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A Wilderness Invitation

Encounter: take a quiet moment and open your Bible to Job 42 and read verses 1 through 6. Take a few minutes and reflect on a difficult time in your life. It doesn’t have to be one of physical pain, but maybe it was a spiritual battle within or a mental battle you are working through.

When times like these come, we find ourselves questioning God, doubting ourselves and our decisions. They can become lonely times that bring about fear, anxiety, confusion, and even anger. We wonder how did we get here and how do we get out of this place we are in.

I realized this past week that I have been in wilderness experience since returning from the Leadership Retreat in early March. I have shared how impactful this experience was for me and the importance of doing retreats on a more routine basis. What caught me off guard was the attacks that came afterwards.

Author Brian Van Cleave wrote in his book “Jesus, A Man’s Man,” “…when life has brought us to the mountaintop, we need to be on our guard because this is when we are in the greatest danger of the wilderness. Think about these spiritual mountaintops: salvation, baptism, retreats, being used by Jesus, just to name a few. After these times, we must be very cautious of a wilderness experience just around the corner.”

Job was in the midst of a wilderness experience as he leaned more on his own understanding of God instead of leaning on God himself. His friends were of no help as they were insisting he had sinned or this calamity would have not happened to him. When Job finally pleads to God, Job realizes that he only knew of God from what he has heard and that he had not seen him. After seeing him in action, Job sits and repents of his ill accusations and Job is blessed.

Returning from our Leadership Retreat, I was on a high. I was charged and ready to move forward. Then the next thing I knew, I was in a fight. Fighting time, fighting energy, fighting schedules, I was experiencing personnel challenges at work and to top it off, I was making mistakes I typically would not make. I was finding it difficult to maintain my spiritual disciplines and distractions were bombarding and winning.

Finally, this past week, I sat down and reflected. I realized, I was leaning upon my own resources. I was reading the scriptures, but not listen to God speak in the Words. I was not journaling intentionally. And I was doing it alone.

From, “Having a wilderness experience is not necessarily a sign that a believer is sinning; rather it is a time of God-ordained testing.” Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness for 40 years. During this time, God was testing and transforming them into a nation that would be dependent upon Him. Job was being tested and by the end of his trials, became stronger in his relationship with God.

As I near the end of my wilderness journey, I am being transformed and strengthened in the image God desires from me. The key is to realize a little more quickly when a wilderness experience is upon you.

Embrace the struggles and look upon it as an invitation to walk with God in the wilderness. Commune with Him and seek what it is He wants to reveal in you.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1:2-4 NIV

Walking in the wilderness with you,

Pastor Phil

Reflect: reflect on past experiences that were troublesome for you. Consider if there were any changes that took place with you or your faith from before and after the challenge. If you were to consider the struggle a journey through the wilderness with God, would it change your perspective of your experience?

Lifting weights creates pain in the muscles as it makes micro tears in order to grow bigger and stronger. Our wilderness journey may be painful at times, but with the power of God, we can grow stronger in our faith.

Spiritual Practice: During your daily Bible or devotional reading, take note of words or phrases that grab your attention. Write them down. Journal about your experiences and take note if God is using the words from scripture to help with what you are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to look back at least once a week and see if you notice God moving in and out of your daily walk.

Gather: In your groups, discuss if your perspective would change in how you deal with difficult times if you were to consider it an invitation to the wilderness with God. Listen to one another and pray for each other that God may grant wisdom and strength during these times of wilderness experiences.

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