It is hard to imagine from the world’s point of view just how we would benefit from giving our lives over to Christ. To give up control over our lives? To surrender our ways? Our expectations? Assumptions about life? Preferences? It just doesn’t sound worth it when viewed from our human, world-influenced points-of-view. Why would we want to give up our lives and all that we think and feel to serve an unseen God?
Here in America we definitely know how we’re supposed to behave, the goals we’re supposed to have, the means we use to accomplish what we want. When Christ calls us to step into a future that is undefined and unknowable, why would we want to do that?
Why did the Israelites follow Moses out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and across the wilderness? Why do people who lose everything in a disaster, look for a new way of living? Why do people who have lost their jobs start to think about what they could be doing differently, a new kind of work? Somehow, we realize that our lives are not as they could be, that the old paradigm is not working for us. Should we hear God’s call in the midst of some transition and follow Him, what would we gain out of following Him?
The wilderness is the place where we work out, with God, who we were created to be and begin to live into God’s vision for us. It is the place where we leave our rebelliousness, our I-am-fine-thank-you-very-much attitude of an independent person managing fine in his/her own life. It’s where we see how we hang on to our beliefs, assumptions, expectations about our lives—all these we leave behind as we travel the wilderness. And what do we receive as we do this? What are the blessings of leading a life centered on God?
First, as we live into a total partnership with God, we are relieved of our burdens. God does the heavy lifting and we feel freer and easier.
Second, as we give up our illusions about being in control of our lives, we relax into the unknown future and present, letting God do the worrying about what’s going to happen.
Third, as we give up our rebelliousness, our anger and resentments, we begin to see with new eyes, more like God sees. We no longer take everything personally. We relax since we no longer have to defend ourselves. We know that God is at our side.
Fourth, as we begin to see ourselves clearly and admit our pluses and minuses revealed in the wilderness, we can take in God’s love for us and begin to accept, then embrace, then love ourselves exactly as we are. And then we begin to actually feel God’s love for us.
Fifth, as God reveals our purpose to us, we see how everything in us adds up: our gifts and talents and the lessons we have learned from our pain and suffering now all put to good use. And we can see how fulfilling our lives are in following His wisdom.
Sixth, as God takes care of all of our needs and is highly present to us in these travels, we relax into trusting Him in all things, so our fear, anxiety and anger fade away. We gain a great confidence in Him to care for us, to lead us in the right direction, to support, to love and to forgive us every minute of every day. And so we relax into trusting God with all of ourselves and our lives.
I am sure there are more benefits that I have not listed, but the main thing I see is that we can trust in God and in our lives. That we can live without fear and anxiety. That we are no longer burdened by things in our lives; we can relax. And that we are free, free to just follow God wherever He leads us, knowing that we will be fine, no matter what happens. Here’s a story that illustrates this transformation we go through, from a sermon that Rev. Harry Cahill preached at Babcock Presbyterian Church in Baltimore on February 11, 2018:
“At the Presbytery meeting last Thursday, a candidate for ministry was being examined. Asked to describe the events surrounding his calling to the ministry, he prefaced his answer by saying he started out an engineer by profession with little if any regard for God.
He then told us the particulars surrounding his calling.
He was in New Mexico for an intervention with his son who was going through a rough time. After another frustrating confrontation, he went for a drive in the desert to clear his head. After some time, he was drawn to a mountain in the distance. He stopped and started climbing up, all the time praying, “God, why didn’t you stop my son from doing this to himself?”
His question was answered with a question. He heard a voice asking him, “Why did you stop me from helping your son?”
He suddenly felt convicted for his failures as a father but also affirmed with an overwhelming sensation of God’s grace and forgiveness.
The voice spoke again, this time saying, ‘Serve me.’
At that moment, he didn’t know how he was supposed to serve but he began sensing changes in his attitudes and behaviors.
He found himself becoming kinder and more gentle. He finally agreed to go to church with his wife more often. Even though he had little patience with children, he suddenly had the desire to teach in the Sunday school. Even though he hated hospitals, he volunteered to visit the sick. Even though he never saw himself as a minister, he was now standing before the Presbytery seeking confirmation to his calling.”
What started as listening to God in a very difficult family situation led to healing and to surprising new traits in himself, all because he listened to God. We cannot imagine on our own what giving our lives to Christ will mean to us. We have no idea where we will go or what we will be called to do. But the Bible assures us in so many ways of God’s love and care for us, no matter who we are or what we have done. On that we can count!”
Questions to ponder over the week: What are the benefits that I have received since I was born again or entered into a God-centered life? Do I regularly express my gratitude to God for these benefits as well as all the other blessings and grace He has given to me? If I am not living a God-centered life, what would I have to give up to do that?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who acknowledge all that God has done for us. May we live a gratitude-filled life. May we listen to God in all things throughout our days.
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My two books, “Exodus: Our Story, Too!” and “Thy Kingdom Come!” are available on amazon.com under my full name, Patricia Said Adams. Read there how our lives can be transformed by encountering God in the wilderness and how we can live in the kingdom of God here on earth.
 Matthew 11:30
 Matthew 6:25-34
 John 14:18,20
 Proverbs 3:5-6
 Definitely a wilderness experience!