right. If God makes a man insane, it’s right. If God brings turmoil, disaster, and destruction to humble you, it’s right. It’s what you needed and there was no other choice. God does not even want to bring this upon Nebuchadnezzar or any man. If any man would humble himself, he need not go through this. There are some children more teachable than others. How we hold back from our discipline hoping that we don’t have to discipline our children this certain way. We warn them but they refuse to change until finally we are forced to do something, otherwise they will destroy themselves. His ways are right, just, and proper. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the fact that he had to be insane in order to learn something. Not every life ends with these kinds of glorious statements. Some, even as they are being humbled, refuse to submit. They are humbled all the way to hell because they never really repent at all. Nebuchadnezzar at least woke up and his sanity returned. He could say, “God, what you did to me was proper.”
In Job 33, we read that God terrifies man and causes him to be sick in order that he might be humbled and broken. I am not about to tell you that every sickness is due to pride. But I am about to tell you this: take it as if it were. I guarantee that even if you think there’s no more pride to be dealt with, take the sickness as if it were a lesson for pride to be broken. God may not have sent the sickness, but use it as a chance for humility.
Job 33:12-16- But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man. Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words? For God does speak now one way, now another through man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings,
I know this scripture to be real and honestly alive. I have known people that we’ve shared the gospel with and when they go home to sleep they wake up screaming. God does speak to terrify and warn.
Job 33:17- to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride,
It’s not always a question of whether or not you are in pride. You might wake up after being terrified and say, “But I don’t see any pride.” That may be true, but the scripture says, “To keep him from pride.” Even at the threat of pride in our life, God terrifies us with warnings. If God sees pride coming our direction, what does he do? Out of love and grace he terrifies us with warnings so we might wake up. God does this to preserve our soul from the pit, our life from perishing by the sword. The sword can be the word of the Lord, of course, not just the physical sword.
Job 33:18-19- to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones,
Have you ever ached in your bones? It’s a pain that you just can’t get rid of. Your whole body aches. And God does this to keep man from pride, humble him, and break him. He does answer. Maybe not according to your words or according to what you want to hear, but according to his grace and mercy.
Job 33:20- so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul loathes the choicest meal.
People should take more sickness to be the discipline of God’s hand and an act of his mercy. How much more repentance there would be in the land. There’s no use looking to all these messages that say God doesn’t bring sickness. It says right here that God does them as a man disciplines his children. It’s a ridiculous argument anyway to say God sends Satan to do it. That’s foolish. Who is ultimately responsible for allowing it? Whether God actually brings the turmoil or not is so academic. If I know somebody is going to break into your house and murder you, and I unlock the door and let him in, who is responsible? I can’t say, “The devil did it.” Obviously I was responsible for allowing it to happen in your life. When God allows things, I don’t care if he uses demons as his elements or whether he does it by angels, the point is he oversees and is responsible for all of that. We can either be humble and say God is just in all he does, or we can blame the devil and somehow excuse God from his responsibility. No, he seeks to humble man and to break him.
Job 33:21-22- His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out. His soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death.
It appears there are messengers that lead you over once you die. I guess people get close enough to seeing those men and get within inches of dying all because of the sin of pride. That’s why David says in Psalms, “Teach us to number our days.” Teach us to realize who we are and that we are nothing. What are you going to have to go through? Do you have to reach this point before you humble yourself? Do you have to be cast out into the world to be with brute beasts and wild animals before you finally wake up and learn there really is some pride that has to be dealt with? What are my former brothers and sisters who have fallen away from God going to have to go through before they will repent? Will they even learn? I don’t know. What glory and testament is it to God to say, “I fell away and was disfellowshipped, and I was gone for 10 years. I was humbled and broken.” Fine. I praise God that they repent, but what kind of glory is that for God’s name? I want a soft enough heart that in my dealings with the body and in my every day walking with God I get brokenness without having to be cast away. Without having to be stomped on or be made sick. I want a soft enough heart that God doesn’t have to terrify me with warnings in the night. I want the humility that can come because God works it slowly in my heart, not because he has to raise the rod across my back before I will take warning. What kind of glory is that unto God? What kind of testimony would it be to God for him to have to make me blind so I don’t lust with my eyes? I praise him that he does whatever he needs to do, and that all his ways are just and right, but that doesn’t say much for my heart or my love for God. It says I am stubborn and stiff-necked. So when God has to discipline you and put you through things, and you know he’s working the discipline, ask yourself what lingers in your heart. When you see someone else who doesn’t have to endure such severe discipline to be broken, ask what kind of heart they have and why yours isn’t the same.
