Challenge of the Wilderness – Did you know approximately 1/3 of the earth’s land is desert wilderness? What does this tell you about your world? It tells me maybe 1/3 of life could be wilderness times. People go through WILDERNESS and DESERT times. You might say, “Oh yes, I remember. That is where Jesus went to be tempted forty days, or that is where the children of Israel went for an entire generation.” You would be correct, but it is also a place where you will find your self from time to time. It’s the lonely place that often comes with a crisis.

Challenge

Challenge of the Wilderness

by Delbert Young

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Challenge of the Wilderness

Scriptures: 1 Kings 19:4; Exodus 2:15; Job 13:15; Exodus 14:30-31; Joshua 5:12; Galatians 1:15-16; Exodus 33:18; Exodus 16:23; Exodus 16:29-30; Mark 2:23-28; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:14

Last time we talked about THE CHALLENGE TO BELONG and we learned how we need to BELONG to people if we expect to experience a great life and do great things during our lives. There is another extreme we learn from the Bible. The Bible refers to this extreme and place as the “WILDERNESS,” or the “desert.” Did you know that approximately 1/3 of the earth’s land is desert? What does that tell you about your world? It tells me that I am going to need to go through some deserts. People go through WILDERNESS and DESERT times. You might say, “Oh yes, I remember. That is where Jesus went to be tempted forty days, or that is where the children of Israel went for an entire generation.” You would be correct, but it is also a place where you will find yourself from time to time. It’s the lonely place that often comes with a crisis. Usually, it’s the place that some event in life drives us. It’s the place where there may be hundreds of people, but you are quarantined and alone… alone with God, sometimes alone with the devil, but mostly alone with you. You come face to face with your worst enemy – YOU. How many remember that place? It can actually become a very good place, or it can be a very bad place. It will make you better or it will make you bitter. Much of your life hinges on decisions you made in the WILDERNESS. No one goes through WILDERNESS unchanged. Here is what I want you to see today: YOU WILL DISCOVER YOUR TRUEST UNDERSTANDING OF WHO YOU ARE, WHAT YOU WANT, AND HOW BADLY YOU WANT IT IN THE WILDERNESS. Today, I want to talk about THE CHALLENGE OF THE WILDERNESS. Let’s talk.

Every person experiences WILDERNESS times and so will youGreat people not only experience them, they build that experience into their lives. They look back at it and appreciate the opportunity. In fact, Moses, Elijah, David, Paul, and all who understand WILDERNESS found this occurrence is what made them comfortable with hanging out with God. It is from WILDERNESS times people learn to TRUST God, sense God’s PRESENCE, and experience God’s PROVISIONS.

How many recall a time in your life when some event, most likely a crisis, drove you to a lonely place? There may have been people all around, but you were in a lonely desert WILDERNESS. You felt quarantined. The situation wrapped itself around your head and forced you to make life-altering decisions. Anyone remember that time? Do you remember the story about Elijah?

1 Kings 19:4  But he himself went a day’s journey INTO THE WILDERNESS, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. 

The powerful, calling fire from heaven, Prophet Elijah could defeat false prophets and hack them to pieces. Yet, Elijah’s Jezebel crisis literally sent him running to the wilderness. Elijah needed to learn a few things and it required a WILDERNESS. What did you learn from your WILDERNESS experience? What should you have learned from that experience? Let’s look at a few principles we should build into our lives from the CHALLENGE OF THE WILDERNESS.

REALIZE GOD IS WORKING HIS PLAN. Don’t be so quick to blame your WILDERNESS on the devil. God has his hand in your WILDERNESS. For example, once Moses killed a man, trying to help his people who were severely oppressed in slavery.

Exodus 2:15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian…

Crisis drove Moses into a WILDERNESS experience, but think about what came from that experience. It was because of that WILDERNESS Moses found his wife. It was there Moses had children and experienced family. It was there Moses met Jethro, his father-in-law, who became a great mentor to Moses. But mostly, it was there, in the WILDERNESS, Moses met God. Many people either meet or reconnect with God in a time of WILDERNESS. Moses had his “burning bush” experience in the WILDERNESS. There, he heard the voice of God. There, Moses received his life’s commission and purpose. Not only did Moses’ world change, the entire world changed because of Moses’ WILDERNESS experience. My point is that God had a plan. To get Moses to the plan, Moses had to go to the WILDERNESS.

