Abandonment is Critical to Spiritual Formation & the Wilderness Provides Tremendous Space to Embrace It
In my earlier post, It’s not “If”, but “When” to Abandon Ship | A Reflection on Abandonment, we took an honest look at the irony of abandonment. It can be good and bad. Jesus spoke directly into this paradox by challenging his disciples to truly count the cost, so that when they said “yes” to him, their “yes” meant “yes”, not “maybe, if it all goes well and feels good.”
Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. -Jesus (Matthew 5:37)
It’s All About Letting Go of Worthless Idols and Appropriately Attaching High Value to Jesus
How did Jesus compel his disciples to abandon themselves to follow him on his terms? And how does he continue to do that today? He does this through spreading the infection of the Gospel that establishes the fact that there is nothing more valuable than following Jesus. Nothing. People can try to disprove this but they will always fail. Jesus is the Crown Jewel, the Summit, the Adventure of a lifetime, and beyond! The Apostles became convinced of this and it gave them the strength and power they needed to avoid the temptation to abandon him in their journey as a disciple after he ascended to Heaven. They were infected with the Gospel through abandonment of self and adherence to Christ alone.
Jesus left them in charge of establishing his church and told them that the gates of Hades cannot prevail against them. In believing this and living it out, they established an alternative culture, called the Church, that never, never, never gives up or abandons it’s call to spread the Gospel.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. -Jesus (Matthew 16:18)
The “RADICAL” Part of Wilderness Adventures
The word radical means, “from the root”. Everyone knows if you are going to get rid of a weed you need to uproot it. Everyone also knows that if you are going to have a healthy fruitful tree, you need to nourish the roots. The root is key. Wilderness ministry and most outdoor ministries that I recommend are intensely focused on trying to use God’s Creation as a conduit to connect people to Christ by connecting the dots of what people are seeing, feeling, and experiencing in the wilderness with transforming truth that relates to the experience in God’s Word. The concept of abandonment is abounding with potential analogies from adventure and Creation itself.
The following acronym is one possible way to teach the concept of abandonment in an outdoor adventure setting that gives your group something memorable to walk away with:
R | Renounce: Only when we renounce our sinful pride and self-sufficiency before God can we take hold of Christ’s loving hand extended to save us. What is God calling you to renounce?
A | Axe: Only when we take the axe to the root, do we cut off the life of the weed. What are some weeds in your life that strangle out your passion to follow Jesus with abandon?
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” (Matthew 13:24)
D | Ditch: What do you need to ditch to avoid the temptation to abandon Christ’s call on your life? Are there relationships that cause you to stumble that you need to either change or abandon for the sake of the Gospel? Do you need to ditch any bad habits, addictions, prideful tendencies that are keeping you from bearing spiritual fruit?
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
I | Indulge (What the Spirit of God desires… desire that!): Part of counting the cost is saying no to wickedness and faithlessness. Are there things you indulge in that clearly draw you away from fellowship with Christ? On the other hand, God has created us to crave and desire him in a good way. What would it take for you to begin to crave what the Spirit desires in your life rather than craving what your flesh desires?
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)
C | Cling: “ Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)
A | Abstain: Self control is the pathway to peace and contentment. But self control is only possible when we abandon ourselves to Jesus and accept his unconditional love and grace.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)
L | Leave: There are two sides of “leaving”.
Do you need to leave a path you have been on that has clearly diverted from the path of discipleship? Are you on your own, feeling the lack of covering that Christ provides because you have come outside of his authority and chosen a path that he will not honor?
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. (Matthew 15:8)
Or maybe you are in a great place with Christ, and possibly he is asking you to take a risk and leave your comfort to go pursue a new summit for his glory. Are you willing to leave?
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
Join the Conversation!
Please comment below if you resonate with this reflection on abandonment or if you have any examples to share of how you have seen people embrace abandonment in the wilderness.