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Into the Wilderness1 month ago
"God’s people find themselves in wilderness situations when the world around them is struggling to find its bearings both ethically and economically" says ReSource Minister Philip Dorling in this week's Blog. He says that the covid-19 experience has been just such a wilderness time for many of us. He calls us to walk in the ‘darkness of uncertainty’ for a while and to continue serving God as we do so, aware that remarkable and fruitful things can happen in wilderness situations!
As a child, I was brought up in British Columbia and then in Kenya. It may be because of those early days that I have always loved the idea of the wide open spaces, vast stary night time skies, and the kind of silence that you can only really encounter in a real wilderness – the kind of silence that leaves you listening to the blood, as it courses through your ears.
Since March this year, we have all entered another kind of wilderness. Sure, for a while the roads fell silent, and during the day, the sky was no longer criss-crossed with the vapour trails of airplanes, but, in truth, the kind of wilderness we had entered was not a physical space – it was, and is, a spiritual one. Covid-19 has changed everything. Having to wear facemasks in shops will prove that to us all.
The Bible is full of wilderness spaces. I think it is probably right to say that, more often than not, God’s people find themselves in wilderness situations when the world around them is struggling to find its bearings both ethically and economically. It’s at these moments, that the Old Testament prophets found themselves in desert places. It is at a moment like this, that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert before the start of his ministry. It was at a moment like this, that Philip found himself heading away from all that was familiar to him, to the desert road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. Behind him lay his friends and a successful ministry – but also persecution. Ahead of him was nothing but a wilderness. But he walked on in fidelity to the Spirit’s call.
Sometimes, when things appear to be going well in ministry, the Holy Spirit calls us off to do something ‘less predictable’ for God. It may not seem sensible. It may mean travelling in silence. It may mean walking in the ‘darkness of uncertainty’ for a while. But no matter how dark it gets, if we are called, what we have to do is ‘hold the line’ and keep on walking. We have to trust God and walk in the light of ‘previous revelation’.
Prophets and saints have done this before and found blessing. It is what Philip did as he left Samaria. And what was the result? Philip was blessed by the Holy Spirit with the right ministry, for the right person at the right time, with the result that the Gospel of Jesus Christ began to spread through the continent of Africa. I can almost hear the crunch of their feet, as Philip and the Ethiopian crossed the burned-up, gravel strewn ground and headed for the ditch where the baptism happened (Acts 8: 4-40).
In the light of Covid-19, none of us really know what the future holds for little, local and ordinary churches.
What we do know, is that the Spirit of God has called us to serve him in this present darkness. ‘Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God’ (Isaiah 50:10). The Bible tells us that remarkable and fruitful things can happen in wilderness situations! Generations of faithful Christians can testify that this is the truth. It is the ‘Jesus way’.
During the Re-Source day of fasting and prayer that was held on the 13th July 2020, two ideas from the proceedings stood out for me.
Firstly, we are not called to hold on to, and resuscitate the things that we were doing in Jesus’ name before Covid-19 became a part of our lives - we are called to share the resurrection of Jesus Christ with the world, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second thing that stuck me was a comment that the Holy Spirit is often depicted in Christian art as a small dove. A small dove… yes… but one that, in the light of God, can cast a huge and powerful shadow.
Perhaps, in these days of Covid-19, that’s worth bearing in mind as we seek to discern ‘the way ahead’.