The dispositions of the human heart are varied. A “disposition” is a tendency, a habitual inclination, or frame of mind. When we stop to think about our own heart, our own tendencies concerning how we navigate the ins and outs of life, I think we might recognize some similarities with those around us. I can’t peer into the depths of your heart, but I can see clearly into my own. What I see is not impressive. What I see I am not comfortable with by any means. What I see is a tendency to grumble when life doesn’t go the way I had planned. What I see is a tendency to “expect,” rather than to appreciate.
Robert Hughes wrote, “The Culture of Complaint,” in 1993. In his book he shares his assessment of American culture and the American people’s tendency to perceive themselves as being entitled to having all their desires fulfilled. We take this entitlement to be part of our birthright. We label ourselves as victims when this doesn’t happen. Mr. Hughes says that we live in a culture of complaint. It forms our minds and hearts.
One of the things I’ve noticed about having a disposition of complaining and grumbling is that something absolutely wonderful can take place in my life, I can be all-smiles throughout the day, and standing on top of the world. Yet, at the end of the day, instead of falling on my knees and praising God for such a wonderful day, I act like my great day should be the norm for my life. The next day can be uneventful, nothing amazing, just an ordinary day. Instead of being grateful for the day, when I get home and Connie asks, “How did your day go?” I say, “Pretty boring.” The next day can be tough, challenging from the git go, and nothing seems to go right. I hear murmuring that my sermon on Sunday was boring, I get a phone call from someone who is unhappy with me for any number of reasons, and I’m given a big slice of humble pie to chew on. I leave the office at the end of the day looking like I’ve gone 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and feeling sorry for myself. Can you see that no matter what happens in my life, from the glorious to the gory, I still remain unimpressed, uninspired, and ungrateful?
For the followers of Jesus, we know that with all that God has done for us, our disgruntled attitude just doesn’t line-up, it’s not a proper response to God’s generosity and grace. So, for most of us, our disgruntled disposition lies beneath the surface, we try to keep it in check, we mask it with phrases like, “God’s been so good to me!” “I’m blessed!” and “I’m trusting in God!” All the while, underneath, in the disposition of our heart, we are not satisfied with our lives. Our greatest problem in life is not that we aren’t satisfied with our lives. Our greatest problem is that we don’t seek satisfaction in God alone.
We are moving towards Thanksgiving in just a few days and I think it would benefit us tremendously to take a look at how you and I might reorient the disposition of our hearts so that our tendency, our habitual inclination, might change from discontent and grumbling to gratitude. Let me tell you, we come from a long line of grumblers. Our family tree is filled with discontentment and dissatisfaction. How do you reorient the disposition of your heart so that you become a person who is gripped by gratitude instead of mired in dissatisfaction? “For those who have ears to hear” today can be a new beginning for you if you will apply this lesson. We are going to take a look at Psalm 106 this morning, but before we do that I want to give you an outline of the Psalm. Here is our outline.
• The Invocation. (106:1-5)
• Identification with Israel’s sins (106:6)
• The Confession of Israel’s Sins (106:7-46)
a) During Moses’ Time (106:7-33)
b) From Joshua to Jeremiah (106:34-46)
• The Cry for Salvation (106:34-46)
• The Benediction (106:48)
We don’t have time to go line-by-line through all of Psalm 106, but I want to use this Psalm as the backdrop for our lesson in helping to reorient the disposition of our heart from discontent with our lives to contentment with God. Let’s begin.
In Psalm 106:1-5 we have the invocation. In the opening verses of Psalm 106 we find the Psalmist declaring the praises of God. Read along with me.
1 Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise? (Psalm 106:1-2 NIV)
Praise YHWH. Give YHWH thanks. Why is God deserving of our praise and gratitude? The Psalmist answers the question for us. He is good. His love endures forever. His acts are so marvelous that it is utterly impossible to fully declare His praise and glory! This, my friends, is the bedrock of our lives. This is what we must go back to in each and every situation in life in order to be able to accurately assess what we are experiencing in life. During “good” days—God is good. When trouble comes—His love endures forever. At all times in our life we must know that God is at work and His work is rooted in His love for you and me.
This is the starting point in reorienting the disposition of our hearts. Knowing these things about God will give us a different lens through which we can view life. Take these “glasses” off and your vision becomes darkened, your perception becomes skewed, and your understanding becomes tainted and flawed.
We can only be given these new eyes to see through a relationship with Jesus Christ. You and I don’t have, in our power, the ability to see the beauty and blessings of our life when we are going through difficult times, apart from walking with the Lord and being counseled by His Word. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
Just this past week Connie and I were talking about life and the difficulties that we’ve gone through during the almost 30 years that we’ve been married. Connie said, “Because of what I have learned about God through His Word I can be thankful for the health problems I’ve had because they prepare me to empathize with others who have health problems. I can be thankful for the hard times we’ve been through in our marriage because God can use them to sensitize me to other couples who are trying to work through troubles they are having in their marriage. I can be thankful for the trials that we’ve gone through in raising our kids because they make me tenderhearted toward other parents that I might have the opportunity to help who are struggling with parenting.” Let me tell you, that is not the natural response to hardships and trials in life. Connie is able to see all of the struggles she, and we, have had through the lens of “God is good, His love endures forever, and He is at work.” and it has changed her perspective on these struggles.
