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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Friday, July 07, 2006
But What If I Don't Want...
A Wilderness Experience?
The wildernessSometimes we read or hear about the great Christians of the past (and even some in the present) who have lived through what has come to be called: a wilderness experience.

In the meta to this post Jim brought up something that I think ought to be clarified. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was driven into the wilderness immediately after the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him (a spiritual annointing - hence the title "Messiah" - annointed one) during His water baptism in the Jordan. Christ's experience in the wilderness was unique. Scripture tells us that he was tempted for forty days (not just thrice at the end) by the Devil - and there is no reason to imagine that Christ's experience was a chastisement by God.

The "Wilderness Experience" experience I am about to talk about borrows it's name from Christ's experience in an actual wilderness - but has come to represent any time of spiritual struggle in our walk with the Lord. Christ's wilderness was a spiritual struggle for certain - but it wasn't entered into because he refused to obey God - rather it was the place where Christ began to demonstrate His utterly unshakable tenacity in relying on the Holy Spirit to direct every aspect of His life.

In discussing this phenomenon experienced in Christian life, commonly referred to as a "wilderness experience" I want to be certain that we understand that we are not drawing parallels with Christ's experience in the wilderness by way of nomenclature - but rather we are giving (and discussing) a description of what passes for a "wilderness experience" today.


I remember that (as a newer Christian) I sort of glamorized the idea of a wilderness experience - not really understanding what it was. I pictured myself as one day going through such an experience. I had heard it described as both a period whereby the presence of God was not felt such that your faith was tested to the max; and I had heard it described as a time of cleansing and purging whereby God dealt with some garbage in your life. The whole image was, for me at least, positively romantic!

As I say, I pictured myself one day noticing that the presence of God was diminished or absent. Oh, I fancied myself as suffering while the joy of my salvation waned. What a picture of misery! Of course, in my fancy, I was steely-eyed, and full of persevering power. This was but a test of my faith - and I would run the course like a tragic champion, wounded, almost dead, but pulling myself through it - oh, the glory! When I came out of it, my faith would be the flaming beacon in the darkest night that shone for others to find hope.

Needless to say, I was more than melodramatic about the idea - I was filled with pride and ignorance.

First off, obedient Christians won't get a Wilderness Experience. The Refiner's fire isn't for the obedient, but the disobedient. I don't sing that old Vineyard ditty "Refiner's Fire" because although "my heart's one desire is to be holy" my preference is to be obedient without having to be chastised into it.

Make no mistake - the Wilderness Experience is a self imposed torture. The chastising of the Lord reserved for those who know better, but flee from obedience. Recall that Jonah was called to prophesy at Ninevah. He fled from this duty - God called him specifically to do it, and he fled. The story of how God (ahem) persuaded Jonah to fulfill his call is a well known story - a legend that is known throughout the world even amongst those who know nothing of the bible.

If I may postulate for a moment, I believe the wilderness is entered into in much the same way as Jonah embarked unto Tarshish - that is, we flee from God, and it is our attempt to avoid the Lord's will in our life that causes us to "flee into the wilderness."

It is in this wilderness - this self-imposed separation from God - that we are forced to examine whether or not we really love God - or whether are we just playing at being a Christian. Here our rebellion keeps us snared - and here it is that the character of our true faith begins to show itself. Everyone is willing to obey the Lord when it suits them, but what about when obedience to the Lord requires a person to do something he or she doesn't want to do?

Here it is where we learn that absence makes us long for the Lord - until our Love for God overcomes our desire to disobey. Here that old self of ours either finds the cross or keeps us from fellowship. We either die with Christ and give in to God, or we stand aloof and wither, wither, wither.

But this isn't glorious, pleasant, or even something most would want to admit they are going through. No. The wilderness is usually humiliating and something most who experience are proud enough to keep quiet about. When they come out of the other side - then they talk about it openly - but when they are going through it - many are too proud to even ask for prayer, or if they do, they ask for it in a way that diminishes what they are going through - they are ashamed that they are such failures, and that shame (pride) is partly what holds them there. These are usually the pillars in their church, the rising stars - the ones whose professin of faith produces something - they are respected for their knowledge of the bible, their public reputation, their outward godliness, and certainly their consistent generosity and kindness.

Oh they don't want anyone to know that they have fallen into a religious habit! They must hide their unwillingness to yield entirely to God. God has had as much of their life as they were willing to give up, and for some, that was plenty - but now they see that God wants it all, and they have found themselves strangely unwilling give God the reigns. They stop short of the cross - unwilling to be with Christ there in utter obedience - and so they have exiled themselves, and there in the wilderness they suffer for it.

It is sad, but I believe some (most?) who go into the wilderness never come back. Yet those who -do- come back have put aside the games of their spiritual youth; their walk with God is no longer "yes and no" - it is just "yes."

Dear brother or sister, have you run your faith into the wilderness? Has God called you to something that you refuse to do? Has Christ given you a cross that you are unwilling to bear?

Then brother, sister, you are in your flesh and you need to get real with God. Does your church have a prayer meeting? Make sure you attend the next one - and beg your brethren to pray for you - confess your weakness - let them know where it is in your life that you refuse Christ's rule - and have them pray for you. Don't fail to meditate on your current state - you call yourself a Christian, but you say in your heart - "I will not have you rule over me!"

