One of the best parts about going on a mission trip is coming back with memories you’ll never forget. From then on, the mention of a certain word or phrase can spark a terrific memory. At the start of a week-long mission teen trip last year, the youth pastor challenged everyone to claim this truth: God is enough. We lived in “God is enough” all week, repeating the phrase multiple times a day. When the week got stressful, God is enough. When we shared cold germs around the whole group, God is enough. When our friends got coffee but we didn’t, God is enough. When we were surprised by injuries, God is enough. When a project doesn’t go according to plan, God is enough.
It is difficult to live “God is enough” in ordinary days. How often have you heard Sunday School lessons or sermons on how we should seek out God more to be enough for our lives? Does this truth dwell in us? Often we think we’ll be happy if only we have [insert whatever you think is missing in your life]. So we find that we start to desire God + something else. We chase after this thing that should make us happy. Oh, and we go to church and read a few verses in our spare moments and pray for the missionaries. Then we go back to chasing after that missing piece to make us happy.
The problem is: whatever we use to fill the void is never enough. We’re missing something: that much is clear. But what it is and how to obtain it tangles us up.
We find that we start to desire God + something else.
I’ve been listening to James McDonald’s sermon series via podcast on “Walk in the Word.” (http://jamesmacdonald.com/radio/) This week, he has been talking about a detrimental attitude the Israelites adopted in the wilderness: covetousness. He says the modern word for covetousness is materialism. The plight of the Israelites so much mirrors our own circumstances that we’d best learn from their mistakes. God is serious about us setting our attitudes correctly – so much so that He dishes out some serious punishment in the wilderness.
God looks so much like a parent in the book of Numbers. Here He has just rescued his children – RESCUED them from slavery! He performed one of the best-known miracles so they could cross the Red Sea on dry ground. And then He has given all of them fresh food and water out in the desert.
But…what should reach His ears but the wailing for different food. What? You have what you need out here! You’re not going hungry ever. Just try surviving on your own! But they have an overwhelming craving for something different – something bigger and better than God’s plan. After all, they had better in Egypt.
Hold up: were you not all slaves in Egypt? But memories have a way of fading…and softening over the years. They recall all of the fruits and vegetables they had…and the meat. Their insatiable desire for meat becomes the driving force behind their complaining.
This unappreciative attitude reaches God’s ears. Moses too, so they have a little confab. God says, “Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:19-20). One of the best lines of the Bible: you’ll eat it until it’ll be coming out your nostrils.
God gives them exactly what they ask for – to their detriment. When the quail blow in from the sea, they seem to forget all else for a few days. Including God; they’ve rejected Him, as it says in the passage. God’s promises and commands go by the wayside. They focus on collecting as much as they can. God had promised that He would send them their supplementary meat for 30 days; it isn’t going to disappear overnight. And manna fell twice daily, so they only had to collect what they needed for the upcoming meal. I wonder if the manna still fell while the quail were there? If God sent the manna, was there a lot left untouched while the craze for quail took place?
Let’s stop and review where Israel is now: God has saved the children of Israel from slavery, taken them across the Red Sea, and now sustained them camped out in the wilderness awaiting entering the Promised Land. God was all they needed. His plans for them stretched farther than they could ever imagine: as they cried out to Him in their bondage in Egypt, they envisioned only the slavery ending. But God had bigger plans: He intended to rescue them, set them aside as His own people, teach them what it means to be the people of God, make them into an army to conquer the land promised them, settle them in a land flowing with milk and honey, and bless all nations through them. His goal: they will be His people, and He will be their God. Their goal: remove the Egyptian slavery. Oh, and that part about the land of milk and honey sounds good too.
I think there’s a huge disconnect between what God intended and what the Israelites intended. Their vision is rather short-sighted. God’s vision was never-ending…where He is always enough.
God has a never-ending vision of redemption for your life too. However, just as the Israelites’ materialism got in the way, so materialism can cloud our vision. God desires to be our sole supplier. Our sole strength. Our sole longing. He promises to be enough, but when we seek fulfillment elsewhere, we fall into the sin of unbelief. The anger of the Lord burned against those who greedily picked up all the quail they could and stuffed their faces, never being satisfied. God sent a plague, those who craved other food died, and they moved to a new place. Those who desired more than God got what they wanted. And it was their demise.
What We Can Learn
Desire God single-heartedly. Whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want: God is enough. Paul refers to this kind of attitude in Philippians 4 when he says he knows the secret of contentment.
Do you want in on the secret of contentment? You probably know it, if you memorized verses as a child. Tragically, this is one of those that is often twisted and used for personal gain. Look carefully at the context here:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want: I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Yes, the secret of contentment is knowing that God is the strength-giver. For everything. God is enough.
A few verses later in Philippians 4, Paul reminds us: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
God is the God of sufficiency.
God is enough.