1 Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit as he left the Jordan River. The Spirit led him while he was in the desert, 2 where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days. During those days Jesus ate nothing, so when they were over, he was hungry.13 After the devil had finished tempting Jesus in every possible way, the devil left him until another time. 14 Jesus returned to Galilee. The power of the Spirit was with him, and the news about him spread throughout the surrounding country.
Matthew 4:1-2 (GWT)
When we start off as Christians—after repenting, getting baptized, having our sins forgiven, and receiving the Holy Spirit—we feel and believe that nothing can stop us now! We have a clarity of purpose, believing that God was going to work through us to change lives and change the world.
But then we go through struggles and periods of dryness spiritually, where we are just trying to survive. Many of us are in a desert spiritually—in our marriage, in dating, in relationships, in careers—but don’t understand how and why we got here or God’s purpose for our future.
Jesus’ destiny began in the desert (actually the wilderness), and that’s where he learned to rely on God intimately, developed awareness of who he was and the challenges he would face, and made a decision to hold onto God’s Word for the rest of his life!
Often, we want to get to the destiny God has for our lives, but we don’t like God’s way of taking us there. Because God has a greater purpose than just making us happy, it’s not always easy as he trains and prepares us to change the lives of others.
17 When the king sent the people out of Egypt, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was the shortest way. God said, “If they have to fight, they might change their minds and go back to Egypt.” 18 So God led them through the desert toward the Red Sea. The Israelites were dressed for fighting when they left the land of Egypt.
Exodus 13:17-18 (NCV)
From a humanistic standpoint, we always look for the shortest way. Yet God knows better. He knows that the shortest way is never the best way, especially when it comes to fulfilling his purpose for our lives!
The Israelites thought they were ready to fight and ready to take the Promised Land, but God knew they weren’t ready to fight because they still had a very superficial relationship with him. The difference was that the people wanted their own land, but God wanted to build his Kingdom and change the world.
We must understand that just because we feel like we’re ready, that doesn’t mean we have the character, internal strength, or faith to be more than conquerors just yet (Romans 8).
2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”
Exodus 16:2-3, 6-8 (NIV)
Our destiny begins in the desert, but too often we avoid the desert, resent the desert, and isolate ourselves in the desert.
There are two responses we can have: turn to God or turn against God (Job 36:13 – the godless in heart harbor resentment). If you’ve found yourself more resentful, grumbling more, complaining more, envying others more, blaming more, turning to sensuality more, then that only exposes how godless you are, and that feelings and people mean more to you than God and his purpose for your life. And when we aren’t honest about the condition of our hearts, we become angry and aloof instead.
Finding Purpose in the Struggle
The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Genesis 32:27-28 (NIV)
God changed Jacob’s identity from deceiver to one who overcomes. But Jacob had to wrestle for God to transform him. Are you wrestling?
The struggle is what helps us build convictions and bond in relationships. The most internally weak, disconnected, and detached Christians are those who are unwilling to go through the struggle.
Whatever you’ve gone through over the past several years has not been in vain—it’s been God preparing you for a greater purpose.
19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Psalm 105:19 (NLT)
When God allows us to be tested and trained, our choice must be to seek him rather than give up in bitterness.
The Way Out
13 The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NCV)
The way out begins with honesty… in your marriage, about your emotions and heart, and about your need for God.
4 He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. 5 For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. 6 If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. 7 unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:6 (NCV)
Who is someone in your life who needs your friendship? How can you help them?
God Is Faithful!
I will cry to God Most High, to God Who finishes all things for me.
Psalm 57:1-3 (NIV)
There is nothing more inspiring than when we see God finishing things we never believed could happen.
6 God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.
Philippians 1:6 (NCV)
What decisions do you need to make?
- Honest Prayers (Psalm 73) → Take time to pray until you get all your honest emotions and thoughts out to God.
- Honest Conversations → What haven’t you and your spouse been unified about?
- Honest Friendships → Who can you share your struggle with?