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October 24, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness . . .”—Mark 1:12 (NIV)
Every time I know someone is going to Orlando or Chicago, I always tell them, “Before you do anything else, you NEED to go to Giordano’s to get some delicious Chicago-style deep dish pizza. It’s truly a must if you want to get the most out of your trip.” The way I see it, if I don’t hit up that glorious deep-dish pie of cheesy and meaty goodness, then my trip cannot possibly be considered a success. I missed out on something extraordinary.
Listen to this, friends . . . stay with me on this train of thought because I’m about to drop something crazy that many people will not want to hear, but something that we all NEED TO KNOW as believers. In order to fully carry out the calling God has placed on your life, you need to spend time in the wilderness.
I say this not as an if, but as a when. If you’re a Christ-follower, you have been given a great commission and a personal call. And because of this commission and call, you will go through wilderness seasons. And if you want to understand what God is calling you to, to get clarity on the vision He has for you, be prepared to faithfully carry out your calling and commission, to walk in it through thick and thin, and to get the most out of your calling, you must embrace your time in the wilderness.
Over and over again in the Bible, we see God give a dream, a calling, a vision, and then send that person off into the wilderness to prepare him or her for it, to be pruned like a bonsai tree, to be shaped into something wonderful: a filled, equipped, and battle-tested vessel. He did it with the apostle Paul. In Galatians 1 and 2, Paul tells us that after he got saved, almost immediately God sent him to Arabia for three years. Arabia . . . the Sinai Peninsula, a barren wasteland, the wilderness. He wasn’t there to preach powerfully, but to be pruned purposefully.
He also did it with Moses. After escaping Egypt, he and the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness, the exact same Sinai Peninsula Paul was sent to, for 40 years. He did it with Joseph. After being given these big dreams, God allowed Joseph to be sold as a slave to Egypt before rising to prime minister of Egypt. It happened with Elijah, who after proclaiming the coming drought to King Ahab was sent to the wasteland, part of the time in the exact same place as Moses and Paul. It happened with David, who was anointed king and then spent years living in the wilderness, running from King Saul. And it happened with Jesus! After this amazing, beautiful, miraculous baptism scene where the Spirit came upon Him like a dove, the Spirit immediately sends Him to the wilderness before He began His three-year work that culminated with His resurrection.
This is how God works! You see, He knows that what He has for us, the vision and calling He wants to accomplish in and through us, will be stunted if we’re not first broken down, refined, and then remolded. Why? Because He often gets extraordinary destinies out of preparatory seasons in the wilderness.
And here’s the thing about it: He’s not trying to get us ready so that the dream can come true; He’s trying to prepare us so that we can be trusted to steward the dream well. In the desert, He is giving us the equipping we need to carry out the call.
The wilderness is a necessary part of our story, of the work of Christ in us. It’s not pointless punishment or senseless suffering; it’s not the end of your story . . . it’s the prologue to an amazing season in which the Lord can work wonders. But in order to get there, you can’t skip the wilderness. You could try to avoid it, you could try as hard as you can to get out of the desert the moment you enter it, but if you do I promise you will never be who you were born to be, you will never experience the fullness of your calling or enjoy the abundance of fruit that comes from it. If you don’t take the right route, you won’t be ready to harvest the fruit.
Has God given you big dreams? A fresh vision? A unique personal calling? As we begin the Easter season, let us reflect on the dreams and vision God has given us and embrace the wilderness seasons that He uses to equip and empower us!