Oh, how quickly we would obey if only Christ would show up in His glory, point His finger at us and command us to do something. Truly - even an unsaved person would obey - the fear of disobeying such a powerful and glorious being would make anyone obey - but we must not goad ourselves to obey the Lord out of a fear of what could happen if we disobey - but rather our obedience must be in love. When we refuse to obey God, it isn't because we aren't afraid as we should be, it is because we are not loving the Lord enough to obey Him - and (amongst other things) we need prayer for that.

If you find yourself presently in the wilderness, and you want to come out - there is only one way, and that is surrender. The prodigal son didn't return home until he was willing to serve, and you know in your heart (if you have God's Spirit within you) that it is your own rebellion that is keeping you in the wilderness.

Oh beloved - here is joy! Even from rebellion in your heart Christ can set you free!Have faith in that. Do you imagine that your God can't or won't free you from your rebellion? If you could stop rebelling, you wouldn't need the Holy Spirit! Is the Holy Spirit not your helper sent by Christ to help you? Do you plan to change your spots all by yourself? You can't, but He can. Set your heart to obey, set your feet in God's path - and trust that God is going to change your heart as you begin to obey. Until you actually take a step, you aren't walking, you're just thinking about it. You aren't coming out of the wilderness until you surrender, and that surrender isn't going to be real until you take that first step. If you fall, get up and take another step.

posted by Daniel @ 8:05 AM  
10 Comments:
  • At 10:28 AM, July 07, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, first of all let me say that you make some very good observations here regarding the unwillingness to surrender all.

    I trust you can take my questioning with an attitude of love and desire for more truth.

    Would you say then that the wilderness experience Jesus had was due to some disobedience? How could there be the least hint of chastening in that time from His father?

     
  • At 11:14 AM, July 07, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - Would you say then that the wilderness experience Jesus had was due to some disobedience

    No. I would not.

    When I speak of the wilderness experience, I am not setting Christ's experience as the arch-type. I should mention that in my post. I am talking about the cliched use of the term - much like people say, "It's my cross to bear" - and they are not actually talking about giving up the right to direct the course of their own life, but are just using the phrase as a metaphor for some suffering they are enduring.

    Because of your question, I think I will have to add a caveat in the post...

     
  • At 12:45 PM, July 07, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, I understand completely the point you are trying make. However, I could also interpret as the following:

    Are you suffering? Do you have troubles? Is everything going wrong in your life?

    You are probably out of the will of God by your own choice and therefore all these dilemmas are you own making.

    I think there are two different means of suffering.

    One is the self inflicted choice we make by refusing to obey and surrender. This causes unnecessary hardship and turmoil. We then mistakenly think as you said that we are simply bearing the cross, when in fact we are not even remotely close to any semblance of a cross.

    The other side would be where we willingly obey and suffer persecution or testing because of it.

    For example, many godly men have written about a dry time where the Lord was testing their faith...when they did emerge victorious it was not through their striving but rather through their submission. They then experienced a whole new level of christian walk and were then entrusted with much more revelation and responsibility in their ministry.

    We can either get beat up all of our lives, or submit to the Holy Spirit and experience the pruning work our heavenly Father does.

    Many christians like you state, falsely equate the slings and arrow of misfortune with actually suffering for Christ, when all they are doing is reaping the wages of a selfish and independent life.

     
  • At 2:01 PM, July 07, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, once again you are correct.

    I almost wonder if I shouldn't further qualify the post!

     
  • At 10:20 PM, July 07, 2006, Blogger ThirstyDavid said…

    Daniel, sometimes you are difficult to read. What will you convict me of next? This was a good post.

     
  • At 9:56 AM, July 08, 2006, Blogger jazzycat said…

    Daniel,
    Good points. I really like your last paragraph about having the faith to take action. It does take faith to trust that God will bless a walk of obedience and a bold vision of service.

    Jazzycat

     
  • At 3:11 PM, July 08, 2006, Anonymous bobby grow said…

    I agree with Jim!

     
  • At 7:03 PM, July 09, 2006, Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said…

    When I studied in Israel our beloved professor Todd Bolen (see links on the Moor) made us get out of the bus and sit in the wilderness of the Negev, literally. It was a very effective lesson to know what the wilderness was like. After a while the burden of the wilderness hit - it's no fun.

     
  • At 8:24 AM, July 10, 2006, Blogger Susan said…

    And doesn't the Bible state that "Christ learned obedience through suffering?"

    Like Jim, when I first started reading, I was equating the use of "wilderness" with the 'long dark night of the soul,' not suffering due to one's own sin, but rather the time when a Christian doesn't hear from God, for God's own purposes or the person's deeper sanctification.

    A good post with food for thought. Thanks, Daniel.

     
  • At 7:47 AM, July 14, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    When we think of wilderness experience, depnding on our mindset, we either think of the one that lasted forty years, or the one that lasted only forty days.

    The Israelites who refused to believe God's promise and therefore did not enter into the promised rest - picture the believer who fails to enter into rest.

    Christ's wilderness experience, no doubt pictures the other wilderness experience "redeemed."

     
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