Text: Deuteronomy 8
The Book of Deuteronomy, as you know, is a book of remembrances…and Moses is rehearsing with God’s people all the things that God has done for them and in them during the past years. And he says,
“All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swear unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or not.
And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”
And then he goes on to describe what perhaps could happen to them after they have entered the land and have forgotten the goodness of the LORD. He says in verse 14…
“Then thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; who fed thee in the wilderness with manna which thy fathers knew not that He might humble thee and that He might prove thee to do thee good at thy latter end.”
Some time ago on a late Saturday night I needed to make a trip to the super market…it’s one of these super markets that stays open twenty-four hours a day. I was a little bit hesitant to go because of the way I looked. This was a Saturday and I had taken that day to catch up on all of those “handy-man” jobs that I’d been letting go around the house. I hadn’t shaved all day. I hadn’t combed my hair. I had on some old dirty jeans and old leprous tee-shirt and some old soiled and crumbling tennis shoes and I just didn’t look like the respectable pastor of the local Baptist church and I certainly didn’t want to meet anybody in that condition. But I thought that no decent person is going to be going to the grocery store at midnight and so it won’t hurt if I run up there and pick up a few things that we’re going to need in the morning.
So, I did. And you know how you’ll do in that situation. You’ll look straight ahead…neither to the left or to the right lest your eyes meet somebody that you don’t want to meet. Now, I was standing at the checkout stand and I was aware of somebody behind me but you know, I paid little attention to it and when the lady finished ringing up my purchase and sacked it and handed it to me and when I turned to walk out, standing behind me was one of my members…one of the ladies in my church. And she looked at me for a minute…she looked me up and down…and she said, “Bro. Dunn!” She said, “I didn’t recognize you.” And then she made this very interesting statement…she said, “You know, I’ve never seen you without a shirt and tie on.” And she said, “I didn’t recognize you without a suit on.”
And I got to thinking about that after awhile…as soon as I could get away. I thought, “Now that lady has been in our church for seven or eight years…been there Sunday morning, Sunday night, a lot of times on Wednesday night and yet, she didn’t recognize me out of uniform.” I began to wonder what she’d been looking at all those years when she came to church. I don’t suppose she ever looked at my face. I guess she just looked at my suit or my tie. I was wondering if perhaps some night she might be just driving down the street and see one of my suits on the side of the road and say, “Well, there’s one of Bro. Dunn’s suits.” But maybe she might meet me on down the road hitchhiking and wouldn’t even recognize me.
You know, they do tell us that one of the best disguises a person can wear is a uniform because you have the tendency to notice the uniform rather than the face. And these people that you see in unexpected places you don’t recognize because you are accustomed to seeing them in certain ways and in certain places.
Now, I was this woman’s minister, and yet she failed to recognize me because I didn’t look like a minister. And you know what? There are a lot of ministers that God has that He sends our way to minister to us that we fail to recognize because they don’t look like ministers are supposed to look.
Do you get what I’m saying? There are a lot of things, a lot of ways, a lot of means that God uses to accomplish His purpose in my life, and yet, many a time I miss God in those situations. I fail to recognize this situation as a minister of God because it doesn’t look like what I think a minister ought to look.
You know we have a tendency to believe that we can always correctly evaluate everything that happens to us. I mean, we know a blessing when we see one. And we know a curse when we see one. But I’m finding, and I think perhaps you are too, that sometimes kings come to my door dressed as beggars and princes as paupers and many a time blessings come wrapped in the rags of a curse. Sometimes sorrow is the disguise that a real joy wears. And many times you and I will miss the ministry in our lives because we’re looking for God to minister to us in a certain specified way.
I want to talk to you tonight about one of these ministers that God sends our way to work His purpose in our lives, to bring us to where He wants us to be. I call it “the ministry of failure.” And I have no doubt that my message will be relevant because there’s not a person here that has not experienced failure. Every Christian experiences it sooner or later. Some of us seem to live in the same house with failure all the days of our Christian life.
