Dave Roever stopped in the middle of his message and said, I don’t know who this is for, but if it isn’t worth dying for then it’s not worth living for.” I knew who it was for. It was for me.
Earlier that morning during worship, I had knelt and told the Lord, “This isn’t worth dying for.” Let me explain.
I was on staff at a large church but I wasn’t happy. I was jaded, disillusioned in ministry and desperately in need of a change. At the time, I thought it was because of stuff. Stuff I had experienced and seen while doing ministry.
I saw the lack of integrity in leaders, the shady financial practices at the expense of the congregants, heard my fair share of green room gossip of what went on elsewhere. Etc. Etc. You name a bad ministry practice and I had either seen it or heard it.
Dave Roever was our guest speaker that morning and someone I admired. I have been around a lot of names in ministry. Personalities and profiles didn’t sway me much, but He would. I witnesses first hand his integrity and knew his heart. Abba knew I would listen to him.
I took this supernatural utterance from the Lord as my ticket out. Little did I know I was headed form the fire to the wilderness. It is the wilderness that I want to talk about today.
Moses had his wilderness experience. Joseph had his. Jesus had his. More than likely all of us are either in the wilderness or will enter into the wilderness one day.
Some of us stay there longer than others. I believe that is because some of us are more stubborn. Poor Moses stayed forty years!
I left that large church and went from being known to being unknown. I was talked about. I was lied on. People I called friends stopped talking to me. I could go on, but that wouldn’t solve anything.
Let’s just say the last seven years have been interesting. It is best described as not having a place, yet growing more than I have ever grown before.
By not having a place, I mean you just feel like you are in limbo. I did national television, but just didn’t have the heart for it. I thought about traveling, but turned down invitations to do so.
I did plant a church in that time and man what a fight. Abba provided, but I had to faith it. It seems to me believing to be delivered out of facing life in prison was easier than planting that church. You can read that story in my book “Set Free”.
Still even with the church plant, I felt like I was on a shelf; waiting for Abba to move like He had before. By that I mean I never opened my own doors. Every place I have ever gone, Jesus opened the doors. Growth and advancement was easy.
I didn’t ask people to speak. I don’t send out job inquiries. Just not my style. And things grew whether I was starting an inner city ministry to children, leading a church or beginning some other new ministry.
Not in the wilderness. Things were tough, but I have grown.
I realize now that the wilderness is necessary to get things out of you. In the wilderness, I learned to forgive. I was delivered from sarcasm. I learned to be more appreciative. I learned to trust God when everything seemed to be wrong.
Most importantly, my marriage was rejuvenated.
Before the wilderness, it was ministry, God, me and then my marriage. Conferences, staff duties, trying to be known, dreams of T.B.N. all came before my wife. In the wilderness, I almost lost my marriage, but then I regained my marriage.
Now, it’s God, my spouse, my children and then ministry. That’s how I live my life. That will never change. I also now know what Abba meant that day so long ago when I spoke to him at the altar during worship and He replied to me through the guest speaker.
Notice Who was missing in all that I was doing. Jesus. Sure He was the theme, but He wasn’t the vision. Church/religion is not worth dying for. Jesus is.
And here is a startling truth. Unless Jesus is worth dying for, He isn’t really worth living for. I thought church problems were the problem. No, it was me. I was a minister, some say a gifted communicator, but I was in it for me.
I had drifted a long way from that simple prayer I made in a jail cell so many years ago when I simply needed Him. The wilderness got me back to where I had started.
I can’t do it without Jesus, and I no longer want to. Now I live my life with One pursuit; to know Him. And one purpose; to present Him lifted up, so as to draw all to him.
The wilderness is never easy, but it is often necessary. Just as the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, sometimes a loving Father will lead us into the wilderness to get out of us what the world has put in.
My prayer is that we come out of the wilderness with a renewed passion for Jesus.