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Led to the Desert

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?

7 Comments

  • Darcie

    Thank you for driving this point home for me. Recently, God has been using this very part of Jesus’s life to teach me and guide me into a season of restoration. After having a lengthy time of not being able to hear from God during a time of change and uncertainty, I found myself wondering where i was on God’s radar. I knew what Scripture said, but the silence was killing my heart and, at times, it was almost as if i could hear the enemy’s lies. The questions I kept posing to God is “Why? Why be silent when You pursued me?…. Why, when I want to serve You, do You not bring healing to my physical body and end some of this pain?…..why? how much longer? ” And even though I knew in my head that there is nothing we could add to or take away God’s love for us, because of the silence, i really wondered if I had grieved Him in some way.
    Then, during a women’s bible study on the Gospel of Matthew, we came to Jesus’ entry to public ministry. I have read Jesus’ desert account multiple times but somehow never picked up on this–the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness so the devil could tempt Him. Prior to The trial in the wilderness, Jesus had openly identified Himself with sinners by being baptized even though He was blameless and was sinless. When He emerged from the water, ” He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'” (Matt3:16-17). In my walk thus far, i had never comprehended that right after God said I love You, the Spirit led Him to the wilderness….this is what God used to strengthen my heart and squash the work of the enemy. Like Jesus, God loves me, and the Holy Spirit will lead me into and thru the wilderness in God’s wisdom, strength and timing.
    I am so thankful you are sharing what you learned about the Holy Spirit on your blog. I have always given thanks that He is our constant companion and He is our everpresent Helper. Many times when I am having extreme fatigue, whether physically, mentally, or spiritually, i know He is there interceding and allowing God’s grace to fall down upon me. I am so thankful that God is faithful to us, even in our faithlessness, finiteness, and feebleness. He truely knows us, and doesnt turn from us when we have question Him or dont understand what He is doing.

  • Tamara

    If your not in a storm now, get ready because there is one coming. Words spoken by my wonderful pastor. That is almost calming in a weird way, to know the storms are part of life. I hope I understand how God allows the intense pressure to turn a piece of coal into a diamond one day. Oh how I want to be a diamond for Him and how comforting it is to know He will be there with me . Thank you so much for these beautiful teachings and I pray for God’s blessing upon you and yours.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Darcie ~

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I love how you described this: “right after God said I love you, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness.”

    I’m praying that you sense and know that the Father has not lost sight of you, and although He sends us into desert seasons, storms of adversity, and challenges our faith with seeming silence, He is at work. Even when we can’t see His hand, hear His voice, or feel His touch, He is there. And like you said, He is faithful to us in our faithlessness.

    Blessings friend ~

  • Victoria Creager

    I am so glad I found this post. September 5th will make 3 months I have been in the worst desert of my life. But I have noticed that God is still in control because though He hasn’t taken me out of this “Valley”, He has somewhat eased the trial. It doesn’t seem to be going away, but continually changes forms. I pray none stop to “not grow weary in doing good”, because though I know God will lift this from me, I don’t feel that peace or reassurance. I just have to remember what His Word says and how He came through for me in the past to help me make the right choice and keep believing. He has blessed me so much this year but it is hard for me to really enjoy them. Though I am very grateful, I lack so much of the peace and joy I once had in life. Had I known this would happen I would have appreciated the simple things more! Please keep me in your prayers. Thanks!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Dear Victoria ~

    I am so sorry, I know how difficult desert seasons can be, at times it is so hard to keep pressing on. But what I’ve found is that God includes desert seasons in our lives for good purposes. One of those purposes is growth that could not happen without the “forced pruning” time of the desert.

    I pray that even in your desert, you will be very intentional to include several prayer “appointments” in your day where you will pause and lift up words of praise and worship. While in the desert, pause and sing songs of worship to the Lord.

    I have a little prayer devotional that I read most mornings, it is a little “dated” so I hope the old English wording isn’t too cumbersome, but this is a portion of what I read earlier today:

    “I confide in Thee and lean upon Thee, and need Thee at all times to assist and lead me. O that all my distresses and apprehensions might prove but Christ’s school to make me fit for greater service by teaching me the great lesson of humility.” (Valley of Vision)

    I had written a little request in the margin of that devotional that was dated 2/29/2013. My note was a request for God to accomplish this in my life. Little did I know that God would bring me into the most difficult desert which truly became a school of humbling, exactly a year after writing that request. That has been more than 10 years ago now, and I still look back on that season as one of extreme difficulty and sorrow, but one that was necessary in order for God to conform me more to Christ’s image.

    And isn’t that the greatest privilege we can experience? To know Christ more intimately, and through identifying with Him in suffering, be conformed more to His image?

    “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:5)

    “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

    “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;” (Romans 8:28–29)

    You might find this post helpful during this season:

    http://www.kimberlywagner.org/?p=3076

    Pausing now to pray for you Victoria, may you find times of refreshing even in this desert season!