Walking Through the Valley Series
Experiencing the Presence of God during Personal Crisis
“Coming Home – Learning How to Walk”
Today we come to the fourth sermon of a five-part series entitled “Walking Thru the Valley
– Experiencing the Presence of God during Personal Crisis.” This series of sermons come
out of my own near-death experience when just over ten years ago I was infected with a
severe case of malaria while doing ministry in Haiti.
After coming home from Haiti in late August 2010 I became very sick and was eventually
admitted into Memorial Hospital Miramar. After many tests I was diagnosed as having a
severe case of malaria not typically found in the Caribbean. A person who has five percent
of malaria in their blood is certain to die, and I had twenty percent. I was very sick and
facing death. The doctors determined that a double blood transfer was the best chance to
save my life. The blood transfers worked but the malaria still lingered in my body causing
my platelets to fall to an extremely low level.
I was given a drug to centralize and boost the blood flow to my vital organs. This however
hindered blood flow to my extremities causing my skin to darken on my ears, hands, and
feet. After a few weeks my family and the doctors noticed that my feet were increasing
becoming dark and it was determined that wet gangrene had developed due to the lack of
positive blood flow. A surgeon was called in and he advised that I receive a below the knee
amputation on both legs as soon as possible. At that time Memorial Hospital Pembroke had
just started a new form of treatment called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy that was used
to speed up healing and the doctors agreed to postpone the amputation so that I could
receive the hyperbaric treatments to fight against the gangrene.
I was transferred to Memorial Pembroke and started to receive hyperbaric treatments to
slow down the spread of the gangrene but the threat of the infection spreading through my
body was still very high. So, the double below the knee amputation seemed to the only
course of action. But the Lord had other plans and sent a leading orthopedic surgeon who
suggested to only amputate the most infected areas and to continue the hyperbaric
treatments. So, I was schedule for surgery where half of my right foot was amputated and
most of my toes on my left foot leaving only a half of an inch of each toe. However, my body
was very weak, and my kidneys started to fail so I began receiving dialysis.
The fighting the malaria, undergoing the surgeries, and receiving dialysis had taken a toll
on my body. All together I was in the hospital for two months and now the malaria was
gone, the surgeries had been completed, and miraculously my kidneys started functioning
again. The doctors determined it was time for me to be discharged.
Coming home presented a whole set of new problems. I still couldn’t walk or put any
pressure on my feet. I couldn’t get out of bed by myself, let alone get into a car or a chair.
The wheelchair was big and clumsy. In the hospital I was a patient but when I came home,
my family would have to take care of me. The last couple of months had taken a lot out of
Barbara too and the thought of having to care of me at home overwhelmed her. A hospital
bed was set up in the family room of our home because it was difficult to maneuver the
wheelchair in and out of our bedroom. Barb had already taken many days off from work so
she couldn’t stay with me during the day. My son or my mother-in-law would take me to
the hyperbaric treatments and doctor appointments. Nurses would make house calls to
check my vitals and put fresh bandages on my feet. All I could do was wait. Wait for my feet
to heal. Wait for my body to get strong again.
It took several weeks for my feet to heal from the surgeries but eventually I got to the point
when I could get fitted for a partial foot prosthesis.
The prosthesis was a boot that I would strap “Stubby” into. Stubby is the name I gave to my
half foot. Then I would stick the prosthesis inside my shoe. The high ankle design created
stability and support as I learned how to walk. Even though the prosthesis was hot and
bulky it gave me the security and balanced I needed to literally get back on my feet. I was
excited about the prospect to play golf again. To work in my yard again. To be active again.
But it was going to be a process and I had to wait. Waiting has never been easy for me. But
there was no way to hurry the process. Healing takes time. And I just had to wait.
I never received physical therapy, but I did discover some little tricks along the way. Like
how to walk down a flight of stairs or bending over to pick something up from the ground
without falling on my face. Psalm thirty-seven became an everyday reality for me. The steps
of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be
hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. (Ps.37.23-24) I thank God
that He was always there to hold my hand as I learned how to walk.
Learning How to Walk
This morning I want to use my learning how to walk as a platform to lead us to God’s Word.