But, I want you to know tonight that one of the most effective ministers that God has to work in your life is the minister of failure. Now, I’m going to make a statement and I’m going to bring the Scripture out in a moment, but I want to make this statement… God not only allows us to fail, but there are times when the Lord actually maneuvers us into a situation of failure…when the Lord actually negotiates for our failure, because that is the only way He can teach us a lesson He’s been trying to teach.
Have you ever found that sometimes the Lord adds some verses to the Bible that you just know weren’t there before? You know, you read the Bible, and you read it, and you read it, and you think you’ve read everything in it and one day you pick up a familiar passage of Scripture and you see something that’s never been there before. You just know the Lord’s kind of inserted it while you were asleep.
Well, that’s the way I feel about Deuteronomy 8. And not long ago I was reading this passage and I saw a phrase in it that I’d never noticed before. And it’s the phrase found in verse 2…Moses says,
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness…”
Now, when you talk about the forty years of wilderness, you think of failure. The people of Israel had come to Kadesh-Barnea. God had given them the promise that if they would just believe Him and obey Him they would cross over into Canaan…and by the way, Canaan never represents physical death…notwithstanding the good old hymns that we sing. Canaan in the Bible never represents heaven and Jordan never represents physical death. Canaan in the Bible does not represent heaven. There were giants in Canaan. There are no giants in heaven. There were battles to be fought in Canaan. There are no battles to be fought in heaven. There was failure and sin in Canaan. There are no failure and sin in heaven.
Canaan, not representing physical death or heaven, does represents what we might say is heaven on earth. Canaan represents everything that God saved us to be in this life. Canaan does not refer to the sweet bye-and-bye…it refers to the sweet here and now. That’s where God expects us to live.
And Moses says in Deuteronomy 6 that God brought them out of Egypt in order to bring them into Canaan. The reason that God led the people out of Egypt was not simply to get them out of Egypt, but to get them into the Land of Promise…into the land of fullness…where they could live in the full promises of God and be everything that God wanted them to be, and I want you to understand tonight that when God saved you He did not save you simply to get you out of hell…nor to get you into heaven. He saved you in order that you might experience in your everyday life everything that God wants you to be in the Lord Jesus Christ. And Moses said, “He brought us out that He might bring us in”…but when the people had the opportunity to enter in they made a mistake. They disbelieved God. They disobeyed God. And you know the story…for the next forty years, they wandered in that wilderness.
Now, I had always assumed that that forty years was forty years of failure and that’s a right assumption. But, I had also assumed that that forty years was simply aimless wandering and was wasted time and wasted experience. But, I want you to notice the phrase that caught my attention. Moses says, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness.” Notice, He led them while they were in the wilderness. And in verse 15, he says He led them through that wilderness and fed them while they were in that wilderness. And He did that Moses says in the latter part of verse 16…“to do thee good at thy latter end.”
I like that! And that is the way you can sign everything that God lets come into your life…that He might do thee good. God led them in that wilderness experience in order to accomplish something in their lives He could not otherwise accomplish. And suddenly I began to realize that those forty years in the wilderness were not wasted years…were not aimless wanderings…but that even though they had failed at Kadesh-Barnea…even though they had disobeyed and disbelieved God, yet God did not abandon them nor did He give up in His purpose. But He continued to lead them those forty years in the wilderness in order to do them good…in order to accomplish in their lives something He could not otherwise accomplish.
And I know I’m speaking to people tonight perhaps right now that are living in the wilderness. You’d have to, if you were honest, say, “Preacher, I’m in the wilderness. I’ve come to a point in my life where it looks as though I’m wandering aimlessly. For awhile in my Christian pilgrimage, everything was going smooth, everything was going as I felt it ought to go, but something happened…a series of circumstances fell upon me and it just seems like I’ve lost my direction…I’m experiencing ‘spiritual vertigo’…I’m disoriented. I don’t know whether I’m up or down. I don’t know whether God’s alive or dead. I don’t know whether He loves me or doesn’t love me and it seems that everything I do just turns to ashes and I’d have to say honestly tonight that I’m in the wilderness.”