In Deuteronomy 8:1-5 it tells us that we will all be humbled. There aren’t any of us that don’t need to be disciplined.
Deuteronomy 8:1- Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers.
We all want to enter the Promised Land and go to heaven.
Deuteronomy 8:2- Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
We sing a song to God that says, “Test me and know me. See if there be any offensive way in me.” Guess what, you are going to be led through the desert if you desire to be purified. There isn’t any other way. All must pass through the desert. There are different deserts in our lives. Not one of us will be excused from it. For some the desert is a place of joy and rich salvation. It really is. For others it’s a pain that they will endure unto hell. They never repent or change. There are some that will grudgingly complain and go through it only to face God’s wrath. But for some the desert is a source of rich life because it’s in the desert that you see the act of God’s hand and grace. It’s there that when you thirst for water it comes out of a rock. It’s in the desert that when you can’t find God and you wonder where he’s at and your soul is thirsty, that God opens up the rock. He shows himself in a place where you wouldn’t think you could get any water. It’s a place where you say to God, “I prayed 100 times before, and there’s never been water. You’ve never answered that prayer. You’ve humbled and broken me. Where are you at?” And then water comes from the rock. It’s in the desert that we hunger for food, for living manna that comes from heaven. God humbles us, breaks us, and robs us of all spiritual strength. Praise God for the man that finally reaches the end of his rope and doesn’t have any spiritual grace or strength left. God is seeking to humble you and make you dependent upon him. He will test to see if you really want him above everything else or not. It comes down to a choice between your pride and God.
Deuteronomy 8:3- He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known. . .
What secret blessings await those who hunger and are humble! They will eat food nobody else knows anything about. They really will! I know for sure.
Deuteronomy 8:3- . . . to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
So don’t think it strange when you don’t have grocery money. It comes down to everyday things. Don’t think it strange when you have to do without or it looks like you are not going to make it. Why? What is God doing? He’s seeking to humble us to make us dependent upon him to teach us that we don’t live by the bread of this world. He wants to teach us not to be in tune with our bodies and feed our bellies, but to depend on the manna that comes from heaven. Don’t think it strange when we have to do without something or God takes things away. All of that is working to humiliate us and make us dependent upon him. Don’t think it strange when God removes from you your bread of religious work. He causes you to reach in despair at the end of your rope and say, “God, I don’t have any more strength to pray or work. I have no more zeal. I am dried up and worn out.” You feel as if you are a valley of dead and dry bones. Don’t think it strange when you go through that kind of discipline at all. Please don’t. God is testing first of all to get rid of those who care nothing about him. Everybody reaches those dry periods in their life. Some leave. Some die in the desert. Others persevere, humble themselves, and let God do his work. They are able to say, “God, everything you do is just and right and proper.” Then at the proper time, in the proper place, when the discipline has done its work, there’s manna from heaven. Rich life, strength, and grace.
Deuteronomy 8:4- Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
Even in the act of all those things there always is a lining of grace. I have yet to experience discipline and not somehow see God’s grace even as I am being disciplined. I may not appreciate it a whole lot or be too thrilled about praising God. I may not say it was the grandest blessing while I’m going through the discipline, but as I look back and examine, I can acknowledge God works and he’s still there. It’s still life. When you don’t feel like sharing the gospel, with somebody and you’re really in the pit but you get a tremendous door to share the gospel you know it was God’s grace. You know it wasn’t because you felt well and prayed about it or were really excited to share the gospel. It was just an act of God’s grace. Period. Your feet don’t swell. You are still able to preach the gospel. There’s still an element of hope and truth. God is working and giving grace. I’ve seen some of you go through discipline in this body. One door closes and another one opens. Though it is discipline, you can still say it was an act of God’s grace that you were being disciplined in a certain way. It could have been something else. I could have imagined a lot worse things if it had been up to me. But it’s not up to me. God knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows how to guide.
Deuteronomy 8:4- Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
Even though you were disciplined there was still love, grace and concern from God’s hand.
Deuteronomy 8:5- Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Hebrews says the same thing. Again, don’t think it strange if you don’t have grocery money. Don’t think it strange that you hunger in your soulthat you walk in the desert where there’s heat, and it’s barren and dry. It happens to everyone who says he belongs to God. Again, the desert can become a source of life. You can say, “I walked through the desert and he made it pools of Shiloh,” or you can say, “I died in the desert because I hungered for cucumbers.” We can die over the smallest things.
