Christianity 201

October 30, 2016

Living in the Desert

spiritual-desertby Russell Young

The desert is a dry lifeless place.  It is uncomfortable and fails to yield fruit. Not many would choose to live there and yet the LORD led the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years to humble and to test them concerning obedience to his commands. (Deut 8:2).  They had proclaimed their right to his blessings when they applied the blood of the Passover lamb to the lintel of their doorposts in Egypt.  They had made the proclamation that they belonged to Israel and that Yahweh was their God.  Of the 600,000 men who had left Egypt all except for two were to die in the desert. Because of their disobedience and rebellion God had said, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Num 14:20─23 NIV)

The Israelites began the journey with the intent of finding God’s “rest” but were unable to find the land of plenty. Those who call themselves “believers” should recognize that they, too, are on a very similar journey.   They have left Egypt—this world—and have begun the journey to find rest from their labors.  God’s rest can be entered today, (Heb 4:7), although few would acknowledge that they are living in a state of rest; their situation might more fully be depicted as a desert.

Many struggle with their faith. They know deep down in their hearts that God is there.  They have heard many promises from his Word, yet the life promised them has escaped their experience.  Disillusionment creeps in, followed by doubt.  Is God real? Is the Bible truth? Does God care for me? Why am I not enjoying him? Yet they clutch to the assurance of their “saving faith” and dare not let go. Life continues to be a struggle.  The realities of providing food, shelter, and clothing for family, and the pressure to meet wants causes stress, frustration, and conflict. Pressure is increased by requests to contribute in some way to the church.  Their life has become busier and even less fulfilling.  Not only is peace lacking but guilt has become their constant companion. They dutifully journey to church each week and seek some confidence in their belonging by taking on responsibilities as time and opportunity permit. The source of power and freedom, however, has yet to be learned and that power and freedom has yet to be appropriated. Their experience does not measure up to the “truths” promoted by those more informed in God’s Word.

On the outside, all looks in order, but on the inside they feel empty. Many “believers” live this life of dissatisfaction. Although they would dearly like it otherwise, they know the futility of their efforts and may even feel that they have been abandoned by God, the one they desire to please above all else. They know that God has promised peace and rest for the faithful. Why has such a life evaded them?  They are living in the desert!

Like the Israelites, believers today are on the great journey to Canaan.  The journey, if they are trusting and obedient, will take them from where they are to where God wants them to be. It demands the faith and trust of a child, faith that is beyond a person’s common understanding of faith.  It demands faith that has been learned by experience to trust that God knows what is good for them.  It demands contentment with provision that is often less than that which is the common experience in today’s affluent western culture.  God was not happy about the complaints that the Israelites had made concerning lack of water and food and he is not happy about our complaints, voiced or otherwise, concerning lack of the things we feel are deserved or needed.

Completing the journey demands recognition that those who claim the name of Christ do not reside in this world and its interests have not hold on them. They do not have time for them or need of them.  They are merely passing through this world as aliens. (1 Pet 2:11) The journey demands the willingness and trust to allow God to be on the throne of their lives to find enjoyment in him.

Those who are caught up in the desert will live a dry fruitless life.  Like the Israelites they will yearn for the vegetables of Egypt and for what they see as their food–the wants of everyday life—being met through slavery to the world.

Faith demands that, for the most part, we depart from the known and the demands of the flesh, and live by promise in the unknown. It demands that the priorities of our lives change, and it sees wealth as being eternal rather than temporal.  It requires a transformation of focus to obedience and contentment in the blessings granted through righteous living and an understanding and a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Decisions are no longer the believers to make; their path is no longer theirs to direct.

The Israelites grumbled and complained.  Their minds went back to Egypt and all that was available in that evil country and they died with corrupted hearts and in discontentment.  Believers today have been commanded to learn a lesson from them.  There is only one way to escape the desert and that is to prove the faithfulness of Christ in their lives so that they might follow him and be lead to the place of rest. “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hen 5:11 NIV)

The desert cannot be left without a heart that is obedient to Christ and is content with his determination of its needs, the situations which would shape and form the believer’s heart and soul for eternity. “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15 NIV)

The desert is a place of testing. Those who left Egypt except for two failed the test.  Their hearts were fixed on that place of slavery.  Like them, many of this generation will never leave it but will find their end in that dry, fruitless place, discontented and disillusioned.


Further reading: Today’s graphic image comes from an article What To Do When I Am Spiritually Dry? at the blog, The Reluctant Skeptic.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is in stores and available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

March 22, 2013

Ministry in Out-of-the-Way Places

Imagine you’re in the middle of a great series of revival meetings where you play a major role and are one of a dozen key leaders, when suddenly God unmistakably directs you to take a day off and go a great distance to speak to one individual. You’d possibly question the wisdom of that, right? Today’s article is from Georgia pastor Brad Whitt. You’re encouraged to read these articles at source and get to know the authors better. This post was original titled A Most Unlikely Environment.

“However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” Mark 1:45

Do we even dare enter into the personal experience of the Son of Man? Yes, for the fact that He is the Son of Man means we can, without irreverence, see something of our human experience in His. That’s why I believe that this is surely one of the saddest experiences in the earthly life of Jesus. The saddest hours in any human life are those which are spent, “in deserted places” for those hours spent in the deserted places are always spent “outside.”

The outside, deserted places always put a man in an unusual, uncomfortable and most uneasy place. They naturally divert, deter and discourage. There’s no pain quite like the pain of being put in such a position of desolation and isolation. To feel that you are not walking with the rest of world, that you’ve been left behind, that you are no longer in communication with those around you or pushing forward to accomplish what had been set before you is, for an active personality, a terribly fearful thing indeed.

