Recently while reading “The Book of Mysteries” by Jonathan Cahn, I was awakened to a Biblical truth I had not considered: The necessity of the wilderness in the life of the believer. The author explained that few people consider that the barren, hostile and inhospitable nature of the wilderness, is actually necessary to the proper formation of the saints. He sighted Deuteronomy 8 as evidence.
Deuteronomy 8:2-5 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.
Perhaps the greatest of all lines in a movie comes in the TEN Commandments, when Moses is walking through the wilderness after being exiled from Egypt. In the middle of hot death as far as the eye can see, the narrator says this…
“The man who walked with kings, now walks alone… stripped of all rank and wealth, a forsaken man, without a country, without a hope… his soul in turmoil, like the hot winds and raging sands, that lash him with the fury of a task-masters whip. He is driven forward, always forward, by a God unknown and a land unseen. Into the molten wilderness of Sin, where granite sentinels stand as towers of living death, to bar his way. Each night brings the black embrace of loneliness. In the mocking whisper of the wind he hears the echoing voices of the dark. His tortured mind wondering if they call for memory of past triumphs, or wail foreboding of disasters yet to come… He cannot cool the burning kiss of thirst upon his lips, nor shade the scorching fury of the sun; all about is desolation… he is driven onward through the burning crucible of desert, where holy men and prophets are cleansed and purged, for God’s great purpose. Until at last, at the end of human strength, beaten into the dust from which he came, the metal is ready for the Maker hand”
Poor Charlton Heston… I mean Moses. But in all fairness, if you love Jesus and desire to bless Him, you have experienced times that felt like what was just described, even if you were not actually walking through an actual desert.
We may not like the wilderness but as God had a purpose for Israel in their wilderness wanderings, so He does for us as well. From the passage we discover His purposes.
- To teach us how to follow Him not based on material supply, but the words of His mouth (vs. 2)
- To humble us, as are tested, that we may see what is really in our hearts, apart from Christ (vs. 2-3); which is the first stage in the progression of sanctification.
- To reveal God’s sufficiency and provision (vs. 2-4).
- To reveal His love through discipline (vs. 5)
These purposes are all wonderful, but let us get into a wilderness situation for any stretch of time and we see how much we really appreciate the work God intends to do in us in the wilderness. Sadly for most of us, what comes out is the whiny, complaining, selfish impatience, which stand in the way of our being more like Christ.
In addition to God’s purpose in molding and shaping us the desert is also the place where we learn to overcome the devil, in the power of God’s Spirit, just like Jesus Christ the Lord. When this occurs we can walk into more than effective ministry for Christ filled with His Spirit.
Luke 4:1-2 1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.
In light of this truth, let me encourage you, no matter why you are in a wilderness situation, know He is with you and should you humble yourself, our Father will accomplish His purposes.
I, myself, have just recently been walking out of a wilderness period in my life. This period has amounted to multiple years, where I have been tested often–seen what is in me apart from Jesus Christ–learned the steady cadence of the leading of the Holy Spirit–learned to trust Christ’s viewpoint of me. The one last thing Christ had done in me, is to confirm what I knew from the beginning of my walk with Jesus… Love not the world, do not partake in its system of thought, recreation, or sufficiency. Live dependent on Him and pursue holiness, because He has made me holy.
I have learned Christians, especially those who will lead, must not dabble in the worldview, which says we Christians need to relax and have fun as well. It amazes me, how the book of Acts, as well as the rest of the New Testament, speaks contrary to our viewpoint of what is allowed in our Christian experience. We spend hours searching for and planning how we will spend our time off, even ministers, looking for good moral ways to waste time.
We often complain that we cannot easily find a media outlet to match our high morals, and then justify anything that we feel is relatively cleaner in its moral content, as approved. Sorry, the Christian movie, music and book industry is fueled by this mentality. So we who are called to “walk circumspectly”, walk right into mine fields, where each encountered darkness, even for a little bit, gives us spiritual PTSD. We who are called to “redeem the time”, waste it on our pursuit of a “good” and “virtuous” way of entertaining ourselves. We who are to not be “unwise, but know what the will of the Lord is”, often are clueless, as to God’s purpose for our life and ministry (Ephesians 5:14-21)
To assist in seeing this clearly, let’s consider that we who are in Christ are members of the body of Christ. This body of Christ is not only those who you encounter in fellowship on Sunday and Wednesday, but all the hundreds of millions of Christians around the wold. Let’s just take the hours from 7 pm till we go to bed and what we engage in. Now we Americans say I’m not sinning to watch T.V. if its not violent, sexually immoral or perverse (some we can be sure don’t even care about those standards)–we think so long as we are surfing the net, on our phone, tablet, or computer, so long as its not violent, sexually immoral, or perverse, we are fine.
This means that we believe that we are allowed to live with a bit of selfishness and unintentionality, because after all we’re not Jesus, right? Yet we are called to walk circumspectly, redeem the time, and know God’s will, which never takes time off. Let us now consider, being members in the world-wide body of Christ, that while we are watching, reading, vegging or relaxing with our favorite things, around the world there is a member of the body of Christ (or multiple) who are…
- Suffering persecution to the point of injury or death
- Alone in a prison cell for their faith
- Afflicted with disease, needing Christ the Healer
- Walking through temptation
- Needing comfort for personal loss or failure
- Needing answers to prayer
- Needing encouragement
- Needing prayer for all of the above
My time in the wilderness has reaffirmed that all of my time is His time, for His offspring are too numerous to count, and He has called us to be our brothers and sisters keepers and supporters, whether we see each other this side of heaven. God forgive me for all the time I have wasted sowing to my flesh, in ways that are not seen as overtly wicked, but waste the precious time You have allotted me. Thank You for delivering me from the corruption that sowing to the flesh produces. Thank You, galvanizing what you placed in my heart all those many years ago. Have mercy on your church in America, especially ministers who have fallen prey to walking through mine-fields of pursuit of preference and hobbies, where we waste time, and step out of the will of God.
Ephesians 5:14-21 “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” Walk in Wisdom 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.