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LUKE 4:1–14 (NIV)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Life is more wild than tame, more surprising than predictable—and God works within this mystery.
Consider, with me, the following word groups. Group 1: tame, predictable, comfortable, safe, sustainable, content, peaceful, reliable, sure, rest. Group 2: wild, unpredictable, uncomfortable, dangerous, unsustainable, adventurous, alert, surprising, unsure, restless.
Which group of words is more immediately attractive to you?
If you are like me, I would like to say that Group 2 is more appealing; it feels more noble and more adventurous to do so. But, to be honest, I need to say that Group 1 really has my heart. Having my heart, it also has my bank account, my relational patterns, and the lion’s share of my daily choices.
Why choose the wild and unpredictable when the tame and comfortable is right there beside it?
Are you heavily invested in creating a Group 1 life—a life that is tame, predictable, peaceful, sustainable, and sure? Do your habits reflect it? Does your job reflect it? Do your relationships and the way you handle them reflect it?
Now, here comes the big question: Does the way you follow Jesus reflect it?
Even those who have mastered their mechanisms for controlling their lives find the experience from birth to death wild—untamed, unruly, unpredictable, and downright inhospitable at moments. Life in motion overtakes our best-laid plans, our best-planned futures, and can lead those plans into chaos without frequent intervention and constant maintenance.
If you are like some of my acquaintances over the years, you may choose a highly controlled life with little risk and tightly managed relationships. But even for them—surprises.
Pandemics. Social unrest. Political upheaval. Personal crises. Prisons of the heart, mind, and body—so many challenges break through and touch the most heavily fortified soul.
But along the way of growing up in Christ—and by that I mean the long growing up that takes decades and sculpts the spirit—we make a discovery.
Life is, by nature, unpredictable. It is what we will call “wild.” It is when life is unpredictable that we most quickly discover who God is and who we are in him.
Thomas Merton, when speaking of the early desert fathers—those who chose a wild and unpredictable life when the empire became Christianized—wrote: “What the fathers sought most of all was their true self, in Christ. And in order to do this, they had to reject completely the false, formal self, fabricated under social compulsion ‘in the world.’”1
The Holy Spirit does an incredible work in us when things feel most precarious, unsafe, and unpredictable. The Spirit reveals to us, and affirms, our calling. No, we don’t all have to run away from the empire of the world in order to find our calling, but we do need to recognize that drifting into acceptance of the status quo can slowly, but surely, kill us.
Another word for calling—or invitation from God to participate with him uniquely as we truly are in the world—is vocation. Vocation, from the Latin word vocare, means “to call.” In the wild, in the unpredictable and ever-changing, we are listening hard for the voice of God. And when we are listening hard, often because it is hard, we hear the voice of God. And that makes all the difference.
The wild is a place of naked encounter with God and ourselves. It is the place we never want to go—but we choose to go there because the Spirit has led us there and we are not content to remain as we are.
In Luke 4:1–14, Jesus enters that place of the wild, the unpredictable, the isolated, for a purpose—a vocational purpose. It is a dangerous place for him to be—but as we will see, it is the right place. And if it was the right place for him, for a time and for an eternal purpose, the wild is the right place for us for times and purposes in our lives that are yet to be discovered.
God can be encountered anywhere. The wild, in its unruliness, in its lack of clear promise, with its sense of missed or averted destiny, is a unique place of encounter and formation for the follower of Christ.
With Jesus, let’s enter the wilderness, led by the Spirit.
Lord of the Wild, we sense the possibility that is in store for us if we take this season to walk with you into the revelation that awaits us in the story of your testing in the wilderness. Open our hearts to hear your Spirit’s voice, to be led by the Spirit into an encounter with you that ends in your love and power being more fully manifest in our lives and in a new clarity of our vocation in you. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you experienced the wild in recent weeks? If so, how has the unpredictability, the lack of control you’ve felt, revealed where your faith is really at?
For the Awakening,
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1. Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (Trappist, KY: The Abbey of Gethsemani, Inc., 1960), 5–6.
Yes, in a way I am experiencing the wild even now. The happenings at Asbury have encouraged me and those believers that I’m in closest relationship with to earnestly pray that this same experience of God’s presence breaks out here as well. I realize that this type of movement is entirely up to the Lord’s Spirit and as a result leads down a path of unknown consequences. The history of renewal awakenings tells us that such movements will also come with strong responses from Satan and his hoard. We need to prepare for some form of severe demonic resistance and possibly persecution. Such a thing will test our commitment and perseverance.
Jesus woke me up this morning with these words to help me experience the wild:
To the risen Jesus
To be sent
To do His will.
If you’re a Christian
Then you’ve been sent
To be Spirit-led;
And to spread
The reality of
Christ in you.
Revival is often
Very small groups
Of two or three
Even though Jesu’s body was at its weakest when He confronted Satan in the wilderness, He demonstrated His spiritual supremacy over the evil one. I like
Matthew’s version in 4:11, “Then the devil left him, and the angels came and began to serve Him.”
How did they serve Him? I envision them surrounding Him, caressing Him in their arms, offering comfort, food, and water. But most of all, love.
He didn’t give the angels orders so He would not strike His foot upon a stone (Psalm 91:11). They came when He needed them most, to give Him what He gives us, His self. And what we are to give Him, ourselves.