Walking Wisely in the Wilderness

Tales from the Wilderness

Pastor Jerry Gillis - July 31, 2022

Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning, everybody. So glad to see you this morning. I'm delighted to be here. I've had a great time just touring all of the campuses and being there and having campus pastors here. It's been absolutely fantastic and appreciate all the ministry of the various campus pastors here. I was reading recently about a man who wanted to go away and kind of unplug from everything. And so he was gonna get on a plane and he was gonna fly to Mexico. And while there, he wanted to just live off the land. That was like his deal. He wanted to live off the land and he wanted to be there for 11 days, living in the wilderness and jungles of Mexico. And he brought just a passport and himself and a book, like a journal or whatever. And that's it. He was just gonna live off the land and go live in the wilderness, in the jungles of Mexico and so for 11 days, right? And so he went and that lasted 48 hours. And then he wrote about it. And it was kinda funny to read because I was reading his reflections on even 48 hours just by himself, unplugged in the middle of the wilderness, in the jungles of Mexico, and he wrote about fears that he really had. He was talking about all these fears and he said, "The first night when I'm sleeping, between the jungle and the beach," he said, "I was just frightened because everything I heard outside of my little encampment that I made, everything I heard was a monster," right? I mean, that's just how you feel, right? Every piece of fruit that's dropping in the jungle, you're like, that's a monster, and every leaf that you hear crumple under a, you go, that's a monster. And so he was totally freaked out by that, said he didn't sleep very well. That's why he didn't stay very long. He also talked about how irretrievably lost he felt, because he would be walking around places and trying to find stuff to be able to build things and be able to eat and whatever, but he didn't have a compass. He didn't have a phone. He didn't have anything. And so he just felt irretrievably lost at times. There were other times where he kind of felt incredibly, overwhelmingly lonely, because there was no one around, he was by himself, he found a really deserted place and he just felt lonely, right? And then he was scared about all the wild beasts that were there in those areas. And he didn't know what to do with those. And so he talked about all of his fears, but he also talked about some clarity that he had, because he said, basically I got some clarity on what's important to me in my life and the relationships and prioritizing some of those things, so it was a really interesting read, but while I was reading it, I was thinking to myself, this sounds a lot like the world that we live in, because the world that we live in feels more and more to me, and I don't know if it's the same for you, but it feels more and more like a wilderness. There are times where I just feel lost in the world that I live in. There are times where I feel disoriented in the world that I live in. There are plenty of times where I feel like I don't belong. Sometimes we can even think the worst about everything, that there are wild animals looking to get us and trying to cancel us around every corner that we find ourselves in. Right? And it's hard. And in that kind of context, it's hard to make decisions. Like it's hard to think really clearly, because we're living in this wilderness that we feel kind of somewhat disoriented in, and it's hard to make decisions. Maybe because the decisions are really difficult ones, maybe because they're too complex, maybe because they're decisions we've never faced before. That's a possibility. And I think more and more, those of us who are believers, it gets increasingly difficult for us, because we kind of feel like more and more in the wilderness world that we're living in, that we're more and more on the margins, that we feel more and more like we're kind of being shoved and outcast a little bit because of our values and our beliefs and those of us that follow Jesus. And it feels kind of different to us and it makes it a bit challenging. And so we know that we've been set free from so much, right? We've been set free from the bondage of our past and our sin. And we know what kind of future that we have in Jesus, right? And the new creation that's coming. But in the meantime, it feels a little bit like we are dwelling in the midst of a wilderness. And if that's the case, if that's the feeling that we have, what is it that we need more than anything else when we are finding ourselves in the wilderness of this life and the wilderness of this world, what do we need more than anything else that we could possibly need to be able to survive in the wilderness that we're in? I mean, interestingly enough, there are people that develop survival simulation games around this exact idea. They're like retired Navy SEALs. And I guess because they went through all of the pain that they went through in their training, they decided when they retired, we want the rest of the world to feel this pain as well, right. And so they create these simulation survival games and you get a list of 10 things that are on the list and you can only choose five of them for your survival. And apparently there's right answers. Like, I didn't know. I was like, "Okay." But on the list, it's never things that you want. It's always things that you're goin', what? Like, I mean, it's like gauze, ball bearings, dental floss, and I'm thinkin', how 