Bella Vista Church of Christ

LIFELINES

04/05/2017

Randall Caselman

 

Spiritual Success

From Desert Experiences

 

  Indeed, we learn from our experiences, especially Desert Experiences, those experiences that touch and try us deeply. Go with me to Egypt and the Sinai Desert, where we focus on the failures of Moses and Israel. Let's see what we can learn from the things written about their experiences.

 

  Spiritual success comes from overcoming our environment. Sometimes we are all called to live in a desert, in a spiritual wilderness. I don't have to tell you that this world is hostile to Christianity, hostile to spiritual growth and success. "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5.3-5). Church... Are we learning anything from those times when we allow the world to invade and weaken our faith?

 

  Spiritual success is found in overcoming our flesh nature. Indeed, there's another environment we must overcome. Our souls are trapped in this physical body which, when not controlled, leads us into sin. "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness,but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness" (Romans 6.11-13). Paul tells us that he had to buffet his body, and bring it into subjection daily. James tells us that sin is a result of our giving in to our own evil desires, our carnal nature, to the lust of the flesh. We must know that immorality is failure. Why can't we see the result of our own sin failures and those of others around us. We witness ruined lives, yet we continue to give in to our evil desires.

 

  Spiritual success comes from dealing correctly with our failures. Perhaps Israel's greatest failure was at Kadesh-Barnea. We gotta wonder: How could Israel fear these native people when they had witnessed God's deliverance at the Dead Sea. They watched as God destroyed Pharaoh and his well-equipped army in the same Sea that delivered them. Here we are, we've witnessed God doing great things from creation to the end of Revelation. We've witnessed His doing unbelievable things in our own life and in the lives of others. Yet we fear! Yet our faith wavers! We find ourselves doubting. We've all been there right: Financial failures, Social failures, Martial and Family failures, Moral failures. Spiritual failures?  Success has nothing to do with how many times we fail or how deeply we fall, but how we deal with our failures and falls. Amen? We hear Paul say: "Forgetting what is past, forgetting my failures, I press on to the high calling of God that is in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3.14 KJV).

 

  Spiritual success is ours when we overcome criticism. Israel was constantly criticizing Moses, his leadership, what they saw as his lack of concern for their daily wants. Numbers 20.4-5 has the people saying: "Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” Here it is church, we will be criticized. The question becomes, what will we do with it? We have a choice. We can do what the world does: Take matters in our own hands. Seek revenge. Retaliate. Or, we can do what Moses and Aaron did, seek God's advice. Jesus is our example: "When they insulted Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead He entrusted Himself to God who judges justly" (1 Peter 2.23). Spiritual success is overcoming the adversity of criticism when it comes, and it will.

 

  Spiritual success is found in total obedience, maintaining our focus. Moses was a great man, one who did great things in the name of the Lord. But something happened when he arrived at Kadesh the second time. He took the lack of water problem to theLord, but then disobeyed taking credit for providing water. His eyes moved from God to self. Church, here is our admonition from the Hebrews' writer: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" Hebrews 12.2). Spiritual success is not based upon what great things we've done in the past, but on today's obedience. Spiritual success is found in keeping our focus upon Jesus. Spiritual pride destroys spiritual success.

 

  May God help us learn from the things written about Moses and Israel's desert experiences... Amen?

 

—Randall Caselman