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Walking in the Desert, With God

Psalm 73:28 

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"But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;"

There have been times in my walk with the Lord that I've felt so close to Him that I could feel his unseen hands around me. They were times when I felt pressed into His chest. But there are also times when my soul seems misaligned-when God seems distant, and my relationship with Him has grown cold. I remember the old preacher's story about the man and wife driving down the road together, he in the driver's seat, she right next to the passenger door. She complains that they've grown distant in their relationship, she says, "Remember when we were young how we always sat right next to one another when we're driving together?" "Yes, the husband responds, but I haven't moved." When I think about that old corny illustration, it doesn't resonate with my soul at all. It doesn't really help me when I'm in a spiritual desert to heap guilt on my head for being in the desert. Of course, I'm to blame for my spiritual condition-tell me something I don't already know, or better yet, tell me how to get out of it. 

If my relationship with God has grown cold because of sin in my life-or to stick to the driving illustration, because "I've moved." The scripture teaches me what to do. I need to confess my sin and begin to walk in fellowship with Him again. 1 John 1:6-9 says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; [7] but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (NASB)

Light and darkness cannot coexist; neither can a Holy God and sinful people. The only way we can have fellowship with Him, it to confess our sins and receive His forgiveness. I recently read a story in Reader's Digest that reminded me of the importance of confession. A Naval officer arrived with his family at their new duty station in Italy only to be greeted by a rank odor when the movers delivered their belongings to their new quarters. Finally, after opening several boxes they found the source of the odor. The movers had packed up their garbage into a box instead of throwing it out. (Reader's Digest, April 2002, p 52)

That is exactly what we do in our lives when we don't confess our sins. Instead of "throwing them out," we box them up and carry them around with us. And before you know it, our soul grows rank and begins to stink. Instead, we should confess our sins, so God can forgive us and cleanse our sins. 

I asked Susan the other day why she doesn't sit next to me when we drive down the road like she used to and she reminded me that I always buy cars with bucket seats. Yes, sometimes there is a distance because I've moved, but sometimes I feel isolated from God for other reasons-there's a console between us. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt distant from God, even after you've practiced the spiritual discipline of confession?

In her book, Dancing in the Desert, Marsha Crockett writes "I sit at my desk in the midst of the technology that literally wraps itself around me, and stare at the computer screen for I don=t know how long--long enough to sense a discontentment buried deep inside me. Without words, I ask God, 'What is it?' I shift my eyes to the slender statuette of a faceless woman standing tall and straight, draped in deep purple from head to toe, her head slightly bowed. In her hands she cradles a basket holding three white blossoms-- peace lilies.

This figurine symbolizes for me the act of prayer, not the kind of prayer that brings a basket full of concerns, requests and an agenda to God but rather the kind of prayer I pray on days like today when I simply come to God empty, thirsty for his touch, his voice, his presence."

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Marsha's words minister to me, because there are times I feel that way. And I know, we're not alone. The Psalmist cried out, "I will say to God my rock, "Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" (Psalm 42:9 NASB) and in another Psalm, He wrote, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning." (Psalm 22:1 NASB) Just the reaction of sinful men, right? Listen to the words of our Lord in Matthew 27:46 "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, WHY HAST Thou FORSAKEN Me?' (NASB)

Whenever I feel like I'm spiritually desolate and alone, I draw strength from knowing that Jesus felt this way. It is not sinful to feel forsaken-just human.

My question is, how do I survive in the desert, or better yet, how do I get out of the desert? I want to share four things we can do when we find ourselves in the desert, one of them this morning and three more in the evening service. First, Pray until you can pray. We cannot microwave prayer. We cannot rush God, nor can we mechanically push the right buttons to have a spiritual breakthrough. Something Bill Baer knows first hand.

Bill and his wife were a cute couple-everybody thought so. They had a great start to their marriage and ministry; she was a schoolteacher and he was a Pastor. Really, all he knew was success, he'd done well as an Army officer and was doing well as a pastor when God called them to the mission field of Chile. Not exactly a friendly environment. Like most people, they had their personal problems, but unlike most people, they were isolated from their family, living in a hostile environment. Their phones were tapped, there were regular bombings in the streets-it got so bad they had to leave Chile. "It was a number of months, when I was in a very deep crisis," Baer said, "I was so heart broken, but I never had the sense that God wasn't there. Even in the quite times when all I could do was cry-even there, I always knew that God held my hand."
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