'bout a chopper? That would work. I'm in the wilderness. I need a chopper. That's gonna get me where I need to go, but no, no, you gotta pick. And so you have to pick five of the 10 and that's how you're going to survive. And it's like, ah. Now I don't have any idea if I would do well in that survival simulation game, but here's what I do know, is that God made it pretty clear to the people of Israel what it was that they needed when they found themselves in the context of the wilderness. You remember Israel? Israel who had been delivered from so much from Egypt. Israel, who was headed to a land of promise, but who in the interim time found themselves in the midst of a wilderness. And what is it that God made clear to Israel that they needed more than anything else is they made their way through the wilderness. I can sum it up for you in two words, God's presence. That's what they needed. They needed God's presence. That's what we're going to see when we look in the Book of Numbers today. And if you wanna find yourself there, I would encourage you to do that, to turn in your Bibles to the Book of Numbers. We're gonna be in Chapter 9 in just a moment as we look at this idea, but I wanna make sure that we are clear on what we're talking about. First of all, this idea of the Book of Numbers is what we call it. And that's because they numbered the fighting men that were in Israel. They numbered the tribes that were in Israel, so there's a lot of numbers that are talked about in the Book of Numbers. But the Israelites actually don't call it that. They have a different name for this book. And it comes because of the fifth word in the Hebrew first sentence of the Book of Numbers. They call this book "In the Wilderness." That's how they framed this book, because this book is about the children of God, the people of Israel and the wonderings that they are engaged in in the wilderness. Now, by the time we get to Chapter 9, I wanna make sure that you understand the context. Israel has been camped out and is camped out in Sinai and they would spend about a year camped out in Sinai. So they've been delivered from Egypt and now they're there. And Moses has gone up on the mountain. He has received the 10 commandments. So the people of God know God's commandments to them. God has made it clear to them how they are supposed to worship. God has made it clear to them about how they're supposed to treat one another. God has called them to build the tabernacle under which, under the tabernacle, there would be a special place in there called the tent of the covenant law or the tent of meeting where the Ark of the Covenant would be and ultimately where the ten commandments would be. And God would talk about his presence being in that context. And also God gave them instruction just before what we're going to read about how they are to observe the second Passover. You remember the first Passover was in Egypt and now he's saying, this is how you're to observe the second Passover. But then we pick up in Numbers Chapter 9, beginning in Verse 15, and it says this, "On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law was set up, the cloud covered it." Did you catch that? It didn't say a cloud. It says the cloud, right? So as if we're supposed to know what that is, right? The cloud covered it, "From evening till morning, the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it and at night it looked like fire." So what you have is you have God demonstrating to his people his very presence, and he demonstrated his presence in other places in the scripture it calls a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Now what we know is we know that this idea of the cloud that was above and recognizing God's presence among the people of Israel, we know that God has already established his communication with Moses through a cloud. If we backed up into the book of Exodus, we would see it in Exodus 19, the Lord said to Moses, I'm going to come to you in a dense cloud so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. So God was going to speak to Moses in this dense cloud. And now God was going to demonstrate his presence among the people in this dense cloud. Now Moses, as you know, was kind of a leader that didn't wanna be a leader, right? Moses, when he was raised up in Egypt was like, "Ah, I don't wanna be your mouthpiece. I can't talk good. I stutter. You're not picking the right person." And God says, "It's okay, I've got this. Just relax, right?" And now that they've come out of Egypt, God's been faithful to deliver them through the Red Sea. They're at Sinai. God has spoken to his people, given them the 10 commandments. And now Moses is about to launch out leading the people toward the land of promise. And Moses still has a little bit of that in him, right? That feeling of somewhat insufficiency, right? The Bible actually says he was the most humble man on the face of the earth, which is an interesting statement, right? Now if you wrote it yourself, that would be kind of weird. But if you know the most humble man on the face of the earth, it was just true, right? And so Moses is still feeling a little bit insufficient relative to his ability to lead. So what does Moses want more than anything? God's presence. That's what he wants. And that's what God actually encourages him with. In Exodus 33, it actually says this, "Moses said to the Lord, you've been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you've not let me know whom you will send with me. You've said, 'I know you by name and you've found favor with me.' If you're pleased with me, teach me