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The Christian and the Wilderness Experience

September 10, 2018 0 Comments

A lot of pastors, myself included, teach on the truth of how God intervenes in our circumstances. However, if we are not careful we fail to teach the proper response to those times when life goes wrong and seems like a never ending wilderness.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  – Romans 5:3-5

I recently read (I forgot where) that most all (maybe all) the major people of the Bible went through some sort of wilderness experience. Without any real research here is my list:

  • Adam and Eve cast out of the Garden due to sin
  • Abraham leaves behind his family and home on a journey where he did not know where he was going
  • Joseph sold by his brothers into slavery and latter imprisoned for a false charge
  • Moses – would run from Egypt and become a shepherd in Midian and this is where he would encounter God. Later he would spend 40 years in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt
  • Joshua and Caleb would spend 40 years in the wilderness and would be the only ones who left Egypt to cross over to the Promised Land
  • Elijah was raised in the wilderness and out of fear would later escape to the wilderness to get away from Jezebel
  •  Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of a great fish and he ran to the wilderness when angry at God’s deliverance of Nineveh
  • John the Baptist was prepared and would minster from the wilderness.  
  • Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness for 40 days of fasting and his temptation. I would also think that his beating, crucifixion and time in the tomb was a wilderness.
  • The Apostle Paul – would have his own wilderness experience through a variety of shipwrecks, beatings, rejections, imprisonments and eventually beheading. (See Paul’s on list 2 Corinthians 11:21-27)
  • All the Apostles spent time in prison or exile and with the exception of John would be killed for their faith.

An individual wilderness experience can take on any number of forms: It could be a long term health issue of yourself or a loved one. The loss of a loved one, loss of a job. It could be also extended periods of not hearing from or sensing God’s presence or a piling on of one thing after another.

Response to sin

We have to always remember that God is sovereign so we want to be discerning when wilderness times come our way. Through prayer, fasting and wise counsel we can discern if this is an attack of Satan, a result of our sin and disobedience towards God’s will. If you feel that sin is the issue, then repentance and obedience will be key to overcoming. Jesus grace is sufficient for your forgiveness. 

A place of preparation

Moses’ time in Midian, Elijah’s early years, John the Baptist and Jesus all spent time in the wilderness being prepared for the launch of their purpose. They learned the perseverance they would need and gained a deeper connection with God. What is God could be using to prepare you for?

Growing faith and trust

Whatever wilderness time you may be experiencing, the key is to grow deeper in your faith. Satan would love this time to get you isolated from your church community and for you to run away from God. But now is the time to press in. Press into your study of the Word, prayer and fasting. Wilderness helps not to forget our dependence on God. No matter what circumstances you may be going through you will find God’s grace and peace if you keep moving forward in faith.

Key is How you Respond

Jonah shows what happens when your response is poor. The children of Israel after being delivered by God’s hand from 400 years of slavery chose to doubt and would spend 40 years of wilderness until they died off. Joshua would spend that same 40 years in the same wilderness but because of his faith the wilderness prepared him to lead the next generation across the Jordan river and take possession of the Promised Land. As I mentioned earlier, no matter the cause / reason for our time in the wilderness if we draw close to God he will use the time for our sanctification and growing in Him. 

Trust in the faithfulness of your heavenly father. Like Paul, learn to be content with any circumstances.

 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13 (Click here to read my blog post on this verse)


photo credit: thor_markAcross Utah! (Arches National Park) via photopin (license)

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Filed in: All In, Faith, Life

About the Author:

I am enthusiastic about helping others discover their purpose and grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is great to see their eyes light up at their “Ah Ha!” moment when they discover they were created for something more. My hope is that this blog will help encourage and inspire you along your way. Join the conversation and take the time to share with me your own story. I have been married to my beautiful wife Janice for over 30 years. We currently live in McDonough Georgia with our daughter. Our two boys have left the nest and we have two wonderful grand kids. Of course we cannot forget about our dog Bear.