It sounds very simple doesn’t it? If we could wake up every morning, remind ourselves of these truths before we head out the door, and then remember them throughout the day, then we would see life differently. The problem that we face is that there are many things that get in the way. There are many thoughts that crowd these thoughts out of our minds. I want us to take a look at Psalm 106 to point out some of the problems that plagued God’s people in times past. I think by doing so you will see that these same problems interfere with our remembering these important truths about God today. What are some of the problems that distract us from living from a disposition of gratitude? So glad you asked.
Failure to Think and Remember leads to Rebellion.
The first lesson that we can learn from the Hebrews is found Psalm 106:6-7. Let me set the scene for you. The Psalmist, who was writing long after Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, says,
6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. (Psalm 106:6 NIV)
The stories were passed on from generation to generation and this man, in hearing the stories of those who had gone before him, recognized that he and his generation were guilty of the same sins that those who had gone before them were guilty of. He begins in verse 7 by saying,
7 When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. (Psa 106:7 NIV)
The Hebrews had been slaves for 400 years to the Egyptians. God came to Moses and told him that He was going to free His people from the Egyptians. God performed 10 miracles through Moses’ leadership in order to free His people. And, once the Hebrews were freed they failed to really think about what happened, they didn’t remember God’s many kindnesses, and it led to their rebellion against God.
Does that ring a bell for any of us here this morning? God has worked in your life and mine. You ask, “How has God worked in my life?” You are alive aren’t you? You were able to get out of bed this morning weren’t you? You have clothes to wear today don’t you? Have you eaten this week? God is at work in your life, but we don’t give any thought to these basic provisions that God supplies for us each and every day. God has acted in other ways as well. I was having lunch with a friend who is celebrating his 7th anniversary. He was telling me what a wonderful wife he has, how much she loves their four kids, how patient she is with him, and on and on he went. I said, “What a sign of God’s grace. When you got married you thought you knew what she would be like as a wife and mom, but you really didn’t know. Now looking back over seven years and seeing the kind of woman, wife, and mother she is you should praise God for His grace.” God acts in marvelous ways in each of our lives, but we don’t give it much thought, we fail to remember His many kindnesses, and so, when things don’t go the way we think they should go, we rebel against God. How do we rebel? We rebel by thinking that we are the ones who call the shots in our lives. We rebel by setting our sights not on God’s will, but on our wants. This failure to think deeply about what God has done turns the disposition of our heart from gratitude to grumbling.
Forget the Past. Moving Full-Speed Ahead.
The next lesson we can learn from the Hebrews is found in verses 11-13. The Hebrews were on the banks of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army was hot on their trail, and they knew they were going to die. Yet, God intervened, opened up the Red Sea, and they crossed on dry ground. Once the Egyptian army saw the Hebrews passing through the Red Sea they followed them, but the Lord closed the sea on top of them. Not one Egyptians soldier survived. We read what happened next, after the Hebrews turned around and saw that the Egyptian army had vanished beneath the waters of the Red Sea. In Psalm 106:12-13 we read,
12 Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. 13 But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. (Psalm 106:12-13 NIV)
They witnessed the most amazing thing and they knew that they had nothing to do with what had just happened. Oh how they loved the Lord at that moment! They believed God’s promises and burst into song, but it was short-lived. The Psalmist tells us that they soon forgot what God had done and they didn’t wait to get direction from Him for their next move.
This failure on the behalf of the Hebrews strikes at my heart. I know how God has acted in my life. I can point to times in my life when God opened impassable roads and led me through. I can tell you about times that He turned the enemy away and saved my life. I can tell you these things now, but how quickly I forget. How quick I am to rely on my own judgment, my own best thinking, without ever seeking His counsel. And do you know where my own judgment and best thinking have gotten me in the past? In trouble. In a fix. Way out in left field. And when my propensity to forget and rush ahead leads me into trouble, I grumble.
When Our Desires Outweigh What God’s Doing
The next lesson we can learn from the Hebrews is found in Psalm 106:14-15. After they crossed the Red Sea they headed out into the desert on their way to the Promised Land. While in the desert they fixated on what they wanted rather than what God was doing. Read along with me.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. 15 So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them. (Psalm 106:14-15 NIV)
They gave in to their craving and put God to the test. You know what a craving is don’t you? You feel it in your bones. You obsess over it. You have to have it. It consumes your every waking moment. Numbers 14:22 tells us that the Hebrews “tested” God ten times in the desert. They moaned and bellyached about not having water. They threw a fit because they didn’t have food. To express a need to God is one thing, but that’s not what the people did. Let me share with you their typical way of expressing their need. Concerning their need for food, we read in Exodus 16:2-3.