your way, so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people." And the Lord replied, "My presence will go with you and I will give you rest. Then Moses said to him, "If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you're pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us, unless your presence is with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" The answer, God's presence. That's what would distinguish them from every other nation and every other people that are on the face of the earth. So we see in Numbers Chapter 9 that God has demonstrated his presence among his people, as they are setting out on their journey to the Promised Land with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Pick up with me in verse number 17 of Numbers Chapter 9. It says, "Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out. Whenever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. And at the Lord's command, the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. And as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in the camp." So pretty straightforward, right? God gives the command to Moses, we're going to move out. The cloud moves, the people move. The cloud stops, the people stop, right? Very simple, where the cloud goes, they go. Where the cloud stops, they stop. Really good reminder, by the way, for us all, right? God's presence was going to do this very thing. Verse number 19 says this, "When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days. And at the Lord's command, they would encamp. And then at his command, they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning. And when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out, but when it lifted, they would set out. at the Lord's command, they encamped and at the Lord's command, they set out. They obeyed the Lord's order in accordance with his command through Moses." You know what's interesting about this? You kind of hear the repetition, right? When God said go, they went, and the cloud moved, and then when God's cloud stopped and lifted, they would camp. And it was just like that was what happened, right? Cloud moved, they moved. Cloud stop, they stop, right? And you see it repeated over and over. But you know when we read this, here's what you don't find. You don't find any rhythm, you don't find any pattern, And you don't find any predictability. Because it's God who's making all of these determinations. God is the one who's saying when it's time to go how you're supposed to go, this is all God's movement. So there's no rhythm. There's no pattern. There's no predictability. God is the one who is doing all of this, because what he's doing, listen, is he's creating a dependence of his people on himself. That where his presence goes, they go. Where he stops, they stop. He's creating a dependence of his people on himself. Now when we read this passage of scripture, what's true of Israel is also true of us. And if I were summarizing it, I would simply say it this way that God's presence will lead the way, will light the way, and will comfort us along the way. See, in the wilderness that we live in, just like the wilderness that they lived in, what I know is this, is that just like God did for them, God's presence will lead the way. God's presence will light the way. And God's presence will comfort us along the way. Now I wanna show that to you, because I wanna pull this apart, just each one at a time and look at them for just a moment. So let's begin with the first statement, that God's presence will lead the way. Here's what we know in Numbers Chapter 9, Israel is headed somewhere. And by the way, there's not just a handful of them. There is a bunch of them. I don't know about you, but I've led groups of people before in places. Like for instance, I've been to Israel a bunch of times, and I've taken with me sometimes 30, sometimes 55, right? People that are with me. And so you can imagine going from place to place, depending on how large your group is, it can take a little bit longer with the larger group that you have, right? Because the larger your group, the more people that will say, "I've gotta go to the bathroom" or whatever, right? That's all of that. It's just gonna happen, right? That means that lunches are longer. If it was just two people or if it was 50 people, it means everything's gonna be a little bit longer. That said, I started thinking about how many Israelites there were. Now I'm not great in math. I've got some friends in here that are good at math and they're nerds, but I'm not good at math, 'cause I'm not a nerd. I'm only kidding. I wish I was good at math. I'm not. And here's what I figured out, from the Book of Numbers, I'm looking at you, from the Book of Numbers, I'm just pointing at friends right now that are good at math and they're nerds. And they know it and I should stand 'em up right now and just let everybody see it, kidding. They've actually tutored my kids in math, because I couldn't do it. It's just a bad day for a dad when you go, you know what? I don't know what you're talkin' about. I know you're in third grade, but I can't do that math. So you're gonna have to go talk to the professor. I just don't know what to do. So I did some calculations in the Book of Numbers, because they number the fighting men that are in there. And if you look at that reasonably conservatively and figure out how many of them would've been married, which would've been most, right? And then how many would've had a child or two, which would've been a lot, you can get to a conservative number pretty quickly of about a million and a half Jews, a million and a half children of Israel. Has anyone in here ever led a million and a half people anywhere like on a hike or anything? Yeah, the answer's no. None of us have done that. And if you were coming just out of Egypt, right? And now you're in Sinai and you were making your way to Canaan, which was the Promised Land, if it was just a handful of people and you were making kind of a B-line there, taking as straight a line as you could go, it would probably take you in the neighborhood of about three to four weeks to make that journey, about three to four weeks. Now let's say you had a million and a half people. Well, that's gonna take a little bit longer. So let's say it's not gonna take 'em three to four weeks. It's gonna take 'em three to four months to be able to get there, right? 