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June 7, 2024


 

A couple weeks ago we wrapped up a sermon series here at White Oak called The Wilderness. As this series is now behind us, I wanted to offer a final word on the wilderness. After all, the series is over, but the people of God will continue to find ourselves in wilderness seasons in life until one day Jesus returns to make everything new. And yet, God is doing important work in and through us in the wilderness.


The Christian life is a journey. And like all journeys it involves movement, action, stops and starts, detours, delays, and trips to the unknown. God called Abraham to leave his country and move to a new one when he was 75 years old! Moses was older when he encountered the burning bush which sent him on a journey. Israel wondered on their journey for 40 years on the dessert. Paul was thrust on his journey while on the road to Damascus. Each of Jesus’s disciples were called to journey through sacrifice, hardship, joy, and even to death.


Pete Scazzero, in his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, describes the journey for many Christians as starting out with an awareness of God and Jesus’s actions on the cross. From there, we move into discipleship where we begin to learn, grow, and follow. We begin to journey into the realm of doing what Jesus did by obediently serving, giving, and reorienting portions of our lives. And then… it happens. We hit what Scazzero references as The Wall. And the wall is really a wilderness season. It can come in the form of a job loss, a divorce, a betrayal, the loss of a loved one, a wayward child, a life-altering accident or diagnosis, the loss of a dream, loneliness, spiritual dryness, or many other things. It’s in these times we come upon a new season in our journeys. We wonder if our faith really works. We ask God questions as to how and why he would allow these things to happen. We fight, plead, and cry for the season to end.


One such wall for me was when my oldest son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 12-years-old. It didn’t make sense! I didn’t understand the disease or how it worked at the time. Our family ate healthily (relatively speaking)! We didn’t have diabetes in our family background! My son would forever have to inject insulin and measure his blood sugar. Travel and activity would be difficult at times. And don’t get me started on the expense over a lifetime that it would take to keep him alive! It was a wall. How could God? Why? What were we going to do? How was this going to turn out? We felt those questions profoundly. It became hard to talk about with others… hard to sing songs of praise at church… hard to put on a smile and pretend like our faith was strong enough so as not to worry. It was for us, as St. John of the Cross, put it 500 years ago, a dark night of the soul.


This is where we come to a point and realized that all the Christian “practices” we’d learned don’t work as they used to.


All of us will come in and out of wilderness seasons as we follow Jesus. At some point or points he will come to the Wall. This is where God will invite us to break through the wall of our Christian journeys. In his book, Scazzero references that this is where we’re challenged to confront our human tendency to become attached to our feelings about God and the things we do for God, mistaking them for God himself. God loves us and desires intimacy with us so deeply that he won’t allow us to stay on the other side of the wall. He desires to purge us, refine us, cleanse us of our misunderstandings, complacency, fears, and of religion. Scazzero says,


“Ultimately, God is the One who moves us through the Wall. And, with that comes mystery. How and when God takes us through is up to him. We make choices to trust God, to wait on God, to obey God, to stick with God, to remain faithful when everything in us wants to quit and run. But it is his slow, deep work of transformation in us, not ours.”


Somewhere in our wilderness God is up to something profound and bathed in love. He is planning to move us to a deeper place of inward transformation so that we become more like his Son. He is doing mysterious work in us so that his important work in the world may be done through us.


I’ll leave you with these words from St. Augustine: If you understood him, it would not be God.


Being transformed,


Nathan




Nathan Hinkle

Lead Pastor

White Oak Christian Church





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