Remember the Snakes

1 Corinthians 10

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Even though chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians is titled by Bible editors as ‘Warnings from Israel’s History’, I still didn’t expect the likes of this:

We should not test the Lord, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. (verse 9)

Not getting eaten by snakes sounds like an outcome I’d like.  Don’t test the Lord–check.

But let’s take a minute here, what does that mean—don’t test the Lord?  In Malachi 3:10 God invites the people to test him and see if He’s faithful in what He’s promised.  Must be a different kind of testing.

What Paul is referring to here is recorded in Numbers 21:4-6.  The events took place while the Israelites were wandering in the desert.  We’re told that the people grew impatient and complained.

“Why did you…”

“We don’t have…”

“And we don’t like the food.”

So, like any good parent, God sent snakes.  hahaha   Seriously, though, he got their attention and the rest of the people repented.  Definitely good parenting.

Paul gives another example of the kind of testing that we’re not to do when he goes on to say,

And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel. (verse 10)

Grumbling.  Complaining.  Apparently God doesn’t like these things.

Paul goes on to tell us why he’s bringing these examples up:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us… (verse 11)

The people of Israel had seen far larger acts of God than most of us can claim.  They had walked through a sea and eaten bread that appeared spontaneously.  And yet they questioned God’s care for them.  We can look at that and shake our heads at how fickle they were.  But how different are we?

Because we don’t have a map of the future, it can be frustrating to not see things lining up or happening as we think they should.  It can also become easy to question God’s care for us.

“Why did you…”

“I don’t have…”

“And I don’t like…”

Please remember today that God is big enough to handle our questions.  He invites us to test Him so we can be assured of His faithfulness.  But be intentional to catch yourself if you start to feel that God owes you something and is not coming through the way that He ought.

Remember the snakes.

 

-Susan Landry

Four Enemies of Unity

Philippians 2:12-30

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Yesterday we learned about Paul’s advice for moving towards unity—having an attitude of humility. Today, I’d like to discuss some attitudes and actions that can hinder unity. These four enemies of unity that I will mention are just some of the obstacles that get in the way of the Church achieving unity. 

Enemy 1: Pride

Pride is the opposite of humility. In humility, we put ourselves in the service of others; in pride, we use others to serve our own purpose. It is an easy trap to fall into; pride catches those who do well and convinces them that this gives them cause to boast in themselves. It inflates their ego—giving them a reason to look down on others and view their own ideals as the be-all-end-all. When even just one person in a church body is infected by pride, it can have terrible consequences for church unity. This why Paul cautioned against boasting in one’s self and works:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

Enemy 2: Gossip

There is no redeemable quality in gossip—it is a destroyer of friendships and communities. Gossip is broadcasting the shortcoming of others with no attempt to help them get better. It is a mechanism used to make the one gossiping feel better about themselves. Where gossip is present, unity cannot exist. The one being gossiped about is treated like an outsider and is pushed away from the community. Gossip is a unity killer.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)

Enemy 3: Complaining/Grumbling 

When we complain or grumble about something we don’t like, this is typically a sign we are struggling with pride and not embracing humility. If something is actually wrong, grumbling under your breath about it is not the way to go. Never will a good solution be found when it is brought to the attention of leaders through complaining. If we feel something is not being done the way it should be, we should humbly voice our concern to those in leadership after much prayer and meditation. Complainers don’t promote unity—those who genuinely want what is best for the church need to find the right way to address changes. 

Enemy 4: Arguing 

By arguing, I don’t mean mere disagreement, but an incessant need to be proved right (which also comes from pride). When a person goes around trying to convince everyone that their own views on various issues are right and then get angry when they’re not agreed with, it is not beneficial. We must always be striving to find the truth, but we must never do so in a matter that is unloving. Our discussions should be edifying and result in a more unified body; not filled with bitterness and anger which causes strife.  

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” (Philippians 2:14-28, NIV)

Each one of these enemies come about naturally from our human nature. We must fight against them just as we do with other sins. We must instead embrace humility, love, peace, and encouragement in order to promote unity and avoid these divisive enemies. 

If you struggle with any of these, start pushing them out of your life today. 

– Joel Fletcher