God has needed to strip me of everything I have depended upon—my abilities, my gifting, my personality, and my former successes. It is humbling to lose everything that you have put your hand to—the church you built! To grow something that took everything you had, every fiber of your mental, spiritual, and physical abilities, and then hear God say to walk away. To walk away from something you love, when God is leading you, this is the essence of the wilderness.
The wilderness has been necessary. God drove me to the wilderness to break me of my pride. It’s been all part of a grand plan, a plan by the Master Planner to drive me into the wilderness of death and humiliation. Death of my pride was the purpose. It’s the bigger story. The larger story is always the way of Jesus, the way of the cross. Crucifixion and death of all the idols of my life—the idols of success, reputation, and importance must be nailed to the cross in the wilderness.
Five months of exile, forty nights of prayer, in the wilderness, is the desert of death. Dying to all my ambitions is the wilderness journey. Standing in Jericho Tree (California) with Liz, on a high rock, hands upraised, surrendering the past twenty years to Jesus. Saying, “You take it Lord. Mountain Springs Church is your work, not mine. We surrender it all to you.” And we truly meant what we said. We gave the idol of our church on the stone altar in Jericho Tree. Not our will, but your will be done.
During this time, God led us to Isaiah 43,
Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert. (vs. 18-19)
God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and consolation in the midst of the wilderness birthed hope. Jesus was saying, a road is being formed in the wilderness, in the desert. The days of old are coming to an end; the former things of the past are dead to our ways. God’s ways, not our ways, will rule and he will bring forth; he will birth something new.
He will do a new thing. He will provide a road in the wilderness. It is a road less traversed, less taken by most. It is the highway of love, humility, and service. It is the road of forgiveness. It will be a road “in the wilderness.” It is not a road out of the wilderness, but a road in the wilderness.
Isaiah continues in the next verse these hopeful words,
Because I give waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My people, My chosen.
God has us on a wilderness road—a road of his making, of his design. It is a road through the wilderness of our hearts. It is a road that will turn the wilderness into beauty. It follows a river—a road and a river together. The road taking us through the wilderness, and the river nourishing us as we go. A wilderness road is our way alongside a river of his Spirit that renews the desert of our hearts.
God is raising up a people of wilderness hearts. We are a chosen people that God has named, The Road. We are a church, a people committed to letting God drive us into the wilderness, but we are not alone. He will nourish us with his river.
The wilderness is the place of death…and life. It is the place of a baptism of death of self but life to God. John the Baptizer called Israel to the place of death, repentance, and confession of sin; he called them to the wilderness. Jesus found his calling and purpose in the wilderness after being baptized by John. All of us must follow John and Jesus and be baptized into death and life in the wilderness. To discover real life, we must die a real death in the wilderness.
Are you in the wilderness? Is your heart broken? Have your days been full of loneliness and despair? If so, God has you there to baptize you and birth in you new life in his Spirit. A river is forming as you embrace your wilderness. Embrace and let him do a new thing in your life. Believe me, it’s worth it and it’s necessary.
On the Road,
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Is 43:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.