Circumstances do not always go our way. The phrase "suck it up, buttercup" does not make us feel any better. But sometimes it is the phrase we need hear. It is a phrase heard by a favorite Bible character from a surprise source. Pastor Jason preaches a sermon from Deuteronomy 3:23-29.Ravenna Church of the Nazarene
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*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP
Text: Deuteronomy 3:23-29
A phrase I have commonly used, heard, and been on the receiving end of is “suck it up, buttercup.” As a kid or young man, I would injure myself or complain of being tired, so someone would say that to me. They were telling me to shake it off and keep going. In midst of the moment, those are not the comforting words I was hoping to get.
Do you know the history of that phrase? It began in a very fitting place that treats sickness and injury with water and push-ups. When that does not work maybe ibuprofen. The phrase is from the military. During World War II, pilots would have to wear a mask. The mask provided the pilot with oxygen which was deficient at the altitudes they travelled. A mask was necessary for performance and survival.
The reason for the phrase “suck it up, buttercup” has to do with these masks. Whether because of illness, intensity of the motion, or the nerves of the situation, occasionally a pilot would throw up in the mask. The vomit would be a safety issue, obstructing the needed oxygen. A pilot had two options, suffocate, or swallow their own vomit. Hence, “suck it up.” “Buttercup” was added as an insult to encourage the pilot to do the right thing.
As gross as the thought of that scenario seems, we must do that with situations and circumstances in our lives. The great leader of faith, Moses, had to do that in his life, at God’s command. That is the passage we will be looking at today.
READING OF THE TEXT
23 “At that time I begged the LORD: 24 Lord GOD, you have begun to show your greatness and your strong hand to your servant, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can perform deeds and mighty acts like yours? 25 Please let me cross over and see the beautiful land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon. 26 But the LORD was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. The LORD said to me, “That’s enough! Do not speak to me again about this matter. 27 Go to the top of Pisgah and look to the west, north, south, and east, and see it with your own eyes, for you will not cross the Jordan. 28 But commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will cross over ahead of the people and enable them to inherit this land that you will see.” 29 So we stopped in the valley facing Beth-peor. (CSB)
God essentially tells Moses, “suck it up, buttercup, you are not going into the Promised land.” Verse 26 tells us this was because God was angry with Moses because of how Moses acted in a particular moment.
What happened? The incident is recorded in Numbers 20:1-13. God’s people, the Hebrews, are in an area where there is no water. They get thirsty and start grumbling. Moses and Aaron then go and grumble to God about the people grumbling. God tells Moses and Aaron to go talk to the rock then the rock would respond by yielding water for the entire community.
Keep in mind, Moses is dealing with a large crowd of grumblers. On top of that, Moses’ sister, Miriam, had died immediately before this scene unfolded. Instead of talking to the rock, Moses strikes it with the rod, the same rod used in Egypt and at the Red Sea. Out of frustration from dealing with the people, Moses reacts in a manner that is rooted in unbelief and lack of trust in God.
God’s response is, “because you did not trust me, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12) Moses is disqualified from entering the Promised land because of this incident.
This seems harsh. Moses had trusted God’s voice at the burning bush in Exodus 3. He had accepted God’s call to lead the people. Then Moses relied on God as they faced the Egyptians and all through the wilderness wandering. So, this moment of weakness is outside Moses’ character. Why would God not show mercy?
The Bible tells us, “Not many of you should be teachers, for you know that teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) Moses did not get a different standard, he was held more tightly to the same standard as the people. He was leading a stiff-necked people, and Moses was to be an example to them in trusting God’s power. Moses is in this gut-wrenching situation not because God is mean, but because of his own decisions.
But Moses knows how good God is, quick to forgive and show mercy. He had called upon that mercy from God multiple times for the sake of the people. In those moments, Moses was able to persuade God. Maybe if Moses asked God, God would show him mercy in this situation.
Now, Moses is asking from a heart that desires to see the Promised land and the people reach their destination. This is not a plea attempting to hold onto power or control. “Please let me crossover and see.” Moses only wants to see the results, that desire is a the heart of the request.
“That’s enough! Do not speak to me again about this matter.” The wording to me implies this had been a repeated request by Moses. God ultimately responds, “suck it up, buttercup. This is the way it will play out.”
God displays His holiness to Moses. Moses was a man of faith, faithfully carrying out his role except in this matter. But disobedience is disobedience, which is sin. Holiness demands that sin be held accountable. While behavior does not save anyone, behavior matters. Even for Moses, the great leader and man of faith.
It is easy to focus on verse 26 alone and harp on God’s holiness. But while this verse reveals that holiness is rooted in justice, the surrounding verses demonstrate that holiness is also rooted in kindness. God’s holiness is always grace and truth; His love is always both.
How does God show kindness? In verse 27, though Moses cannot enter the land, God allows him to see it. It would not be the same as experiencing it, Moses would see the results of all his hard work. Verse 28 shares that Moses would be the one to charge and empower Joshua to lead the people. God granted Moses the kindness of knowing his efforts in the work would be completed.
It was not what Moses wanted, but God’s goodness would have to be enough. God was calling Moses to trust him by seeing the land and sending out Joshua to complete the journey.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?
Christianity is not a magic belief that will make our world and walk in it perfect. There will be times when we will be wearing the mask that provides the breath of life, but must swallow the disgustingness before us. Sometimes it will be because of sin in our lives. God has forgiven us, but there are still circumstances that lead to jail, divorce, lost jobs, or pain. And no matter how much we plead with God to change these outcomes, He will not do it. God may even get to a point when He responds to us like Moses, “Enough! Do not speak to me again about this matter.” Our response to this determines what we will experience through the events of this life.
Jesus did not sin, but He had to face a “suck it up” moment because of sin. Hours before he was to be betrayed, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing to take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Our atonement for sin was at stake, Jesus had to endure the cross for us to obtain it. He sought another way, but there was not one. Thus, Jesus yielded to the Father’s will. Christ was willing to suffer for sinners such as you and me so we could be transformed by the grace of God. Surrender through circumstances brought transformation.
God may not change our circumstances, but He is willing to change us through the circumstances. Paul wrote “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair, we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may be displayed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10) All that we endure will be a display of God’s power in our lives.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it a great joy, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect so that you may be mature and completed, lacking nothing.” God’s power in us will give us His strength to keep going and a new mindset. Rather than panic in the situation and ask, “God, where are you?” the renewed mind learns to confidently look at the situation and ask, “How is God going to show up in this?” The situation and circumstances are not good, but God will show up and reveal His goodness in their midst. The heart transformed with a renewed mind searches for God’s goodness.
Paul ends up arrested many times through his ministry. During an imprisonment, Paul writes a letter to the Philippian Christians. In that letter he wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12) The secret Paul writes about is that a heart transformed with a renewed mind that searches for God’s goodness finds contentment in God’s goodness. God’s goodness is enough.
In a different letter to another group, Paul mentions an issue that is persistently a problem for him. There is a lot of speculation on what the issue was, Paul simply refers to it as his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul did not wan to deal with this “thorn” so he asked three times for God to take it away. God responds with, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I do not know the details of your life. And I know very little of the situations and circumstances that surround you. As you deal with them, I believe you are praying and pleading with God to do something. What if God is saying to you, “It is not the circumstances I am looking to transform”? Maybe God is asking you, “is my goodness enough for you?” “Do you believe in me? Do you trust me?” Answering yest to those questions leads to a transformed heart and a renewed mind that learns to seek out the goodness of God in all circumstances.