I Won a Free Vacation!

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. Matthew 4:1-2

Sorry I've been away so long. The Lord had a little trip planned for me. Remember how I was hoping I wouldn't have to go to Africa? Well, though the Lord has not taken me to the desert of Africa, He did lead me into a desert lately. Just like I'm not a fan of literal deserts, I'm not a fan of spiritual deserts that much, either, though they do have the advantage of wild animal-less, air conditioned environments.

When I see our sweet little Sam running around our house in nothing but a diaper with his little round belly and chubby thighs, I think it might not be so bad to have a few more of him. (Please no overreacting, people.) But then I remember all the hard parts and I'm a bit more reluctant. You don't get chubby thighs and slobbery kisses without back pain, extra pounds, and sleepless nights. Bummer.

That's the way God set this life up. You don't get gain without a little pain. You don't get the oasis without a little time in the desert. Why? I don't completely know the answer to that because I'M NOT GOD (though I spend lots of time acting like I think I am), but I do know a few things about it, having lived almost 25, or maybe 35, years now. (Okay, I'm going to have to pause a minute and let the fact sink in.....whew, I can go on now.)

First of all, the deserts expose our true desires or lack of them. When we're hungry and thirsty, reduced to those basic cravings, we see what it is exactly that we crave. When you're desperate, are your appetites and desires for holy, godly things or earthly, carnal things? I was unpleasantly surprised to see how many strong fleshly desires still reside right under the surface of my spirituality. My flesh cried out to be satisfied with the temporary, fleeting things of this world while my spirit told me that my desires should be for God and the Words of His mouth. So I battled. I had to force myself to go to the Word that I wasn't craving and not the world that I was.

I felt like indulging my pride, my selfishness, my laziness. I didn't feel like continuing in Bible study or investing in others (especially my family). The question is, do you go with what you feel to be true or what you know to be true? Do you give into the flesh and wallow in the mud or do you choose the Spirit and wash yourself in the pure, clean water of His Word? Do you run after the praise of men, seeking the things that make you jealous, indulging in the things that leave you miserable or do you seek the praise of God, the things that make you holy, and the things that ultimately satisfy?

Secondly, deserts test our faith. When you can't feel the presence of the Lord, do you still believe He's there? Do your actions and thoughts reflect your trust in Him when you feel like He's abandoned you? Will you choose to stand on His promises when you feel like you're standing on quicksand?

A faith that has not been tested is no faith at all. If we could see God with our eyes and know His whole plan from beginning to end, we wouldn't need faith. Similarly, if we always felt His presence, we wouldn't have to choose to trust. When the enemy comes calling, who are we going to believe? The one whispering lies in our ears or the One who spoke us into existence?

The lies, for me, usually go something like, "You're a big fat failure. People think you're some super Christian, but do you even love God? You're not willing to do anything for Him. You're selfish and prideful and full of sin. You stink as a parent and a wife and a friend and a leader. Just quit trying. You can't feel God right now because He's sick of you and your sin. You'll never be like so-and-so, so quit pretending." I know enough to recognize the lie, but sometimes it still seems so believable. Sometimes it sounds an awful lot like truth, especially when my emotions are confirming it.

Once again, it comes down to choice. The enemy came at Jesus at His weakest point and whispered lies to Him that sounded an awful lot like truth. In fact, it was taken right from the truth of God's Word! But you know how we can always recognize the lie? Its focus. Are the thoughts in your head focused on Jesus or yourself? Are you gazing at your own weakness or failures or unfulfilled desires or doubts? Or are you looking at Christ and His sufficiency and His completed work on the cross and His promises to you? Which one will you believe?

I wish I could say that I passed my desert experience with flying colors like Jesus did. There were many moments I gave into the lie. But, I can say that I fared better than I have in the past. I chose to do the things I had committed to do for the Lord even when everything in me screamed out to run away. I chose to go to His Word, though it was the last thing I wanted to read. I tried, in the fog of my pain and hunger and weakness, to remember what He has said about me...that I am loved, I am His, there is nothing that can tear me apart from Him, and that He will complete what He began in me.

Next time you look up and find that you've been led from the oasis to the desert, from the mountain top to the valley...look to Him. Cry to Him. Seek Him. Don't give in to that lion that is so eager to devour you. For though the lion has shown up to tempt you, it is the Shepherd that led you to the desert...not to tempt you or destroy you, but to expose where more work needs to be done and to prove whether or not your faith is genuine enough to pull you through to completion.

Cling desperately to His Word, His promises, His sufficiency, His faithfulness. He's not out to let you starve. He's out to make you more hungry for Him than you've ever been before...and then to satisfy that hunger like you never knew was possible.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ " Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:10-11


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