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.” (Exodus 16:2-3 NIV)
Are you kidding me? I know that hunger can skew our thinking at times, but let’s be reasonable for a moment can we? If God can turn the Nile into blood, if God can split the Red Sea so that His people can cross on dry ground, if God can do all of this and more…don’t you think He might be able to provide water for the people to drink?
Our desire, our craving for what we want, will get us into big trouble when it becomes more important to us than our desire for God. Let me show you the epitome of the Hebrew’s insanity. In Exodus 32, Moses has been called by God to the top of Mt. Sinai. Evidently the Hebrews had things to do and places to go because they got impatient with how long Moses kept them waiting. Read Exodus 32:1 with me.
1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1 NIV)
They took matters into their own hands because they didn’t want to wait on God. Does any of this ring a bell with any of us? If you are like me then you know that when the Hebrews took matters into their own hands and did what they wanted instead of what God desired, it got ugly. I want you to know that getting what you want will not lead to a life of gratitude—it will only leave you wanting more. It is only in total reliance, dependence, and contentment with God alone that you can experience gratitude as the disposition of your heart.
Failure to Believe God’s Promises
Let’s move on. In Psalm 106:24-25 we can learn another lesson from the Hebrews. Let’s read the Scripture and then we can see what we can learn.
24 Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. 25 They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. (Psalm 106:24-25 NIV)
Do you remember when Joshua and Caleb were sent to scout out the Promised Land while the Hebrews were still crossing the desert? They spent 40 days surveying the Promised Land and then they brought their report back to Moses.
27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:27-30 NIV)
God had promised that He was going to give His people the Promised Land. He had never broken a promise in the past. Yet, the Israelites heard the report from Joshua and Caleb they started having panic attacks. It went on all afternoon and into the night. In Numbers 14:1-4 we read,
1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4 NIV)
Rather than focusing on God’s promises, the people focused on their situation and their fear. Let me assure you, focusing on your assessment of the situations of your life will never lead you to a disposition of gratitude. You will end up just like the Hebrews who were wailing and wishing for the safety of slavery back in Egypt.
Trying to Fit-In Doesn’t Fit
The last lesson that we can learn from the lives of the Hebrews is found in vss. 34-39. God had instructed His people that as they moved into the land and went to war with the people who were living there, they were to leave no survivors. The Canaanites, Hittites, Amalekites, and they their cousins were some brutal folks who had terrorized their neighbors. They were pagans who worshiped false gods and offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods. If the Hebrews followed God’s instructions then those brutal, idolatrous, pagan influences wouldn’t be there to lead them astray. Yet we read in Psalm 106:34-39.
34 They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them, 35 but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. 36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. 38 They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. 39 They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. (Psalm 106:34-39 NIV)
How in the world do God’s people find themselves in such a mess? With the presence of God to lead us, convict us when we get off track, and instruct us in how we should live this life—how do we find ourselves in the messes we get into?
I was talking to a friend of mine this past week. I asked about his son. He told me he had gotten divorced; his ex-wife had taken the kids and moved all the way across the country with their two daughters. He said, “I saw it coming. He and his wife started running around with couples who were trying to outdo one another and drinking a lot. I told them that it was going to be disastrous, but they wouldn’t listen, they wanted to fit in with their friends.” As you and I sit in this sanctuary this morning there is a dad who is sitting alone in his home. His wife is gone. His little girls are gone.
I talked to another friend this week who was wondering how I felt about a man going to Hooters. That’s a strange question isn’t it? I said, “I’ve never been there.” My friend said, “But, is it ok?” I said, “I don’t think that is a fitting place for a man of God to go.” The men chime in and say, “But I have business meetings there quite often.” My response to that is, “Then you need to change the place of your business meetings.” I know, I am a prude, right? All I know is this: If I were getting out of my truck to meet a buddy at Hooters and Jesus was standing at the door, I would be uncomfortable.
We work way too hard to fit in with this culture around us. We live in a society where fitting in is so important. We don’t want to be known as some kind of prude, some kind of Jesus freak. We want to feel like we belong. We want to feel like we are important to others. The sad thing is that we will sacrifice our souls to fit in.
God’s people “mingled” with the ungodly, they took on their habits, they adapted to their lifestyle, and it was disastrous. Let me assure you of a very simple truth: You will become like those you mingle with in life. If you want to be a person who is characterized by a disposition of gratitude then hang out with God, read God’s Word so that you can often be reminded of His many blessings and His infinite love for you. If your closest relationships are with those who don’t know the Lord, never give Him a thought, or go to church on Sunday, but don’t really seek to honor Him with their lives, then you will find yourself becoming just like them. You will become a pillar in this culture of complaint.
If you recognize this morning that the disposition of your heart is grumbling rather than gratitude then Jesus would like to begin to do a new work in your life. He can give you a new heart filled with appreciation for all of life, for all of God’s good gifts, and He can fill you to overflowing with gratitude. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
November 18, 2012