Well, I have good news for you. God never wastes time and He never wastes experience. And if you believe in God and if you belong to God and are one of His children, I want you to know that everything that comes to pass in your life God uses to perfect His purpose and plan in your life. And I believe that one of the most effective ministers that God has sent my way is the minister of failure. And God has done some things in my life through failure that I know tonight He could not have otherwise done.
And so, Moses said, “God led thee these forty years in the wilderness.” Why? He mentions several things that God sought to accomplish by that wilderness of failure and I just simply want to share them with you tonight.
Why does God let us go through the wilderness? Why does He allow us to fail? Why are there times when God even actually negotiates for our failure?
God uses failure to empty us of pride.
Look at verse 2…
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness,” WHY? “…to humble thee…” and he says the same thing in verse 16… “who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee…” Verse 3 says, “And He humbled thee…” In other words, God led them into the wilderness…WHY?…to humble them and He did it!
First of all, God uses failure to empty me of pride. Now, man’s basic sin…you might say the original sin of the universe is the sin of pride. And God’s toughest task in your life is to humble you and to empty you of your pride…to bring you to the place where you recognize that you can’t handle life by yourself…you can’t even handle yourself by yourself…and God has to bring you to the place where it seems as though He pulls the rug from under you and you fall flat on your face! I was studying the Book of Proverbs not long ago and that very familiar verse where it says to lean not unto thine own understanding but trust in the Lord. The Hebrew word translated “trust” has the idea of falling flat on your face…of lying helplessly face down on the ground. That’s a pretty good description of what trust is…of God bringing you to a place where you have no alternative than to trust Him.
I want to tell you something that I believe. I believe a man will never trust God until he has to. A man will never trust God until he has to. You see, there is something about man that is basically self-sufficient. He likes to think he can handle it himself. And God is forced to bring us into circumstances and situations where we have to confess, “I cannot handle it.” The old theologians used to have a phrase that I think is a tremendous one… They called it “being shut up to faith.” That’s where God hems us in a corner where the only way out is up. And I said, and I really believe this with all my heart that I’ll never trust God until I have to. You see, as long as I have another trick or two up my sleeve I’m going to use it. As long as I’ve got a back door, as long as I have a fire escape…as long as I have some other plan, some other gimmick, I’m going to use that. And if God is going to bring me to the place where He wants me to be…and that is absolutely dependant upon Him…He must first of all destroy my faith in myself.
Now, I know that we say that we have to be confident and we have to have faith in ourselves, and I understand that to a certain extent, but what I’m trying to get you to understand tonight is…as long as I’m trusting in myself, I’ll never trust in God.
This was Moses’ problem when he started to deliver Israel forty years earlier, back yonder when he saw the Egyptian arguing with one of the Israelites. You know, it’s interesting for me to notice that when Moses thought he was qualified, he wasn’t. And yet, when he thought he wasn’t, he was. Have you ever noticed that? Forty years later after spending those years in the back side of the desert, God says, “Alright Moses, I’m ready now to use you to deliver My people,” and Moses gave excuse after excuse why he wasn’t capable. He said, “Lord, the only experience I’ve had is bad experience, and I’m not eloquent and I have no authority, and people won’t listen to me…Lord I just can’t do it.” And God said, “You’re just the man I’m looking for.”
Now, the sad thing is that it took God forty years to get Moses to the place where he no longer trusted in himself. You say, “I want to learn to trust God…I want to be everything God wants me to be…” Well, you must understand that sometimes that is a painful process and the process is that God has to bring about circumstances in your life to empty you of your pride.
Now, this pride takes two forms. I’ve already been talking about one of them…it’s the pride of self-sufficiency…the pride that says, “I can handle this situation myself.” By the way, let me just insert this. In all the family counseling that I have done I have found that one of the big problems, that one of the big barriers to overcome is a man who is the head of the family insisting that he is sufficient in himself…that he’s able to handle the situation and to handle every circumstance in himself. And I repeat…one of God’s toughest tasks in your life is to convince you that you are not sufficient…that you are not capable of handling life’s situations all by yourself, and God will lead you into failure, my friend, in order to empty you of the pride of self-sufficiency.
