Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Testing or Trusting?

Exodus 17:1-7

"Are you there, Lord?" That's the question uppermost in my mind each Sunday morning as I stumble from my bed to my computer at 5:00 a.m. to write another sermon. This morning I turned on my computer and headed for the kitchen to get my first cup of coffee.

"What if he isn't here today... and I am left all alone to write this sermon?" As my mind began to function... it always needs that first cup of coffee!... I thought about the Israelites in our text today... how they put the Lord to the test... and I wondered if I was putting the Lord to the test each and every Sunday morning.

It occurred to me this morning... as I drank my first cup of coffee... that there is a fine line between testing the Lord and trusting the Lord. Am I testing the Lord each week as I write my sermon on Sunday morning... or am I trusting the Lord? Am I testing the Lord as I continue to spend plastic money... or am I trusting the Lord? Am I testing the Lord as I over extend myself... burning the candle at both ends... or am I trusting the Lord? Am I testing the Lord when I drive my old car to Baton Rouge... or am I trusting the Lord?

We might ask the same questions about this church... are we testing the Lord when we go ahead with a budget that is not covered by pledges... or are we trusting the Lord? Are we testing the Lord when we stretch our creativity to bring more kids to Sunday School... or are we trusting the Lord? Are we testing the Lord when we seek to broaden the leadership in such a small congregation... or are we trusting the Lord? Would we be testing the Lord is we thought about adding a fellowship hall... or would be trusting the Lord?

Well... this is not the direction I thought I was going to take this morning... but here we are once again in the wilderness... traveling as the Lord leads... looking for water... so lets see where the path takes us. The question before us seems to be "how do we know whether we are testing the Lord... or trusting the Lord."?

I'm reminded of a joke I once heard... what was the favorite whine(wine) of the Israelites in the desert"? "We want water !!! Actually... the Israelites did have quite a difficult time locating enough water as they wondered around in the wilderness. They found bitter water in one place... but we read in 15:25:

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
And in verse 27:
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

After that they moved off into the Desert of Sin where they really began to whine...

16:2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
3 The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."

That's when the Lord gave them manna and quail to eat... and you'll remember that they had to go day by day to gather the manna because it didn't keep overnight... after all there was no refrigeration in the desert! But strangely enough it did keep over night on Friday night... so they had enough to eat on the Sabbath!

Have you noticed yet that every time the people got upset about food or water... they whined... and grumbled to Moses. Now I suspect that they had good reason to be concerned... after all... we all need food and water on a regular basis... but instead of asking God for what they needed... they blamed Moses.

And isn't that always our first tendency... to find someone to blame for our troubles... instead of turning to God for help. I'm willing to bet God finds that very trying! Trusting God would involve confessing that we have gotten ourselves into a pickle again... or admitting that we cannot manage on our own... and then asking for help!

You and I are, in fact... like the Israelites of old... wondering around in a wilderness of sin... never satisfied... never feeling at home... never quite comfortable with our surroundings. We are constantly aware of our discomfort... the annoyances we experience every day... the painful relationships we seem unable to fix... the loved ones who are making a mess of their lives... the mess we have made of our own life. We are surrounded by problems of many kinds... and our first tendency is to look for someone to blame. The Israelites complained to Moses... and Moses complained to God.

4 ... "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me."

There is no doubt... we do live in a messy world... it truly is a Wilderness of Sin... and there are lots of problems for us to face. Sometimes we really do have legitimate complaints. The question is... to whom do we complain?

I'm reminded of that great hymn line... "Where can I turn but to the Lord?" Trusting God means turning to him first... leaving off grumbling among ourselves... trying to find someone to blame... and talking honestly to God... even if it involves complaints.

Secondly... I think trusting God means listening to what he has to say... and doing it. All too often we don't really like what we hear... usually because God tells us to do something we don't want to do... like "stop using that plastic money"... or "go see a counselor"... or "take the first step toward reconciliation with a loved one".

I'm sure we often try God when we know what we should do... and we don't do it. I guess if I really believed that God would provide... I would stop using that plastic money at every turn. Sometimes its very difficult to do what God tells us to do. Will I go on trying God... or will I begin to trust more?

Thirdly... I think that we have some sense of peace when we are trusting God rather than trying him. As long as I can sleep on Saturday night... without having yet written Sunday's sermon... I think I am operating more on trust than on trying God. When I feel ill at ease... like I do about the plastic money... I suspect that I am trying God more than I am trusting him. Often we are called to do difficult things in difficult situations... and sometimes what we do doesn't accomplish the results we had hoped for... but knowing that we stepped out in faith... that we did what God expected us to do... brings a sense of satisfaction... and peace with God. May you have such peace. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on March 7, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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