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In The Desert

Good morning everyone. I pray that this missive finds you well and blessed. Today I am going to stray from 1 Peter, we’ll return to Peter next week. Pastor Hood parched on Jesus’ desert experience on Maundy Thursday at 2Gather2Gether. His sermon got me thinking about what I had always thought was my desert experience. The Holy Spirit revealed to me I was wrong. Please allow me to explain.

Many of us have been in this desert experience that our Lord Jesus went through. I am going to use Mark’s version to begin. Mark 1:9-13,

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.”

Jesus is baptized, and anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Father gives his blessing upon Jesus, and here, we see (and hear) the Holy Trinity. All three are involved in this baptism of Jesus. So, this is a significant event. Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s accounts state that at the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Jesus goes into the desert with Satan.

Now, Satan is no stranger to Jesus. They know each other and have known each other for a long time. Jesus spends 40 days in the desert with Satan. He does not eat at all during this time.

People have tended to generalize this experience over the years. We water this desert experience down to the point that we confuse this teaching of Jesus, relating it to all of our bad experiences in life. But it's not just about bad times or our worst times.

I look to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in what happens here with Jesus. Understand that the Holy Spirit is not involved here to overcome any sin in Jesus, because he was sinless. The Holy Spirit is involved to equip Jesus for his upcoming work as the Messiah.

For you and I, The Holy Spirit, among many other things, helps us to understand our sinfulness (conviction), guides us in seeking forgiveness (through confession), and facilitates the assurance of forgiveness, that feeling that we really are forgiven. This was obviously not necessary for Jesus. However, this is absolutely necessary for all of us.

But the Holy Spirit also is with us to help equip us, just as he did Jesus.

Bad things happen to us, we all know this. But everything bad that happens to us is not us, in a desert experience. A hangover is not a desert experience. A poor choice in a relationship, with the resulting drawn-out drama is not a desert experience. Getting mad and quitting your job, then complaining about being unemployed, is not a desert experience. These are the result of our poor choices, the result of poor decision-making. If there is one thing that all people need help with today, it is decision-making.

Most of the time, when bad things happen in our lives, these are trials and tribulations. God is testing our faith, and he is with us in all of these. Strengthening us, preparing us, maturing us, in the faith.

But a desert experience is much more unique. It is a rare experience in our lives, maybe once or twice, when we are at, usually a spiritual crossroads of some sort.

Mine (or what I thought was mine) was as I was running from my call to preach. I was called to preach at a revival in 1992. The evangelist at this revival stopped mid-sermon and declared, “The Holy Spirit just told me that someone here has been called to preach. Would this person please raise their hand.” Well, I knew it was me, but I was so gobsmacked that I could not respond, nor did I want to respond. Thus began my run from my call to ministry.

Fast forward 14 years, and I was reminded of this call at another service. I knew I had to respond, I couldn’t keep running from God. Then, God began to narrow down my options. God was pursuing me.

Then my pride intervened. The Bible calls this being stiff-necked. This describes me all right. As God narrowed my choices, I got my feelings hurt. I complicated the situation by getting mad at God, deciding to not read my Bible to “teach God a lesson”. This was a dumb mistake. This was a bad decision on my part. Because, with this bad decision I turned a trial into what I thought was a desert experience. But it wasn’t a desert experience. It was a test that, when coupled with my poor decision, based on pride, became a worst-case scenario. All because of me making a difficult situation worse.

Just when I was needing to hear more and more from God, I shut down the primary source that helps me to hear God. In doing this, I also shut down my access to God’s Spirit. My attitude was so bad, and my teachable spirit so poor, that it was difficult for me to relate to anything spiritual.

Take it from me, do not do this. Because I was stubborn and proud, I had an ego bruise from God. I was teaching God a lesson. Think about that. There is nothing that any of us can teach God. Don’t do this. Do not do what I did.

Finally, I came to my senses and I swallowed my pride. Have you ever done this with God? Sheepishly, I had to admit my foolishness and submit my will and pride to him.

I pleaded with God for a sign. I asked God for a sign that he was listening to me, and God sent a deer, as I walked, that almost ran over me. Just a few seconds after I asked God for a sign. I am not making this up. That deer had to start running before I asked God. So, God foreknew that I was going to ask for a sign. I cannot make this stuff up. I’m not that smart.

My point for all of this? No matter what difficulties you are experiencing, it is not God’s fault. It’s Satan’s doing. God wants to help you through whatever situation it is that you are going through. Blaming God will just complicate and delay you getting through your bad times.

When bad things happen, go to God, draw close, and get into the word. How did Jesus defeat Satan in the desert? He used the Word of God. For every temptation, Jesus had a scripture. READ YOUR BIBLE.

Stay in the word, and let God’s Spirit reveal to you what you need to know, and what scriptures you need to read. Let God’s Spirit equip you for whatever confronts you. You may avoid what seems to be a desert experience.

The Holy Spirit did it for Jesus. He did it for me. God’s Spirit will do it for you.

Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.


Thad Brown

Opportunity House

and Harmony UMC

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