'Cause you got a lot of people that are making their way there. Here's what we know. It didn't take them three to four weeks. It did not take them three to four months. It took them 39 years, right? They've been in Sinai for a year and it took 'em 39 years ultimately to make their way to the Promised Land because of, as you've heard in some of the messages already, some of the unfaithfulness and unbelief that was brought back into the camp. Now what's interesting about that is that even though it should've been a reasonably straight line from here to here, if you woulda looked at the map of what they woulda done, it woulda looked like this for 39 years. It's literally what it would look like. I'm still finishing, still not done. There it is. And there it is, right? That's exactly what it looked like. You can look that up. Every topographical map in Hebrew history will tell you that what I just did was absolutely money. So it just looked like spaghetti, right? That's what it looked like. But you know what's beautiful about this? God's presence never left them. From beginning to end, he's speaking to Moses in a dense cloud at the beginning. The pillar of cloud and pillar of fire are above them there in the camp. And then when Moses is getting ready to die, because he's not going to be leading them into the Promised Land, remember, because God said, "Moses, I said speak to the rock, not strike it." Now Joshua's going to lead them in. And when that time was coming, listen to what it says in Deuteronomy Chapter 31, "The Lord said to Moses, 'Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting where I will commission him.' So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent," man. Isn't it good news that when we don't always make the right decisions, God doesn't check out on us? God's presence is still with us. Some of us in our lives, we've kind of freaked out because we've made some decisions and we've made some wrong turns here and there. Know this, God won't leave. At the very beginning, he was with his people. At the very end, he was with his people, even though his people were wasting away in the wilderness, some of which were in unbelief, but God's presence was still with them from beginning to end. What a beautiful, beautiful reminder for us. God says never will I leave you and never will I forsake you. Isn't that encouraging to us? It should be because God's presence is going to lead the way when things are going great and God's presence is going to lead the way when things are not going as well. But do you know when I look at this passage, I start thinking to myself while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, there was no promise of place or time in terms of where they would be and how long they would be in those places. They had no idea. In fact, when I read the text, it feels kind of random. Look at it again. If you look at Verse 20 through Verse 22, notice this first word, "Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days. And at the Lord's command, they would encamp, and then at his command, they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning. And when it lifted in the morning, they set out, whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out. But when it lifted, they would set out." You know what's interesting about this? If any of them ever came to Moses and said, hey, Moses, when are we leaving, he'd be like I don't know. Well, we've been here a few days. Do you think we're leaving soon? I don't know. Sometimes we're here for two days. Sometimes we're here for a month. Sometimes we're here for a year. Well, what do you think's gonna happen? I don't know. He has no idea. You know why? Because God's orchestrating it all. God's doing all of this. God's the one who's saying here's when we go, here's when we stop. Here's when we go, here's when we stop. God's presence is the presence that's leading the way. And do you know what Israel could not do? Listen to this, Israel could not depend on their own understanding. They had to trust the Lord. It's no wonder that we're reminded to do the same thing, right? The writer of Proverb says this, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and don't lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." He will do that. You see, our job, brothers and sisters, is to trust the Lord with all of our heart, not lean on our own understanding, and in all our ways, acknowledge him. And here's what God said, "I'll get you where you're going." This is what your job is. The problem is is oftentimes, this is us. This is the wall we should build. