This week, I moved back to my office at the church premises. It is so good to be back at my desk, brewing coffee in my one-cupper, and having some extra leg-room. As much as I have appreciated working at home in my man cave, my office at 29 Chrissie Street has always felt like home away from home. I am grateful for this kind provision from the Lord.
Driving to my office, I have been delighted to see somewhat heavy traffic as many have been able to get back to work. And, once the schools resume, I assume traffic will intensify. I am sure we are all grateful to God for this essential provision. And yet I wonder how long it will be before we are tempted to whine about the busy roads and how long until the temptation to complain about long days at work? In other words, how long until we cease to be both grateful and worshipful?
We humans are a difficult lot, aren’t we? Paul knew the propensity for Christians, like Israel of old, to complain. He exhorts not to “grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10; see Numbers 21; Exodus 15–16; Numbers 14; etc.). Elsewhere he admonishes, “Do all things without grumbling” (Philippians 2:14). In other words, aware of God’s many graces, be grateful, not a grouch.
It is testimony to our depravity, our fallenness, that when our desires are fulfilled, we easily forget what it was like beforeGod’s happy providence. God has graced us with so much and yet, as the hymn testifies, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” I need to learn to be grateful for God’s provision and to guard my heart and my mouth from the ugliness of ingratitude and complaint. I need to couple being grateful with being worshipful.
Strangely, this dis-ease in the face of temporal blessings is also testimony to God’s wisdom in not allowing us to find our ultimate joy in these blessings. And so, though it is wrong to complain, at the same time we also are to recognise that since God has “set eternity in [our] hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Temporal blessings will fail to meet our deepest need.
It seems that God has orchestrated creation in such a way that even its comforts fall short of providing ultimate satisfaction. For instance, God has designed us to be hungry, and then to be full but then to hunger again; to be thirsty and then quenched only to thirst again; to desire and then be satisfied followed by an emptiness again. When God revealed, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3) he was teaching us that, ultimately, the only way for man to be satisfied is by and with God.
John Flavel wrote, “The corruption of the heart shows itself in raising up great expectations from the creature [things created by God], and planning abundance of happiness and contentment from some promising and hopeful enjoyments in the world. But when it is so, it is very usual for Providence to undermine their earthly hopes, and convince them by experience how vain they are.”
To summarise that puritan mouthful: When, by God’s happy providence, he blesses us with creature comforts, he will not allow us to find ultimate comfort in them. God wants us to know that only he can truly satisfy.
Brothers and sisters, as we begin to return to routine, may we be worshipful and grateful. If the former is our priority, the latter will be our practice.
Working with you for your joy,