Summary: Like Jesus, the road we are called to follow is sometimes dry and sometimes dangerous. But God ministers to us and renews us to continue on.
Walkin’ with Jesus:
Wilderness, Wild Beasts & Waiters
Scripture Text: Mark 1.9-15
Today, we’re not following Jesus up another mountain. To-be-honest with-ya, …I wish we were! Climbing a mountain is a test of strength and will and determination. Climbing a mountain is something I can get-into. Although it can-be-excruciating ~ …there’s this-unbelievable-reward, once you make it to the top. Climbing a mountain is an adventure!
But, we’re not following Jesus up another mountain. Today, we watch as Jesus goes into the wilderness… Mark says He was sent there. Matthew and Luke say-that He was led into the wilderness. I’ve read one Bible-commentator who-has-said that the Greek word here is actually closer to-meaning “driven” ~ …as-in, Jesus was “driven” ~ …driven like a shepherd might drive sheep, …or-like a rancher might drive cattle. Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit!
In-case-ya-didn’t-know, …the wilderness was not a top-ten vacation-destination! It wasn’t in the Palestinian version of Travel-Magazine, as one of the best-kept-secrets! It’s the wilderness. Code-word for desert. Wasteland. Hot. Dry. Empty. Lifeless. Who would want-to-go to the wilderness!?!
Whether Jesus wanted to-go, …or, whether He simply, was-being obedient to the Spirit of God, …the-fact-is, He went. For 40 days, He hung-out. Got-away from it all.
Now, while I can appreciate the mountain-hike ~ as-hard as-it-is ~ …it’s harder to appreciate the wilderness-experience. What’s the goal? What’s the point of spending-time in a wasteland? Where’s the view? Is there anything enjoyable about hot-sand, dusty-air, and scorching-heat?
But, I guess that’s the answer!... There’s nothing enjoyable about it ~ …because, “enjoyment” isn’t the point of the wilderness!... Take-a-look at what Jesus goes-through, while in the desert: …He fasts ~ nothing-to-eat; …He’s tempted ~ Satan is taking-advantage of the opportunity to throw Jesus a bone, or-two; …He is alone ~ no friend to keep Him company, …no shoulder to cry on.
The wilderness. Some people would say that the wilderness is a God-forsaken place. They say-that, when you’re in the wilderness and you’re suffering and you’re needy, …they say that God has abandoned you, …left you, …deserted you.
But, I think that’s-not-what the wilderness is all about. Scripture wants to teaches us that just-the-opposite is true! The wilderness is not a God-forsaken-place; ..but it’s the experience of having pretense and possession and resource stripped-away, …so-that we’re reminded that all we truly need in life is God!
Oh-how we need to remember this! As desperate and barren and hopeless as the desert seems to be, …our deepest need and our greatest Resource is available, …and revealed in the wilderness! Whenever we find ourselves in the wilderness, all-we-need is God. We need the Lord, more-than-anything! We need the Lord, more-than-anyone!
How often do we get our attention focused on stuff and people? How often do we fall into the trap of thinking that our lives will be happy, satisfied, fulfilled, good ~ …if-and-when we have “X” in our possession?... A new house, …a new job, …a new spouse, …a new child, …a new car, …a new situation, ..a new t.v., …a new pair of shoes, …a new look, …new health, …a new friend… These-things may be good, …they may-even-be blessings ~ …but they are not what makes life happy and they won’t make you fulfilled.
When we expect these-things to meet the deep need that-only-God can satisfy, …then these-things have become idols! Isn’t it-startling, …how the blessings of God can become idols!?!
The wilderness has a way of showing us our idols! The wilderness has a way of stripping-away all those things that we’ve been trusting in, …or relying-on, …instead of God! The wilderness may not be a happy-place ~ …but it’s a good-place because it can bring our attention back-to our Lord-God.
The ‘wilderness’ places of life are those areas of our journey that often seem barren and empty ~ …void of meaning; stark-scenery; hard-living. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we are dry-and-thirsty. When we’re going through the wilderness, …we may feel on-the-verge of hopelessness ~ …unsure of how we’re gonna-survive. When we’re going through the wilderness, …we may look for options, …any option that will get-us-out! But, it’s in the wilderness that we find God is much closer than we ever imagined… In-the-wilderness, Jacob-wrestled with an angel all through the night; …eventually receiving a limp and a blessing. In-the-wilderness, Moses stumbled on the burning-bush, …heard God’s Voice, …and received a commission. In-the-wilderness, the children of Israel wandered for forty years ~ …but while there, …they received the Covenant, daily manna, and plenty of water.
In-the-wilderness, Elijah despaired; …but God ministered to him through ravens. The wilderness isn’t always what it appears to be! Quite-often, …when we’re following the Spirit of God, …we find the wilderness to be a place of ministry and renewal ~ …there’s no-fluff; …no feather-pillows and cashmere-sweaters, …no bon-bons and honey-buns. But, even-tough it’s a stark, barren place, …if our heart is open to Him, we find the Lord meets us there and He attends-to-us with gentle-compassion and tender-encouragement!