One of the hardest things we can do as Christians is to wait on the Lord. We are programed to want what we want and to want it now. More often God has other plans for us though. His plans are to prepare us not through and event but by a process. With time comes preparation.
Look at Moses for example, Moses was to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt bondage. How did God prepare him? Not in a day but over time...not through an event but by a process. God prepares us in a crockpot, not a microwave. More important that the awaited goals is the work that God does in us as we wait.
Waiting deepen and matures us. Waiting gives us a broader perspective and understanding. Waiting...the tests of time...determine whether we can endure the seasons of seemingly unfruitful preparation. Waiting determines whether we can recognize and seize the opportunities that come our way.
In Isaiah 40:30-31 we see an interesting verse about Waiting on the LORD.
" Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." (ESV)
Like and an Eagle... when and Eagle reaches the age of 30-50, it flies to a high place and there it endures a harsh trial of endurance and change. It can’t fly because its feathers are overgrown. Therefore it plucks all the feathers from its body. It plucks its talons from its feet because the talons have grown curled and useless. Its beak has grown too long and curled. It breaks its beak against a rock. Defenseless, it cries out and waits for the time of renewal. Other Eagles hear its cry, and come to aid. They fly overhead, scaring off predators, and they bring food to their incapacitated friend.
Why do Eagles do this? The words to Wait on the Lord in Hebrew (qavah – kav-waw’) figuratively mean “to bind together like a cord.” It doesn’t mean to tie a cord around a bundle of sticks to keep them together. Instead, it’s the process of making a rope by twisting or weaving small strings together to form the rope. The more strands that are twisted or woven together in a rope, the greater is its strength. The literal meaning of the word is “hope”.
Like it happens to Eagles God makes us to go through harsh trials of endurance and change. This is necessary to shape our Christian character and faith. In such time we need to unite with the Lord like strands of a rope by waiting upon Him. This unity renews our strength.
The very situation that you are facing right now could be a trial of endurance and change. God makes His children to walk through such times because it’s the only way prepare you to meet God’s plan for your life. To take away what is unnecessary, and shape up your character and attitudes.
But God never forsakes or leaves behind His children at these times of correction. He is with you because He wants to renew your strength at the end of the trial period. Wait upon the Lord – and you will soar like an Eagle.
Do you ever feel like you are walking without God? You seek him, but can't seem to find him. Nothing seems to be going right in your life. Minor issues turn into major issues, one snowballing on top of the other. To make matters worse spiritually you feel dry and thirsty. Small group life is no longer doing it for you, church seems more of a have to than want to, reading the bible feels dull...spiritually nothing seems to be working.
In Psalm 42, we see a leader who is dry and thirsty. This leader is experiencing a wilderness period, as every leader does at some point. Nothing seems exciting or motivating. In Verse 2-4, the writer seems to be saying, "I used to lead the people in a parade to God, and now I can't even find Him myself!" Fortunately this leader recaptures his perspective in verse 5. He begins to tell himself the truth. In the final verse, he concludes that God will prevail.
I love this Psalm for its humanity, and the lessons about the wilderness we can learn from it. There are 4 lessons we can learn that will help us during our times in the wilderness. I believe most people travel through the wilderness wrong. When we compare the Israelites 40 years to Jesus 40 days, we see a start difference. The Israelites thought they were lost, Jesus knew he was in the wilderness. Jesus came out of the wilderness greater than when he entered it. I believe the way we spend our time in the wilderness will determine how long we are in the wilderness.
1. Be honest with yourself and your state. I have found in my own life that simply recognizing I am in the wilderness has actually been a good thing. Before I realized I was in the wilderness...I simply thought I was lost! I was cynical, short, and began to question my need for God. This is exactly what the enemy wants when were are lost.
There are certain principles about the wilderness that I have to come learn that spiritually expand me. So I look forward to my time there. I don't always like being there, however I know the end result is greater the beginning. When your honest with yourself and your state, all you feel is lost. You feel like the Israelites walking around for 40 years waiting on God instead of seeking God. The longer you are lost, the more your spiritual awareness deteriorates.
2. Cry out to God for renewal. The beautiful thing about the wilderness is this....it's a place for a new beginning. When you look the Israelites, their time in the wilderness was to prepare them for the promised land, Jesus time in the wilderness was to prepare him for his ministry. Time spent in the wilderness is time preparing you for a new beginning. The downside to the wilderness...like the Israelites, most people fail to realize this. Their view become distorted, they become self contained in their own issues, they fail to look up. To most people the wilderness feels more like a punishment than it does a blessing to prepare you. Like the Israelites they cry to out to God prayers of, "Oh God get me out of this, instead of Oh God expand me through this."
3. Refuse to fake it. Be willing to model truth for others. It's amazes me how when I am in the wilderness God seems to place others next to me who are in the wilderness as well. My choice is to either embrace my time in the wilderness or deny it. Most people in the wilderness refuse to embrace it. They try to put on a smile and act like God is not preparing them. They deny the possibility of a work being done. They are trying to fake it until they make it. I have learned that as I begin to look up and look out towards what lies ahead those God has placed in my life at that time seem to do the same. We become a group lifting each other up.
4. Tell yourself the truth about the future. Know that God is preparing you for a new beginning. You are not in the wilderness as a punishment but rather as a gift. It may not seem like it, but sometimes God is trying to enable us to change our posture towards him as he is changing his posture towards us...preparing us for a new beginning.
One of the most difficult times we can go thru in life is time spent in the wilderness. It is during these times in life that we question God the most. I want to share with you today 7 Lessons I have personally learned during my times in the wilderness.
