Is it safe to assume that you have had a similar experience? Experience has taught us that we are forgetful creatures. Time and distance have a way of making our memories fade, changing our perspective, and causing us to forget important moments and lessons of our lives. This forgetfulness has a negative impact on our relationship with God.
The story of Israel is a great illustration of this reality. The nation of Israel continually forgot how God had worked in their lives and the promises that He had made to them. The result was that they ignored God’s Law and lived life following the example of the nations around them.
It is so very very easy for us to judge Ancient Israel for their forgetfulness. We find it surprising that they would so quickly forget the thing that God had done for them. God had sent ten plagues on Egypt to force the Egyptians to free Israel from slavery. God parted the Red Sea to secure the nation’s escape from the pursuing Egyptians. God turned the bitter waters into sweet waters at Marah and sent manna and quail to feed the nation.
In spite of the miraculous intervention Israel constantly complained and grumbled. They, as a people, were never satisfied, and could never quite trust God to provide for what they needed. At the banks of the Jordan River, at the very cusp of possessing the Promised Land they people decided not to move. The occupying people were too numerous, too strong, and too fortified. The Israelites looked at the situation before them and decided it was impossible, and thus they demonstrated a lack of trust in God’s power. They forgot, not only what God was capable of doing, but also His promise to go before them to ensure victory. They forgot God and lived in fear. The result was that that generation of Israelites died in the wilderness as the nation wandered for forty years, learning to trust God.
I see this same pattern at work in my life. Over and over again God has worked in my life, but I am reluctant to trust Him with the future, with my relationships, and with my ministry. Though God has answered my prayers, has spoken to me, has changed my life, and has forgiven my sins I still demand that He does more before I will take the next step of faith. When it comes to God it is never “What has He done?”, but it is “what has He done for me lately?” It is hard for me to be content with what God has already done, and so I expect Him to constantly prove Himself to me in order to have my trust.
Why do we react this way? Why do we forget what God has done and demand that He once again prove Himself? I believe that one of the reasons is because life has a way of dulling our memories. Life sweeps us along and we go with the flow, which leads to the excitement of the past being lost. Those difficulties that God helped us through last year now don’t seem to be all that difficult, especially compared to the challenges that are before us right now. Without constant reflection and worship we are bound to forget how God has worked in our lives. Life and time will fade our memories and quickly make God a foot note in the story of our lives.
Forgetfulness is a problem all people experience. It was a problem in the Galatian churches. The apostle Paul wrote to them because he was surprised how quickly they forgot the Gospel that he had taught them. This is what the Apostle wrote in Galatians 1:6, 7:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (ESV)
Paul’s astonishment leaps off the page, he can’t believe that the Galatians were turning their back on the Gospel and turning towards something that wasn’t the Gospel. These Christians in Galatia had allowed life and time to dull their memory about God’s truth and as a result they accepted a way of life that was appealing to them, but was not the way of Christ Jesus.
We face that same danger. If we are not intentional about taking time to remember how God has worked in our lives, the truth that we have been taught, or how our lives have been changed we can be deceived by a different gospel that is actually no gospel at all. It is for the purpose of remember that God gave us the Lord’s Supper, the Bible, and the Church. When we take advantage of these gifts God reminds us of who He is and what He has done.
Here is a little exercise I think will help you to remember what God is doing in your life. Find a quiet place away from the distractions of life: turn off the TV, get away from the computer, put away the phone, and set aside your work. Pull out your Bible and read Psalm 111 and think about specific times when God has shown up in your life. Write these thoughts down and journal about the experiences. Then pray and thank God for coming through for you in your time of need.
Life will make us forget God if we are not intentional about remembering all that He has done for us. Make sure you “count your blessings” and praise God as you live life so you don’t forget the great things He has done for you.