FLORIDA, March 30, 2013 — Recently, I was reading the account from Matthew 4 where Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit of God to be tempted by the devil. Sounds odd, doesn’t it, God leading His precious Son into a wilderness so that the devil could tempt Him?
Thankfully for all of us, Jesus Christ passed the test. He didn’t give in to His flesh. He didn’t take matters into His own hands. He didn’t question God’s faithfulness and provision. He didn’t seek His own agenda. He didn’t seek to please people. Rather, Jesus kept His heart and mind focused on His Father and His purpose. In the end, Jesus left the wilderness strengthened and ready for His ministry here on earth, a ministry that impacted the world for all eternity. A ministry that ultimately changed my life, and yours!
Throughout 2012, I prayed that God would refine me. I asked Him to examine my life and the ministry He had entrusted me with and to reveal things that needed to be pruned away so that I could truly become the person He designed me to be and so that my ministry could reach God’s people exactly as He intended.
I never really thought about what I was asking God to do. I had heard people say, “Don’t ever pray for patience!” But no one had ever warned me not to pray about being refined! I didn’t realize that this refining process would literally turn my life and ministry upside down. I didn’t realize it would lead me through a wilderness, a place where I simply didn’t want to be, a place that was uncomfortable, challenging, lonely, and to be completely honest, painful. A place where my emotions and physical self would continually be put to the test.
One thing that has kept me encouraged during this refining process is the truth I see in Matthew 4: If God’s children stay true to Him and avoid giving in to their flesh, like Jesus, they can emerge from the wilderness prepared and strengthened for the life and ministry God has prepared for them.
Although refinement is never pleasant, I’m learning that it is truly necessary if a Christian wants to be made into the image of God and if we want our lives to be used by Him in a more powerful way. Just as a test is necessary in school to reveal that a concept is truly understood, God allows His children to go through tests to reveal weaknesses in our flesh (our thoughts, attitudes, and actions) and to highlight areas where we aren’t relying on Him. He also uses these tests to prove areas where we are strong.
There are two ways we can emerge from these tests: bitter or better. We can emerge exhausted and filled with hate; or, we can emerge energized and filled with hope.
Above all, Satan desires our testing time in the wilderness to destroy us. The Bible says Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He knows our weak spots. He also knows when we are weak and tired. He brings trials (often during our weakest physical moments) in hopes that the weaknesses in our flesh will flare up and consume us, as well as those around us.
God, on the other hand, desires for these fiery tests to expose weaknesses in our attitudes, thoughts, actions, and beliefs so that our weak spots can be purified by His Spirit. He wants the impurities burned off of our lives so that we can reflect His image.
Unlike Satan, God wants us to have victory. Through His Son and His Spirit, He even makes a way for us to have this victory.
If you’ve found yourself in a wilderness, be encouraged; if you let it, this time of testing can be the best experience of your life. No, it won’t be easy. It won’t be comfortable. It may hurt more than anything you’ve ever been through in your life. But as you keep your eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of your faith, and as you keep your heart open to His correction, you will emerge on the other side stronger in your faith, perfected in your character, closer to God, and able to be used by Him in a greater way. That makes your trip through the wilderness worth it all.
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