Cutting Down Trees

Published on 02/13/18

I want to encourage you, as I have been encouraged, to be faithful in what God has called us to do. If we are to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ, we must be content with our ministry, committed to our ministry, and consistent in our ministry. In this post, I want to address the subject of our contentment.

I have noticed over the years that those struggling with contentment are often not doing all they are supposed to be doing and, yet, they want more. This is not a new problem. God sheds some light on this struggle by sharing with us the story of Joseph’s children (Joshua 17:10-18). Israel had been instructed by God to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, but Joseph’s children had failed to do so (17:12-13). Now they were complaining and wanting more (17:14). In a sense they were saying, “Don’t you see our great potential, and that we deserve more?”

Joseph’s children came to this conclusion by comparing themselves to others. This is a dangerous and unwise activity (Galatians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 10:12). If we are going to be content with our ministry, we must not compare ourselves to others. Comparing ourselves to others usually leads to either feelings of inferiority or superiority. Jesus told Peter, who was guilty of this unwise activity, “follow thou me” (John 21:20-22). We are to examine our lives based on our obedience to God and His Word, not by comparing ourselves to others.

Joseph’s children were not satisfied with God’s plan and provisions. If we are going to be content with our ministry, we must not complain. I once heard complaining defined as, “Going to someone, about something negative, who can’t do anything about it.” Joseph’s children complained to Joshua that they didn’t have enough land. You might be wondering if this story adequately illustrates “complaining.” After all, they went to Joshua, the man in charge. Remember, it wasn’t Joshua who had divided up the land. It was God (Joshua 14:2, 5). We are part of a body that God has established to accomplish His purposes, and we must remember that God is the One who has “set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him. (1 Corinthians 12:18). We must be satisfied with God’s plan and provisions.

Joseph’s children confused opportunities with obstacles. If we are going to be content with our ministry, we must not confuse opportunities with obstacles, relationship with religion, eternal with temporal, and calling with abilities. Joseph’s children only saw obstacles. The Canaanites were still in the land, they didn’t have enough space, and they didn’t know how to make it work (17:12, 14, 16). Joshua responded by telling them to “cut down some trees” (17:15, 18). The problem was not the lack of God’s provision. The problem was they had not utilized all that God had provided.

Joseph’s children also confused their difficult situation with an impossible situation. Said another way, they confused their calling with their abilities. They were trusting in themselves, so they saw what God had called them to as impossible. We must understand that God will never call us to a ministry where our abilities are sufficient in themselves (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). He places us in ministry where “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

What an amazing contrast we see between the children of Joseph and the faithful man Caleb (Joshua 14). Joseph’s children said, “God’s provision wasn’t enough and too hard to possess.” Caleb said, “Give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:12). He didn’t compare his lot to others. He didn’t complain about the hardships. He didn’t confuse opportunities with obstacles. Like Caleb, we must believe that God knows what we are and where we are (Romans 8:26-28), accept that God is working in our lives (Philippians 1:6), and determine to give God the glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

I encourage you to join me this year in “cutting down some trees.”