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him. And then we do this, and we wanna make our path straight. Nope. God said, "I'll be the one that does that. You trust me. I'm gonna get you where you are going." God's presence will lead the way. We'd have a lot less anxiety in our lives if we realized that. If we realize that we can trust that God's presence is gonna take us where we're going, people that have sometimes, sometimes, not all the time, sometimes some of the people that are most anxious about their life are too self-consumed, instead of being consumed with the presence of God that's gonna lead us where we're going. That's what we need more than anything in the whole world. God's presence will lead the way. God's presence will also light the way. Think about it this way. Look again at Verse 15 and 16, "On the day that the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law was set up, the cloud covered it," pillar of cloud by day. "But from evening till morning," in other words, when it was dark, the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That's how it continued to be, the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire." Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night. Imagine you're a young woman or a young man in Israel. You're getting used to having to move when the cloud moves, right? It moves, you move. And I'm sure you're kind of going, oh, whoop, hey, cloud's going. We gotta go, right? That's just part of, kind of your life. But imagine if that happens at night. Has anyone ever like hiked or camped at night? It's a little different. I remember when Trace, my oldest, was graduating from high school a number of years ago. And I knew he was gonna, I'm like, "Dude, you're about to go take mountains in your life. You're going to college and all of that. So why don't we go climb one? Let's go climb a real mountain to kinda signify what you're gonna be doing in your life to take mountains in your own life? He's like, okay, which one? And I was like, I don't know, the biggest one we can find. Well, we went to the Adirondacks and we climbed Mount Marcy. It is the largest mountain in the state of New York. It's 15 miles round trip, seven and a half miles up, and then seven and a half miles to get down. Most people that are smart and sane, they don't try to do it in a day. They climb up halfway, they camp. Then they summit the next day. And then they celebrate and take pictures. And then they come down and they camp. And then they come all the way back down, right? I told Trace, "We're doin' it in a day. Me and you, let's get it. We're goin' in a day." And so we said, all right, let's do it. I said, "When the sun comes up, that's when we're takin' off." He said, "Why are we going so early?" I said, "There's a reason, because I wanna make sure that we get to the top and get down before it's dark. Because I know that there are some things that live on the mountain that I wanna be able to see if they are comin' around, because I'm not bringing flashlights. And if it's dark, I don't want any part of that." He's like, "Well, what's on the mountain?" I said, "Bears, there's bears all over the mountain." Every time you read about the Adirondack, there's bears that live in the mountain. Well, I guess that's just where they live. It's not just for our climbing pleasure. They live in the mountains, right? And so I'm like, "We're going." So when I started out, I'm walkin' fast. Remember those speed walkers, they do all that stuff, right? Like I'm walking fast. You like that? It was awesome. I got 'em all day. We walked as fast as we could to get to the top. We celebrated and we start walking back down and I'm like, "We gotta get down before it gets dark." And he's like, "dad, we're hauling." I'm like, "I know." And he's walking faster than I am, not because he's scared or whatever, but I'm just like, "I don't wanna see any bears." Even though there were signs on the trails that said, stay on the trail, 'cause there's bears. And in my mind, I'm goin', "Do bears read the sign?" Because if they don't, why does the sign matter? Like do bears walk up and go, oh, I'm so hungry, I'm gonna eat that, oh, he's on the trail. He's on the trail. I can't believe this. Bob, we're gonna have to go find, no, we're gonna have to eat someone else. He's on the trail. They don't do that. They can't read, for one . So I never understood quite why the sign was there. Anyway, I'm sorry. I get a little loose. So we hauled and we made it all the way back down, by the way, before it was, I didn't say in the last service whether we got all the way back down and people were, find 'em in the atrium, they were like, "Did you make it?" I'm like, "No, no. I was eaten and I'm not Jerry. And it's a weird thing, I didn't wanna tell you." But I'm like, "Yeah, of course I made it." And why are you asking me if I made it? I'm right here. I preached this message. Of course I made it. Oh man, those were funny questions. Just remember if you asked me that kind of question, you could be a sermon illustration. It's fantastic. So we made it down. You see, moving at night can be kinda scary. Think about the children of Israel in the middle of the night: scorpions, serpents, who wants to step on a cobra? Not me, so when now they're having to move at night, it may feel a little bit scary, but notice this, it's a pillar of cloud by day, but it's a pillar of fire by night. What does fire do? It lights. So even, listen, even in the midst of the wilderness when it gets dark and God still wants us to move, he lights our way. He doesn't show us the end from the beginning. We don't get to see all the way down, but we see enough to be able to move. But isn't that how we're supposed to function anyway? Isn't that why the Psalmist said in Psalm 119 