2 Corinthians 1:8- We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.
He’s not talking about your 8 to 5 job. He’s not talking about the fact that you have to get up for work but you don’t feel like going to work. That’s not the kind of despairing unto life that he’s talking about. You have nothing to complain about yet. None of us have been in the providence of Asia far beyond our ability to endure what we are going through. We have not found ourselves in the situation that Paul experienced yet, and none of you have husbands who feel this way. They may someday, but they are not there yet. If Paul can learn to rejoice in this kind of situation and put his hope in God, how much more should we be able to do the same thing? We refuse to be humbled and broken. We refuse to be empty and let God do his work, so we never get the joy. We only endure for one purposethat we might get out of the trial. You never grow from the trial so that the desert becomes life. That’s what it has to become.
2 Corinthians 1:9- Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
This scripture reminds me of Job where it says they draw near to the messengers of death. I don’t know if he heard echoing in his soul that he was going to die or what. The point is that somewhere along the line there was a tremendous overwhelming sense that everything was coming to a conclusion and he was going to die in the Providence of Asia. It was beyond what he or anyone could possibly endure. Again, none of us find ourselves in this situation. Should we not then take every little act of oppression and every obstacle as a chance to humble ourselves to the max with it? This is a man who loves God and he went through these kind of things to be humbled, how much more should we take whatever little thing comes in our lives and humble ourselves with it. Stop saying you don’t see any pride and there’s nothing to be humbled. If Paul went through this, not because he was in any sin but just to teach him a greater lesson, then shouldn’t we expect it also? If we would take the things God gives us instead of just passing them off and humble ourselves completely, we could experience some of the blessings Paul had. What we usually do is pass it off and say there’s nothing there to be dealt with. If there’s nothing there that God’s showing you to deal with, act as if there is, all right. Do you mean to tell me you can’t be more humble and dependent upon God? There aren’t any of us, no matter what disciplines we go through that find ourselves completely humble in this world. Take every single act of hardship and dryness in the desert and use it to humble yourself as low as you can go. How much more humility we would see with one another. How much more acknowledging the truth. That’s why when somebody comes to me and challenges me about something that’s not in my life, I can at least be taught by the fact that I was wrongly accused. I can be humbled through that. I can learn patience and tolerance. I can go back and examine to make sure the sin they are accusing me of is not there. I can still learn even when I am falsely accused. They may really feel strongly from the Lord that they need to talk to me. Maybe God wants me to be falsely accused. Take every single act that comes against you as an act of love, grace, and mercy. James says to endure hardships as God’s discipline. That’s not necessarily saying he is disciplining you, just endure it as if it were. There’s a lot to learn even if God doesn’t cause it to happen and it’s just normal life.
2 Corinthians 1:9- Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
All this happened in the Providence of Asia for one tremendous lesson that he might be dependent upon God. We all say we want to be dependent upon God, yet I’ve seen God bring small acts of discipline, or hardships come our way or a little bit of sin comes in to our lives and we pass it off. We excuse it and say, “The temple of the Lord,” and claim God’s grace is covering us. If we would just shut our mouths and humble ourselves more, we would know what it is to be dependent upon God. You don’t have to be right, but you do need to be dependent upon God.
If you are ever to get to the resurrected life, to a place of abundance and plenty you have to go on to die. Some of you are still not at that place. Some of you are still on this side of the cross. Still being crucified. There is a resurrected life. The cross has to do its work. While the cross is always crucifying me, I at least know a little bit of the resurrected life. Some of you don’t even know that and the cross becomes an enduring kind of pain. Eventually you may give up, I don’t know. But we must get to a place where we can be humble in the land of plenty. How can a man be humble if God pours out spiritual gifts, all kinds of dreams and visions? He has to be broken before hand.
Deuteronomy 8:10- When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
That’s why we pray after the meal when we are done eating. Anyone will pray when they are hungry. Many in the world do that. It’s when we are full, satisfied, comfortable, and content and we feel everything is fine that we still need to pray.
Deuteronomy 8:11-14- Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
How many people come to God and get baptized, sanctified, and purified. Their life is put together, their house is swept clean, and they sit down and are content. Then they forget God. They forget to obey.
Deuteronomy 8:14- then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Remember where you came from. Remember the bondage you were in. Remember who the Lord is even as he blesses us richly.
Deuteronomy 8:15- He led you through the vast and dreadful desert. . .
Understand the kind of desert you walk through. It is dreadful. We would all rather take another route. Anyone would rather drive through the Rocky Mountain National Forest than go through here. It is the kind of desert that would cause us to be terrified and avoid any church that’s in the desert. There are a lot of other deserts I would choose. The message we preach invites people to enter into a dreadful desert. How many people do you think really want that kind of desert? They will choose their own cross and desert. They will go where they can control things and it’s a little more comfortable. God’s desert is vast. It seems sometimes as if there’s no hope and no way out of it. If God said, “Turn right tomorrow, the Promised Land is there,” we can’t see it. We have at least another 6-year journey to get there.