One Sunday morning, we had a young man saved in one of our morning services. He came forward during the closing invitation and pronounced his faith in Christ. I presented him to our fellowship and introduced him and told them that this young man had come to take his stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and as I did once in awhile, I would allow this person just to share what the Lord had done for him. And this particular Sunday morning, I said to this young man, “Tommy, is there anything you’d like to say? Is there anything you’d like to just share with this fellowship that God has done for you?” And that young fellow stood up there and thrust out his chest and said, “Yes sir, I want you to know, Preacher, I feel great. I feel great and I’m never going to lose this feeling.”
Well, I knew he would. You know, I knew that feelings don’t last and they’re fickle and fleeting and I said, “Now, Tommy, it’s great that you feel as you do, but don’t lean on that feeling…don’t trust in that feeling…you’re not always going to feel like that.” He said, “Oh, no Preacher, I’m always going to feel just like this. I’m never going to lose this feeling.”
Well, we went back and forth like this for a few minutes and finally I decided to let it drop. I didn’t think it would look good for the pastor to have a fight with a new convert and I said, “Alright, God bless you, Son.”
Have you ever noticed there are some things only experience can teach somebody? About three weeks later, this young man…he didn’t actually walk into my office, he dragged himself into my office…chin on the floor, practically. And he said, “Pastor, can I see you?” And I said, “Well, sure, what’s the problem?” He said, “I think I’m lost.” And I, you know, was gracious enough not to ask him what had happened to that feeling… But, it was hard. I had to bite my tongue. My tendency was to say, “Would you come to church next Sunday morning and let me tell everybody…” No.
But, I said, “Well, Son, tell me what happened.” And you know what happened? He failed! He failed in his Christian life! He failed in his obedience to God! And suddenly when he did that, he lost that glorious, glowing feeling and he was plunged into despair because he thought he was self-sufficient in himself.
Now listen. I think one of the Lord’s biggest problems in His earthly ministry was Simon Peter. I get a lot of encouragement from Simon Peter, because I’m about as stubborn as he is and you are, too, in the things God is trying to teach you. Have you ever noticed that Simon Peter was always the first one to speak up on any occasion? All he needed to encourage him to talk was two ears that would listen. And Peter was always the spokesman for the crowd and sometime he got himself in a great deal of trouble.
I heard a man say the other day, “Peter was always wondering why he couldn’t walk straight while he had one foot in his mouth.” Well, you just can’t maintain your balance when you have one foot in your mouth.
Anyway, if you follow carefully the career of Simon Peter, you’ll find that Jesus, most of the time, was trying to teach Simon Peter this very point…that Simon had not arrived…that he had not achieved…that he was not sufficient and Jesus was constantly trying to empty Simon of his self-sufficient pride. And on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus made a prophecy. He said that the disciples would forsake Him and that of course was Simon’s cue. And he began to speak and this is what he said… He said, “Lord,” and I’m going to paraphrase it a little bit. He said, “Lord, I understand what you’re saying and I know that the rest of this bunch is of the sort that’ll leave You, but I want You to know, Lord, You can count on me. I’m not going to forsake you, Lord. I’m willing to go to prison with You. I’m even willing to die for you.” Isn’t that a pretty fair paraphrase of what Peter said?
I wonder if that discouraged Jesus. Three and a half years of ministry and Simon still had not learned! Now, listen carefully to what Jesus says… I told you a moment ago that sometimes the Lord negotiates for our failure. Here it is. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you and when you are turned again, when you get straightened out from this mess, that you will be able to strengthen your brethren.” Now, the word translated “desired”… “Satan hath desired to have you…” is a word that means “to obtain by asking permission.”
