Weekly Word from Bro. David
December 1, 2016
From The Pastor's Heart:
We're in Malachi 3 again today, looking at only three verses. But these three verses have the potential of being some of the most convicting verses we've studied in this series. I've entitled the series, Going Through the Motions. And tonight, we see one of the results of going through the motions. It leads to: thinking only of yourself, whining, fussing, and complaining. So, from Malachi 3:13-15 I want to talk to you about this subject, be a winner, not a whiner. Malachi says: 13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, “Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against You?' 14 You have said, 'It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts? 15 So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up; They even tempt God and go free.'”
There were many sayings in our house growing up. My parents would say to me, “Truth builds trust.” They would also say, “When you get in a bind, do not whine.” But the one I remember most was this, “Be a winner, not a whiner.” Now that I'm a dad, I find that I said that to my son as well. If there's one thing I can't stand, one thing we don't put up with, it's whining. One of the sayings in our house was, “We don't do drama!” I just can't stand whining!
Well here, that's all the people of God are doing. They are whining and complaining about their problems. They are whining about serving God. They are complaining because God doesn't do what they expect Him to do.
But let's be honest, we have all come to find ourselves whining at some point or another. You know as well as I do that it doesn't stop once you become an adult. In fact, some of the biggest crybabies I know have kids of their own!
But whining and complaining are always symptoms of a deeper issue. They tell us something about who a person is. What's the difference between one person who has joy in the midst of struggles and the other who crumbles under their weight? What's inside a person will eventually come out. The same is true with God's people in Malachi. We see that their whining is evidence of a greater problem.
We saw last time that it is evidence of self-deception: vs. 13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, “Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against You?'”
Today we will see It is evidence of self-centeredness: 14 You have said, 'It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts?
When you hear someone whining and complaining, you can be sure that no matter what they're facing, they are also struggling with a healthy dose of self-centeredness. Whiners are always self-centered. You can count on it. That's because self-centered people are never satisfied with what God has given them and they are never happy with their lot in life.
The wicked attitude standing between these people (like many people today) and a satisfying relationship with God is expressed here in its essence: There is no profit in serving God. God's written ''requirements'' were to them only a means toward personal gain-either guidelines of wisdom for success or a superficial way to please the supernatural gatekeeper of prosperity.
These people were guilty of saying “harsh things” against the Lord. For one thing, they felt that serving the Lord was drudgery; it was “futile” to be His servants. The priests may have been the leaders in this complaining, but the common people were just as guilty. “We're not getting anything out of it!” was their grievance. “Things just keep getting worse.”
Do you hear their awful attitude and self-centeredness in their words? “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge?” In other words, what do I get out of this deal? They sound like those people who grumbled in the desert in the time of Moses. Actually, they sound like grumblers against God in every age: and there are even echoes in our own hearts and sometimes on our own lips.
The question “What is the profit?” is so very revealing. It shows that they were going through the motions of service to God but their hearts were not in the right place. They were whining and complaining about serving God and wondering why they weren't getting anything out of it.
The Hebrew term translated “vain” can refer to something that is worthless, activity that is purposeless, pointless, or useless, and assurances that are deceitful or unreliable. It can refer to elaborate preparations for something that never happens, procedures diligently and meticulously followed with no results, a veneer of appealing promises and enticing words that hide corruption and disaster, or comforting dreams that promise prosperity but produce nothing but pain.
These people were fundamentally self-centered, not God-centered. They were right; their so-called “service” to God was “vain.” So-called good works that do not arise from genuine faith and gratitude to God are simply fake checks drawn on an empty bank account. They may provide a temporary sense of self-satisfaction, but God recognizes their true value-zero, and he will eventually bring to justice anyone who tries to live on them. These people were not interested in righteousness or in a relationship with God, only in “gain,” that is, profit, the bottom line, material prosperity.
I hear this complaint from some believers about their churches. “We're not getting anything out of it!” But a church is like a bank or a home: you don't get anything out of it unless you put something into it. We serve God because it's the right thing to do, not because we're rewarded for our service. We shall be rewarded, but that's not our main motive.
Being self-centered is the curse of our age. It is hard for two self-centered people to sustain a marriage. Self-centered parents find children very demanding. Self-centered children find it very hard to honor their father and mother. Self-centered people find belonging to a church very challenging, and churches find it challenging to cope with self-centered people. Self-centered people are out for what they can get in their workplace, in their local community, in their nation, and in their world. And self-centered people find it hard to cope with God, who will not serve them as they want.
The truth is, sometimes we do things that look like genuine service to God but we do them in service to ourselves. There are times in our lives when we are going through the motions. We look faithful and genuine to everyone else around us but the Lord sees our hearts and knows our motivations.