Intro: Each year 1,000 SBC ministers leave the ministry. One major cause is discouragement. It is an OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD. Discouragement is one of the most effective weapons Satan has forged against believers.
Some leave the ministry; others, the ministry leaves them.
Cause: Things don’t work out as we expect, as we think they ought to. If we know what to expect, we can brace ourselves, roll with the punches.
Moses is a qualified speaker on the subject. He was a man facing discouraging situations and his life ended on that note.
Our text reveals some things we can expect in the service of the Lord.
I. THE GREATEST SUCCESSES OF LIFE ARE OFTEN FOLLOWED BY FAILURE.
The context is important–the preceding verses record the great praise hymn of victory; then immediately there is FAILURE.
THIS IS A PATTERN IN SCRIPTURE: Jericho followed by Ai; Elijah on Mt. Carmel, then whining under the juniper tree; Peter’s confession followed by Jesus’ rebuke; even Jesus: His baptism and anointing, followed by 40 days in the wilderness..
IT IS ONE THING TO SING A HYMN, ANOTHER TO LIVE THE LIFE.
Surely, Moses and the people thought the worst was behind them.. .they thought their only enemies were the Egyptians.
Usually, when this happens, we think we have missed God; gotten out of His will. But Marah is on the map! God LED them to the bitter waters.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY FAILURE? A bitter experience.., when you can’t get it down and keep it down. Anything that’s tough to swallow. When the sweetness and ease is gone out of it. That which was once refreshing and sweet but becomes bitter.
Discouragement destroys our resistance and makes us vulnerable, susceptible to other spiritual ills, attacks of the enemy…such as unbelief, critical spirit, cynicism, murmuring against God and people.
WHY DOES GOD LEAD US TO MARAH?
1. To Prove Us. vs. 25 “And there He proved them.” Note the word “there”. WHERE? There! Where’s there? AT MARAH. Prove: To test so as to discover..
Note that it was not at the Red Sea they were proved. God’s approval doesn’t come from the sensational Red Sea experiences, but from the daily experiences of life, like where the next drink of water is coming from. Sad to say, some come through the Red Sea with flying colors only to fail at Marah.
God was wanting to see if they had learned to trust Him. MIRACLES DON’T PRODUCE FAITH….Rich Man and Lazarus… “If they believe not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”
2. To Purify Us. The statutes and commands were meant to purify us. The Israelites were liable to the same diseases of the Egyptians. They needed to be purged of pride and complacency. God sometimes treats us as though we were Egyptians.
3. To Prepare Us. He wants to make us TRAVELWORTHY. . ..for greater trials and battles and victories. No man is prepared to travel till He has learned to trust God in the Marahs of life.
II. THE GREATEST SERVICES OF LIFE ARE OFTEN FOLLOWED BY FORGETFULNESS.
Again note the context.. some of the things they said about the Lord and His servants.
1. We Forget the Lord.
2. We Forget our Leaders. Prepare to be unappreciated! The example of Christ: the same crowd that shouted Hosannas one day were shouting “Crucify Him” a few days later.
(1) Don’t take it personally. In Ex. 16, God makes it clear that they are murmuring against THE LORD!. We are His ambassadors.. .We are in Christ’s stead. “I had a bad experience so I quit.”
It will make you bitter and cause you to wallow in self-pity.
(2) Don’t take it out on the people. It is to Moses’ everlasting credit that he didn’t chuck the whole thing right there. Some preachers take out their frustrations on the people in sermons, etc.
(3) Take it to the Lord.. .There are those who complain to each other and there are those who cry to the Lord.
“And God showed him a tree…” If you will cry to the Lord, He will show you a way to make the bitter waters sweet. The tree was there all the while, but Moses couldn’t see it. God will use something right under your nose to sweeten the situation.
Throw it in the water: “But Lord, the water’s bad enough as it is…” God sometimes does it in a peculiar way.
III. THE GREATEST SHORTAGES OF LIFE ARE ALWAYS FOLLOWED BY FULNESS.
“They came to Elim.” There were 12 wells of water, one for every tribe, 70 palm trees, one for every elder… they didn’t need the trees. That was a bonus.
The miracle of the loaves: 12 baskets left, that’s one for each disciple.
HOW DID THEY GET TO ELIM? They kept going, kept following, kept obeying. When you don’t feel like praying, pray. When you don’t feel like obeying, obey.
They were just 5 miles from Marah–WHAT IF THEY HAD QUIT? You may be about to give up. Elim may be over the next rise. You’ll be glad you didn’t give up. How terrible to die just a few feet from Elim.
When we cannot see our way,
Let us trust and still obey;
He who bids us forward go,
Cannot fail the way to show.
Tho the sea be deep and wide,
Tho a passage seems denied,
Fearless let us still proceed,
Since the Lord Himself doth lead.
Night with Him is never night,
Where He is, there all is light;
When He calls us why delay?
They are happy who obey.