As long as we live, we will have times and seasons of walking in a wilderness of one sort or another. We will walk through the wilderness of hurt. The wilderness of being misunderstood. The wilderness of persecution. The wilderness of failure. Sin has seen fit to that - and the enemy loves to exploit the wilderness times. He is so adept as his subtle lies that he is often able to get the inspecting believer/follower of Jesus to want to go back to the bondage He has already delivered them from…back to Egypt! That is true wilderness!
At times, when the journey toward freedom in our thoughts leaves us weary and worn out, we find it easier to give up to old temptations - old ways of thinking - rather than trudge on toward truth and ultimate freedom. How may people have you met who seem to be going around in circles, complaining about the same old hang ups even though they say they have put off the lies and received the truth? It is one thing to recount the goodness of God through one’s testimony and quite another to walk in victimhood by reliving the same old stinkin’ thinkin’ moment after moment! Reality is that if we never exchange the identity of victimhood for the identity of avictor, we never walk in true freedom! Another way to say it? We never leave what we never grieve!
Even though the enemy - the liar - seeks to exploit the wildernesses of our lives, I have great news. So does our God! Yes, we will always have wilderness in our lives but the perspective of that wilderness means the difference between victory and defeat; between constant despair or refreshing hope. Reality is we will always be strangers and aliens in this world by virtue of our very nature as new creations in Christ. Rather than wondering around aimlessly, we need to recognize that we have been given something to look forward to. We look to our very own Promised Land!
Although it is disputed by many, It has been said that Winston Churchill once said, “If you're going through hell, keep going.” Not bad advice at all, if you ask me! When we are wandering through the wilderness times of life, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the Promised Land. Just what is the Promised Land? I have several that keep me focused.
The very presence of God that I never leave and that never leaves me. If my wilderness takes me to the highest mountain of insurmountable pain or suffering, I am not alone. If my wilderness takes me to the lowest place in the desert of despair, I am never alone - not even for one moment. He is as far as I can fall! He is Immanuel - God With Us! My ultimate Promised Land is Jesus Christ! With my eyes fixed on Jesus, what once seemed like barren wilderness now becomes an exciting and exhilarating adventure. We replace thoughts of futile wandering and helpless floundering with a sense of adventure! This takes us out of the realm of despair and plants our feet firmly on the Solid Ground of life lived with, in, and through the power of Jesus Christ. Joy is in that journey….and there are new vistas to be explored around each and every corner; new discoveries with every twist and turn; new moments of timeless splendor with every little side-trip our journey takes us down!
Here are a few of my former ‘Egypts’ - bondages - along with the wilderness they took me through, followed by the Promised Land I am now enjoying:
Egypt: My former identity
Wilderness: Working out my salvation by renewing my mind
Promised Land: Experiencing life with, in, and through Jesus
Egypt: Painful memories and wounds from the past; Stolen ground
Wilderness: Renewing my mind to see each of those wounds from God’s point of view
Promised Land: looking back to see all the altars along the way where pain was met with comfort; where old memories were replaced with God’s reality of perspective.
Egypt: Soul ties; anything physical or relational that tied my soul to my former identity
Wilderness: The process of severing those ties; burning gifts exchanged between me and a former partner in sin; ripping up pictures that connected me to my old identity; serving wrong relationships
Egypt: Current failures/sins
Wilderness: Seeking and receiving God’s forgiveness; Seeking forgiveness from those I have sinned against; Forgiving myself; Putting off the old and putting on the new once again.
Promised Land: Right relationship with God and others; Moving on down the road!
Because I now have a different perspective on wilderness, I often go into the wilderness on purpose…just like Jesus did. Going into the wilderness alone to seek God’s presence and guidance is never a bad thing. It is in this view of wilderness - regardless of its nature or specifics - that brings joy to what once brought me despair; that bathes me in love that expels any fear. Let me very clear: wilderness is not the problem. Lack of trusting God is with me IS! And bottom line? I never leave what I do not grieve.
I left the wilderness of self-hatred (part of my former identity) when I grieved my former wrong way of thinking about myself. I left the idol worship of ME in that same moment by placing my hope in God rather than in my performance.
I left the wilderness of old hurts, not by denying they occurred, but by seeing them from God’s point of view. He wastes nothing in my life! Yes, I have many scars, but scars are evidence that a healing has taken place. Evidence to the fact that I have gone through something painful - and lived to tell about it. Evidence that says God heal and restores and delivers! How do we get out of the old perspective of dreading the wilderness and replace that point of view with a new perspective? We do what the Children of Israel did. We follow the leader!
In November of 1981 I decided to follow Jesus. He led me to the cross. He led me to die to my sin. He led me to resurrection of thought. He led me to a brand new life! Who would not want to follow a leader like that?
Soon after that encounter with Jesus, I was introduced to the power of the Holy Spirit and the use of his gifts. The Spirit led me to wisdom. The Spirit led me to discernment. The Spirit led me to the constant seeking of the center of God’s will. The Spirit constantly leads me right back to Jesus. He leads me to find comfort in His presence and leads me to pour myself out for others.
Simultaneously, I longed for a healthy understanding of Father’s love and was led by the Father who had been waiting for this prodigal son to return home! Father led me to pursue Him as a child. Led me to trust. Led me to cut out all the other voices being for my attention. For 12 years I did not watch TV or listen to the radio of allow my mind to be filled with anything that did not lead me to my Father God! He led me to my passion for music. He led me to face my brokenness with my passion. This collision led to me to the ongoing discovery of my true calling in life. My relationship with my Father leads me to the constant honing of my ministry which is irrevocable. He led me right back to Jesus in this sense: I am to be about my Father’s business…to seek and save that which is lost.
If this is wilderness in my life, I love it…because the journey never get old when walked with a sense of adventure…when walked with the God of the Universe who loves ME! Even when I sorrow or suffer or find myself believing a lie, I keep my eyes fixed on the Leader and He always meets me right where I am - with a cloud of HIs presence - with a pillar fire of His presence - with the daily manna of His presence; With Bread of Life and sweet Living Water! Do you want to build this same sense of adventure or do you want to wander around with a sense of dread and fear? It really is your choice.
What is your promised land?
Is it freedom?
Is it restored relationships?
Is it moving on?
Is it ministry?
Is it your calling?
Is it all of the above and then some?
It doesn’t matter. You are not alone. Just follow the Leader and move with assurance toward the Promised Land.
Who is God? Cosmic Policeman or Powerful Advocate? You’ve got to decide. One view leads to performance and death while the other leads to true freedom.
Who are you? Pathetic Loser or Triumphant Overcomer? You’ve got to decide. One view leads to death while the other leads to life. My personal rule? Dennis Jernigan cannot call himself something his Father does not call him!
See your past from God’s point of view…
Seek and receive forgiveness…
Move on down the road with eyes fixed on the Leader…
Expect and enjoy His presence…
Stand in awe of the cloud and the pillar of fire and allow your faith to be bolstered…
Remember who and Whose your are in spite of your circumstances…
Live the grand adventure called your life. Follow the Leader. He will lead you right to a land flowing with milk and honey and will give you power to put down the giants in your land. Just trust Him.
March 23, 2017