that your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path? That's an oil flask. That's not a spotlight that's shining everything. It gives you enough room for about two or three steps. But listen to this, if you see those two or three steps that God illuminates by his word, you step into them, you've got two or three more. Every time you walk into the light, you've got more light. If you walk in the darkness, you stay in the darkness. Walk in the light and you've got more light. This is the beauty. What God does is that he leads us by his presence and his presence lights our way. But thirdly, his presence also comforts us along the way. It comforts us along the way. Could you imagine how insecure Israel must have felt? They were a nation without a country. Did you catch that? They're a nation, Israel, without a country of their own yet. They're not there. They're not home. They're in the midst of wilderness in a territory that's not theirs. They're just mobile and having to move along. They're headed toward home, but they're not there yet. That had to be some sense of insecurity that it felt like they weren't yet in the country that they were designed for. They weren't yet in the country that they were promised. They weren't yet in the country that they were made for. And so it felt a little bit insecure and maybe a little bit disorienting, but every single day, what they could do is just look above them. During the day, God shows himself as a cloud, as if he is saying to his people, "I've got you covered." And at night it's fire. God's saying, "I see you. I'm not asleep." How remarkable is that? That in the middle of our wilderness, what God does is that his presence comforts us along our way. It's particularly true when we face the darkness. I remember when my younger son was quite young, and I don't remember where Edie and Trace were. He must've had some field trip for school, you know, goin' to Gettysburg or somewhere, right? And Edie had gone to be there as a helper. And so it was just me and Tanner. And Tanner's a little guy at this point. I don't remember what the deal was. He had havin' a bad dream, a big storm outside, whatever, comes into my room. Wakes me up, I was convinced early in my life, that that's how I'm going to go out. Is the kid sneaking into your room right next to you and shaking you and you're just like . You do not want the fists of fury, little boy. Like, man, you don't want the smoke, scaring me. And like my heart's beating outta my chest, like, "Tanner, what are you doin'?" And he says, "There's a storm outside of my window." I said, "It's outside my window too. Go to bed." He's like, "Well, can I just get in bed, you know, with you?" And I'm like, "No." Edie and I were just like, you can do whatever you want. Not a judgment. That's my bed. That's my wife and I. We live here. This is where we sleep. You sleep in that room. But I'm scared. Cool, be scared in that room. You can tell I raise boys, right? Some of you're going, "I'm glad you weren't my dad." You be scared in that room. I'll like comfort you and do all that stuff and then you go to sleep in your room and I'll go sleep in my room, 'cause I don't want your donkey self all in here and doin' all this all night long, right? So anyway, he says, okay, and I gave in. All right, buddy, put him in there where Edie normally sleeps and I said, "But here's the deal, I'm gonna take you to your room when you fall asleep." He's like, "No, don't do that." I said, "You're not gonna know. You're gonna be asleep. So when you go to sleep, magically, you're gonna be in your bed and you're gonna wake up in your bed and things are gonna be good. And I got work in the morning, so let's just do this." Okay, so he goes to sleep. After about five minutes, I hear him heavy breathing. And I'm like, yes. So I'm about to pick his little body up and take him into his room. No sooner than I'm getting ready to do that, I'm trying not to make any noise, his hand goes like this on my face. And I said, "Tanner, I thought you were asleep." He's like, "No." I said, "What are you doing?" "I wanted to make sure that your face was pointed toward me." Hmm, isn't that what we want when we're in the darkness? Don't we wanna just know when we're walking through the darkness of the wilderness that we live in here in this life, that the face of our father sees us? That his face has turned toward us? You see, what we see here in the pillar of cloud by day is God saying, I've got you covered, here I am. And the pillar of fire by night saying, I'm not asleep. I see you, even if I'm asking you to move in the midst of darkness. What he does is he comforts us in those moments. Do you know, Jesus brought such great comfort to his own disciples when they were finally realizing that Jesus was serious about every time he said, "I'm going to Jerusalem and there I'm going to die." And for so long, they were like, nah, I don't know what, he's talking crazy. I don't know, they were just like that for a while. They wouldn't believe it. And then they finally were like, I think he's serious. Like he's really gonna do this. Listen to what he said in John 14, he said, "I'll ask the father and he'll give you another," that word advocate can also be translated comfort, "to help you and be with you forever, the spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him, but you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." You see, what Jesus does is he gives us this remarkable promise, not only to his disciples, but for those of us who are yet to come. And this remarkable promise is this, in this wilderness