Exodus 15:22-25. 22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
What do you think the Hebrews were thinking would happen after they crossed the Red Sea? Now that they were free from slavery surely God would lead them into a bountiful and beautiful life. A life of ease and pleasure. There’s no way that after walking through the sea they could imagine entering a land without water. How ironic.
What did you think your life in Christ was going to be? Did you receive Christ thinking a life of blessing and prosperity was ahead? A life free of doubt and fear? Maybe even a life free of suffering?
If you’ve been saved for more than three days, then you probably have figured out by now that our life in Christ is the wilderness and not the promised land. But many Christians aren’t ready for the desert. They want mountain tops and instant change. But what God is guiding us into is a lifetime of growth and slow progress, all of it through the continual training that comes by passing through the sea.
Think about Christ’s own life for a moment. He passed through the waters of baptism, saw the sky open up, heard the Father speak love and affirmation over him, the Spirit came upon him like a dove, and then…..off into the desert. Forty days of nothing but trial and temptation. God is silent. Satan is screaming. Jesus is suffering. But he is also progressing. He is being made perfect in that suffering (Heb. 2:10).
This is our same path in Christ. Why? Because we must learn to love God simply for who he is and not for how much he can “bless” us. We must learn that all of our spiritual blessings are found in Christ and Christ is found in dying.
When we first get saved it is often all about doing. Doing things for God. Establishing the visible spiritual practices that make us feel like a Christian. This is not a bad thing but it is a spiritually immature thing. Something God wants us to outgrow. He wants us to grow into trusting who we ARE far above what we DO. And that is why he leads us into the desert. Jesus entered the desert and was tempted with things to DO. But Jesus passed the grueling test by relying on who he IS – the Son of God.
This too is our test. Our process. Our growth into true holiness. Holiness that comes from trusting who we are in Christ. Holiness that can come only in the wilderness. Unless you understand this your Christian life will become bitterness and grumbling.
And so we can pause here and ask, “What have you complained about today?” Your grumbling reveals your object of faith. It reveals what you are trusting for today’s salvation. Big or small, has it replaced Christ in your heart’s desire?
Growth in Christ and faith in his indwelling life means that more and more we will trust the invisible inward gift of Christ’s life far more than we trust the visible and outer gifts of God. As Christ becomes more and more our hope, our joy, our peace, our everything, all else become less and less, even God’s “blessings”.
“To live is Christ” is a journey into the desert. The place where we learn to desire Christ himself more than anything else. The place where only he can satisfy. Only he can make our bitter waters sweet again. And only by the life of his cross – he threw the log into the water, and the water became sweet.
What have you been complaining about lately?
You in Christ
How does knowing that God IS transforming you in Christ help you to pursue holiness over “blessings?”
Christ in you
What might the Christ in you replace grumbling with today?