The simple definition for “walk” or “walking” is to take one step, place your foot firming on
the ground, before taking another. Even though the Bible doesn’t use the exact phrase “the
Christian walk,” walking is used as a metaphor for practical daily living in Christ. The Bible
tells us to “walk in newness of life.” (Rom.6.4) We are called to “walk according to the Spirit”
(Rom.8.4), to “walk by faith” (2Cor.5.7), to “walk in love” (Eph.5.2), and to “walk in a manner
worthy of the Lord.” (Col.1.10) You see, the Christian life is a journey we are called to walk.
We are called to make consistent forward progress as we walk in Christ. Therefore, as the
Apostle Paul tells us, “Be careful how you walk” (Eph.5.15) and it is this admonition that I
want to investigate this morning.
Be Careful How You Walk
Our text this morning comes from the book of Isaiah chapter forty. The book of Isaiah can
be divided into two main sections. In chapters one through thirty-nine the Prophet Isaiah is
proclaiming judgment upon Judah for their lack of faithfulness to God. Whereas the second
half of the book, chapters forty through sixty-six, the Prophet pronounces blessings that
will come upon God’s people as they wait for the Messiah to come to establish His kingdom
and reign forever and ever, amen.
The prophet begins this second section declaring, “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your
God. (Is.40.1) And that is what the Lord inspired Isaiah to do, comfort His people. You see,
the people were living in a traumatic time. Foreign armies threaten to invade. The people
are discouraged and down hearted, but the Lord sent His prophet to encourage God’s
people. Let’s read the inspired message of the prophet this morning. Isaiah chapter forty
verses twenty-seven to thirty-one. Hear now the Word of God.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Is.40.27-31)
Why Do You Say?
The Prophet begins by asking the people, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My
way is hidden from the Lord, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’”? (40.27)
Isaiah is questioning the people’s false assertion that their condition was hidden from the
Lord eyes, and that the justice that was due to them had escape God’s notice. The people
were getting off on the wrong foot on their journey to enjoy the Lord’s presence during this
time of personal crisis. So, the prophet asks them, “Why? Why are you thinking like this?”
Brothers and sisters, our journey of faith cannot start with a false assertion that our
condition is hidden from God’s eyes and that we escape His notice. As I shared last week
our God knows us full well. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. Nothing escapes His notice. He
is fully aware of our illnesses, our sickness, our setbacks, and our challenges.
Who God Is!
The prophet challenges their false assertion by asking them to recall who God is! If you
want to get off on the right foot in your walk with Christ you must remember, you must
remind yourself, who God is?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable. (Is.40.28)
Of course, God’s people knew this! Of course, they had heard this! For their entire life they
had attended every Sunday School class, every youth group, every youth adult class, and
church service where they were told about God’s greatness and grace. But how easy it is to
believe in the infinite power of God while at the same time feel that He is unable to meet
our personal needs! This is how spiritually bipolar we are. Theological we believe that God
has infinite power but at the same time we feel that He is unaware or unable to meet our
personal needs. And this is a lie from Satan.
The Everlasting God
So, the prophet begins by declaring once again to God’s people that our God is the
Everlasting God. As Moses declared in Psalms ninety, “from everlasting to everlasting, Thou
art God.” (Ps.90.2) You see, everything we do, everything we experience is based on time.
As the preacher tells us there is a time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a
time to uproot what is planted. (Ecc.3.2) But God is not limited by a clock. From eternity
past to eternity forward God is the everlasting God.
If we want to get off on the right foot on our walk with God, we must remind ourselves over
and over again that our God is an everlasting God and not fixed to any human schedule.
God’s timing is always perfect. Being too earlier or too late is not who God is.
I want you to remember that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were in the fiery furnace
but the Lord showed up right on time! I want you to recall that Jesus didn’t show up until
Lazarus had been dead for four days, but He showed up right on time. Remember that Paul
and Silas had been in prison all night, but it wasn’t until midnight that the Lord showed up
and open the prison doors and unfasten their chains. (Acts 16.25-31) My point is that our
God is the everlasting God, and He always shows up at the right time, His time. You can’t
hurry an everlasting God. No, you must wait. You must trust Him. No matter how long it
takes. He is a God that has no need to hurry. He will be there you don’t need to worry. God
is never late and seldom early but He is always right on time.