Crisis (King Saul) drove David into the wilderness. Did God have a plan for David? Of course he did. Jesus made his journey to his wilderness to meet the devil face to face. Did God have a plan for Jesus? No WILDERNESS will catch God off guard.  Why?  It is in his plan.

Your WILDERNESS is in God’s plan. It caught you unprepared, but it did not catch God off guard. I went through a WILDERNESS years ago before I truly gave my life to the Lord. Like Elijah, I thought my world was ending. I was embarrassed. I did not know what I was going to do. I thought I had my life planned out. God had a different plan. It took that WILDERNESS to bring me to you today. Life Gate church exists as we know it because of that WILDERNESS. It was not in my plan, but it was in the Lord’s plan. You are where you are today because of WILDERNESS experiences. God is working his plan.

REALIZE YOU ARE TO LEARN IN THE WILDERNESS.

WILDERNESS experiences usually bring key transition times in your life. The WILDERNESS transitioned Moses from watching Jethro’s flock to leading God’s people and changing the world. WILDERNESS was the transition of David from shepherd boy to king. It transitioned Paul from Pharisee to Apostle. It was the transition of the children of Israel from slaves to the Promised Land. It caused me to transition from a textile supervisor to a pastor/preacher. A WILDERNESS time can last for a few days, or years. You may not recognize it until you look back across years and identify it.

In the WILDERNESS, your personal growth is a primary concern to God. The WILDERNESS is a wonderful place of discovery about you and about God. You learn who you truly are and what you truly are in the WILDERNESS. There are things you learn only in the WILDERNESS.

You learn to TRUST God.

Here is one of the most amazing scriptures in the Bible.

Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I TRUST IN HIM

If you know the story, Job’s WILDERNESS was like the Sahara Desert (largest desert on the planet). I cannot imagine Job’s WILDERNESS. Yet, in the middle of it, Job said, “…yet will I trust in him…” Job’s possessions were taken. His children died. Sores covered his body. He lay in ashes to get relief. “Yet will I trust in him,” Job said. I thought about that. I concluded something. In what/who else could Job trust other than God? A purpose of a true WILDERNESS experience is to bring you to a place where you can only trust in God. That is the reason many people find Jesus (Michael Vick). For example, jailhouse salvations have people in a place where no one can help. Job could not trust in his “friends.” He could not trust in his “wife.” She told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). What a woman! He could not trust in his possessions. They were gone. My point is that in those times God shows up when nothing else and no one else can.

The children of Israel were actually led to a bad place by God himself. Pharaoh’s army was on one side and the Red Sea on the other.

Exodus 14:30-31  That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM and in Moses his servant.

No one, nothing could deliver Israel. Only God could intervene and he did. That’s what God will do in your WILDERNESS! You look back and you don’t know how he did it. He just did it. You look back and that thing that was trying to destroy you is dead or meaningless. This has happened so many times in my life. Every single “Pharaoh” and his/her army that attempted to destroy me is dead or meaningless. I learned to TRUST GOD in my WILDERNESS.

You learn God’s PROVISION.

The children of Israel experienced God’s provision forty years in their WILDERNESS. If we learn nothing else, we should learn that no matter how long a WILDERNESS last, God will provide.

Joshua 5:12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan. 

They learned God’s provision in the WILDERNESS, not in the Promised Land. For forty years, God provided manna, water, quail (sort of a delicacy), heat, cooling, and everything for those rebellious people. Think what he will do for you! In the WILDERNESS times of Elijah, David, Jesus, Paul, and whoever, God provided. He will provide for you too.

Interestingly, in every WILDERNESS experience I have gone through, I never missed a meal. I have never missed paying a bill. I have not died. I provided well for my children. I had plenty of manna, water, and even quail. I learned God’s provision in the WILDERNESS. I have relayed the story to you so many times that I try not to use it, but it is so powerful, I have to use it here. In 1996, we were in a dry wilderness at Life Gate. I did not know what we were going to do. Money had run out, but God had not. In twenty minutes, God provided enough to pay off our building, pave the parking lot, and carpet the building. I learned in the WILDERNESS that God will always provide. I did not learn that in the Promised Land.

You learn God’s PRESENCE.

You will experience God’s presence in the wilderness like no other place. Moses heard God’s voice and saw his presence in the wilderness. The children of Israel saw God’s glory cloud in the wilderness. It was not like that in the Promised Land. David could see and hear God in Mulberry trees when in the wilderness (2Sa 5:23), but not like that in the palace as he watched Bathsheba bathe. The Apostle Paul heard his revelation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness of Arabia.

