Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Wilderness Experience

Thirsty, lost and hungry. Wandering through the desert is not an enjoyable time. The people of Israel wandered for 40 years, and some of you reading this, find yourselves wandering in the spiritual desert of the moment.  Maybe you're confused on the direction you are meant to be taking in life. Maybe you feel like God is distant. Maybe you are angry at God for your current situation. Wilderness experiences are not easy.

So what do we do during a wilderness experience? We know the response of some of the Israelite people was to head back to where they came from. They definitely had short memories. The slavery. The oppression. The back-breaking expectations of the Egyptians. Surely heading back to the injustice they were recently delivered from was not the answer?

Moses was called to lead the people out of Egypt, and out of this slavery and Joshua was empowered to lead them into something even greater - the promised land. How often, during a wilderness experience, do we resort back to the way things used to be; or we long with all our hearts to get back to the good old days? I believe during a wilderness experience, we are not called to long for the past, but are called to grasp God's agenda for the future.

I'm captured by the thought, that even if we are completely unsure about the vision of our ministry, or the direction God is wanting us to go, or the reasons for our current predicament, we are simply called to obey the great commandment, and are called to live out the great commission. I say this, because how often over the years have I heard people say that they are wandering in the desert and they don't know what to do. They become passive disciples that continually question the will of God and yet sit idle waiting for a response. Even if we have had no revelation of God, no dramatic vision, no significant Holy Spirit experience, we are called to follow the Word of God. If you are in that place, then obedience to the commands that God has given is what matters. Over time, you may, God willing, hear a specific direction to go, or you might experience an amazing baptism in the Holy Ghost, or find an answer to a pressing question, but until that time, and even after that time, you simply obey God.

Jesus has called us to love one another and to love God with all of our heart. We are challenged to go into the world and make disciples. We are called to work for justice for the oppressed. God has already revealed these commands through the biblical writings. We need not wait and wait and wait for another revelation when it has already been revealed. Our inactivity displeases God. Wasn't it Micah who said, hey guys, he's already showed you what is good and pleasing... (so get on with it) and show mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God.

Maybe I sound uncompassionate at this point. Possibly, this is a fair comment. Though, my passion is that we compel ourselves to continue to serve Christ, even in the midst of the wilderness. I am not saying necessarily that we are called to leave the wilderness, especially if God is the one who wants us there, but I do believe we are called to continue to serve in the amidst of the wilderness experience.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together) said, 'It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God'. We called to serve God during the wilderness time. Sure, question God, or gather people around you to guide you, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into a time of fruitfulness. But, I put the challenge out there - continue to serve Christ while in the wilderness.

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