I believe that for the man, Jesus, this time in the deserted places must have been a very trying time indeed. To seemingly be held back from officially beginning His earthly ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan and then being forced to be alone by the sheer force of such an unlikely environment must have been discouraging.

Yet, in the middle of what would have seemed to be a discouraging time spent alone in a desert Jesus was thronged by people. Mark makes it clear, “They came to Him from every direction.” He was supposed to be alone, but he couldn’t get away from the people. His quiet, lonely desert all of a sudden turned into a hustling and bustling metropolis.

Can you look back and see similar times in your life? I certainly can. There were days when I didn’t feel that I had accomplished much at all. Nothing was conquered or completed, and yet in the rear-view mirror I now see that those were some of my most profitable and productive days for it was in those cool, calm, quiet hours I was most closely walking with Jesus.

Don’t you think that Philip must have argued with the Lord when he was transported to the desert to minister to one Ethiopian? After all, he was in the middle of a large revival and many were coming to know Christ. Why would such a great evangelist be plucked from the place where God was moving so mightily to go share with just one person? That’s not the most effective and efficient use of missionary muscle, is it? Yes, because that one man in that one chariot on that one lonely road was an entire people group in himself. Philip cast his net and caught in one pull more fish that had to that point been caught by all the other disciples working all day long – together.

In my walk with the Lord I have seen Him working in the city as well as in the desert. I have seen Him moving among the clamoring people with their praises and palm leaves and I have seen Him treading the wine press alone once the praises and palm leaves had withered and fallen away. It would seem that the most profitable place of ministry would be the crowded places, not the deserted places. Yet Jesus has shown me that it is in the desert that singing erupts and the blossoms burst forth. The city has become the country and the country has been turned into the city. That’s why I can no longer trust my judgment of earthly things. He has exalted the valley and made the mountain low. I can no longer look with distrust at my desert hour. Every manger has the possibility of a star. Every dark night has the potential for a song. Every hunger pain experienced in the desert can bring a ministering angel. Every bitter cup can become a gift from above. Every cross seen today can be tomorrow’s crown. The Son of man has shown us a new path for personal promotion because He entered into life by the straight and narrow gate.

Brad Whitt appeared here at C201 previously in November, 2012; check out Did God Reveal it To You or In You?

I couldn’t help but think of the line in a popular worship song,

When I’m found in the desert place
When I walk through the wilderness

and thought I would include it here.

November 1, 2012

Life in the Wilderness

This post is from Claire at the blog, One Passion, One Devotion.

David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands. 1 Samuel 23:14

From the promise of kingship to the day David got the crown on his head he was in leadership training.  the wilderness may be tough and rough but it is where some of our greatest life lessons are learned.  It is the university of life.  many great people in the bible had some wilderness time before they were promoted to a position of power and responsibility.  Abraham.  Moses.  Joseph. Jacob.  Job.  John. Jesus.

Don’t underestimate or despise the wilderness season in your life.

It is essential that we “get” is that sometimes great time can pass between the call and the living that call. During this time God is shaping us and forming us and dealing with the crud within us. He is renewing our mind and making us into a vessel of honour (2 Tim 2:20-21)

Take for example Saul and David.

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. 1 Samuel 9:2

They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” 1 Samuel 10:23-24

When Saul was chosen king he was the most handsome and stand out guy in the nation. He had all the gifts and talents and personality. Samuel anointed him and he immediately began ruling as king of all of Israel. Yet he ended up failing as king and turning away from God.

“While king Saul was truly the best man Israel had to offer when they demanded a king, his heart had not been groomed through testing before he assumed the throne. As king, Saul was entrusted with a measure of anointing to lead the armies of Israel to victory and shepherd the people. Yet without the strength of character that only comes by winning private battles, these public victories exposed the previously hidden weakness of Saul’s heart towards God. That weakness, combined with his growing appetite for favor of man, led him to bring glory to himself and disobey the Lord.” Bill Johnson – Strengthen Yourself In The Lord

David however was anointed and then spent about 14 years in “training”. In those training years he endured more difficulty, persecution and rejection that many of us face in a lifetime. He probably didn’t expect it to take so long for him to be king. God didn’t want another king Saul and so took His time to mould David into a king and man after His own heart.

The wilderness always reminds me of this quote:

“But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.” ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness

The wilderness is a place of preparation in our lives, a place of transformation.  a place where we are reliant on God and trusting Him.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith— of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1 Peter 1:6-7

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

It may be a place of delay – the delay between the call and the living the call, the delay between the promise and the position.  delay has the capacity to bring up things that are hiding in our hearts that will restrict and sabotage us.  better out NOW than later!  delay reveals sin and brings it up to deal with now.  delay is a time of preparation.

There are lessons to be learned in the process, in the wilderness. Lessons about ourselves, lessons about how to work with others, lessons about how to relate to God.

God will open the right doors at the right time.

“Its not about knowing who holds the right keys but its about knowing the KEEPER of the keys”– Peter Robertson.

God can promote us at the right time. But I also believe He will also hold us back if we are not surrendered and transformed. God is full of grace but He is also holy. He uses flawed human beings but that doesn’t excuse compromise and a heart that isn’t fully leaning to God… God wants us to be intentionally following Him not intentionally following our own self and self desires.

The great things God will do through you are going to grow in the soil of persistence, prayer, obedience and sacrifice.  That means there will be plenty of plowing and pruning.  That’s the way living things grow, whether you’re talking about vegetables or vision. The process is a time of strengthening.  The process is the place where you lay down your pride and learn to rely totally on God.  Most importantly, the process is the way we grow to know God.  And that’s really the whole point. Steven Furtick

David’s time of wilderness prepared him to be king, the most renown king in all of Israel’s history, and most importantly, a man after God’s heart.

This is one of several posts Claire has written on the the wilderness theme as found in scripture. To see more, click here.