Exodus 15:22a (ESV)
Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur.
Let’s be honest. We want a trouble-free life. We want our lives to be easier, not harder. We want to struggle less, not more. We expect that after a lifetime of cruel slavery and a cataclysmic deliverance like the Red Sea, we might be in for a nice, extended vacation at the beach.
Instead of getting the beach, the Israelites got the desert.
But what if God’s purpose is not to make our lives easier but our souls stronger?
This is the meaning of the wilderness.
We want to get out of the wilderness and into the promised land, but what if the wilderness is God’s plan—not forever, but for a season? What if, in fact, the longer we resist the wilderness, the longer it will last? What if the sooner we submit to the Spirit’s wilderness work in our lives, the sooner we enter into the destiny of God’s promise for our lives?
And this kind of thinking, my friends, is our problem. As I wrote the last paragraph I wanted it to be true, but the Spirit chided me. I have chosen to leave it in order to demonstrate just how seductive this kind of thinking can be. We think the wilderness is the exception, a short break from an otherwise prospering life. What if the wilderness is actually the rule? What if the will of God in the wilderness is to teach us the true meaning of prosperity—that it does not rise and fall with the tides of the stock market or our health or any other set of the myriad circumstances constantly befalling us? The real prosperity gospel is the Father blessing us through Jesus with us and the Holy Spirit filling us—all the time, no matter what, come what may.
The apostle Paul shows us the outcome of a wilderness tested soul:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11–13)
Let’s ask the question again. What if the sooner we submit to the Spirit’s wilderness work in our lives, the sooner we enter into the destiny of God’s promise for our lives? See the flaw in this thinking? It’s like I’m saying the sooner we get the lesson of the wilderness, the sooner we get out of it. Here’s the real question: What if the destiny of God’s promise for our lives is different than we thought? Though the prosperity gospel intends well, it misses the point. In the kingdom of God, prosperity is not tied to our circumstances.
Here’s the lesson: God’s promises and prosperity transcend our circumstances—need or plenty, hungry or full. The secret is Christ in me. This is why the wilderness is the proving ground of the Holy Spirit, who takes our circumstances and translates them into the deep formation of Jesus Christ in us. And this is the meaning of the wilderness—the strengthening of our souls in the midst of struggle through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The old hymn says it best, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”
Father, train my soul to prosper in the prosperity of your kingdom, in the way of your Son, Jesus. Gift me with the mind of Christ and grace me with the fellowship of the Spirit. Show me your will in the wilderness that I might become truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
How difficult will it be to shift your mindset from trying to escape the discomfort of the wilderness to embracing God’s purpose and prosperity in the wilderness? Why is this?
For the Awakening,