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Kerry Shook - A Way

Kerry Shook - A Way

Chris Shook: We are in a faithful-building series we're calling "Wilderness Survival Guide". All of us have had times in our lives where we feel like we're in the wilderness. And when you're in the wilderness, you feel like you're the only one, don't you? You feel like you're the only one who's ever felt this way. You can be in a big crowd of people but still feel really lonely because you feel like no one understands what you're going through. Well, God does. God understands. He knows exactly where you are. And the Hebrew word for wilderness means a dry, desolate, uncultivated place.

So if you feel like you're in a dry, desolate, uncultivated place or you ever have been, or you anticipate ever being in that place again, then this message is for you because straight from God's Word, he tells us what to do when we're in the wilderness, when we're feeling lonely or anxious or depressed, desperate, he's right there for you. And so we're going to look at that today and the great news is that it's in the wilderness that God does his greatest miracles in us. We think it'd be the opposite, right, that he'd do his greatest work in the good times? No, his greatest miracles come in the valleys. They come in the times when we're in the desert. And so, God is making a way in the wilderness for you.

Kerry Shook: That's right, you know, the wilderness is a beautiful place, but it's also a really harsh place. And I don't know about you but Chris and I have gotten hooked on some of those wilderness survival shows, like those guys that they put in Alaska and they're living in Alaska and, with their bare hands, they build log cabins and, you know, with their bare hands they kill a deer, you know, and that kind of stuff. And I mean, we're just intrigued by that. We love the show "Alone". Have you ever seen "Alone"? You know, it's this series where they put people in the Arctic, you know, all by themselves and they have to provide shelter and they have to forage and hunt for all their food and we love watching that.

Chris Shook: We just sit on the sofa, you know, eating popcorn, saying, "We'd be dead. We would die". We couldn't do it, not for a day.

Kerry Shook: We would tap out the first day and then they would come to get us and we'd be dead. It's as simple as that, you know. But what we found is if you watch a whole season, you're much stronger at the end of the season because what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And so, you just watch that and it's amazing, you know? And you watch it and you're so grateful that you're not that dumb to be on that show. It makes you feel so grateful for your life, you know, and you're eating junk food, watching on television. I mean, this is hard, but you too can survive it. You know, it's so important for us to see that when we're walking through the wilderness of life, that we will survive. For all of you wilderness wonders out there, I've got great news for you. God says not only will you survive, but he wants you to thrive in the wilderness of life.

So I want you to open your Bibles to Isaiah chapter 43 and I know this is a promise from God for someone out there today. Would you stand in honor of God's Word, Woodlands Church? I mean, maybe today, you're wondering if you're gonna survive the wilderness of life that you're in right now. God wants to say this to you: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I'm doing a new thing! Now it springs us; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland". "I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland". You can be seated. God is saying, "You may be in the wilderness of life right now and you may feel like I am nowhere around, but I want you to know I know where you're at and I've got it covered. I'm already making a way for you".

God says, "You may be in the wilderness right now and you feel like it's a place of no way, but it's okay because I'm already making a way for you". It's not the place of no way. It's the place of God's way. He's already making a way, but here's the key, and this is the part of the passage that God just opened my eyes to recently. I never realized this until recently, and the whole key is in verse 19. God says this: "I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland". Did you get that? "In" the wilderness. I'm always looking for a way out of the wilderness. I'm always praying for a way out of the problem. I'm always praying for a way out of the situation. I'm always praying for God to get me out of this jam, and God is saying, "I'm not making a way out of the wilderness; I'm making a way in the wilderness, right where you are". He says, "I am bringing streams into the wasteland".

What that means is God wants to turn your wasteland into a wonderland, because God is making a way in your wilderness. That means that God works his greatest miracles in your wilderness. But if you're always looking for a way out, you're gonna miss the miracle. So we're gonna talk today about, instead of looking for a way out of your wilderness, cooperate with what God is making in your wilderness. As he's making your wilderness into a wonderland, as he's bringing streams of joy and peace and fulfillment into your life, in the wilderness, and he wants it to overflow to change everything around you.

Chris Shook: And the first thing that we need to see is that God is making a way not only in the wilderness, but in you. In you, in the wilderness. He's making a way in you. You see, in our hard times, my goal is to get out, to change my circumstances. And God's goal? It's different. Of course, God can change any circumstances he want to, he's the Creator of everything. What he really wants is to change me. He wants to change you. Even more than the circumstances, what he really wants to see is he wants to see you and I, his kids, come to be more like him. That's the goal, that's God's goal. Our lives are largely marked by what we remember and what we forget, and I found this really hard to remember this truth, that God wants to make a change in me. He wants to make a way in me.

