Over the last 5 years I have been through an incredibly tough journey. My family have rejected me, I was asked to leave my job as principal and we have lost what we had been building up financially. It is easy to blame God and feel sorry for myself, which is very much a flesh reaction, but instead God is calling me to come close to Him and for Him to prepare me for something that He is doing. He is drawing me into a relationship with Him that is deeper than I ever have experienced before. The hurt and pain are being used to grow, refine and equip me for the things God has for me in the future. I have not felt such pain or have been so excited about my growth in Him.
So what has God been teaching me during this time?
1. It is all about Relationship with Jesus
In my time of wilderness I have discovered that the relationship I have with Jesus is everything. When Moses was leading the people through the wilderness, He was given a choice to walk into the Promise Land with an angel that God would send before them (ie: receive the blessings) or stay in the wilderness and be in God's presence. Moses chose to stay in the wilderness because he knew the relationship with God was far greater in value than any blessing that we could receive or pursue. I choose to pursue God and His Kingdom. And He will give me all things I need. (Matthew 6:33). If I chase the blessings then this makes God extremely sad. As I pursue God, His heart is to bless us greatly as He loves us very much. This relationship also comes with correcting and chastisement which causes us to be corrected and walk in holiness. Just chasing blessings is very immature and causes us to be very shallow Christians.
2. Walking as a son of God
I have discovered that the central message of the Bible is God's desire for us to walk as His sons on the earth. Romans 8 is the heart of the Bible where we are shown how we need to die to our flesh and to live with the Spirit of God in us, where we walk as God's sons. Sons walk in a close relationship with their Father and through this relationship we then can experience all God has for us. If we do not have the Spirit of God then we are not His (v.9).
In Verse 19 says "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God." Creation is waiting for us to walk with God and bring His restoration to the earth as we walk as sons. In verse 21 says "creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God". Wherever we go, we will have creation (including people) so pleased that we have come as sons to bring God's plans and purposes to the earth through us. God's plan was that man would rule over the earth and have dominion over the earth. As sons of God, we can do this as we walk in the Spirit. Our walk on earth becomes an incredible adventure as we are led by the Spirit of God.
3. Dying To The Flesh
It has been very painful to learn what dying to my flesh actually means. It starts when I desire a relationship with Jesus more than anything else in the world. When my relationship with Jesus comes first then I then make choices about what I see as important and what I do. In this wilderness time I have desired to grow my relationship with Jesus so this has meant the things I once found pleasure in are no longer things that I chase. Entertainment, what I read, use of the internet, money and even relationships have changed as my focus has been on being filled and led with His spirit and not my flesh. Dying has been so painful and I have cried more in this time than I have ever in my life, but God is bringing a new balance and way of living that has brought life into my life.
I am now choosing Him and forgoing things that I once enjoyed. I wanted to watch a movie to relax and saw some entertaining movies that I was very keen to watch, but the Holy Spirit convicted me and I instead watched a movie about the Holy Spirit. I was so blessed and thankful that I did not give into the flesh but instead listened to the Holy Spirit.
4. Not To Be Luke Warm
I find this is one of the scariest passages of the Bible. When reading the book titled "A Heart Ablaze, Igniting a Passion for God" I have been convicted of so much in my life that I had been doing wrong. Yes I have been talking about God, praying, reading the Bible and seeking Him. Sadly, in this wilderness time I have had God reveal so much that has saddened God and stopped my from pursuing Him with all my heart. When we are lukewarm we can easily fit into groups and situations that are "Christian" or spiritual even though we are not in a close relationship with Jesus.
In Matthew 2:31-46 Jesus talks about the Son of Man judging the nations. He will separate the sheep from the goats, which is referring to the people who are in the church. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says "“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.". This is a sober warning to live in a way that we are not just paying lip service but are actually wanting to hear what Jesus is calling us to do AND we do it. This i our foundation that we should live on. Jesus will come to judge His church and I plan to be a sheep!
