The wilderness test. Just the mention of its name causes one to shiver. It may even cause us to ask God to let us skip this one!
We know the meaning of “wilderness.”
Wilderness – a dry, barren, desolate,uninhabited, hostile place. A state of disorder.
In Bible times, people believed the wilderness was the haunt of demons. Thus, very few people lived there. Only rugged people like John the Baptist called the hostile, dangerous, wilderness between Jordan Valley and the Judean hills, home. It was in this same wilderness that Jesus faced His own time of testing. (Matt4:1-11)
Earth has many wilderness places; so too do our hearts and lives.
Wildernesses are places of:
The wilderness can be so miserable that we want to give up! Much like the children of Israel, we want to go back to our chains instead of pressing on and facing the trek through our wilderness.
The Purpose of the Wilderness Test
To remove the “wilderness” from our hearts, so that we can become a productive, fruit-bearing branch, firmly attached to the vine (John 15). I know there are wild places inside of me where pride is parching God’s abundant purpose for me (Matt 12:35). I know that I tend to be a doer, so, I can sometimes push God aside and try to fix things myself, rather than trusting in His ability to care and provide for me in ways that I cannot even imagine. I know that sometimes I allow other things to keep God from being first in my life. I know that my thought life is sometimes filled with tumbleweeds of jealousy, pride, anger and lust.
How about you? Can you think of some “wild” places in your heart?
God uses the wilderness experience to put us in a place where we are weak and vulnerable; a place where we are finally willing to listen to the lessons He has for us. These are not just any lessons, but vital ones that we need to learn in order to grow in our faith.
The Key Lesson of the Wilderness Test
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. “ Deut 6:5
He takes us into the wilderness, where the silence of God causes us to see that life without Him is not an option. It causes us to hunger to hear from Him… ear-tickling sermons and half-hearted worship leave us unsatisfied, longing for something more. The “milk” of the Word (basic things) no longer sustains us. But rather, we crave the “meat” of His Word as we grow in our spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:12-14). We begin to look for God’s voice in the words of a friend and His touch in the kiss of a child, instead of only looking for Him in an emotional high. We scour scripture longing for any crumb He has for us.
Moses’ prayer becomes our prayer: “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.” Exodus 33: 15 NLT
The Dangers of the Wilderness Test
There are several things we need to remember about taking the wilderness test. God plans the length of each test before we take it, but our response to the test also affects its duration! The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land should have taken Israel 11 days, but because they wrongly responded, it turned into a 40-year test (Deuteronomy 1:2). The Israelites responded with a lack of faith in the Lord and His watch care over them.
Are we responding the same way in our wilderness?
We all need to take and pass the wilderness test before God can promote us or give us more responsibility.
King Saul and King Solomon were the only two men ever promoted without first taking the wilderness test, and jealousy consumed one while the other was consumed by his passions.
Jesus Himself had to pass through the wilderness experience before He could be used by God to bring salvation, healing, and deliverance to anyone.
“Jesus returned in the power of the Holy Spirit to Galilee” (Luke 4:14).
Jesus provided the example for tested believers by using two tools of survival in His wilderness experience — prayer, and the compass of God’s Word. In the spiritual wilderness to which God leads us all, we also need to rely on those same survival tools.
Friend, God does send each of us, as He sent Jesus – into the wilderness.
Are you there now? I am there!
Can we make a pact this day?
Let us not merely endure our wilderness test, but look at it as an opportunity to get to know God intimately and experience His works in our lives and hearts.
Let us not waste or rush our wilderness experience. Israel fought only three wars in the wilderness. They fought over 40 in the Promised Land. Let us not forget that the wilderness test is God’s way of preparing us to become the mighty warriors He needs us to be!
Relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and using the compass of God’s Word, each of us can persevere through the wilderness test. We can emerge stronger and with an increased faith that will cause a mighty blow to the enemy’s kingdom!