I love to teach. It has always been a passion of mine. When other kids wanted to be firefighters or football stars, I wanted to be a teacher. A math teacher to be specific, but that’s another story for another time. Instead of math, I now find myself teaching God’s Word on a regular basis.
As any teacher knows, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. The lesson just doesn’t work out. The message falls flat. Sometimes the conversation takes a tangent and you end up talking about something that you didn’t even plan to talk about.
This was one of those Sundays.
As our Sunday School class got underway, it became clear that we were not going to hit all the points in the lesson. We found ourselves on a (somewhat) related topic, and the conversation took off. We talked about how we often learn the most valuable lessons in life through our personal experiences, not sitting in a classroom or listening to a sermon.
You would think that this would offend someone like me, the one who is usually teaching in the classroom and preaching the sermon. But there is a lot of wisdom here. Someone may not remember every point to my sermon last week, or be able to perfectly recall our conversation on the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus. Heck, I may not even remember every single point of my sermons!
But we often recall lessons we learn the hard way. We learn from mistakes, our own and the mistakes of others. We learn by trial and error. We learn to trust in God’s promises, when everything else in life seems to be falling apart. We learn to thank God when everything comes back together. We learn from life.
This life is like the wilderness journey that God’s people experienced after the escaped Egypt. They were no longer slaves in a foreign country, yet they hadn’t quite arrived in the Promised Land either. The wilderness was a difficult time, when they were forced to learn about trust, faith, and God’s provision through every circumstance. It was not easy for them to be in the wilderness, but they learned valuable lessons about what it means to follow God.
As we journey through our own wilderness, we will experience joy and hardship. We will make mistakes, and have moments of great celebration. Around every turn there will be lessons to learn. Those lessons will make an impact on how you view God and whether or not you trust in him.
That is not to say our “classroom learning” is irrelevant. In fact, what we learn about God through our study of His Word impacts how we will respond in those wilderness moments. We learn important life lessons the hard way, but those moments should be informed and shaped by our understanding of God and his promises through Jesus Christ.
Hardship will force us to face what we truly believe about God and ourselves. It is often where the rubber meets the road when it comes to our faith. Will you bring your doubts, questions, and fear to God, trusting that He loves you and will not abandon you, or will you look elsewhere?
God gave us His Spirit to guide us through our wilderness journeys. After their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were led by a pillar of cloud and fire. Even better, we have the Holy Spirit living in us to give us guidance and direction.
Galatians 5 describes the fruit that God’s Spirit produces in our lives. The thing about gardening is that it can often be a painful, tedious process. Sometimes God needs to prune us, till up the ground to break through, and maybe even spread a little manure to make that fruit grow. But in the end, out of that hardship comes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.”
God often molds us into Christ’s image when we learn things the hard way.