that we walk in where everything feels like it's disoriented and we feel lost sometimes and we feel like it's a mess. We know we've been delivered from much. We know we are headed to a wonderful place, but in the middle time, it just feels really, really disorienting, Jesus says, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm gonna take the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and place that in you by way of my Holy Spirit. My presence will be in you you." This is a remarkable promise for us, friends, that his presence will lead the way. His presence will light the way. And his presence will comfort us along the way. So that said, how do we make wise decisions in the middle of this kind of wilderness? How do we saturate ourselves with the presence of God, such that we make wise decisions in the wilderness that we live in? Well, I'm gonna simplify it for you and do it really quickly and I'm gonna use just a simple acronym WISE, W-I-S-E, how do we make wise decisions in the midst of the wilderness? Here's W, walk in the wisdom of the word. You say, okay, that seems pretty simple. It does, you would think, but I've had a lot of conversations with people. And sometimes those conversations are surrounding big decisions that these people are making. They'll say, "Pastor Jerry," and then they'll just drop it on me, big decision, whatever it is, right? And then I may ask a question or two. Hey, tell me about your process of decision-making. Tell me how you got to that. Sometimes I hear incredible answers. Other times, here's what I don't hear, any mention whatsoever of what God has said. None, they'll always listen if I'm asking the question, I'm pastor guy, right? They're always gonna throw in, "Well, I prayed about it." Okay. What did you pray? Because if you wanna make sure that your prayers are spirit-led, make sure they are scripture-fed, 'cause this is the sword of God's spirit, right? And so if I hear someone talk to me about a big decision and I don't hear any communication whatsoever about the word of God, walking in the wisdom of the word of God, it makes me a little bit nervous, because ultimately we've got to lean on the discretion and the wisdom of God. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are above our thoughts. That's why we're not trusting in ourselves, but we're trusting in God's leadership and God has revealed himself through his word, and so we have to pay really close attention and say, this is what I wanna do, God, I wanna honor your word in this. We make decisions all the time, but, man, we wanna make those decisions saturated by the wisdom of the word of God, what did God say? How will this decision ultimately affect the witness of the gospel? How will this decision allow me to fulfill the mission that God has called me to as a child of God? Those are the things that should be motivating these big decisions. I'm not talkin' about little decisions like, it's a big decision. Should I buy a car? Well, let the Lord direct you if it's time to buy a car, but then if you get all wrapped up in should it be blue or red? I think he would just go, I don't care. I don't care. Pick one, drive it, so you can get to work, support your family, do whatever you gotta do, right? But these decisions that we're talking about that are large and huge and big, I mean, listen, you don't wanna cash out just because of some decision. You don't wanna cash out on God's promises here. If somebody says to me, and this has happened, I've had people actually email me some years later and say, remember when I told you that we were moving to such and such a place because I got an opportunity for a 15% higher paying job? Yep. I remember that. Well, you know what I did? I moved my family across the country and we were really, really grounded in the church. We were hearing the preaching of the word of God. We were hearing the truth of the gospel. Our kids were involved in the children's ministry and the student ministry and they were having their lives impacted. We were involved in community. We had accountability. And then we moved there and we didn't have any of it. And now my kids have grown up outside of the church. And for 15%, I traded all of this. Let God be the one. Let God's words saturate our hearts. Now might he move us for jobs? Yeah. That's part of, God may do all of those things, but let's make sure that we are walking in the wisdom of the word. I, inquire of godly people. Notice that I didn't say inquire of anyone. I said inquire of godly people. It's important that these are godly people. Sir, some of the dudes that you hang out with, they know way more about fantasy football and know very little about Jesus. I'm not suggesting you should consult with them about huge decisions. Ladies, you know it too, right? Godly people, inquire of godly people. People who are saturated with the presence of God, people who love the word of God, people who are gonna pray on your behalf. People who want the best for you, but you know how it goes, right? The young lady who's like, "Yeah, I'm dating this guy." Cool, have you talked to like your girlfriends that love Jesus and are walking with Jesus, have you talked to them about this? No. Why not? 