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There are a multitude of crises that feel totally out of control… Ukraine, the Middle East, our southern border. Putin feels like Hitler. Isis feels like Nazi Germany in the genocide of non-converts. Leaders talk more of appeasement than justice. Two high profile pastors committed suicide shortly after Robin Williams, and thousands of young men have gone to Syria from the US and UK to join a Jihad movement. Chicago seems to average 50 to 100 shootings per weekend… and nobody blinks. Several hundred thousand children crossed our border illegally, and our government shipped them off to unknown locations and won’t disclose where. The result is that people really do feel “pressure.”
On a personal level, it feels like someone pushed the “pause” button. Things in the spirit feel like they are on hold or going backward. It certainly doesn’t feel like we’re flowing in a river; more like fighting an uphill battle! The point is that there are seasons in God’s dealings that are both national and personal. They can have a purpose if we understand what’s going on, and they can bear fruit in our lives if we respond to God in a good way.
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Deut 8:2-5 NIV
Tests reveal our hearts – The first lesson of a wilderness experience is that when we are “lost” and don’t hear from God, a lot of stuff comes to the surface of our hearts that would otherwise go unnoticed. It’s humbling and confusing, yet at the same time, God continues to supply us with manna – He feeds our spirits and sustains us practically through the season. The test is whether we will give up or not. Some form of suicide is always what the enemy is offering and some do choose it – even Christians.
The wilderness is particularly challenging for Kings because they are the ones willing to take initiative, and step out in faith and take a risk. They have to discern whether their enterprise and ingenuity was presumption, because they now need God to intervene. The pressure is very often financial.
Lesson learned – The point of testing is that we always need God to intervene. We are always doing the Father’s business – the desire of our hearts is also shared in His heart. The real truth of spiritual warfare is that the closer your heart is to God’s heart, the more you are exposed to the front lines of delay, persecution, rejection and attack. The flip side is that when the tables turn and the Spirit of God comes in like a flood, we are also the closest to breakthroughs in salvations, revival, reformation, answered prayer and financial victories. Once we survive a few of these seasons, we learn to stand firm and expect God to advance the Kingdom and carry His people on the wings of eagles. Even if we have no explanation for events or circumstances, we do understand the nature and faithfulness of our Father and the presence of His Spirit. That’s what sustains us!
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isa 40:28-31 NIV
Yes, but how? – This truth preaches well, but it’s much harder to live. When everything is wrong and our situation is hopeless, we realize that we do not live by bread alone. We don’t live just by our families, homes, finances and jobs. We don’t live by principles, persistence and religious traditions (no matter how Biblical). We live by every living word that proceeds out of His mouth. The bedrock of what keeps us “alive” in plenty and in want is hearing the living word – Jesus. What literally sets us apart in every season is that God goes with us.
The Living word – The words and principles of the Bible have no life until they are mixed with Spirit of God. When the Holy Spirit is present, the Bible becomes the only book in the world that reads us. His word is alive and it gives life to us in the midst of a wilderness test. The practical reality is that we need to simply repent and allow the Holy Spirit to play His proper role in breathing life into our deadness. We really do “live” by every word that continually proceeds out of His mouth. His sheep hear his voice.
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. John 6:63-64 NIV
Praying in the Spirit – We have one weapon. It’s a combination of Spirit and Truth; a sword that is the word of God bathed in prayer. When we don’t even know how to pray (fairly frequently), the answer is allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us. He does know what to pray, and Jesus is always before the Father interceding on our behalf. Praying in tongues and in every way possible is what opens doors in and outside of our own hearts.
…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests Eph 6:17-18 NIV
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Rom 8:26-27 NIV
The result – There is a trademark, or evidence, that follows those who function in Spirit and in Truth from a practical standpoint. When the Holy Spirit is present, everyone can sense and see the miraculous ingredient. It puts an amazing authority and boldness in believers to do the works and say the words. The thought of wilderness is far behind. The treasure of this pearl is close at hand. It’s going to bed with tears of gratitude and amazement at the greats things God did through you and me; knowing that tomorrow holds even greater promise of “His power at work within us.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31 NIV
…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev 19:10 NIV
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:10 NIV
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Eph 3:20 NIV