Jesus’ ministry didn’t begin until after He submitted Himself to public baptism. There He was crowned with the Father’s affirming word of affirmation. His baptism would be followed by an intense season of testing, but first came the beautiful confirmation of Jesus’ deity and ministry:
[box]After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17)[/box]
This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that I’m most drawn to and that I want to experience personally. It is that comforting, affirming, presence that provides clear direction to my day; that allows me to know I’m abiding in Him and He is my source of strength, providing all I need to accomplish His will. I long to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.
I think that aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry (bringing a comforting assurance to our lives) is what I was hoping to experience all year long as I launched into my study focus for this year. And in the first part of the year, I did have that type of “mountain top” spiritual high. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember when I was hit with some medical concerns. As I waited for the results which could’ve held a very different future for me, God’s presence was so near, so reassuring, comforting, and real.
I love walking through spiritual mountain-top seasons like that, don’t you?
But interestingly, God apparently wanted me to understand another important role the Holy Spirit serves. Not only does He bring comfort, but He also leads us into the desert for our own personal growth.
The Spirit came to rest on Jesus in confirmation at His baptism, but then He led Him to the desert for a difficult season of testing. There is great significance in the fact that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to experience His desert trial:
[box]Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. (Matthew 4:1–2)[/box]
Everything about this wilderness experience sounds painful to me. The long extended fast and physical depletion, the isolation, the continual barrage of lies from the enemy, and the very real and enticing elements of temptation.
Today’s post won’t address the details of this passage (I hope to come back to that sometime), but today, I just want us to consider this aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Sometimes He leads us to the desert. And although the desert seems harsh and lonely, it is necessary for our growth.
I feel like much of this year has been a desert of testing for me.
Shortly after that sweet season of abiding in His quite tangible presence in the early part of the year, the Holy Spirit faithfully led me to a desert season. Where I experienced a heavy barrage of the enemy’s lies:
“Just give up, it’s too hard . . .”
“You’ll never see that prayer answered . . .”
“The darkness is too great, you’ll never make a difference, why keep trying . . .”
On and on the lies have hammered away and worn me down at times. I’ve allowed my mind to wander and my emotions to give into doubt and despair. I’ve not remained faithful. But what I’ve seen through all of this desert season is—the faithfulness of God. He has provided the truth I’ve needed at every point to combat the lies.
When I hear, “Just give up, it’s too hard . . .” the Holy Spirit brings to mind His truth:
[box]No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)[/box]
When I hear, “You’ll never see that prayer answered . . .” the Holy Spirit brings to mind His truth:
[box]Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)[/box]
When I hear, “The darkness is too great, you’ll never make a difference, why keep trying . . .” the Holy Spirit brings to mind His truth:
[box]Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:3–4)[/box]
Jesus didn’t use His deity to combat the enemy’s lies and the temptations that were being hurled at Him. Jesus battled in the wilderness with the same powerful weapon that is available to me and you. He picked up the sword of the Spirit; the Word of God:
[box]Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13–17)[/box]
At the point of temptation to doubt God’s truth, to cave to the darkness and give way to hopeless despair, we have a choice. We can take control of our wild thoughts, and the lies of the enemy, and we can bring them in subjection to the truth of God’s Word:
[box]For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . . (2 Corinthians 10:3–5)[/box]
After a rigorous season in the wilderness, enduring some strenuous combat, it seems I’m coming into a fertile valley and a sweet season of calm. Not that I don’t still have battles to fight, but it seems I’m experiencing the sweet reward of standing in battle . . . until the next desert season anyway!
What about you? Are you in a desert season today? How do you navigate that difficult terrain?