In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
—2 Timothy 2:20
This is the third message in my series on preparing for your calling. Follow this link if you missed the last two messages in this series. Last week I talked about how Simon, Peter, James and John dropped everything to follow Jesus. Once they made that choice, Jesus began to teach them and perform miracles in their sight.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
After witnessing those miracles and hearing Jesus’ longest recorded teaching (Matthew 5-7), the disciples’ were suddenly overtaken by a storm.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
We seem to have great faith when we first start following Christ and see the wonderful miracles He works in us. Things were amazing when I started following Christ. I still remember that feeling. Life was wonderful! I remember my baptism. I was beaming ear to ear as I stood up in front of my church and family and confessed Jesus was my Lord. I thought nothing in the world could bring me down.
I wish someone would have informed me what to expect next. Right after baptism I was thrown into a storm as I was led into a spiritual wilderness. The Bible explains why God led the Israelites into the wilderness, which I believe is the same reason He leads us into it spiritually.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and revering him.
… He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.
Deuteronomy 8:2-6, 15-16
God leads us into a spiritual wilderness to empty us and fill us with His Word so that we can be equipped to live by faith. We believed God for salvation and when He first poured out His blessings on us. But will we believe Him with the rest of our lives? Will we believe His Word when the devil starts throwing his fiery darts at us? Will we believe Him when people come against us? Will we stand on His Word when our flesh wants to give into temptation? Will we stand believing Him to persevere when everything in us wants to give up and call it quits?
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7, KJV
Our spiritual wilderness is necessary to strengthen our faith and prepare us for victory in the battles that lie ahead. Without these times of testing, we wouldn’t have the strength to stand in faith until Jesus returns. I didn’t understand this when God started disciplining (instructing, training) me. For many years I thought He was punishing me. I remember constantly apologizing even when I wouldn’t do anything wrong, just in case I missed something. I constantly thought He was mad at me. I envisioned Him sitting there doing nothing while I struggled from one pit to the next. I didn’t understand that God was trying to empty me to weaken my flesh and fill me with His Word to strengthen my spirit.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
John 3:30, KJV
A couple years ago, I was trying to teach my daughter something in her homeschool curriculum. She was so negative that I couldn’t teach her what I wanted to. She prevented herself from learning because she was insistent that she would never be able to get it. One day when I had enough of her resistance I shouted, “Will you stop fighting me and just let me teach you!!!” As I shouted those words out, I thought how many times God must say that to me.
I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
“But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.
“Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, And turn My hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him, But their fate would endure forever.
He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; And with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.
If I would’ve understood what God was trying to teach me, I wouldn’t have resisted Him and wasted so many years going around the same mountain. If you feel stuck right now, and it looks like you’re never leaving this place, stop beating yourself up and let God teach you. I heard a preacher recently say that being down on ourselves is being self-centered and prideful. God has to humble us first before He can work in us. He has to empty us before He can fill us. The faster we humble ourselves the faster God can work in us, and the faster we’ll reach our calling. Open your mouth wide and let Him fill you up!
I praise You for leading me into a spiritual wilderness so that I will be fully equipped to live out my calling. Help me not to resist the work You are doing in me. Empty me and weaken my flesh. Fill me with Your Word and strengthen my spirit so I can live by faith until Jesus returns.
In Jesus’ name, I pray! Amen!