5. We Live In A New Kingdom
When we become a follower of Christ we read in Colossians that when Jesus came to Earth, His mission was to take us from the kingdom or power of darkness and convey or move us to the new kingdom that is ruled by God's Son, Jesus. Jesus has already done this, but we need to choose every day to live in this new spiritual kingdom where Jesus is king or lord and we submit to His ruling. It is a place where we choose to walk in the Spirit and die to the flesh. When we choose to live in this Kingdom we have access to God's power, love and are able to watch Him move in our lives in powerful ways. We are no longer in control of our lives but submit to Jesus who directs our steps and leads us often in paths that are scary, difficult but lead to adventure and life.
6. Dry Bones
God is wanting to release His Spirit into me and my family. The dry bones of my relationship with my wife and daughter God is wanting to breathe His Spirit into and bring us as family to life. I believe He is doing this and I am looking forward to this life coming. Read Ezekiel 37 for this story of Ezekiel standing over the valley of dry bones and God breathing His Spirit into the dead bones. They came to life. Lauren Daigle has an amazing song about dry bones that has really encouraged me through my wilderness time. The song below by Lauren Daigle has really encouraged me as I have wrestled with what has been happening. I trust that His plans are good and I can rest in His love.
7. No Shame - Setting My Face Like Flint
God has shown me that He will help me. I do not have to look back, to second guess or be concerned doubt what will happen will be good. I will set my face like flint or I will continue to look forward at the good things God has for me and my family. Things may not look good but I will continue to look forward at what God has promised and what He is calling us to do as individuals and as a family. Romans 8:1 (NKJV) says "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.". As I learn to walk in the Spirit and die tot he flesh God will ensure I do not live in any condemnation for the past, present or future. There is no shame when I choose to walk as a son of God.
As I learn to follow and imitate Christ, I call upon others to imitate how God is calling me to live. Paul writes " Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." in 1 Corinthians 11:1. This is a huge responsibility. I try not to please others but to please and follow Christ. I choose to walk in godliness and invite others to follow.
8. The Battle Is Christ's Not Mine .. I Just Have To Turn Up.
So often in my life I have thought that I have to fight the battle and get very angry, upset or extremely tired trying to get things to turn out as I think they need to turn out. When I read this account from 2 Chronicles 20, I am reminded that the fight is too big for me. King Jehoshaphat was told that 3 to 4 armies were marching against them and they actually had no hope of winning. The king brought the people together to ask help from the Lord. He reminded God who He was and promised and then Jahaziel the prophet received a word from the Lord saying "Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's"
I cannot understand what God does, but He can fight the battle much better than I ever can. The people got up early the next morning and headed out for battle. The singers led the people singing praises to God. In verse 22 it is where the battle was won. When they began to sing and praise God, God set ambushes against the approaching armies and they were defeated. By the time they had arrived the armies had turned upon each other and they were all dead. Then the fear of the Lord came upon all the surrounding countries and no one had the courage to fight against them for a long time. Instead of this being a terrible defeat, it actually became the place of the greatest victory and the way the surrounding countries could witness the might of God and being in peace. God used the biggest battle to bring the greatest victory that actually brought in a peace that they did not even ask for. God uses the greatest or hardest things to bring in the biggest victories. We just need to bring it to Him, remind ourselves (and God) of His promises and go out with praise and allow Him to fight the battle. Get up, go out and expect God to fight for you.
9. God Created The World For Relationship
I have struggled understanding why God created the world for. Why did he not just bypass this mess and take us to Heaven? When teaching my senior science class we had this discussion, and the light went on. We learn about people and develop a relationship with them through doing things with them. For example, a father would buy an old car and do it up with his son so they would do something together and develop a relationship through the work they do. I believe God has created the world so we could walk with God daily and do the things WITH God that He calls us to do. As we do things with Him we have fun getting to know Him and talking about what we are doing and in fact, do life together. Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. We can walk with God all day as we are filled with His Spirit. I now enjoy doing things with God every day and watching Him work and asking Him what He would like me to do. I have got to know so much of God through doing things with God every day.