Do you know what Jesus was saying? He was saying, “Satan hath asked permission to get hold of you and turn you inside out and I have given it.” Now, that’s really encouraging to me in one aspect. It says to me that the devil can’t touch me without the permission of the Lord Jesus. He cannot do it! God has built a hedge about me and the only way the devil can touch me and get to me is if the Lord Jesus gives His permission. And He was saying, “Simon, there’s only one way you’re going to learn.” And by the way, he learned. If you’ll follow his career you’ll find he never again had a problem with self-sufficient pride. God taught him something through his failure He could not teach him any other way. And I say to you tonight that there are some things in your life…whether it’s home life, business life, church life, personal life…there are some things God is not going to be able to teach you apart from failure. He’s going to have to manipulate you into a situation where you’re faced with failure to empty you of your self-sufficient pride. And He said, “When thou art turned again…” which meant that Jesus knew that Simon was going to fail, but when he failed and learned the lesson of that failure, then he would be competent for ministry. He said, “…then you’ll be able to strengthen your brethren.”
And the Lord had to negotiate with the devil for the failure of Simon in order for Simon to learn that lesson to be emptied of his pride. By the way, right along this line…and I really didn’t mean to get into this, but since I’m in the neighborhood, we’ll visit it for awhile…of the devil’s touching God’s people…have you ever read the Book of Job? Do you know the story of Job?
Well, you know as you read that, you need to remember something. Who initiated that conversation about Job? Who brought up Job’s name? God did! The devil reported to God on a certain day. I don’t know how he got there, but anyway he was there in God’s presence and God initiated that conversation! And He said, “Have you considered My servant, Job?” That sort of makes me wish God wouldn’t do any bragging on me to the devil. He said, “Have you considered my servant, Job…there’s not a man like him on the face of the earth.” And the devil said, “Yeh, but the only reason he serves you is because it pays. Everything’s going well. Everything’s going easy. You’ve blessed him. He’s healthy. If you were to lift that hedge and let me get hold of him, he wouldn’t serve you.”
And you know, that’s a good question. Are you serving God tonight simply because everything’s going well? What if everything in your life were to fall to pieces and you were to lose your health and you lose your family, would you still serve the Lord? The devil asked God a question, “Does Job serve God for naught?” He’s saying, “A man won’t serve God for nothing. A man serves God for what he can get out of Him.” That’s a pretty good question.
And you know, it’s interesting. As I read that, Job never one time gave credit to the devil. If you read the Book of Job, you’ll find that never one time Job referred to the devil. As a matter of fact, the Bible refers to Satan’s affliction of Job as “the hand of God touching Job.” And I want you to know tonight that sometimes what the devil wants to do to me just somehow or another fits right into God’s plan.
The devil wanted to turn Peter inside out and sift him as wheat and Jesus said, “Well, you know, I think that would be good for him and I will give you permission to do it.” And God will use failure to empty us of our self-sufficient pride.
But not only of the pride of self-sufficiency…He also uses failure to empty us of the pride of self-satisfaction. Look at verse 3…
“And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know…”
In other words, God did such a work in their lives as to deprive them of certain resources and things they were depending upon and made them cry out, “Lord, I’m hungry.”
Have you been brought to that place? When I begin to move into an area…just like this week…when we come to a Christian Life Conference…you know, one of the primary things I pray for is I say, “Lord, make them hungry.” See, a man won’t eat if he’s not hungry. And you’ll never discover the resources of God until God first of all puts you in a situation where you’re hungry for Him. And the only way you can be hungry for what God has is for God to deprive you of what you’ve been feeding yourself on.
Many of us have been complacent and self-satisfied with our lives and our spiritual progress and before God can spur us on and bring us to His fullness, He has to work in our lives in such a way that we cry out for God to meet our needs.
So, the first thing is that God uses failure to empty us of our pride. You know, I just have to mention that the same God that makes you hungry is the same God who feeds you. You know, the only time God makes me hungry is not to mock me…not to make fun of me…not to see me writhe in hunger pains…but in order that He might feed me…and He said He fed them with manna that they did not know nor did their fathers know.
And I find that when God finally gets me to the place where I cry out, “Lord, I’m desperate! I’m hungry to have what You have…” I find that the Lord meets that need in the most unusual circumstances and ways. He feeds me from unknown resources. And have you found, Christian friend, that sometimes God meets your needs from the most peculiar resources? And from the most unexpected ways imaginable?