'Cause I just like this guy. No, she don't wanna talk to 'em, because she knows what they would say. This dude, he's taking you farther away from Jesus. Not bringing you closer. And you know that's not the heart of God, because anyone and anything that's trying to take us away from God and we're allowing for that to happen, we're embracing those as idols. We're embracing those as something that supplants God. That's not what you need in your world. That's not what you need in your life. We need to inquire, do you know why people don't inquire of godly people? Very simple answer. They don't want to. They don't want to. They're concerned about what they may hear. If you wanna walk with God, why are you concerned about godly people speaking into your life, praying for you, searching the word with you? Why would you be upset about that? Only one reason, you wanna do what you want, irrespective of what God has said, that's it. Because we shouldn't want that. In the council of the multitude, there's wisdom. That's what the scripture says, right? Allow that to be true. Walk in the wisdom of the word. Inquire of godly people. Submit to God's sovereignty. Submit to God's sovereignty. Do you know what that means? God gets to be in charge. We're not. And when God's in charge, that is a good thing. You know what that also means? That means that God may make particular decisions and you may go, wait, what? Whoa, wait, imagine this, it's the children of Israel. You've got a family, right? Mom, dad, kids. And all of a sudden the cloud moves, they move, right? And they go to this place and they're like, we like this place where the cloud stopped. This place is sweet. I mean, there's like a bubbling brook my kids can play in, right? They can play kick the pomegranate. Everything's awesome, right? This place is fantastic. And then all of a sudden they're there for a month and they're like, "We love this place. Now that last place we were in, we didn't like too much. I'm glad we were only there for two days. We've been here for a month. This is fantastic." And then the cloud moves. Could you imagine if they just went, nope. Mm-hmm, nope. Not doing it. Staying right here. That's what we do sometimes. See, what they fail to imagine is that God actually had for them a much better future than even they were recognizing. He had more for them than they knew. And they were going to, they were going to cash out their future on the altar of the present. You see, here's what it means when we submit to God's sovereignty. It means it can be a little bit scary. It can be a little bit random. Wait a minute, Jerry, do you mean that may mean that God might lead me, he might lead me to serve in some place or do something in some place or whatever, and he might lead me there longer than I wanna be there? Maybe. Well, what if I really love this place? You think it's possible that I could be there shorter than I wanna be there? Maybe, well, does that mean that God could put me in a place that's harder than the place that I'm in right now? Maybe, could he put me in a place that's easier than the place that I'm in? Maybe, could the place that he puts me in be more private than the place that I'm in now? Yes, could it be more public than the place that I'm in? Yes, you know what the answer is? I dunno, God gets to determine all of that, because he's sovereign. He knows what he wants to do with you. He knows what you need to get to where you're going. God may put something in your heart. It doesn't always mean it's that same time. It doesn't always mean that. He's placed it in your heart, and then sovereignly, he's worked the circumstances to get you to the place where he wants you to be to use you in that way. Let God be sovereign. Let him make the choices. Let him do the deciding. Trust him in that. If we walk in the wisdom of the word, if we inquire of godly people, and we submit to God's sovereignty, we're set up for something. We can enter the decision with faith. That's when we can enter the decision with faith. So we don't just make a decision out front of everything. We wait, we walk in the wisdom of the word, we inquire of godly people, we submit to God's sovereignty. And then we enter the decision by faith and it needs to be by faith, right? Because without faith, the scripture says, it's impossible to please God. I was reading recently a work by a woman named Willa Cather. Willa Cather was an American novelist who died in the 1940s. And she wrote a novel called "My Antonia." In that novel, there was a particular phrase that caught my attention. And it was simply this, "Sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom." Not only is that just really beautiful, from a literary standpoint, just when you read it, "Sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom." But as I read it, I started thinking about sunflowers. I don't really know what the author's intent fully was with this, but I started thinking about sunflowers. And I don't know if you realize this about sunflowers, but when the sun comes up and then the sun goes down, do you know what they do? Watch them. Here's a time lapse video. Sun's coming up. Sun's going down. Do you see the face of the sunflowers? Watch it again. Watch all their faces. They just saturate themselves facing the sun everywhere the sun is. I wish that the world thought that of us. I wish the world realized that we are designed to be sunflowers. That wherever the sun of God is, we just turn our face there. Where he goes, we go. Where he camps, we camp. That's really the kind of people that we wanna be, because you know what that does? That gives us the ability to walk in freedom. Sunflower-boarded roads seem to me to be the road to freedom. She may not have meant it that way, but when I read it, I thought I like it. You see, for us brothers and sisters, here's what we know. Walking in the wilderness takes wisdom and it takes the presence of God among us.

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