Deuteronomy 8:15- He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.
There’s nothing to indicate that there’s water or life in this desert. Nobody can come in, sit down in these chairs, and say, “Yes, this is life.” When I offer people Jesus Christ, all I offer them is a hard rock. You have to be humble, broken, lay it all down and surrender. It looks extremely hard and dreadful to say you want this message. That is the desert we walk through. It’s the only way we seem to be able to be humbled. Otherwise God wouldn’t do it.
Deuteronomy 8:16- He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.
In the end it might go well. There really might be a time when we can enter the Promised Land and enter a place of grace, though for now we have to walk in the desert, though there are scorpions everywhere we turn. Our own sins sting us all the time. There’s always the threat of destruction and disaster in the desert. There’s never a place to rest or sit down to feel comfortable. When you sit down on a rock there’s scorpions underneath. That’s where snakes hide and are comfortable. There are the vipers, Pharisees, and snakes. There are dangers everywhere. There’s nothing outward to give us any hope to say, “This is the right message,” because we live in a desert. Those who are humbled and purified, and those wanting to be dependent upon God get water from a rock. Why do you think so many leave? They can’t get any water from a rock and there’s no water anywhere else. They find it somewhere. A man has to be fed some way. If he doesn’t get water from the desert, if he doesn’t get it from Jesus Christ, he’ll go somewhere else to get it. That’s why the desert can become a pool of living water to us who know God, or a place where we die and fall.
Deuteronomy 8:17- You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
We live in a land right now where people are really saying this even as they say, “The temple of the Lord.” Even those who say they are Christians, what rings in their heart, what flows out like gross vileness is that their strength has brought them prosperity.
Deuteronomy 8:18- But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
It is God who gives us the ability to have the spiritual wealth, strength, and grace that we have.
Deuteronomy 8:19- If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
All this discipline happened because they weren’t humble and dependent upon God. Humility brings rest and peace. It brings trust. The disciples grew in faith because they were humbled by Jesus time and time again. Everything they did was wrong, and Jesus was sure to tell them about it. Everything that you do wrong you’ll be sure to be told. Those who know that humility can rest. They can be at peace. They are no longer striving for anything anyway. That’s a lot of rest in and of itself. You are no longer trying to be anything but just to be content and rest before God. He is able to work the grace. People who love God know that if they hunger and thirst there will be water and bread. They know that if they die they have laid their life down anyway and it doesn’t matter. They know that everything God does is just, right and proper.
Philippians 4:10- I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.
It shows that first of all one of the trials he faced is that very few people were concerned about him.
Philippians 4:10-12- I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Let me tell you, there is a tremendous amount of turmoil if you ever have an abundance. There was a time in my life when we had a lot for a short period of time. Not a lot by worldly standards, but a lot for me. There was a lot of turmoil associated with plenty. I guarantee you that if God ever blesses you with plenty, you will wrestle and hurt. You have to be dead in both situations. I knew a man who made a vow to God and said that he would give all his summer bonuses to the Lord. I said, “Look, I won’t hold you to it until you think about it. If you call me two days from now and say the same thing, then I’ll hold you to it,” because I knew he didn’t know what he was saying. He had no conception of what God would work. Sure enough he called two days later and made the vow. That summer those bonuses were large. He struggled and hurt. He had not yet learned the secret to be content whether in plenty or in want. Paul knew that secret. Asia had done its work. Having a lot didn’t matter to Paul and having nothing didn’t matter to him. His flesh was dead to either one because the pride and the desire of wanting self fed was gone.
