Tuesday, July 8, 2008
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A while back, some of my ministry friends decided they would accept what some might call a challenge to your manhood. They signed up for a rigorous, two-week stress camping program that is called, euphemistically, Character Building. It is - if you make it. They usually just refer to this program in descriptive shorthand - the wilderness. For two weeks, my friend Jim climbed mountains, navigated some serious whitewater, hiked for hours at a time with a heavy backpack, ate off the land, and even endured the final exam of a solo in the wilderness where you are totally on your own for a couple of days. Well, Jim's outlook on life was different after that experience. Whenever some major stress or intimidating problem would come up, he would just smile and say the words that were on one of his favorite shirts, "I can handle it. I've been to the wilderness."
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Hero School."
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from 2 Corinthians 6:4-9. And we're hearing from a veteran of many of life's wildernesses. If you check out this passage carefully, you'll see Paul describes what I call nine pains, and what I call nine gains that must have come, at least in part, from the nine pains.
He says that he served God with great endurance "in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, in sleepless nights, and hunger." That's the pain of the wilderness Paul has traveled. Now, let's listen to the gains, "In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left." I believe we get more of each of those powerful qualities from the hammering we get in the wilderness!
In fact, nothing increases your strength and your character like the wilderness does. That's why the launching pad for Jesus' public ministry was 40 days in the wilderness - the training for Moses' powerful leadership of God's people was 40 years in the wilderness - and maybe why you are serving your time in the wilderness, right now. You may be asking, "What's wrong?" God's answer may very well be, "Nothing's wrong! Something's right!" He believes in you, He wants to build a warrior out of you, He wants to bless you more, use you more, make you more like His Son Jesus, but that will take the heat and the hurt and the stress of the wilderness!
When my friend went into that wilderness program he was stretched, pushed, challenged and he was hurting sometimes. But he wouldn't trade those weeks for anything; they put life's hard times in perspective and they brought out strength in him and poise in him that he'd never known before. That's God's plan for your wilderness program.
All of God's great heroes are forged in the wilderness, not in the spotlight. Chuck Swindoll says, "I have never known a man or woman God has used mightily whom He has not first allowed to be hurt deeply." Now, why? Because the pain and the struggle is what strips us of our self-sufficiency, and drives us deep into His strength.
So, if you're in a wilderness time right now, you may be in God's school for heroes. It won't always be wilderness, but you will always be able to say, "I can handle it! I've been to the wilderness!"