“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness… and Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Lk 4:1, 14).
The Cross does not eliminate weakness, it brings strength out of weakness. With less of me there is more of the Lord. So these wilderness experiences are designed to teach us something about weakness. When you are weak, when you have no strength, then Christ is revealed. You become conscious of a supernatural strength rising up from within. If you’re fasting you’re still hungry. The hunger doesn’t magically go away. If you’ve got a thorn in the flesh God doesn’t wave His magic wand and just take it away. What does He say? “I’ll not take the thorn away, but I will give you more grace, and you will learn by experience that My grace is sufficient.”
See, you don’t learn the sufficiency of Grace until you have experienced the insufficiency of Self. The sooner you give up the better. I go back to my original statement: we spend too much time crying and praying and asking God to take us out of whatever we’re in, and the thing we’re trying to get out of is the very thing God intends to use to teach you something of Himself. You say, “That’s a hard way to learn!” Well, who said it would be easy?
The only people who say it will be easy are the ones who have never walked in the wilderness before. They sound like they have great faith, but that faith has never been tested. They have no depth of experience. They haven’t walked with God through the valley of the shadow of death. They’re doing everything they can to walk around it, and they think that’s faith. They think victory means elimination of problems. Actually, victory means living independently of your circumstances. I still have the thorns, I still have the weaknesses, I still have the problems. My wife and I have been through enough to fill up three lifetimes. Now I’m doing what Paul did: I’m boasting in my weaknesses. I won’t bore you with all the details of all the things we’ve endured, I don’t want to make this teaching all about me. I’m saying this to encourage you.
THE WILDERNESS WALK
What is your heart’s desire? Is it to know God? To walk with Him? To grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus? Then let me tell you something: the depth of your revelation can be measured by the depth of your suffering. Little suffering means little revelation. Much suffering means much revelation.
You don’t become intimate with God by studying books, reading books, or listening to other people teach. Enoch walked with God. Abraham walked with God. David walked with God. Paul walked with God. They were on a journey together. They were walking it out, and working it out, together. It was a marriage, no question about it. If I want a relationship with my wife I don’t go around and interview all her friends and relatives and ask them to tell me about my wife. I don’t type her name into Google and see what comes up. If I want a relationship with my wife it takes more than a marriage certificate! It takes more than a wedding ceremony! That might be enough to satisfy the legal requirements of marriage, but if that’s as far as you go then it won’t last. I think that’s the problem with some people in their spiritual walk. They fulfilled all the “legal” requirements of “getting saved”, they had a ceremony, and they hung their marriage certificate on the wall and said, “Well, I can cross that off my list, now I’m saved.” Well, that should be the beginning of the relationship, not the end of it.
I’m just speaking plainly. It’s time to go on to maturity. Let’s get serious about our spiritual life. I tell you, when you experience some pain or weakness or sickness in your body, you get concerned. You seek relief. You seek medical attention. You seek the prayers of the saints. You seek healing and deliverance. If we were as concerned for our spiritual life as we are for our physical life, we would know God.
Or look at your financial situation. If you can’t make ends meet, or you lose your job, or something unexpected comes up that you don’t have the money to pay for, you get concerned. You pray. You ask for help. You do whatever it takes to get out from under that financial difficulty. If we were as concerned for our spiritual situation as we are for our financial situation, then we would know God. Oh, there’s no question about it. Absolutely. And often God can’t get our attention unless He permits, unless He allows, something to happen to us in our body or in our finances. Sometimes it takes something drastic to get us to pay attention to our spiritual life.
“LED BY THE SPIRIT… INTO THE WILDERNESS!”
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, to be tested. Now that’s one purpose of the desert; that’s one reason why God leads us into the wilderness. We want to cover up our weakness, and God wants to expose our weakness. Hypocrites want to hide their true condition and make themselves appear to be better than they really are. They get so good at hiding their true condition that they actually begin to believe they are better than they really are. Then they start trying to fix everybody else: pointing out their weaknesses and shortcomings. Well, they just haven’t spent any time in the desert. They’ve never been confronted with their weaknesses. They don’t know what hunger is. They don’t know what thirst is. They don’t know what isolation is. They don’t know what it is to be stripped down to nothing. They’ve never been broken, never been humbled, never taken up the Cross, never died to anything. So they’ve got plenty of time on their hands, and they spend their time looking for specks in other people’s eyes while ignoring the log in their own.
I’m telling you, the Narrow Path that leads to Life takes you through the Spiritual Desert. If you haven’t experienced it yet then you will if you stay on the Path. People are still looking for a way around it, a way over it, a way under it, but God’s Way is through it. A lot of people turn back! They say, “Let’s go back to Egypt. It’s hot out here, it’s dry, it’s lonely. Oh, I need fellowship. Oh, I need something for the kids. I need teaching.” And pretty soon they go right back into a place that they said not too long ago God had called them out of. They were led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, but before that Spirit can teach them anything they’re trying to get out of there.
In the wilderness you don’t follow your feelings. It says the children of Israel were led by a column of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud moved, then they moved. When the cloud stayed still then they stayed still. I mean, it’s really as simple as that. Walk in the Spirit. If you begin to be led by your feelings then you’ll make the wrong decision every time. Most of the time, the right decision doesn’t feel good. Doing the right thing is usually difficult. The easiest thing to do is to quit, to give up, to go back to Egypt. But I’m telling you: get to a place where going back is no longer an option; then going back is no longer a temptation.
This article is based on an audio series titled The Spiritual Desert: How God’s Purposes Are Fulfilled In Your Wilderness Experiences.