Jan 272011
 

It was November 20, 1997. The phone rang once again. The house was full of people who had come to offer their condolences. My husband, Rich, had died two days before of a sudden heart attack.  I was still numb and trying to handle the countless number of matters that demanded attention. I was overwhelmed, not only with deep grief, but also with questions about the future – questions for which there seemed to be no answers.

Someone answered the phone and called me over to talk to a friend.  When he identified himself, I was stunned!

“Hi, Janie, this is Mark Fox.”

Mark was someone whose ministry had taken him many places in the United States.  He had ministered in our church a couple of times, and Rich had run sound for him when he sang and presented the message God had laid on his heart for us.  Even though I knew who he was, I was amazed that Mark would know who we were.

“I just heard the news about Rich. I’m so sorry!”

We talked for a bit.  Then Mark asked specific questions regarding my finances, and told me he wanted the truth. I told him it didn’t look good.  Rich had left a small life insurance policy through his job, but we had no savings and were struggling to get by on two salaries.  With a heavy mortgage and monthly bills to handle, I didn’t know how I would be able to make it on my own.

He then said, “Sis, I believe God wants me to teach something to you.  Do you think you are in a place to hear it and receive it?”

I said, “Yes, I think so.”

Mark went on to teach me a biblical concept that would become one of the biggest turning points in my walk with God.  The timing of this lesson was perfect.

“I want you to think about the children of Israel.  God had just brought them out of bondage as slaves in Egypt.  They arrived at the Red Sea.  The sea was before them, mountains on each side, and Pharaoh’s army was coming from behind.  They began to grumble, cry, whine and complain.  They cried out to God, and He performed a miracle!  They walked across the Red Sea on dry land!  After all of them had crossed to the other side and Pharaoh’s army was destroyed when God caused the waters to flow back over them, the Israelites rejoiced and praised God.

“A few days later, they ran out of water and were thirsty.  They arrived at Mara, but the water there was bitter to the taste.  They began to grumble, cry, whine and complain.  They cried out to God, and He performed another miracle!  He turned the water sweet so they could drink it, and they rejoiced and praised Him.

“Then they became hungry.  They were running out of food.  What did they do?”

“They began to grumble, cry, whine and complain again,” I answered.  “They cried out to God, and He performed a miracle!  He provided quail and manna, and they praised Him!”

“That’s right!”  Then Mark asked, “Are you beginning to get the picture?”

I said, “Yes, I think I am.  They would run into a problem, and the first thing they would do is begin to grumble, cry, whine and complain.  Then they would cry out to God, and He would perform a miracle!  Then they would praise Him.”

“That’s right!  They got it wrong!”

Mark continued, “Sis, in the next days, weeks, months and maybe even years, you will have many times when you may feel justified in grumbling, crying, whining and complaining about the problems you are facing.  Don’t do it!  Instead, cry out to God, and praise Him even before the miracles can happen!”

Mark was right!  There have been many times in my life when I have felt justified in complaining about the difficulties I face.  At first, I had to consciously think about praising God through the challenges because that was not my habit.  Over time, it became more natural to start with praise, present my requests to God, followed by more praise.

This morning, I was once again reading a part of this story found in Exodus 16. When you read something in God’s Word that you have read many times before and suddenly it lights up and strikes a chord in your own spirit, it’s called rhema. The Spirit of God illuminated verse eight to me this morning, and I sat in shock and dismay!

“Oh God, what have I been doing? You taught me this years ago, and I have practiced it and taught it to others. Now here I am, in the miry pit of complaint, and I have been here for a very long time. I have been grumbling, crying, whining, and complaining; I have not been praising! I forgot that because You are Sovereign God and in control, when I grumble, I am grumbling against YOU! Lord, I have gone backward! Help me to return to the lesson you taught me after Rich died ~ to praise You through everything. I haven’t been praising; I’ve been complaining! I’m so sorry! Please forgive me and help me to turn away from the part of me that’s choosing to grumble and turn my spirit to praise!”

I think this must be one part of denying my “self.”

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