Living By Faith
Last time, we began to look at a no water situation that rapidly turned into a bitter water situation. It would be nice to think that Christians are immune to such problems, but, in fact, they are just common to man (I Corinthians 10:13). The question is, “What would you do?” If you were in Israel’s shoes, how would you respond?
We make bold statements about believing and trusting God when the victory is ours. It’s party time. We believe God when we see His deliverance. We have an experience and everything is wonderful. We will do anything for God—or will we?
We may say whatever we want. But as we saw last time, God will prove us (Exodus 15:25). He will not accept at face value our boasts. He will put them to the test and will find out whether we truly love Him with all our heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:5).
III.) What Water?:
Scripture: Exodus 15:24
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
Israel’s faith crashed. They forgot their song of praise and their miraculous deliverance from the Egyptians. Instead they began to murmur again, crying out, “What shall we drink?”
Illustration: Roughly 30 years ago, a young man was asked a question about faith at an ordination council. The inquisitor asked, “Is faith a constant?” His otherwise impressive performance was reduced to consternation as he wrestled with the question. The interrogator quite obviously believed the answer to be, “Yes.” However, the correct answer is, “No (II Timothy 2:11-13).” He was afraid that if we could lose our faith we could also lose our salvation, but the faith that saves is not of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8). We are not saved by some work of faith on our part (I Thessalonians 1:3) . We are saved without merit by God’s grace. Salvation is all of God and none of man. God is faithful (I Thessalonians 5:24) in spite of the fact that we are not.
Our faith most certainly fluctuates from day to day and trial to trial. According to Romans 12:3, God deals out a certain measure of faith to each believer at salvation.
I Corinthians 12:9 speaks of a special gift of faith. If faith is thought of as a constant, our mind has a rationalization for defeat. We say that we did not receive a sufficient measure of faith or we excuse ourselves by saying that we do not have the gift of faith. The fault of our failure becomes God’s lack of supply! Therefore it is His error.
These are the excuses that have so devastated Christianity today. Jesus asked the disciples, “How is it that ye have no faith (Mark 4:40)?” Later, they asked, “Lord, increase our faith.” His reply is quite interesting.
Scripture: Luke 17:5-6
5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
In effect, Jesus said, “Your lack of faith stems from unbelief. It does not take a lot of faith to move a mountain. It simply involves exercising the faith that we have already been given.” The paradox is that our unbelief hinders our faith. God has given us muscles, but through disuse they can atrophy to the point that we can become immobile. Faith is like that.
God has given us all of the faith that we need. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to eat the spiritual food of God’s Word to increase and replenish it, or are we going to starve ourselves with a steady diet of worldly skepticism so much so that we are unable to handle the no water and bitter water situations of life? Are we going to say, “What shall we drink?", or "thank you for the cool, clear water of God’s Word?”
IV.) Sweet Water:
Scripture: Exodus 15:25
And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,
Israel failed, but God is faithful. He provided a tree which was able to make the bitter waters sweet. Over the years there have been many occasions when I have exhausted my faith. The difficulties of life brought me to spiritual bankruptcy. I murmured and complained, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me? You’re trying to destroy me. I’ve been abandoned.” But God has always been faithful.
I have proven myself to be foolish. Often God provides the way of escape even as I complain. I end up kicking myself and confessing my sin. In the end, I am greatly humbled.
God wanted to teach Israel and us a lesson. Before leaving Egypt, they plundered the richest nation on earth (Exodus 12:36). They had gold, silver, and precious gems. They were rich like us. But all of the gold in King Tut’s tomb cannot sweeten the bitter waters of life. If money is our boast, we will be sadly undone.
There is only one thing that can sweeten the bitter waters of life—the cross of Calvary.
When cast into the waters of life, Christ can make even the most bitter waters sweet.
V.) Healing Water:
Scripture: Exodus 15:26
And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.
At Marah, God tested Israel with a very difficult test. Although hard, it was reasonably simple. The three-fold test is as follows:
A.) Listen to God’s Word
B.) Do right
C.) Keep His commandments
The problem for Israel was to pass the test, regardless of the circumstances around them. It is easy to listen when all is well. It is easy to do right or obey when we receive some reward or praise. But what happens when we face bitter water?
God has set this same test before us. Will we pay attention to His Word? Will we walk uprightly? Will we obey His commandments? Jesus said, “If ye love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:15, 21).” Do we sincerely love Him? Will we pass the test?
What happens when we lose a job or a loved one? What happens when the church must discipline a close friend or relative? What happens when we or someone we love contracts a serious or terminal illness? What happens when things do not go the way we planned?
God tested Israel, but also gave them a promise. Verse 26 says, “For I am the Lord that healeth thee.” My wife and I have experienced the bitter waters. They are not easy, but we can testify that the Lord knows how to heal us and even turn our grief to our advantage. God may test us with bitter waters, but He is always in control. He knows what we can handle, when to bring an end, and how to heal us with sweet and abundant water.
VI.) Abundant Water:
Scripture: Exodus 15:27
And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
From the place of no water and bitter water, Israel journeyed to a place of abundant water. There they camped for a time of refreshment. We can testify through repeated experience that God tests and then blesses. The principle is this: First the testing and then the blessing.
Elim was the place of refreshing. The name means palm trees. It was a place of 70 palms and 12 wells—an oasis in the barren wilderness. God certainly has dry spells for us, but He also has plenty of wells.
Trials are never easy, or else they would not be trials.
In spite of that, we can make them easier by not forgetting what God has done and by doing some simple steps that will help us to rest in Him. The following are some key steps:
A.) Count your blessings
B.) Know God’s will (Colossians 1:9, 11)
C.) Replenish your faith (Romans 10:17)
We trust these steps will be of help to you. May God bless you.
Next Time: Why?