Galatians 1:15-16  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, TO REVEAL HIS SON IN ME, that I might preach him among the heathen…

The apostle said that time of wilderness was the time he got his head around the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ. How many of you find you are more likely to pray in a time of wilderness than any other time? Even people far from God pray and make deals with God in those times. God’s presence came alive to Moses in the wilderness.

Exodus 33:18 Then Moses had one more request. “Please let me see your glorious PRESENCE,” he said. 

God told Moses that he could not handle seeing his face, but he would make his presence more real to Moses than it had ever been before. God’s presence will be more alive to you in your WILDERNESS times than ever before.

Delbert, can we avoid WILDERNESS times? No, not even Jesus did that. However, I believe we can avoid some unnecessary ones and shorten our time in the wilderness if we will observe one principle taught throughout God’s word that, it seems, we never get. It’s called…

OBSERVING SABBATH. Sabbath is a principle beginning in Genesis, but not explained until Exodus. Interestingly, it is during the children of Israel’s WILDERNESS time. That alone should make a light go off in our heads.

Exodus 16:23 He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy SABBATH to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'” 

God gave provisions of manna, water, quail, etc. to his people. He told them to gather those provisions six days, but on the Sabbath, rest.

Exodus 16:29-30  Bear in mind that the LORD has GIVEN YOU THE SABBATH; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

Please notice that it says, “The Lord has GIVEN YOU the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is for you and your own good. When people attempted to find provisions on the Sabbath, there were none. The principle becomes clear. If you will observe the Sabbath principle, the Lord will provide for you what you thought you would have gained by not observing. If you refuse to observe the Sabbath, your labor is vain and wasted.

I want you to get the point of the Sabbath. It’s about way more than physical relief, or not working on “Sunday” (I know that Sunday is not the Sabbath… just using it.) Here is the principle of the Sabbath. GOD DESIGNED THE SABBATH TO DISRUPT LIFE’S ROUTINES AND GIVE YOU TIME TO REMEMBERREFLECT, AND APPRECIATE. Sabbath is to allow you to think back over your life. Ask, “Am I living the life I want?” Reflect on decisions, attitudes, relationships, goals, accomplishments, failures, etc. Listen to your heart and to the voice of God. Gain God’s perspective. Connect the dots of your life.

The Pharisees subverted the Sabbath by turning it from an activity to an obligation. This upset Jesus, and is why he did so much healing and teaching on the Sabbath. Jesus interrupted the routine of people and caused them to reflect on their lives.

Mark 2:23-28 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”…Then he said to them, “THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR MAN, NOT MAN FOR THE SABBATH. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath was made for you. IT’S NOT A DAY AS MUCH AS IT IS AN EXPERIENCE. Here at Life Gate, I attempt to make this time together a Sabbath for you. I want it to be an experience that interrupts your routine. I try and make it a time for you to reflect on your life – decisions, attitudes, relationships, goals, accomplishments, failures, etc. I want you to ask the question every Sunday, “Am I living the life I want?” I want to be like Jesus and help you connect the dots. By doing that, you will shorten and avoid unnecessary WILDERNESS times. If I can get you to stop everything and reflect on your marriage, maybe you will not have a marriage WILDERNESS. If I can get you to stop and reflect on your finances, you should not have a financial WILDERNESS. I try to get you to connect the dots of your life so your life becomes the life you want.

Interestingly, the Bible says speaking of Jesus…

Mark 1:12-13 And immediately THE SPIRIT DRIVETH HIM INTO THE WILDERNESS. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

That gives us insight to the WILDERNESS. It was something that even Jesus was not exactly wanting to experience. Nonetheless, he embraced it. It was immediately after Christ’s WILDERNESS experience, he announced his ministry and mission.

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.  

Luke 4:18   The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised

Even Jesus, the Son of God, came out of the WILDERNESS experience with a new and fresh power and purpose. The WILDERNESS is a life-changing encounter. There you encounter the devil. There you encounter God. There you encounter angels. But, mostly, IN THE WILDERNESS, YOU ENCOUNTER YOU.

Other Related Sermons:

Uzzah Uzzed – sermon video audio notes

Sabbath Day, Petty or Pertinent – video audio notes Luke 6:1-5

Challenge to Belong – sermon video audio notes

Also see:

Sermons Change The World

Life Gate Church sermons by Delbert Young