Continued from last month
Every wilderness experience the Holy Spirit leads us into is custom-tailored by God for each of us so we can humble ourselves, learn from the experience, be tested, cleansed, and “broken.” Then and only then can the Master Potter re-form, re-mold, re-shape, and re-store us more and more into the image of Jesus, so, in turn, He becomes more “fully formed” in the new-born part of us. In last month’s issue of The Traveler, we thought about a reference in Hosea. Now I want us to examine Isaiah 43: 18 and 19 that teaches (in some versions of the Bible) God not only leads us into the wilderness, but He also leads us through our wilderness experiences.
“Forget about what’s happened in your past; don’t keep going over old history and dwelling on events of long ago. Your past is nothing compared to what I’m about to do. Be alert, be present in the ‘now.’ I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s already happening. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a pathway to take you through the wilderness, where rivers flow to quench your thirst as I bring you home.” –Isaiah 43: 18 – 20, paraphrased
God-led wilderness experiences are always transitional experiences in our lives to take us from and old level of our relationship with God to a new, deeper level of relationship. If . . . we allow Him to lead us through the wilderness. At any point in time, we can choose to run away from any wilderness experience and leave incomplete the real, important, lasting changes God wants to work out in our character and nature. God will not force us to stay in the wilderness experience until it is complete in his timing; at any point, to our own harm and detriment, we can stubbornly and pridefully interrupt the testing, humbling, purifying, cleansing process. Note in Isaiah 43: 19 the end result of our wilderness experience is not only that God does a new thing in us, but He also gives us rivers in the wilderness.
Rivers of Living Water
The rivers God creates in our wilderness experiences are those rivers of Living Water Jesus spoke of in John 7: 37 – 39. Expect a new, deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit to come out of your wilderness experience. Expect rivers of Living Water to begin flowing anew from your innermost being to quench your own thirst and the thirst of others around you in new, creative, and power-full ways.
Now please turn to Song of Solomon 8: 5. Here’s an important point: The only way up and out of your wilderness experience is by leaning on your Beloved! Of course, Jesus is not only God’s Beloved Son, but He is also the Person Beloved by all Jesus-believers! (Ephesians 1: 6)
“Leaning on Jesus,
Leaning on Jesus,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.”
I want to encourage you: you will get through—and up and out—of your wilderness experience by trusting God’s absolute sovereignty of leading you into your wilderness, by “bending your knee” to God, by letting his fires test you, purify you, and cleanse you, and by leaning on Jesus to come up and out of your wilderness! You’ve seen movies or television programs where someone has been hurt or wounded and they walk away from an accident leaning heavily upon a fellow soldier, paramedic, or fireman. That’s what this reference means by the phrase “leaning on your Beloved.” Lean as heavily on Jesus as you need to until you emerge fully from your wilderness.
Comfort Beyond Human Comfort
Another thing God will do in our lives while we are in the wilderness is He will comfort us. References such as John 14: 16 and 26, teach us the Holy Spirit is our Helper or Comforter in a wonder-full, unique manner. He comforts us in a way no human can comfort us. We can always lean heavily upon Him for aid, assistance, support, and help because He lives inside us—permanently fused and melded with our spirits within us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.
The Holy Spirit is always within us, ready to comfort and help us at a moment’s notice! Most of our wilderness experiences will lead us into a new, more vital and personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, The Comforter. One important characteristic of The Comforter is that He not only comforts us with comfort He alone can give us (2 Corinthians 1: 3 and 4), but He also empowers us to comfort other people just as He did for Jesus after He emerged from his wilderness experience.
When you emerge from your wilderness experience, you will not only have been comforted in a special way by God, but you will be newly empowered (Acts 1: 8) for work, service, witness, and ministry . . . and to comfort others with the same comfort with which you have been comforted. Don’t miss out on all God has in store for you in your wilderness experience by stubbornly and pridefully resisting what God wants to do in you, through you, for you, and as you. The comfort we experience in, through, and beyond our wilderness experiences makes us uniquely equipped to be “wounded healers” for others around us who are in need of healing, too. God will bring you through and out of your wilderness experience in his perfect timing. God is never late. He is never early. He is always on time . . . every time!
As we read last month, Hosea 2: 14 claims that God allures, entices, or draws us into our wilderness experiences. One feeling that most people often have while they are in the wilderness is hopelessness. God always provides a “door of hope” while we are in our wildernesses.