God uses failure to expose us to the wickedness that’s in our hearts.
Look again at verse 2…
“…the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.”
And He says the same thing in verse 16…
“…that He might prove thee…”
And if you’ll read in Exodus 15 and in Exodus 16, you’ll find that on different occasions, God arranged adverse circumstances in order to prove His people. The word “prove” means “to discover what is present by means of a test…to expose what is present by means of testing”.
Now, God said that He led them through this wilderness to prove them…to expose what was in their hearts…whether they would keep God’s commands. Now…it wasn’t that God wanted to find out what was in their hearts. God knew. He wanted them to know what was in their hearts. And friend, God knows what is in your heart. He knows whether or not you’re going to keep His commandments. He knows that! But, you don’t know it.
If you’ll go back, you’ll find that when Moses was making preparation to go up on Mt. Sinai to get the Law, Israel made a boast. Here was their boast, “All that the Lord God says unto us we will do…everything God tells us to do, we will do.” They thought, in their hearts, was total obedience. They didn’t know that idolatry and terrible sin was in their hearts, and God used that failure to expose them to the unknown wickedness that was in their hearts.
We can go back again to Simon Peter. That was one of the accomplishments of his failure. If you had sat down with Simon Peter as Jesus attempted to do and tried to convince Peter that lurking in the darkness of his heart was denial of Christ and cursing, he wouldn’t have been convinced. And by the way, when it says that Peter swore, it doesn’t mean that he cursed like we think of cursing, but it means he took God as a witness that he didn’t know Jesus. That’s even much worse. It means that he called God in heaven to bear witness to his statement that he didn’t know Jesus and Jesus tried to convince Peter. He said, “Peter, in your heart, there is deep wickedness.” Peter said, “No, Lord. It’s not there.” And the only way that Jesus could prove to Peter what was in his heart was by letting him fall into that failure.
Now, Jesus said, “Out of the heart are the issues of life.” Did you know tonight that in a man’s heart, even though he is saved, there is the possibility of every kind of evil? I don’t know how many times I’ve had men whose homes, because of infidelity, are breaking up, have come to me and said, “Preacher, I don’t know. I’d never believe that I would do something like this.”
Well, I want to tell you something. If there is sin and there is that wickedness in my heart, I want to know about it. If I have a tumor growing in my body, I want to know about it. I want it to be exposed. I want something to happen to expose to me the sickness that’s in my body, so it can be treated before it kills me. And you see, when God lets us go into failure, God is really being merciful to us because He is exposing to us some things in our lives so that we can deal with them and get God’s treatment and God’s help in those areas of our lives.
You would never have been able to convince Simon Peter…and there are some things in your life tonight that you don’t know are there. There are some things…some potentials in your heart that you don’t know are there. I’ll tell you exactly what will happen. God will arrange a set of circumstances and you’ll react to those circumstances and you’ll say, “I didn’t know that was there.”
You know, when Christians get behind the wheel of an automobile, they take on a different character. Something happens to an American when he gets behind the wheel of an automobile…you know, he grows horns and fangs and he doesn’t drive his car, he aims it at the enemy. I’ve joked about that as a sermon illustration, because frankly, that’s never been my problem. Really, I’ve always been cool and collected behind the wheel. But you know, one day not too long ago, a situation happened where God exposed to me what was in my heart and I’ll just use this as an illustration.
My wife and I were getting ready to go to Europe for a conference and we were leaving the next day and we needed an additional suitcase. It was on a Monday and I had staff meeting and I didn’t have time to have a staff meeting and go over in Dallas and search for the right kind of suitcase, so I decided that what I could do was to take all the men, five of us on the staff, and we would go in my car and we would “staff” on the way…you know, talk on the way, and I’d kill two birds with one stone.
Well, we went at lunch time. We went over to one of these big shopping centers where the place was that I needed to go and you know how crowded…all the ladies and men on their lunch hour buying things and parking and doing all of this…well, there just wasn’t a parking place available. You know what a parking place is, don’t you? That’s a space the size of your automobile on the other side of the street. There were plenty of places on the other side of the street, but as I would turn around and come back, they’d be gone!