See, when we're in the wilderness, we have really sharp vision, don't we? And if you're wandering in the woods and you're lost, you're paying attention to every little sign that could mean that there's been an animal nearby. You're looking for bear scratches on the trees. You are listening really closely to make sure that there aren't any animals or something that might attack you nearby. All your senses are heightened. And when we go through the wilderness times of life, it's the same way. We seem to always respond with our senses. We're listening for every word, every sign that things are gonna... okay, God's making a way, I'm gonna get out of here. I've gotta get out of here. But we forget. We forget the verse that Kerry just read, which is we're told to forget the former things. We don't forget the things, do we? The things are what we're paying attention to. And we end up forgetting God.

"Forget the former things," God says, "but remember me". We need to remember God. We need to remember God and who he is and what he's doing more when we're in the wilderness than any other time in our lives. Just don't forget God. And in Psalm 106, the story is recounted of the children of Israel wandering and it's after they've gone through the Red Sea and God has parted that and now they're searching for the Holy Land, for that Promised Land, and they're wandering and wandering. And when I read this account, it really floored me. So just listen. After it talks about all the steps that they'd made, then it says: "They forgot God, their very own Savior, who turned things around in Egypt. They found fault with the life they had and turned a deaf ear to God's voice".

To me, that was just stunning 'cause I'm reading through this and I think, "Wait a minute, these are actually the people who walked with their very own feet through that Red Sea when it was parted. They're the ones that could see the ocean being held back. These are the very people who have tasted manna. These are the very people who saw that cloud lead them by day and the fire lead them by night. I mean, they have experienced God's miracles, and yet, they're not doing what he tells them to do in a moment". And I just thought, "What do you mean, 'they forgot their very own Savior who turned things around in Egypt'? How is that even possible? How could they find fault with the life they had? Couldn't they see that God would take care of them? He'd been doing all these things for them". And then it hit me. I thought, "Wow, wow, God, that is a picture of me".

I am the one who, no matter how many times God works miracles in my life, I seem to forget about it. And whenever I find myself in the wilderness I say, "Yeah, okay, so you did that. So you parted the Red Sea. So you provided food in the desert. But this is different. 'Cause now I have a medical issue or a relational issue or a financial issue or whatever it is that might be going on in your life". And you say, "Yeah, God, but I've never seen you do this and I don't know if you're gonna do it. I don't know if you can". And so we start trying to find our own way out. In other words, we're the ones who forget who God is and we find fault with the life we live. We say, "I'm not gonna be here, God. I refuse to stay in this place". And we forget to remember God.

Chris Shook: Have you ever felt like you're forgetful, just that you're a forgetful person or maybe lately you've been thinking you're more forgetful than you used to be? Am I the only one that sometimes goes in a room and thinks, "Wait, why am I here"?

Kerry Shook: Me.

Chris Shook: What was I doing? What was I doing in here?

Kerry Shook: I'm raising my hand. They're liars, but I'm raising my hand here in church. I forget my keys and my wallet every day. I can remember the score of a ball game from 30 years ago, but I can't remember my keys every single day.

Chris Shook: True story. Every day, "Hey, do you know where my keys are"? As he's walking out the door. I say, "I'm not telling".

Kerry Shook: You'd think since I'm so in touch with God, he would tell me, but it doesn't work that way. I don't know.

Chris Shook: But that's how it goes, isn't it? We get, and we think, "Oh, I'm just a forgetful person". But I'm gonna give you a little test right now, just to test your memory, okay? Here you go. Can you remember a time that you were mistreated? Can you remember a time that you were criticized? Might have been 30 years ago on the playground, but can you remember that time? Can you remember a time that you were left out? Can you remember a time that you were underappreciated? You see, great news, you have really good memories, don't you? I bet there's not a person in here who couldn't think of a time they've been hurt, that they've been wronged. Our memories are a big deal. What we remember and what we forget. If someone cuts you off in traffic, I mean, you're going along and suddenly, someone just pulls right in front of you and you slam your horn on and your brakes and you're mad. And you're mad.

