Over the past four months I have been diligently and eagerly searching for a new job and have literally applied to over 100 positions. I and others have been praying about this situation, asking God to provide the right job for me in His timing. But I have a confession to make: in the meantime, I have been unfaithful to Him. I have had a complaining spirit and a negative attitude about my job. Recently having worked eight days straight (60+ hours), in my weariness and discouragement I found myself complaining. How ungrateful! I know of individuals who cannot obtain work, are unable to work, or have to work several jobs just to make ends meet. And I have the nerve to complain about having too many hours! Shame on me.
Apparently I’ve forgotten that, almost a year ago, when we learned our rent was being raised significantly, God promptly provided my current job to meet our financial needs. Have I not been acting like the Israelites who, after God miraculously and graciously delivered them from their bondage in Egypt, complained against Him for His daily provision of manna? This brought the wrath of God upon them. Likewise they complained against God because they wanted a “real” king like all the other nations around them? You’ve heard that saying: “Be careful what you wish/pray for – you just may get it!” And such was true in these cases with the Israelites. When I complain about what God has provided me, I am rejecting Him as the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17) and as my wise and sovereign King (I Samuel 8:7).
Of course the Lord wants us to bring our concerns and needs to Him in prayer, but our attitude needs to be right before Him. The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Is it right for me to expect God to answer my prayers when I bring my petitions to Him with grumbling rather than gratitude? He doesn’t owe me a thing, yet I go to Him, discontented with the way in which He has chosen to meet my needs and demand something more, something “better.”
As I thought about this, I was reminded of some observations I wrote a while back regarding the sacrifices of God’s people, one of which is thanksgiving. I was reading in the book of Malachi where the Lord rebukes Israel for defiling the altar by offering diseased and crippled sacrifices. He asks them, “Do you really expect me to accept these? You wouldn’t even consider serving the governor such offensive offerings.” In the Old Testament, the people of God were to offer their first and best – only young unblemished and perfect animals, as well as new grain, oil and wine. Thankfully, God no longer requires us to make physical animal and grain sacrifices. Christ offered Himself as our “once for all time” perfect sacrifice, one that was acceptable to God. In fact, the sacrifices of old were never intended nor able to secure salvation, but they did serve several purposes. Primarily, the sacrificial system reminded God’s people of their sinfulness (inability to keep God’s law), their need for forgiveness, and their inability to save themselves – all of this pointing to the one Sacrifice to come that would satisfy God’s demands and provide salvation. Secondarily, the sacrificial system was the method God ordained for His people to: 1) worship Him, 2) express praise and thanksgiving to Him, and 3) demonstrate obedience to Him.
It occurred to me that today’s people of God may have forgotten the principles and criteria for offering sacrifices to Him. Shouldn’t we still make sacrifices to God – not for our forgiveness or salvation, but free will offerings out of love, gratitude and worship? Yes, the New Testament teaches that God still desires sacrifices from His people. Romans 12:1-2 exhorts us to present our bodies – all we are and do – as “living and holy sacrifices” as a form of worship. Hebrews 13:15-16 says, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” This tells us to offer ongoing sacrifices of both word (prayer, praise, and thanksgiving) and deed (good works and acts of mercy), which are pleasing to God. This passage also reminds us that if God is to find our offerings – or our prayers – acceptable, they must be presented through or in Christ, because of His work and based on His merit, not our own.
So the question is: are we daily offering acceptable sacrifices to God? Are we offering Him our skimpy leftovers of resources, scraps of time, lame efforts of service and worship, and reluctant or grudging obedience to His will? Or are we giving God our best, willingly and gratefully, through Christ? In Malachi, the Lord challenges the people to test Him in this and see if He will “throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!” (Mal. 3:10). God deserves our worship and obedience, but He doesn’t need it. If we are holding out on God regarding the sacrifices He desires of us, we are cheating Him of what He rightly deserves, but we are also cheating ourselves.
I must remind myself that God has placed me where I am at this time for His purposes. He is no doubt using my job to expose sin in my life, to refine me, to mold me more into the image of Christ, and to teach me to trust Him and to look to Him daily for strength and wisdom. “Every person is an opportunity to love, and every situation is an opportunity to trust” (Norm Wakefield, Equipped to Love). May I make the best use of the time I am there to be a light and testimony of God’s grace, and to be a blessing to those I work alongside and to the customers I serve. And as I continue to pray for the Lord to bless my efforts as I search for a more suitable job in which I can use my strengths and skills, may I also remember to thank Him for the job I have and recognize God’s goodness in providing it.Have you ever found yourself complaining to the Lord for the way in which He has made provision for you rather than thanking Him?
- “How Long O Lord?” (www.thegospelcoalition.org)
- Learning Contentment in a Material World (imallbooked.com)