I think the Wilderness Series at City Campus Church has been one of the most important ones we've ever done. Here's 10 quick thoughts on wilderness.
1. Those whom God wants to use greatly, He first wounds deeply. --A.W. Tozer
2. How did Christianity's message become "Jesus loves you, pray a prayer and receive him into your heart and you're good."? It seems more accurate to say, "Jesus loves you, and if you wish to follow Him, you have to pick up your cross, deny yourself, die daily, lose your life to find it, and count the cost."
3. We weren't meant to consume church. We were meant to produce it. Consumer Church has developed because the majority of Western Christianity despises the wilderness, so whatever it takes to keep the hype and inspiration and freshness up, churches will bend over backwards to create. We do a huge disservice to the process of discipleship when we make it about hype and one upping ourselves in how "epic" our church is. Charisma and winsomeness and dynamic worship have their place. But show me a church that embraces the rawness and hell of the pit, and I'll show you a people that will find redemption and will produce the beauty of church for the world.
4. You can't get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness. Want the beauty and joy and healing of resurrection? Then you dang well better expect the cross.
5. God doesn't just want to rescue you from wilderness. He wants to redeem your wilderness. The Burning Bush called Moses back to the place that he had been running from for 40 years. The murderous persecutor of the church, Paul would become the most effective planter of church the world has ever known. He went from killing church to birthing church. That's redemption. The place that is most despised, feared, insecure, broken, painful and weak in you is precisely where God awaits you. If you lean in, the story He tells could change the world and it will definitely change YOUR world!
6. The main reason pain and adversity and despair and sadness and trial and anxiety and depression happen is because God wants to show us there is something better on the other side. Unfortunately many of us quit because it's hard or we resign ourselves to settling, thinking the pain and anxiety and depression is all we'll ever know and all we'll ever be. There is something better on the other side. Lean in. Don't you dare quit. Don't you dare believe the lie that your identity is wrapped up in your circumstances.
7. The biggest paradox I can think of? Many people's primary indictment against belief in God is "How can God be perfectly good in suffering and pain." I would answer, I have known God's perfect goodness to be most fully on display precisely in the suffering and pain.
8. Christians want desperately to put the nice and tidy bow on people's stories. "I was broken and hopeless and then God came in and now I'm whole and everything is great." Sometimes the bow happens. Sometimes it doesn't. The church would do well to teach her people that tension and stories that are unresolved are ok. The expectation on people to have the bow on their story distorts how they see God at work in their life. Sometimes there isn't a bow because God isn't done yet.
9. If your competency exceeds your character you can accomplish some things, but eventually you'll be found out and invited back into the place of fear that you've been avoiding. God has never allowed competency to trump character for the long haul. In fact the opposite is more often the case. And your character is most distinctly forged in the pain and desperation of the wilderness.
10. You can avoid the pain and the heartache and the wounding and try to get a fresh start and a new beginning. God will often allow this pursuit because He is not a control freak. But He will whisper all the while "I will wait for you right here. You'll be back. You'll be stuck again. And when you're ready to engage your fear and pain, I will be right here waiting for you."
If the wilderness intrigues you, this message series might be helpful. Check out www.citycampuschurch.com and click on Messages to hear the sermons in this series.
Hope you find this as helpful as we have!