How do you feel 30 miles down the road when you think of that again? Well, I mean, you can feel your blood pressure rising again, right? You're just like, "Oh, that", I mean, once again, you think, "I can't believe they did that". And you're still mad. But what if you are the one that misses the exit and, at the last second, you've gotta get over or you're going to have to go, you know, 15 miles down the road to the next turn and you need to get over at the last second, and there's a long line, but somebody lets you in. Well, what do you do? You just wave and slip in and go, "Oh, that's great," and keep going. Are you still thinking 30 miles down the road, "Wow, that was so great of that person. Wow, they are so kind"? No, we never think about it again. Kindnesses done to us are forgotten. They're brushed off, but wrongs done to us, we carry, we hold on to. We pick that up and we carry it on and on and on. And when you're in the wilderness, it's really important what you remember and what you forget. And what we need to remember is God is at work in you.

Look at this verse in Isaiah. It says: "Prepare for God's arrival; make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for God. Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. Then God's bright glory will shine and everyone will see it. Yes, just as God has said". Here's the deal: in my flesh, I am the wilderness. I am the wilderness. I have valleys of selfishness, that need to be filled in. I have mountains of pride that need to be leveled off. It turns out I am the wilderness that needs to be changed. When I'm in the wilderness and circumstances aren't right, I think, "Change the circumstances". No, God cares a lot more about you than your circumstances. He cares a lot more about your character than your circumstances. He loves you.

You know, Kerry and I have four kids and there are lots and lots of times where our kids didn't get their way. If you're a parent, you get that. If you have parents, you get that. No, a loving parent does not give their kids their way, why? Well, if there's something that I can do to fill a desire of my kids, sure, I'm happy to do that unless I know that actually there's something better for them. There's something that they need in their lives that maybe they can't see at the time, maybe they can't understand it, and maybe I'll be misunderstood. Maybe I'll be maligned. But that's okay. "No, you can't have cookies for breakfast". "Sorry, you got a zero on your homework because you left it at home".

You know what, they're in 3rd grade. Better learn that lesson now, than when they're in high school or college. You let them sometimes take the hard knocks because you love them, because you know there's something they're going to need more in the future, because you have traveled that road and you know what they're going to need in their lives to come and you're willing to let them feel pain, cry, feel hurt, "No, you can't go to the party that every other kid in the school's going to. Sorry". You say the hard No's, you say... the Yes's, you respond in a way to make sure that the ultimate goal is achieved and that is that your child grows to maturity and in growing to maturity, you're gonna be part of them.

Now, there's only one way to get there. One way to get to maturity. Physical maturity: when you're born, your body grows, you're a baby, you're a toddler, you're a kid, teenager, an adult. You grow without even trying, physically. But spiritual maturity, spiritual maturity is a result of one thing, the one thing that has to take place in the desert and that is obedience. It's the only path to growing spiritually. Spiritual maturity comes from obedience. You may be thinking, "Yeah, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do right now". Well, I've found that a great place to start is with what I already know. Turns out that I already know a lot of things that I should be doing, it's just sometimes I don't feel like doing it, especially when I feel like I'm in the wilderness.

And things like I should be spending time in his Word and you may think, "Wait a minute, I know, but I open the Bible and there's, like, these names and places that I don't understand. It seems confusing". I get it. I honestly get this one. Because I did not grow up at church. I came very late to all of this, and so I can very easily remember opening the Bible and thinking, "Everybody knows what they're talking about. I don't know any of these stories. I don't know...who's Joseph? Where are these people? Who are they? How do they relate to each other"? I'm telling you, just start. Just start. Try reading Psalm 1 and go from there, maybe a psalm a day. Psalm just means song, they're pretty short, and there's a lot of wisdom there. God will speak to you, just start. Don't let that enemy tell you, "Oh, this is confusing, this isn't for you". You're God's child. This is for you. He will help you understand. He will make a way.

So I encourage you, spend time in his Word, surround yourself with people who are. Do the things that you do know to do. Stop focusing on what is not happening and start focusing on what God is doing. Because this is the secret to staying obedient in the wilderness: Thank God for what he's doing while you're still in the wilderness. We think, "Well, when I get through this, boy, I am gonna thank you so much, God". No, start thanking him now. You think, "Well, wait, I don't have nothing, the thing I wanna happen hasn't happened yet, so there's nothing to be thankful for". No, there's always something to be thankful for. There's always something. So stop looking for a way out of the wilderness and start watching and seeing what he's doing while you're in the wilderness.

