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…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. Luke 3:2, NIV
Have you ever felt like you were in the wilderness spiritually? If you have been a Christian for any amount of time you probably know what I am referring to. God seems to be a million miles away. Your prayers seem to fall on deaf Ears. Bible reading seems dry and a chore. You feel like you are just going through the motions. Maybe you feel like God has side tracked you and your ministry and you wonder if you will ever be used by Him again. It can be discouraging, depressing and disheartening.
John the Baptist spend most of his life in the wilderness [literally]. For him it was a time when he was separated from the world and its influences. He was to become the greatest of the Old Testament prophets - the announcer of the Messiah. He needed to be separate, to learn the voice of God. The wilderness for him, although a place of loneliness, was a place of training and preparation.
Moses spent 40 years - 1/3 of his life - in the wilderness. For him it felt like a place of refuge from failure or banishment for missing God’s will in his life. He had had great hopes and plans. He was going to be God’s Man Of Faith And Power For This Crisis Hour. His ministry was rejected, all his hopes dashed and he fled for his life to the wilderness. From his perspective, it was a time of discouragement when all that could have been haunted his mind and he knew he was a failure. Yet from God’s perspective, it was a time of training and preparation. Character qualities would be forged in him there that would be necessary for one of the most powerful ministries of all time.
Jesus, Himself, spent 40 days in the wilderness. The Spirit deliberately led Him there to face the onslaught of satanic temptation. It was at the very beginning of His public ministry. He had to be tested to prove the strength of His relationship with the Father, His faith and His resolve to do the will of God no matter what the cost. For Jesus it was a time of intense testing.
But notice with all these people [and many more] not only was the wilderness a necessary experience in the plan of God, but also it came to an end. There was a goal in mind, known only to God. In the place of dryness, in the place of loneliness, in the place of temptation and discouragement came the life-giving Word of God. When it was time new life flowed, new ministry burst forth and a new level in relationship with God was reached.
Do you feel like you are in a spiritual wilderness today? Does everything seem to be dry, dusty and dead? Maybe, like John, it seems like it has always been that way. You can’t remember a time when you have really felt a part of anything. Even friends seem rare. Or maybe, like Moses, you feel like you are in the wilderness because you have blown it so badly God can never use you again. Maybe you wonder if He still loves you. Maybe, like Jesus, it is not so much loneliness and dryness but everywhere you turn you seem to be feeling the furnace of temptation. The pressure is on and it seems like you will be crushed. Or maybe the cause could be something totally different. You may not even know why you are in the wilderness. You are confused and hurt. You don’t understand…you just know that you are there.
Be encouraged. The wilderness is a time of training and preparation because God has NOT abandoned you. He still loves you. He still has a purpose for you. I can almost guarantee you don’t see it - that’s part of the forging wilderness experience - but in the right time the Word of God will come to you. New life will spring in your life. A new season will emerge. Things you never thought possible will come to pass. Your life is not over…its just beginning!
So what do we do when we are in the wilderness? We hang on! We remain faithful. We follow after Jesus even through it seems useless and even hypocritical. We stand in faith on who we are in Christ even through our feelings are dead or screaming the opposite. We do not give up on God, for He never gives up on us. How long will the wilderness experience last? 40 days or 40 years? Only God knows…but the Word of God will come...
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