Philippians 4:13- I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Man does not live by bread alone. He doesn’t live by the things of this world. He lives by God’s grace in his life. That’s all God is saying and that’s all he’s seeking to work in any of us. How much joy some of you would have if you would learn this? How much peace? But you have to wrestle. Every time that you give away money, food, or something that you own and you want it for yourself, take it to the cross and die. Don’t just endure it. You’ll never learn anything if you do that and you’ll only die later on. You honestly have to reach a place in your life that you can say, “I rejoice in him when I don’t have anything.” It doesn’t matter to me. When I give everything away and I have nothing left to give and I’m enduring to the point that I can’t even endure, I rejoice in that also. Reach a place where those kinds of situations are your joy. This is not an endurance contest. It is not a matter of saying, “Gee, God, I endured the desert all the days of my life.” God says, “Yeah, you grumbled all the days of your life. You never learned to rejoice in the desert.” That’s what God’s trying to work. The goal isn’t to make you rich or poor. The goal is to make you humble and dependent upon God. Then it doesn’t matter what God wants to work, does it? And when God works plenty in your life, and by plenty it can be relative, being content and surrendered in that is as difficult as doing without. There has to be above everything else the needs of Jesus Christ. When the needs of Jesus Christ are first it doesn’t matter if you are hungry, since you know you are hungry because of the gospel. When you have a lot, it doesn’t matter that you have a lot because you have a lot for the needs of Jesus Christ. There isn’t any thought of the bread I can eat or the water or cucumbers that I had back in Egypt. It is just merely, “This is where God has me. This is God’s will. These are the needs of Jesus Christ.” My prayer is that I can have a million dollars and it would be no different. I still wouldn’t have enough grocery money. Everything would still be used for the needs of Jesus Christ. We only get that by humbling ourselves and learning from the discipline so that the needs of Jesus Christ are our foremost joy, not our foremost law. It can’t just be a written law that says, “The needs of Jesus come first.” No, it has to be our joy to meet the needs of Jesus first. Then when we go through the desert, when we have plenty or want, when we are well fed or hungry, it doesn’t matter because we are doing God’s will. This kind of gospel is foolish to those who don’t know God. It’s totally insane. But really they are the ones who are insane because they have not yet acknowledged who God is.
Paul has so learned this joy that no matter what God brought in his life, it always produced life and joy in him, every single time. I really hurt for some people in the body because they never reach this place. Their cross, the thorn that God puts in their life never causes them to rejoice in anything. It’s always something they have to endure. It never does the work of bringing real joy in their life. All you can do is hurt and be in pain for them because they never know the resurrected life or the infilling of the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 12:7- To keep me from becoming conceited . . .
It doesn’t say pride, it says “conceit.” To keep Paul from getting into that place he was given a thorn in the flesh. He wasn’t conceited, prideful, or arrogant, but to keep him from ever getting in that position, God gave him a blessing.
2 Corinthians 12:7- To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
It wasn’t an angel disciplining Paul. It was a messenger, a workman of Satan.
2 Corinthians 12:8- Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
I don’t want to get into a long debate about whether this was a physical or spiritual torment. Some people want to spiritualize it. It doesn’t matter, the point is it was a messenger from Satan and I don’t care if it’s spiritual or physical, it wasn’t enjoyable. Nothing hell could do to anyone could be enjoyable. Scripture bears out pretty clear though that it’s probably physical.
2 Corinthians 12:9- But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Paul had a messenger of Satan and he boasts in that fact. He rejoices in it and is glad for it. Some of us moan and groan about our jobs and our life. We don’t reach a joy about the work and labor that God has given us. The cross for us does not ever become a source of joy in our life. All we want is the trial removed. We do not care about the possibility of falling into conceit or pride or maybe that we even have to be broken. I wish some of us were in this position to keep us from becoming conceited, let alone to talk about the need to be broken. How little we endure with joy the things God has brought in our life. This man has a messenger of Satan tormenting him and he rejoices in it. He boasts of it and glories in it. He’s thankful for it. How much more as you look over your daily life and the little bit of pain you have to endure should you rejoice. Maybe you have problems with your car. I don’t know if it’s a discipline or a messenger from Satan. Some of you may feel your car is. That’s not the point. The point is to endure it as if it were. Take it as an act of dependence upon God. Learn and be content in what God works in your own life. Even when thorns prick at you and are always there, you can still have a smile. In fact do more than just have a smile, turn and say, “This is the pain God has brought in my life and I rejoice in it. I wouldn’t want it taken away even if I could. He told me it’s mine. Since it’s mine and it came from his hand, since he put it in my life, I treasure it. I love this messenger of Satan because it keeps me from becoming conceited and it makes me dependent upon God.” Let us count every act as God’s grace because everything he does is proper, just and right.
Father we pray and ask that all of us would consider it a joy with whatever it is we have to carry or whatever it is you put in our life. Father, help us to just fall before your throne and whether we hear from you or not to be content and to know that we can still take our trials before your throne to learn glorious lessons. The desert can be for us pools of Shiloh. You will indeed feed us with bread that no one else knows about, Father. That we might have the joy, Father, of just being a humble and broken people. I pray, Oh Lord, that none of us will have to go through heavy discipline to learn that. That we would all have such soft and teachable hearts that it would just flow naturally into our lives. We praise you, Oh God, that you discipline and test us. May we not be stubborn and stiff-necked. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional. The original audio tape can be ordered free of charge by contacting Sound Doctrine Ministries.