For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom 8:38-39 AMP)
We all, eventually, end up in the wilderness. Whether we bring ourselves there or are dragged there against our will or run headlong into it thinking it has to be better than where we are right now or are led there by Ruach ha-Kodesh, the Holy Spirit of Yahweh, we will eventually find ourselves in “The Wilderness. ”
If you haven’t had this fantastic experience, perhaps you should ask why. Read the word, everyone the Father equips for service goes through some kind of experience where his mettle is tested, where he is purified by the refining fire of God, where all the useless dross is scraped away. There, in the wilderness, God prepares a table for you to learn to fellowship with Him and him alone. The question I have to ask myself then, is, have I denied myself and taken up His cross?
The Place Called Wilderness
Moses was kicked out of Egypt…with good reason. The mercy Pharaoh showed Moses by not killing him outright for the crime of murder is where the evidence of the Grace of the Living God began to exert itself. Moses was driven to the wilderness, eventually learning how to do the unprincely task of being a shepherd. Egyptians thought Shepherds were among the unclean and unwashed of society. Shepherds were shunned. Moses became a shepherd. Think of all the things Moses had to unlearn to learn to be a shepherd. It wasn’t until after a long while of being a shepherd that Moses was finally fit to serve the Living God. Moses had to lose the identity he was raised to believe about himself to become someone God could use. It was in that wilderness of humbling that God called Moses to take off his sandals and follow Him. It wasn’t until Moses lost his perceived identity as a Prince of Egypt that he gained the status as “The Friend of God.”
What self-deceptions do I need to shed to become “The Friend of God?”
Elijah had just witnessed the Living God consume the prophets of Ba’al with a holy blowtorch that consumed everything on and around Mt. Carmel. When Jezebel caught wind of this defeat, she sent word that she will personally destroy Elijah. When he heard about this threat, Elijah immediately ran over 80 miles away from Jezebel’s kingdom, then fled even farther into the wilderness. Elijah stopped under a juniper tree and begged God to take his life. Elijah thrust himself into the wilderness because it looked a lot better than his circumstances looked where he was. Fear and doubt are powerful forces. The conditions Elijah found himself in were not what he expected. After witnessing the awesome power of God at work, neither Ahab or Jezebel were moved to recognize the presence or authority of the Living God. Instead, they grew more defiant and angry. Instead of taking on God (Who just demonstrated he can put on a vast Bar B Que) Jezebel and her henpecked lackey, Ahab defied God and wanted to exact revenge on His messenger, Elijah.
Elijah wanted God to let him die, thinking it would be better to die at God’s hand than to suffer the agonies Jezebel was known to mete out to her enemies. He fell asleep from exhaustion.
While he slept, an angel of God made breakfast for Elijah, and gently woke Elijah up and fed him. Elijah was so exhausted he fell back asleep. A second time, the Angel came, woke Elijah and fed him.
After Elijah ate and rested, God gave Elijah evidence that He is always present and that He is the still speaks to His servants, and He gave Elijah new orders.
What we miss in our sermons here is this: God did not berate Elijah, but served him breakfast in bed, demonstrated His love for Elijah and encouraged him to keep going. When Elijah was exhausted and hiding in the wilderness, God showed up and reaffirmed that He is mightier than any circumstances that arise. Grace, not judgement, was what God fed Elijah.
Sometimes we lead ourselves to the wilderness. Even so, God will meet us there, take care of us, reassure us, and show us He is still God over our circumstances.
Have I led myself to a wilderness? Am I willing to be honest with God about my circumstances? Will I listen to His still quiet voice reassure me He is still Lord of my life?
Jesus was led to the wilderness to be tested. The Holy Spirit of God led him there. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights, and at the end of that time, when he was weakest, Satan tried to tempt Jesus. If Satan did this to Jesus, you could bet he will eventually do this with you. Satan will tempt us with things God has already promised us. He will tempt us by questioning our position in God. Satan will examine your calling and offer what appears to be a better deal than God provided. He will challenge your very existence and ask you to do something foolish to prove you are who God has said you are. In every case, Jesus stood fast on the promises of God. Jesus showed if you resist the evil one, he will flee.
When this kind of wilderness arrives in our lives, rest assured, you will be sifted, and God has your back. God’s word has already equipped, you…know the word of God.
Would I survive this wilderness of testing at the hands of God’s enemies? How well do I know God? How well do I know His word?
Wherever your wilderness is; however you got there, understand that regardless the circumstances, God is in control, He hears you, He will take care of you, and he will fortify you when you are tempted beyond measure.
Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.
(Psa 23:4-5 AMP)
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom He called he also justified, and those whom He justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:25-30 ESV)
In the end, the only time we belong in the wilderness is when God leads us there.
Let’s be about it.