Recently, I was asked, “Right after Jesus was baptized, He entered into the wilderness. Before we enter into ministry, do we have to go through the wilderness first?” When this question was brought to my attention, I had been spending a lot of time that week studying about the wilderness. Isn’t that just like God? He truly is intentional with all things.
So, what about it?
When you study the Scriptures, you find over and over again that God sends His appointed and anointed into what, for today’s post, we’ll call the wilderness chapter of our lives.
The Oxford Languages Dictionary definition for the word wilderness is (n). an uncultivated, uninhabited and inhospitable region.
The wilderness is a time in our lives that looks as though nothing is happening. It might be a more lonely season spent on the sidelines. Perhaps, it consists of unfair and unforeseen circumstances that are slowly taking away your energy and vitality for life. Or, perhaps, you’ve been placed in a position where all your resources have been completely depleted. It’s safe to say that throughout our lives, we will be sent into the wilderness on multiple occasions, but there are other times in our lives when God sends us into the wilderness to prepare us for the assignments He has purposefully prepared for us.
Why the wilderness? In the wilderness, things die. God sends us into the wilderness because there are things in our lives that need to die before He sends us into the next assignments that He has placed over our lives. There are habits and attitudes that we have acquired over time that can only be killed in the wilderness. Our desires, our plans, our will, have to die in the wilderness. It is here that we learn how to live a truly surrendered life to the gospel and become fully dependent on God. This is what sanctification looks like. It’s not a one-time thing, but a process, that often begins in the wilderness. And, carries us into the promises of God.
The wilderness is not meant to be a place of habitation for us, to make up a home for ourselves and call it good. It was never the Israelite’s final destination. And, it isn’t ours either. If we aren’t careful, we can adopt a wilderness mentality and believe that this is our final destination. We become frustrated by the season spent here that we take matters into our own hands, causing us to spend more time in the wilderness than God ever intended. The Israelites’ 40-year journey in the wilderness should have been a quick eleven-day venture. That just blows my mind. Why 40 years? They made up idols for themselves and put their trust in themselves (an Egypt mentality), rather than placing their full trust and dependency on God (a promised land mentality).
Because of their captivity and time spent in Egypt, they had been affected by the culture and had adopted thought patterns, habits and attitudes that could not be carried into the promised land. There are some of us, as a result of our time spent in our own Egypt, whether it was of our own doing or at the hand of others, that have affected our mental, spiritual and physical being. Whether it be the sins of our past or trauma caused by the hands of others, God is patiently renewing us and letting things die within us in the wilderness.
Isaiah 43:18-20 states, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
We find this passage manifesting before our eyes in the story of Samson. “So God caused water to gush out of a hollow in the ground at Lehi and Samson was revived as he drank.” Judges 15:19
What appeared to be an empty and hollow place is where God chose to bring forth living water that would revive man. That’s what God does in the wilderness. He revives us, realigns us, and sets us on mission for the gospel.
Just as God kept telling the Israelites, I have a good land to give you, God has a good land to give you and I. He has good plans, to take back territory from the enemy, and step into promises that we could have never imagined. In the wilderness, the only thing we are called to do is to be obedient to the Word of God.
So, back to where we first started. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness before He stepped into his three-year ministry. This was a time of consecration, of surrendering His earthly body and His flesh to the will of the Father. Even though Jesus was God in flesh, we understand that He still had an earthly body. He took on the form of man so that He could identify with us in our sufferings. Like us, He had to surrender His flesh and desires to live out His mission. What happened in the wilderness spiritually would be portrayed physically when Jesus was crucified on the cross.
As Christians, our old self has been crucified to the cross (Romans 6:6), but it doesn’t end there. Daily, we must crucify our flesh (desires, passions, our will) to the cross (Galatians 5:24, 1 Corinthians 15:31). When God has appointed and anointed you for a specific mission, He will send you into the wilderness where a time of consecration is absolutely necessary to complete the task that lies before you. And, it is here, we discover, just like the Israelites, that when we choose to obey and surrender ourselves to His Way and His Plans, everything in our lives is a result, not of our own doing, but His.
“So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn out weels which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant…” Deuteronomy 6:10-11
The beautiful truth about God is that He uses the wilderness to bring the dead things to life. That is just how mighty and powerful our God is. It is here that God displays His glory best. So, wherever you find yourself today, I pray you are encouraged to keep entrusting your will and your life into the hands of the LORD. He has not left you or forsaken you. He is using this season to sanctify you and equip you for whatever is to come. This wilderness is producing in you a godly character, an endurance in the faith, and reviving what was once dead, so that you may fulfil the ministry that God has enabled you for.