This takes intentionality and discipline, because it's a lot easier to keep saying, "Nope, you still haven't done it. You still haven't done the thing I wanted you to do," instead of seeing intentionally, looking around and saying, "God, what are you doing? What are you doing today"? In other words, it's really important when we're in the wilderness to change our focus. Change your focus from only looking for what he's not doing and noticing that and talking about that. Start noticing what he is doing, the miracles around you. How you spend your time in the wilderness really matters.

When I was at one of the darkest points of my life after some devastating news, several years ago, I just fell to my knees and God gave me this verse which is Psalm 9, verse 1: "I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds". I thought, "God, I can't think of one good thing in this situation. I can't think of one. There's nothing here. But I'm gonna take you at your word, God. I trust you, I'm gonna take you at your word". And so I got a blank book out and I wrote this verse on the first page and I said, "God, I'm watching. Okay, you have my attention. I am watching you. I'm gonna write down what you do do, not what you don't but what you do. I'm gonna watch for your miracles, little miracles every day, wherever they are, wherever they happen. I'm gonna watch for them, and I'm gonna write them down because I know that I have a personal bent toward forgetfulness. I forget the good stuff. Even if I do notice it, I'll forget it".

So I thought, "I'm gonna write this down". And I wrote the date at the top of the next blank page. Next morning, I said, "Okay, God. Fill it up. I'm gonna write down everything you do today. I'm gonna write down where I see you moving". And that night, sure enough, there's one little thing I could write down. I said, "Okay, God, I thank you for this. Okay, do it again, God. Do it again tomorrow". Next morning, I get up, write the date at the top of the page. Have this blank page and say, "Okay, God, I'm waiting. I'm watching you. I am watching for you". You better believe that my senses were heightened. They were sharpened. I was watching for God to move. There wasn't a kindness that escaped me. I noticed every little thing and held on to it, clung onto it. "Okay, God, that's you. You're moving, okay". And every night I'd thank God, say, "Thank you, God, for today. Thank you, look what you did today. Okay, let's do it again. Do it again tomorrow, God".

Over and over and over, and you know what? This is the key: there it is, it's really simple. Watch for the miracles God is doing in your life. It turns out you're the one that's changed. You'll be different. You are not gonna walk out of the wilderness the same person you walked into it. When you walk into a wilderness, you're gonna come out different. You're either gonna come out more like Christ or less like Christ. And God's goal is for you to become more like his Son and we need to partner with God, the way we cooperate with him in that is we are faithful, obedient. We say, "Okay, God, I'm gonna obey. Just for today, I'm gonna obey". Obey day by day. "I don't know the big picture. I don't even know about what the rest of the week, but today I'm gonna obey you". You do what you know to do, and he will keep showing you the next thing that you need to do.

Kerry Shook: It's so important to see that God's making a way in the wilderness, not making a way out of the wilderness, but it's most important to see that God says, "I am making the way. You're not making the way," God says, "I'm making the way". God's the one who's making the way and that's why I've got to wait in the wilderness. In Isaiah 40:31, it says, "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings of eagles, They shall run and not get weary. They shall walk and not faint". If I wait on the Lord to make a way for me and I don't run ahead of God, then he gives me the power to soar over my circumstances. And the amazing thing is, if I will start looking for what God is doing, what he's making in the wilderness and the miracle that he's making, and stop trying to make a way myself, then I receive that miracle but when I run ahead of God and try to do it myself, then he works the miracle where I used to be. And I miss the miracle.

You gotta pray for the miracle but then you gotta stay for the miracle. But God's making that miracle right there in the wilderness. He works his greatest miracles in our greatest problems. But we wanna get through the problem and we miss the miracle. And so I wait on the Lord. Now, when you wait on the Lord, it doesn't mean you just sit back and kick back, you go, "I'm not gonna do anything. God's gonna do it. I'll just let go and I'm gonna let God. So I don't have to do anything". No, you may have to work in the wilderness. You may have to take steps of faith I the wilderness. As Chris said, just listen to God and obey. You may have to keep walking in the wilderness, keep walking in the wilderness, keep walking in the wilderness, and don't give up and don't give in because God's making a way in the wilderness and he says, "I'm doing something new and now it springs up, do you not perceive it"? God's already doing it. God's already making a way in your wilderness. You may not see it, because you haven't been looking for it.
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