“Spiritual Desertication” is a spiritual phrase that is new to me. It comes from Pope Benedix XVI. I am preparing a talk for an ecumenical group of believers, so I thought I would find a quote from the Pope. He was lamenting the reality that in the West, people think they can live without God. The Pope is a realist, in accepting the loss of the Christian witness in the West. “But,” reasons the Pope, “it is starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing; its vital importance for us.” I was struck by his insight and its importance for men, wanting to be godly.
First there is the awareness that we may be living in a “desert time”. Like the prophet Habakkuk, you may be perplexed, asking God, “Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righeous hamstrung and stand justice on its head” (Hab.1:3-4 – The Message). The former Christian consensus that was prominent in our culture is lost and God seems to be more absent from the “public square.” Jesus never promised that it would get better. He warned, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginng of the world until now – and never to be equaled again” (Matt 24:21). Men we can not expect our culture to do for us what we as believers have to do for ourselves. Living in a “desert time” is the present reality. Are you prepared spiritually for the “desert time?”
Secondly it is in this “desert time” that we can discover the joy of believing. God informed Habakkuk that he was indeed active. He was using the ruthless nation of Babylon to punish Judah. This perplexed Habakkuk, yet God’s assurance that justice would be done and a vision of God’s glory brought the prophet to a sure faith. “But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive” (2:4 – The Message). During this “desert time” of Judah, the prophet began to see the hand of God in his society. He prays “God I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you, and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees. Do among us what you did among them. Work among us as you worked among them. And as you do bring judgment, as you surely must, remember mercy” (3:1-2 – The Message).
Here we find a key for living with a postive faith, finding joy in believing during a “desert time”. In accepting that God was in the midst of his nation’s “desert time,” he prays for God to be merciful. Daniels prayed in a similar fashion. “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act” (Daniel 9:1819). A person who is crying for mercy, has no where else to turn but to God. In a “desert time” such as ours, God hears the crys for mercy. The Psalmist prayed “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Ps 6:9).
Men I believe God is mightly at work in the midst of our “desert time” in America. I take great comfort in the words of Paul to the Romans. “But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21). Allow yourself to be honest with our fears and anxieties before the Lord. Confess your unbelief, and cry out to him for mercy. Allow him to fill you with his grace for this day. Get with a group of other men, who believe the same way. Support one another and cry out to God together for mercy.