The Lord is the Creator of the Ends of the Earth
The second thing the prophet reminds God’s people is that if you want to get off on the
right foot on this journey you need to acknowledge that the Lord is the Creator of the ends of
the earth. I love this phrase of the ends of the earth. The Bible teaches that God made all
things from nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
Yes, God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it but the point that Isaiah is
making here is that He is the Creator of the ends of the earth. The point is you can trust God
to be Lord in all places as you walk life’s journey. As you walk you might end up in a place
you have never been before, but you can trust that God is there. As you walk you might end
up at the end of the road, but you can trust that God is there. Brothers and sisters, the Lord
is the Creator of the ends of the earth, and we can trust Him on the journey because He does
not become weary or tried and His understanding is inscrutable. Behold, He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right
hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from
all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from
this time forth and forever. (Ps.121.4-8)
The Lord is Not Stingy with His Strength
As God’s people begin their journey, as you begin your journey, the prophet wants you to
know that the Lord is not stingy with His strength saying, He gives strength to the weary,
and to him who lacks might He increases power. (40.29) Here again we return to the godly
principle that we must acknowledge our weaknesses and recognize our limitations to
receive the blessings of God. Brothers and sisters, you can’t get divine strength if you think
you are strong enough on your own. We should join the Apostle Paul and declare, “I will
rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2Cor.12.9) To
receive His strength you must acknowledge you are weak. To receive His salvation, you
must admit you are lost. To receive His forgiveness, you must confess your sin.
Wait for the Lord
The Lord knows that even a young man grows weary and tried and a vigorous man can
stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up
with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
(40.31) The Lord is not surprised when we become weary or stumble along the way, but He
is extremely sorrowful when we venture out in our own strength and don’t wait on Him.
Throughout the ages no ear has ever heard, nor has any eye ever seen, any other God who
performs such deeds for those who wait for Him. (Is.64.4) Wait for the Lord; Be strong and
let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. (Ps.27.14) Brothers and sisters, do not
grow weary in the waiting for in due time we will gain new strength. As I mentioned earlier
waiting has never been easy for me, but my illness taught me that there was no way to
hurry the process. Healing takes time. And I just had to wait.
In Haiti when you make a promise to someone the Haitian will often respond by saying, “I
will wait for you.” When I first encountered this response, I thought maybe they respond
like that because they don’t have anything else to do but wait. There aren’t many jobs. Most
people are unemployed, so they have time to wait. There aren’t a lot of timed events like
sporting events or concerts, so waiting isn’t a problem. There’s no other place to be.
But as I encountered this response repeatedly, I began to realize that the reason for this
response is because most Haitians don’t have any resources in and of themselves to fulfill
the promise. They are totally dependent on the one who made the promise to fulfill the
promise, so they will wait. When I consider my own life and the American culture maybe
waiting is so difficult because I believe I have the resources to fulfill the promise on my
own. There is no need to wait. I can do it myself. I am Mr. DYI. Mr. “Do It Yourself.” But can
I? Can I fulfill the promises of God with my own strength, with my own wisdom, it my time?
No, I can’t! I must wait!
God has promised new strength to those wait. He promised that we will soar like eagles. He
promised that will run and not get tried. He promised that we will walk and not faint. These
are promises beyond my capability. The fact is that I must face the reality that I do not have
the resources to fulfill these promises on my own and I am totally dependent on the One
who promised. Therefore, I will wait for the Lord.
Allow me to share a closing thought. The order of verse thirty-one seems strange. Yet those
who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they
will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. First, we mount up with
wings like eagles. Then we run and not get tired. Finally, we walk and don’t become weary.
Does it seem out of order? Wouldn’t it make better sense if we started out walking, then
running, and then end up soaring like an eagle? But what we have here is a literary devise
to emphasize what the true goal truly is.
Yes, there are times when we are soaring like an eagle above all our problems below. There
are times when we feel like we have the energy to run through any obstacle. But the goal is
not to soar, and the goal is not to run. The goal is to walk. The goal is to learn to walk with
our everlasting God to the ends of the earth seeking His strength every step along the way.
Finally, then, brothers and sisters I exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from
me instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you do walk), that
you excel still more. (IThes.4.1) Let us learn how to walk with Christ. Let us excel still more!
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. (Col.2.6)