What if the Way Is through the Wilderness?

No sooner than Jesus had been baptized by John, Matthew tells us that he is led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. It is interesting to me that the temptation immediately followed a declaration. In other words, once the heavens declared who Jesus really was and it was clear beyond a shadow of the doubt that he was the anointed one, chosen, and beloved of the Father, Matthew tells us that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

I would wager, however, that many of us are more comfortable with David’s testimony. Indeed, God will lead us into green pastures beside still waters to restore our souls. God will lead us to paths of righteousness (Ps. 23: ). However, God sometimes leads us into paths of righteousness by way of the wilderness. That’s Jesus’ testimony.

Matthew tells us that Jesus was baptized by John to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). According to Matthew, Jesus' baptism was his act of full submission to the will of God for his life. Baptism was his “yes” to the paths of righteousness as decided by his Father. God heard Jesus’ “yes,” manifested and symbolized by his baptism at the hands of John, and declared Jesus to be well pleasing and beloved. What happens next is not what one would expect, because Jesus is led into the wilderness.

Jesus’ wilderness season, however, was not a punishment. He did nothing to “deserve” his time in the wilderness. Therefore, I believe that there was a corollary between Jesus’ “yes” and his sojourn in the wilderness. You see, the wilderness is where “yes’s” are tested.

I am convinced that we cannot go any deeper in our relationship with God, in our pursuit of our purpose that is rooted in God, or any gift given by God, than the depth of our “yes’s.” So, if you are feeling stuck, a key place to look is at your “yes.” Have you said, “yes” to:

· what God is talking about right now

· what God is doing right now

· where God is leading right now

· what God is commanding right now

· what God is asking for right now

Are you even listening or paying attention? Because the measure of our spiritual depth and our ability to move forward in the things God has for us is not found in Bible study, fervent prayer, membership or pew time in the church, or offices, titles, positions alone. It’s connected to the depth of our “yes’s.”

Studying the Bible without saying “yes” to the Word makes us a hearers and not a doers of the word. Praying without saying “yes” makes us talkers but not walkers who have denied ourselves, taken up their crosses, and are following Jesus. Pew time without a “yes” means we may have a membership to the Church, but neglect the very work of the Church. Offices, titles, and positions without a “yes” means we have labels without any content.

Indeed, God deserves our “yes.” Many of us know this and are committed to go through Lent upholding it. However, we may be tempted to take back our “yes” or refuse to recommit to an original “yes.” At the root of our temptation is the recognition that our testimony may be more like Jesus’ than it is David’s. We, too, run the risk of finding out that the wilderness will follow on the heels of our “yes,” too.

If this is where you are or where you are headed, I want to tell you that your struggle during this season is neither accidental or coincidental. Just look at the life of Jesus and his major attacks by the Adversary. I think it provides some clues to where we may be in relation to things God has promised and/or the God-given purposes of our lives.

Look at the life of Jesus and you will see that there are two major times of testing/temptation that bracket his life. The first is here, after he is baptized and then led into the wilderness. The second is when Satan enters Judas to betray him thereby setting the wheels of Calvary in motion. Jesus must decide whether to take the cup before him or pass it aside. He must decide whether it will be his will or God’s will and if his “yes,” symbolized by his baptism, is deep enough to endure the cross, in hope of the resurrection.

Here is what I want you to grasp during your wilderness season

The major attacks of our lives happen when we, like Jesus, truly understand and accept what God is saying to us about our kingdom purposes and when we are at the threshold of fulfilling them and walking into the destiny God has for us. The devil wants to stop us before we get started or before we get the breakthrough. The devil will try to stop us before we get started because he wants the favor, love , acceptance, power, and presence of God with us to be only words we hear, not a truth we experience. He wants our “yes’s” to become shallower and shallower until our “yes’s” become a “sometimes,” and our “sometimes” become a “maybe,” and our “maybe’s” become an outright “no.” And if this is where you are, I just want to remind that this battle you are in or this temptation you are facing is not for right now. It’s for where you are going. That is why the devil is fighting you with machine guns when all you have is a cap pistol. He knows that if you hold on a little while longer, you will be a weapon of mass destruction against his schemes.

Others of you may be where Jesus was in the Garden after Satan entered Judas. It may not feel like it right now, but you are actually at the brink of one of your greatest breakthroughs. You’ve caught the vision, begun to walk in the vision, and seen the evidence that the vision is from and of God. But, you are still waiting for last shift to put you in the place God has promised and do the things God has spoken. Right now, however, you may be work weary, battle scarred, and temptation tired. Yet, to make it through this wilderness, you will have to do like Jesus and get on your knees, fall on your faces, and be honest with God. Ultimately, you will have to accept the will of God and the way God wishes to accomplish it.

While in this wilderness, please remember that you’ve come too far to turn back now. Take inventory of you journey thus far and conclude that you have climbed too many mountains, crossed too many rivers, pressed through too many valleys, pushed open too many doors, turned over too many plates, prayed too many prayers, cried too many tears, paced too many floors, and fought too many demons to turn back now. And since you have not been defeated, may I remind you that God has not brought you this far to leave you.

So, if you are in a wilderness situation, please do not let feeling stuck stop you from expecting. Expect daily bread today because God has given you what you’ve needed before. Expect favor today because God has blessed you before. Expect deliverance today because God has liberated you before. Expect power today because God has renewed your strength before. Expect answers today because God has solved your problems before. Expect joy today because God has been the lifter of your head before. Expect peace today because God has calmed your spirit before. Expect promises to be fulfilled because God has kept God’s word before. And expect breakthroughs to come your way because God has broken through before.

Stay the course! It will lead to where God desires you to be.

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