Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don't Waste Your Desert...

John Piper, a great Christian Pastor, Teacher, Theologian and Author, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January of 2006.  During that time, he wrote a powerful and convicting article called "Don't Waste Your Cancer" (which you can read here).  Re-reading his 10 points again, I was reminded of how closely it parallels what our church body is going through right now.

We are a church in transition, without a senior pastor.  We are searching for our next senior pastor and to be sure, we are trusting God to lead us to the right man in the right time.  However, I've noticed in myself and in many others a constant looking towards the future and thinking that the solution arrives when "he," our next senior pastor arrives.  Of course it's human nature to look ahead.  However, I fear that we have become so "goal oriented" and focused on the next senior pastor bringing much needed leadership and guidance, that we are potentially "wasting" our desert experience.

It all starts with believing in a Sovereign God.  If we hold that God is "the three omni's"; omnipresent (everywhere at once), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all-powerful), then we must, therefore, hold to the Sovereignty of God.  I remember grappling with this concept and a wise elder from my previous church put it this way; "everything passes through the hands of a Sovereign God."  Some things God causes, some things He allows, but all things pass through his hands.

Now to the point - God is Sovereign.  Therefore, there are no accidents.  Therefore, everything can be used by God to accomplish His purposes.  For example, cancer, as in John Piper's case, or a "no-senior pastor desert time" in our case.  And all of us will or have faced desert times in our own lives.  However, I fear that many in our church think God's plan is to provide us our next senior pastor as quickly as possible, and that is His greatest goal for us.  I don't believe that.  I believe God has allowed or even caused us to go through this transition time; maybe to test our commitment to Him, and not to anyone else...maybe to see if we really believe in prayer.  I don't pretend to know the mind of God, but I do know that He doesn't "waste" things.

And so, to paraphrase Piper, I would make the following points...

1) You will waste your desert time if you do not believe God planned it...
2) You will waste your desert time if you believe it's a curse, and not a gift...
3) You will waste your desert time if your greatest desire is a quick and speedy solution...God is always more interested in building our character, which only comes through "fire"
4) You will waste your desert time if you believe it's just a "transition" from one thing to another...it's quite possible that the desert time IS the main thing
5) You will waste your desert time if you let it drive you to isolation and a "wait and see" attitude...there is still work to be done and lives to be invested in.
6) You will waste your desert time if you dwell in pessimism and hopelessness...this flies in the face of an Almighty God who greatly desires to give good gifts (check this)
7) You will waste your desert time if you don't use it as an opportunity to bear witness...it is "easy" to show a faith in God when times are good.  How much more then to bear witness and steadfastness when times are hard.

Desert times are not easy.  You will often feel distant from God, or perhaps even abandoned.  That is exactly the moment you must come back to Him whole-heartedly, trust Him to lead you to the "promised land."  Just as the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the desert was not wasted, so your desert time will not be wasted either.

19And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:19)

1 comment:

Hepzibah The Watchman said...

Thank you for your words. I am going through a desert time right now too. God keeps reminding me that nothing can happen to me that he does not allow - and if he allows it - then he is the one in control. May God Bless you indeed.

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