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April 12, 2024


 

We just began a sermon series at White Oak called The Wilderness. We’ve defined the wilderness as: A challenging season in life that God wants to use to form and deepen our dependance upon him. As I look at Scripture, I firmly believe that God does his best work in and through us when we meet him in the desert places of life. I see it in the lives of the likes of Abraham, Sarah, Samuel, Mary, and more. Take a look at those we read about in the Bible. God shows up and/or leads these people in their times of distress, confusion, isolation, pain, and faith-crisis. He shows up when individuals are poised for a faith experience and a heart change (and they normally never see it coming). He works to develop their trust and faith in him. Everywhere you look you see God meeting men and women in the wilderness places. This is true physically and spiritually for many of them!

 

Wilderness places aren’t always personal experiences, however. Sometimes entire cultures go through desert seasons. This can be economic, political, social, etc. These are places in time when we find society in between a passing ear and the coming of a new one. Or a passing economic era and the coming of a new one. Or the passing of an era of certain social standards and the coming of a new one (You get the picture). What is the role of a Christian in the midst of these seasons? How do apprentices of Jesus respond to these times of cultural challenges?

 

I read a book last year by Mark Sayers entitled, A Non-Anxious Presence. In that book, Sayers talks about this. He will call it the “Gray Zone.” The structure of our contemporary world creates an anxious social atmosphere that can paralyze people. And that includes followers of Jesus. We may certainly feel that we are in a Gray Zone in America right now. We find ourselves divided and anxious about a great many things. Inflation, immigration and those who seek refuge here, political parties, abortion laws, sexuality and gender, school debt, elections, social media pressure, and more. Not to mention the anxiety over how Christians should live and respond to such things (yikes)! Christians can become mired in sicky anxiety, infected by the broader cultural mood of the day. 

 

In his book, Sayers says this about the response of those who practice the Way of Jesus:

When viewed through Kingdom lenses, comfortable, prosperous, and stable times do not always equate good soil. Comfort can insulate us from renewal.  

 

Every moment with God is seeded with the possibility of rebirth. Gray zones offer a blank canvas for God to paint a new story. 

 

You see? God is constantly working in the challenges of the wilderness to do something new and different in and through us. And he certainly wants to do something through us out into the broader context of our families, our workplaces, our classrooms, and in our friend groups. God calls Christians to be a non-anxious presence. Followers of the Way of Jesus respond with gentleness, patience, kindness, and love. We respond to the anxiety of those around us with a calming presence. We lead the way in love and truth. The whole time pointing people to a God who loves them and who wants full and abundant life for them. In this challenging desert cultural reality, Christians can be a light of calm and beauty. That’s how the Gospel changes people, cities, and cultures!

 

I’ll leave you with this, today: Patient Trust (Prayer of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) 

 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. 

We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. 

We should like to skip the intermediate stages. 

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. 

And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time. 

And so I think it is with you; 

your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, 

let them shape themselves, without undue haste. 

Don’t try to force them on, 

as though you could be today what time 

(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) 

will make of you tomorrow. 

Only God could say what this new spirit 

gradually forming within you will be. 

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing 

that his hand is leading you, 

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself 

in suspense and incomplete. 

 

Practicing a new presence,

 

Nathan

 

 


Nathan Hinkle

Lead Pastor

White Oak Christian Church





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