Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.
Deuteronomy 9:6-7 ESV
One of the cute phrases that my two year old son loves to shout right now is, “I did it.” There is a pure joy in announcing that he achieved something, or completed a task. He is proud that he completed a puzzle, put his own shirt on, or found a missing toy. As we grow up, we may not run around proclaiming, “I did it,” although I think it can be easy to pat ourselves on the back for all kinds of success in our lives, and to tell ourselves that the success was because of me alone. The success of a ministry event? Must be the person who put it together. What about the growth of a church, must be the new carpeting, or stage lights, or musicians, or maybe the pastor. Growth in my department, good thing they have me here.
I have to tell you that I read this passage and stopped to think, have I not read this before? This seems like pretty harsh language to God’s people. Why would God say this to His people? To put this in context, these words are spoken as the people of Israel stand on the edge of the Promised Land, ready to enter the place God has promised to them. God in His great wisdom leaves them with a bold reminder that all the joy, blessings, and success that they are about to experience is not a result of them. All they are about to experience is because of the greatness of their God. If it hinged on them, it would be a sad picture. They were rebellious belly-achers who made a habit of doing their own thing, and not listening to God’s instruction in their lives. Yet, God loves them in spite of themselves, hence the great blessings in their life.
It is no different for us. I was recently asked by a pastor friend for the “secret sauce” of why Trinity is doing well. What is helping Trinity to make an impact in our community, to break a trend of decreased numbers, to see lives changed, and all with a young pastor at the helm and a dated facility buried in a low visibility place in a residential community, it just doesn’t make sense. The easy list is things like: building renovations, leadership, programs, or even our new exterior signage. Let’s be clear that all of those and more play a role in why Trinity is in a season of seeing God’s Spirit at work in such powerful ways. God’s people humbly following the Spirit’s leading is another key factor. In fact, it is crucial that we take time to thank and celebrate how people have faithfully served and followed God. Yet the real reason for it all: God. This is God’s church, God’s ministry, God’s Spirit at work in the world around us. We are merely invited to be a part of it. All that we have is God’s: our joys, our sorrows, our success, and our challenges. May we be a people who never lose track of the real reason for what we see happening all around us.