“What a God we have! He is the Father of our Master, Jesus. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, we now have an ever-living hope and have everything to live for, now and in the future”! —1 Peter 1: 3
While you are in your wilderness, I want to encourage you: please do not despair, do not feel isolated, do not feel deserted by God, do not lose hope!
God Disciplines Those He Loves
Since our relationship with God is by our inner faith-sense rather than based on our “outer” five senses and objective reality, do you ever have those occasional moments when you honestly question whether you truly are a child of God? I do! Here I am, one mere mortal among 7 billion other mere mortals living on a tiny planet near the edge of an obscure galaxy in this vast, seemingly boundless universe—and I have the audacity to believe I am a child of the Living God Who created all things visible and invisible. Who do I think I am? Well, one of the reasons (among many other reasons) I know I am a child of God is because God tests, purifies, and disciplines those mortal humans who are his children! (Hebrews 12).
If I—a mere mortal human—am often led by God to the wilderness in order for Him to humble, test, purify, and discipline me, that means I am a well-loved child of God. He wouldn’t discipline me if He didn’t regard me as his well-loved child. That’s one way I “know in my knower” that I am child of the Living, Almighty God! God wouldn’t bother disciplining me if I weren’t his well-loved child. Think about it– Our hope is as eternal as God is, and comes to us because we follow a risen, Living Savior Who leads us into, takes us through, and brings us out of our wilderness experiences. Lean hard on Jesus coming out of your wilderness experiences!
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Jesus, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand!”
While I was getting ready to wrap up this issue of The Traveler, something kept tugging at my consciousness. It finally dawned on me it was the Holy Spirit trying to teach me a final thought about wildernesses. The ancient Israelites killed and presented to God many thousands of deadanimal sacrifices during the years they were in the wilderness. God wants us to sacrifice to Him in the wilderness, too. But He wants us to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices while we are in the wilderness. Yes, God wants us to take our everyday, ordinary lives and offer them to Him as living sacrifices. It’s the right thing to do; it’s the best thing to do. It’s the only reasonable thing to do in light of all Jesus has done for each of us. (Romans 12: 1 – 3)
Where Are We Headed?
After reading last month’s issue of The Traveler, one reader e-mailed me: “Bill, yes, I agree we all experience wilderness episodes in our lives . . . but where is our journey taking us? Don’t forget to write about that.” I appreciate his e-mail. Where are we headed? Well, unless Jesus returns to earth soon, the first place we are headed is the grave after we die. I know, I know, that’s kinda morbid . . . but it’s true. Statistically, there’s always been one death per person. You might be one of those statistics. But the question is where are we headed after we die. We are headed to the Kingdom of God over which Jesus rules as King and Master—here on this earth, not far away in some unreal heaven beyond the stars somewhere in the “sweet bye and bye.” The Bible teaches clearly that God will “freshly restore” the entire universe and earth after Jesus returns to earth. And we will be with Jesus on this same freshly restored earth we now live on. Yep. Same earth. Same planet. Same celestial 0rb.
Jesus said we are to “Seek first that Kingdom!” (Matthew 6: 33) Above all else we do, we are to seek first that Kingdom. We are already citizens of that Kingdom (Philippians 3: 20). That’s why we’re strangers and pilgrims here on the earth (1 Peter 2: 11). That’s why we are on our journeys. That’s why we’re traveling. That’s why I write this publication called The Traveler each month—to aid us and help us understand the journey we are on. I want us all to arrive safely home in Jesus’ coming Kingdom. In fact, Jesus said on one occasion (Matthew 24: 14) the Good News about that coming Kingdom must first be preached to all people-groups (“nations”) on earth. When that is accomplished, then He will return to earth to establish his Kingdom.
There are 7,000 people-groups on earth. A people-group is “any group of people having a distinctive language and culture.” About 3,500 of those people-groups have had the Good News about Jesus already presented to them in their language. Therefore, about 3,500 more people-groups must hear the Good News about Jesus in their language before He will return to earth. In my view (I know it’s controversial!), the only so-called “end-time sign” heralding Jesus’ return to earth is when all 7,000 people-groups have heard the Good News about Him in their own language.
I know, I know . . . all about all the other so-called end-time signs people claim are signaling Jesus’ soon return, but I don’t hold that view. That’s just me. Don’t take my word for it. Check it out. Make up your own mind. I think there are a lot of misguided “end-time prophets” out there—confusing and scaring lots of people!
Keep traveling on!
To Think About
The more bitter the wilderness experience, the sweeter the waters of the oases God leads us to.
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Revised and Updated February 2019