10. Wilderness Experiences
For many years I have been in a wilderness experience. Things have been very difficult and I have wondered why God has been allowing these things to happen. I had even questioned my faith. Reading John Bevere's book titled "God Where Are You!" I was able to not only understand the wilderness experience but embrace it as an essential part of my growing up in my faith. It does not have to be negative but when we understand what God is doing we can even be excited and enjoy what God is doing in this time. This time can be very positive as God trains, purifies, strengthens and prepares us for a new move of His Spirit. An escape route before God does what He plans will not only prolong the hardship but might mean we do not grow and become He intends. Beyond the wilderness is a place of maturity, power, blessings, opportunity and fulfilled promises. To me that is a good enough reason to embrace this time of preparation.
In the Bible they key characters all had times of wilderness where God prepared their hearts for the tasks God had for them. As soon as Jesus was baptised God took him to the wilderness for 40 day where he was tested and prepared for the things God had for him. Joseph was given some dreams and then sold as a slave by his brothers and even put in jail for doing what was right. This training prepared him to be second in charge of the land and save his family. King David was anointed as king yet had to endure a relationship with a king that tried to kill him for many years until the time God released him into this role.
11. Chasing The Blessings
It has been a huge wake up call being in the wilderness. I have found the shallowness of chasing the blessings of God. God desires us to be in a relationship with Him. As we come to Him as our father he wants to bless us as His children. God must get so sad when we treat Him like the children of Israel treated him. All they wanted to do is know how to behave so they could be blessed by God. Instead, God desired them to go to the mountain and meet Him face to face and get to know Him. Through knowing Him, God wants to bless us. He is not a lucky charm, a way of getting what we want or even a slot machine where we put in a request and out pops what we want. As we come to God we trust that He will give us the desires of our hearts. My desire I found was actually an idol and God has removed that idol. Now He is able to bless me with far more than I could ever think or imagine.
God is saddened when we want a relationship with Him just so He can bless us. I am so happy just being in a close relationship with Him. I am so overjoyed when He blesses me, but it is not why I love Him and have a relationship with Him.
In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus talks about how He provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. We need not worry but have faith that if He will provide for his creation, we are much more important and He will provide for us. We just seek His Kingdom first and He will give us what we need. I have noticed that He gives us even more than what we need as He is an amazing father.
12. Preparing for the New Wine!
I really hate waiting or stopping as when I see something that needs doing I want to get in and fix or prepare of do it immediately. What God is doing in this passage is showing us that there is a process that God uses to fill us with His Spirit. He gives us new things and over time this gets old and He has to re-fill us with the new thing He has for us.
When looking at new wine, it cannot be put into an old wine-skin. If it does it will break. The process involves removing the old wine, restoring or replacing the wine-skin so it will not burst and THEN filling with the new wine. Often this is done in a time of wilderness where we feel that God is not doing much and we are not growing. It may just be a time where God is removing the old wine and preparing for the amazing thing He is preparing us for. I have learnt to be patient and just trust Him through the process.
13. Marriage Teaches Us What God Is Doing With The Church
God is teaching us about the church, His bride and what He is doing. Jesus is the groom and He is preparing His church for His return. We will be spotless and ready to receive our husband. The struggles in marriages are a representation of the struggle the church is having getting ready for the return of Jesus. God is calling married people to represent this relationship and to demonstrate the relationship He is calling us to have through marriage. As we truly understand this then our marriages will mean something totally different and we will live our lives as couples totally different. When we read Ephesians 4-6 we find that we are taught to live as married couples and families, and this is finished with the teaching in spiritual warfare.
14. The Fight Is Not Against Each Other
God has called us to be citizens of a new kingdom. We are now Sons of God who live and belong in the Kingdom of God. We are called not to fight against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. I do not fight against anyone then, but am warring against Satan and his evil hosts. The battle is then fought in prayer and together on our knees NOT against each other. It is time to stop fighting against each other and instead fight against the one who is behind the hatred and disunity in our relationships. When we do this then we will be able to get the true victory.
I pray that this will encourage you as you seek Him and face the things God places in front of you. I am working hard to put together summaries of books and resources that may encourage you in your journey. Remember, it all needs to happen through your relationship with Jesus.