So, I was just cruising about 5 miles an hour, just waiting for somebody to back out. I was conscious by looking in the rear view that there was a fellow behind me that was not looking for a parking place…he just wanted to get out of there. I could see in the rear view mirror his growing impatience…poking along behind me and he was looking for a chance to pull out ahead of me…but I couldn’t let that bother me…I was looking for a parking place. All the time, my staff and I were talking about spiritual things, you know.
So, in a moment, there was an open space and this fellow behind me gunned his engine and swerved around me and as he swerved around me, he blew his horn two or three times and shook his fist at me. Well, you know what I did? I just blew my horn back and shook my fist back at him and said, “Same to you, brother!!” And immediately when I said that, I remembered I had my staff with me.
The least the Lord could have done was to let that happen when I was alone, so I could have at least saved face. Now, that’s a silly thing, but what I’m saying to you is this…I thought I had control of my temper and I thought I was a very patient, understanding, forgiving person. And you know what? God exposed something in my heart that I didn’t know was there and I began to deal with that thing.
What I’m saying to you, friend, is this. Everyone of us has potential problems and I’ll be honest with you tonight. The breakup of any home could have been prevented if a man or woman had listened to what God had been saying to them through failure. No home breaks up immediately, overnight. There are always warnings. Isn’t that true? Haven’t you been able to see some warnings in your own life…some things happening and you thought, “Why, I never thought I’d do that. I never thought I’d feel this way. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought that. A year ago I wouldn’t have said that.” What’s God doing? He’s allowing you to fail in order that He might expose to you some potential, deadly dangers in your life, so you can deal with them.
God uses failure to educate us as to the true values in life.
I believe one of my greatest problems and one of your greatest problems is a wrong system of values. We place values on the wrong things and God has to patiently educate us and teach us what really counts in life and you’ll find this in the verse 3…
“And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know…”
WHY? “…that…” – that’s a purpose clause – “…that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”
Now, folks, that’s one of the greatest statements in all of the Bible. Man does not live by bread only. But he lives by the Word of God. Now, this is so relevant to the Israelites because one of their primary complaints was lack of food…lack of bread. And God was trying to teach them that a man’s life is not sustained by bread…but by the Word of God.
You know, that’s literally true! God could keep you alive without bread. Bread here symbolizes all of the material, physical things that we need to sustain life. Now, God is pleased to use bread and air and food and water as the means of keeping us alive but, friend, He doesn’t need to do that. I mean, you can eat the right kind of food and get the right kind of exercise and join the health club and jog two miles every day, but when God says that it’s time for you to die, you’re going to die.
And I tell you this much. If God wanted to keep you alive for forty years without ever eating a drop of food or drinking a drop of water, He could do that if He wanted to…I mean, He’s going to do that in eternity. You don’t think we’re going to sit down to steak and potatoes, do you? A man is kept alive by the Word of God. In other words, he is saying this: The source of a man’s life is God, not the means that God uses to keep us alive.
Now, the importance of seeing this is this…if I look upon bread as the source of my life, as the source of the meaning of my life, as the source of fulfillment in my life, then I’m going to work for bread. But, man doesn’t live by that. Man’s life…its source…its substance…comes from the Word of God.
I have found and I believe it more tonight than ever before…the goodness of God is that God is always with me…in good times and bad…in hard times and easy…when I’m spiritual and when I’m not spiritual…when I’m obedient, when I’m disobedient…God is with me. And God’s chief purpose in my life is to bring me to the place where I recognize that the greatest good in life is to know Him and to feel His presence and to serve Him and to worship Him and honor Him.
And I tell you, folks, sometimes the only way God can teach us that is through failure…the ministry of failure. I hope you learn to recognize that minister. He doesn’t always come dressed up nice and neat in a suit and a tie. Sometimes he’s not a very pleasant character at all to meet. But, he is just as surely a minister of God as your pastor who stands behind the pulpit on Sunday morning.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005