1. Sometimes God has to Magnify the Plagues. To make Pharaoh release God's people, Moses called down the plagues, and he didn't stop until the old way of life gave away. So often we want to run from the plagues in life. Sometimes Gods will magnify the plagues in our lives to convince us we need to let go of the old ways. I know when the plagues hit in my life my first instinct is to try and solve the problem, it is usually after extensive failure and exhaustion that I give up and embrace the plagues and let go of what I am holding onto that is causing the plagues to begin with.
2. God will Mark The Ending. I think about the "boundary event" Moses had in the crossing of the Red Sea. It was until the waters parted and the people put action to their faith by walking on dry land, that they realized there was no turning back. Up until that point there was talk about returning back to the slavery of Egypt. The "boundary event" of crossing the Red Sea proved there was no turning back.
3. God Will Teach You To Deal With The Murmurings. One of the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn was to deal with the murmurings. The first of these murmurings is loosing confidence in myself and the second was the feeling that my family and friends had lost confidence in me. I realized that I would question myself from where I came from to where I was going. Moses heard things, like "Does our leader know the way?" We've never done it this way before! What was so bad about Egypt? It is during these times that God is trying to teach us to look for opportunities to experience him more. The people of Egypt were willing to return back to slavery because they doubted God and Moses confidence to lead them to experiencing and connecting with God in ways they had never before.
4. God Will Give You Access To The Right People. Thanks to Jethro, Moses was able to help restore confidence and the connection between the people because God provided Moses with access to the right people and the right leadership. I know that at just the right time the right person came into my life. I submitted to his leadership and thru him speaking into my life I was able to restore my confidence and connection to God. This persons relationship with God was beacon of light to help me see clearly.
5. Learn to Capitalize On The Creative Opportunities of the Wilderness. It was in the wilderness, not the Promised Land, that a big innovation took place: It was in the wilderness that God handed down the Ten Commandments. You will learn that some of your biggest spiritual breakthroughs will happen in the wilderness. I learned to experience God daily by searching daily for his blessing while in the wilderness. Doing so, I experienced first hand what his love and daily provision looks like.
6. Resist The URGE to RUSH ahead. It often seems like little happens in the wilderness. We feel as though God has got us in a holding pattern and we are just waiting on him to move us the next phases. But it is during the times we spend in the wilderness that great transformation takes place. Jesus couldn't begin his adult ministry until he had completed his time in the wilderness. Don't jeopardize the opportunity for transformation by hurrying ahead or by trying to remove the pain of giving birth to a new vision for your life. Let God do his work.
7. Understand that "Wilderness Leadership" is special. Moses did not enter the promised land. His kind of leadership fit the transition time, where things seemed confusing and fluid. The nation needed a different leader, Joshua, to enter Canaan, because he led the military, and because a settled life required new skills. Sometimes when we are in the wilderness God is working on a new kind of leader in us, with a new style ready for the promised land... once the transition in the wilderness is complete.
Quality Leaders Are Prepared In The Wilderness
The Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness right after His baptism by John. Jesus's time in the wilderness was a necessary part of his preparation for ministry. Quality leaders can almost always point to a wilderness experience as part of their leadership preparation. Why? What is so important about the time in the wilderness? Because being alone in the wilderness sucks! However, during this time, our motives get purified, our backbone solidifies, and our calling gets clarified.
So often we want our wilderness experience to be over with as soon as possible. For so many Christians they never move from Glory to Glory and Faith to Faith because they never embrace the necessary wilderness experience. Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. The time spent in the wilderness is depended upon our capacity to face temptation. The devil tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness...the temptation by the enemy is a necessary screening process to see WHAT WE WILL GIVE UP and HOW WE WILL TRUST GOD TO PROVIDE.
There are three temptations you will face in the wilderness...each temptation strenghtens you for the next.
1. The temptation to be self-sufficient. (FAITH) Jesus didn't become controlling, even with his legitimate needs. He trusted God. The challenge is really getting past our own glory. When we are self sufficient we are our own GOD. We may recognize that GOD exists but because we are that good...we don't really need him until we face something our own glory can't handle. The enemy will tempt you into thinking that you can control everything. He wants to swell your head, when GOD wants to swell your heart. This temptation tests your commitment to your Faith.
2. The temptation to be spectacular. (GLORY) Jesus refused to become a stunt man. He didn't perform in order to become a celebrity. This world bombards us the temptation to be a celebrity. The worlds joke is having your five minutes of fame. The world literally places celebrity status on a pedestal. Its the ultimate bar to achieve...according the standards of the world. You will never break thru this temptation until you realize that your not your own God (Temptation 1). Jesus focused on God being the celebrity and spectacular, not himself....because he knew that God provided for all his needs. The enemy will tempt you into thinking that the you deserve the spotlight. This temptation tests your response to Glory. Is your heart focued on God's Glory or is your head focused on your Glory.
3. The temptation to be powerful. (TRUST) Jesus wouldn't take a shortcut to gain power or worship. The power of the world was offered to Jesus on a silver plate and he refused. He trusted God and God's plan for his life. This final temptation is all about how you TRUST God. When the easy road is presented to you, will you take it.....or will trust God and the road he wants for you. Trust is the single hardest issue Christians faces when it comes to God. They can have faith and even want the name of God to be elevated...but when it comes to trusting God...they fall off the wagon. In your heart... do you really... really trust God with your life? Do you truely trust his will to be done? And that his will to be done is better than your will to be done.
The reason why so many are in the wilderness and never get out...is because they never get past themselves. Their focus is all about them and not about God. Usually...God gets the blame for our wilderness expereince because we don't embrace the importance of our time in the wilderness. If you find yourself in the wilderness look for the temptations and how you can glorify God by how you respond. How you respond in faith, glory and trust will determine your next level of supernatural promotion.