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Summary: Can there be a purpose to barren times in our Christian walk ? In this message we consider the example of Jesus as he triumphed in the desert of temptation.

Walking the desert with purpose

Deserts are unfamiliar places to most, if not all, of us.

The term applies to the regions of the earth characterised by less than 10" of ANNUAL rainfall.

Daytime temperatures can be 55C(131F) in the shade dropping to freezing at night as the desert floor radiates the heat back to the atmosphere. They are barren, arid places with no noticeable vegetation or water supply. The worlds largest desert is the Sahara in North Africa, which covers a total area of more than 3,500,000 square miles.

Geographical surveys also tell us that deserts are growing. A 1984 report stated that no less than 35% of the earth’s land surface was at least threatened by the danger of encroaching desert.

In Bible geography they are very relevant places, and often mentioned, mostly referred to as the ’wilderness’.

The children of Israel wandered for 38 years.

Elijah fled from Jezebel to the desert.

Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert.

Significantly, they have a SPIRITUAL PARALLEL in that they speak of the dry and barren periods in spiritual experience. Times when joy and peace are absent and enthusiasm is a long lost friend.

It is such ’desert experiences’ I want to consider.

The value of the desert !

This is not a message about avoiding such times. Because I believe they are moments of shaping and change in our lives.... The place of frustration is often the place of preparation ..... Joseph - Prison to Prime Minister ; Jesus - Temptation to triumph

God will occasionally lead us through circumstances that either have the potential to induce spiritual barrenness or to inspire spiritual growth.

EXODUS 15:22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water.

LUKE 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 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.

NB. The similarity, from the Red Sea / From the Jordan .... to the desert. The desert can follow some of our greatest victories and blessings.

Following great triumph on Mt. Carmel ......1 KINGS 19:3,4 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

The wilderness is a place of testing ....EXODUS 15:25 ’There he tested them’

The effects of the desert !

The most noticeable effect was NEGATIVITY ! .....EXODUS 16:2 ; EXODUS 17:2

Barren surroundings can cause all kinds of negative effects. The same is true spiritually.

And yet their desert experience had been a time of amazing provision. Manna, Quail, Water, Guidance. They experienced the miraculous daily.

Because their lives were more governed by the material and practical they had cause to moan, grumble and criticise. Had they been more spiritually motivated they would have been rejoicing daily in God’s goodness to them and trusting in his purpose for them.

Our barren experiences are not always self induced or circumstantially induced. They may be by divine decision. The Children of Israel had to undergo the death of an unbelieving generation before they could inherit their promise. God may decide to deal with our doubt and distrust before he provides an answer.

Living or Leaving

God never intended the Israelites to spend 38 years in the desert. They did so because of their wilful disobedience....... DEUTERONOMY 1:29-36

Their way our of the desert was quite simple .... it was BY FAITH ! (Deut 1:32)

too many have stayed at the place of bareness for too long because of the failure to turn to God and trust him. As a result they spent 38 years on a journey that should have been a matter of weeks.

I know many Christians who have lived there ! God leads his people into the desert for a purpose, but then they pitch camp and the purpose is lost and so is their zeal.

The example of Jesus is quite different to the Israelites.

LUKE 4:1-14 (read)

So how did Jesus walk the desert with purpose ?

How did he overcome the challenges and achieve God’s will through this situation ?

He lived by the Word

Key phrase = ’It is written....’

He did not allow the situation, circumstances or enemy to dictate the truth.

The Word is more than the Bible, it is that which God has made alive in you ... the truth.

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