(By Ricky Scaparo) Whether we desire to go through one or not, we will all experience a “Wilderness Experience” in our walk with the Lord. In fact, the Holy Spirit will lead us to the Wilderness for a particular purpose. I want to show you an example from the Old Testament to elaborate more on this topic. First of all the term Wilderness and Deserts go hand and hand in the Bible. And according to the Websters by definition the word can mean:
1- a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited
2- an area essentially undisturbed by human activity
3- an empty or pathless area
In other words, the Lord sets us up to embark on a region or assignment that is uninhabited, uncultivated and hasn’t been previously cultivated by others. An assignment that isn’t easy! You see every pastor would love to get a church that already has 500 people and burning for Jesus without any effort of prayer, fasting and intercession to cultivate the church. Everyone wants revival, but few are willing to pay the price and endure the sacrifices it takes to produce one!
In the Old Testament, we see that the children of Israel are liberated from Egyptian bondage only to be driven into the Wilderness by divine providence of God? Why? The answer is in Exodus 13:7 – Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”
Even though Israel was out of Egypt, Egypt wasn’t out of them! Therefore the Lord purposely led the Children of Israel through the Wilderness to get the taste of Egypt out of them! This process resulted in the same results that take place in many believers and Churches today! You see the primary conditions of the wilderness or desert is an environment that is hot and dry always resulting in a lack of water and bread. When these conditions are present in any Church or believer’s life, it will always produce the following results.
1- Complaining against the Leadership, Fingers start pointing, and the blame game begins. It’s the worship teams fault, It’s the Pastor, It’s the location, It’s the Leadership, It’s the building, It’s the greeters, the deacons, the ushers, etc. We can clearly see in the book of Exodus that the Children of Israel always murmured and complained against Moses and accused him of leading them out to kill them. The scary thing about this is the Bible tells us that the result of this complaining and murmuring produced serpents among the people to bite them! 1 Corinthians 9-10. The Bible says that serpents represent the enemy or evil spirits. So when we allow ourselves to become complainers and murmurers, it opens the door for the devil to have access to our home and churches!
2 – Desire to Fill ourselves with other things – The second thing that a dry and hot environment will result in is many time believers and churches will result in finding other things to substitute for the essentials they need to be healthy in their walk! For example, when a church remains dry and hot with no presence of the Lord, famine of bread and no moving of the Holy Spirit it will result in that Church grasping for other means to attract or keep people in its congregation which most of the time is some form of entertainment or compromise. Today Churches use everything from alcohol, tattoos, light shows, dramas, smoke machines, concerts, sports, and the list goes on gain the numbers to become the biggest and best in town! On a personal level when we as believers become dry and thirsty we are more prone to fall back into things the Lord delivered us out of to fill ourselves up with. The children of Israel were given Manna but eventually it wasn’t good enough and finally choked and died on the very thing they desired. When the brook dried up for Elijah he fled to another city. When the brook (Holy Spirit) dries up in the Church it will always lead to a mass exodus of people that will leave to find where the brook flows!
3- Always looking in the past and not the future – When we begin to enter a dry season in the Lord we will inevitably always start to reminisce about the “Good Ol Days”. We will always sit around and talk about former “moves of God”, what things used to be like, our old prayer life, when we were once on fire for God, how we used to be bold witnesses and the list goes on. How many Church folks do you know that always talk about how things once were but have no report of what Gd is doing TODAY! Don’t get stuck looking in the rear-view mirror but keep looking ahead keep the water flowing and your walk saturated in his presence.
4- Always produces cannibalism in the Church. – Finally one of the most destructive things a dry and dead environment will produce is “cannibalism”. One of the primary definitions of the word means “the eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of the same kind.” When a church and it’s congregation enter a dry season, it will always produce “the eating of one another”! We’re not talking in literal terms here but figuratively. Members will begin to bite and devour one another as the Apostle Paul points out in the New Testament. How many “Ministers” or “Ministries” have you witnessed consistently tearing down each other? Perhaps the root of the problem is that they no longer are operating in a healthy environment that if flowing with bread and water thus it has resulted in frustration and the “Serpents” have gained a foothold making them now puppets to become “accusers of the brethren”. So why would the Lord purposely lead us into the Wilderness? After all, he immediately led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted 40 days and 40 night of the Devil. Well, Remember what he told the Childen of Israel.
And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.
The wilderness is awaiting everyone who will say yes to the Lord. It is never a pleasant experience but essential that we instead of running from it embrace it knowing that it will result in us drawing closer to the Lord by totally relying on his provision, purpose, and protection and also result in power in the end! When Jesus came out of the Wilderness, the Bible tells us that he returned to Galilee in the “Power and Might” of the Holy Spirit! There are levels in the Lord we will never walk in until we first go through the Wilderness.