We think that when we fail to trust God in our daily situations, we only harm ourselves. We think we’re simply missing out on His blessings. But that isn’t the whole story. First of all, we hurt and anger our blessed Lord. He warns, “If you don’t trust Me, you’re going to develop a hardened heart.”
We read in Hebrews: “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:8-11).
What reason is given for God’s people being unable to enter into His rest? Was it because of adultery, covetousness, drunkenness? No, it was because of unbelief alone. Here was a nation exposed to forty years of miracles, supernatural wonders that God worked on their behalf. No other people on earth had been so loved, so tenderly cared for. They received revelation after revelation of the goodness and severity of the Lord. They heard a fresh word preached regularly from Moses, their prophet leader.
But they never mixed that word with faith. Therefore, hearing it did them no good. In the midst of all those blessings, they still didn’t trust God to be faithful. And over time, unbelief set in. From that point on, darkness covered their wilderness journey.
Unbelief is the root cause behind all hardness of heart. Hebrews asks, “With whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?” (3:17). The Greek word for grieved here signifies indignation, outrage, anger. Simply put, the people’s unbelief kindled God’s anger against them. Moreover, it hardened them into a continual spiral of unbelief: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God . . . lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (3:12-13).
Unbelief is the mother of all sins. It was the first sin committed in the Garden of Eden and it’s at the root of all bitterness, rebellion and coldness. That’s why Hebrews 3 is addressed to believers (“Take heed, brethren”). The writer concludes with these chilling words: “To whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (3:18-19).
There is a minister I’ve known for a number of years. Every time I had encountered him in the past, I had said to my wife afterward, “That man is so shallow. Such a boastful show-off. I don’t know how God could ever bless him.” Then I met this same man after the Holy Ghost had dealt with me about judging others. This time, the Spirit told me, “Love him. Be quiet and listen to him. Then pray with him.”
I obeyed. I loved the man, listened to him talk, and afterward took his hand and prayed. As soon as we parted ways, a strange thing happened to me: I was stricken with grief. A terror swept over me—the terror of what I’d done to this man over the years. I saw the exceeding sinfulness of my defiling sin.
David exhorts, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). The apostle Paul adds this perspective: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (4:29-30).
Dear saint, not a person reading this message is too holy to heed it and make a change. For my part, I feel God’s grief over all the ways I’ve misjudged people through the years, whether knowingly or unknowingly. I urge you to cry out as my heart does:
“Oh, Lord, why wasn’t I ready to hear this sooner? Why haven’t I dealt with this before now? I want to proclaim Your gospel, declare Your generation. Please, Jesus, forgive me. Cleanse my defiled mouth, my defiled ears, my defiled eyes. And give me a renewed heart. I want nothing to hinder my life from being a full manifestation of who You are.”
May the Lord hear our cry and move quickly to remake us. He will give us strength to put away all evil speaking, evil listening and mental judging. Then we’ll be better able to prolong the days of our Lord.
How do you think Jesus would start a church in your city or town?
The first thing Christ would do is go on a weeping tour throughout your area. Scripture tells us, “When he was come near, he beheld [Jerusalem], and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).
What made Jesus weep? It began with a heartbreaking walk He took around the city. He was overcome with grief at the sight of so-called religious people who had no peace. These people had rejected the truth for fables and now they were following a dead form of religion. They were sheep without true shepherds.
Now, I’m not out to judge any minister. But I want to ask everyone reading this message: Can you imagine your pastor driving through your town and weeping over it? What a different image Jesus gives us from so many of the plotters and planners building churches today. These men go door to door, surveying people, asking what they want in a church: “How long would you like the sermon to be? Fifteen minutes? Ten?”
Jesus witnessed a form of this in His own day. As He walked through the temple, He saw tables of moneychangers, ministers who merchandised the things of God. There was no real prayer, no fear of the Lord. And Christ wept over it all, crying, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).
I ask you: Would Jesus weep over what He sees in your church today? Would He find your pastor anguishing over lost souls? Would Christ find His people praying or would He find them occupied by busyness and programs, focusing on their own interests?
Once Jesus concludes His weeping tour of your city, would He commend His people? Or would He bring this warning: “You’re blind to the times. Judgment is at the door, but you look more like the world than ever. Why aren’t you praying, seeking Me for strength and wisdom to redeem the time?”
If you are in Jesus’ Church, then strong messages are going to come from the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Spirit cries out in us against everything we think, say or do that is of the flesh. Jesus says, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).
Yet, the sign of every true follower of Jesus is that he surrenders to Christ’s every word. This servant loves reproof because of what it produces in his heart. He sees the change it brings, and he knows it is life to him.
Deep down, that is also why a sinner comes to God’s house. It’s not just to be counted as one more number in a large congregation. It’s to be found by God, because in his heart he knows he’s lost. His soul isn’t at rest, and he’s had too many long, sleepless nights. He wants answers, truth, real change, because he senses he’s bound for hell.
We’ve all been taught that Christ is the cornerstone of His Church. Paul says this stone is a rock of offense: “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 9:33). Peter also calls Jesus a rock of offense: “The head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient” (1 Peter 2:7-8).
Peter could tell you firsthand what happens when you try to do away with the message of the cross. He was offended when Jesus foretold His death to the disciples. So, “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22).
But Jesus answered him with these stinging words: “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (16:23).
Here is a clear example of how Satan can plant a deception in even a godly, Christ-loving shepherd. And you can bet Peter never forgot his Master’s words. Likewise today, every minister and believer is to heed Christ’s warning: “My cross and My blood may offend you. But if you’re ashamed of My message, or you try to soften it, then you’re an offense to Me. You don’t represent My Word or My Church.”
Every generation of Christians must check itself to discern whether its mission and actions are God-honoring. We continually have to ask ourselves, “Are we still serving the Lord and our neighbor faithfully and sacrificially? Or have we drifted into a ‘bless me’ mentality?”
Christ knew exactly where the masses’ hearts were when they began following Him. “You want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (John 6:26). Why does Jesus refer to “miraculous signs” here? Think about what a sign does. It points to something, it isn’t the thing itself. When a road sign reads, “Denver 60 Miles,” we know we’re not in Denver yet but we’re on the way. In the same way, Jesus was letting the disciples know that the loaves and fishes weren’t the point. They revealed the loving care of the heavenly Father. His miracles are signs of His care for us.
The crowd’s response revealed their hearts. “Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). They were playing Moses’ example against Jesus. It was arm-twisting, like a child who goes to each parent trying to get what he wants. Do we look for God in our midst or do we merely seek His provision? Let’s be honest, often when we pray we want an answer now, today, this hour. That’s an unfortunate trait of our world’s “have it all now” culture. In a spiritual sense, we lack a tremendous value that the Greatest Generation held dear: to know that by faith we’ll eventually see great blessings.
For the Christian, knowing God isn’t about being “blessed now.” The Lord won’t bend to our lusts to give us everything we want—when we want it. His desire is to have a relationship with us—an ongoing, long-term relationship that bears lasting fruit. So His blessings aren’t the end-all of the relationship; they’re signs of His faithfulness and compassion—traits that any of us would covet in a relationship. Christ’s miracles were evidence of those beautiful traits.