Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Finding God in the Desert, Part 1

Leslie Basham:N It's September 6, and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Today on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy will help us know why we shouldn't despair in times of trouble. Whether your difficulties are the result of wrong choices or a mysterious part of God's ultimate plan, you can be sure that help is on the way. Here, speaking to a small group of women, is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: At once, the Spirit sent Him out into the desert and He was in the desert 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals and angels attended Him." So, we see first the baptism of Jesus and then this experience for 40 days in the desert or in the wilderness. Now, I've never lived in the desert but when I think about physical deserts, here are some words that come to my mind: I think of a place that is dry. I think of something that is barren. I think of hot days and cold nights. I think of the desert as a place that is lonely, isolated, not a lot of houses near each other.

You know, the desert in a physical sense is a picture of some of those seasons of our lives that we would describe as dry, or difficult and maybe we think they go on forever and ever. Jesus went through a period of time in His life that was a desert experience. Now, He was in a literal physical desert but it was also a time where He had a life experience that was a desert. And perhaps no one ever told you before you became a Christian, but the fact is that if you're a child of God, you will also go through seasons of your life that are desert experiences.

In this session today, we want to talk about the desert experiences of our lives. What are they like? What are some of the characteristics of the desert? And why does God allow us to go through those desert experiences? In fact, why does God sometimes send us into desert experiences? And then, we're gonna look at how God meets us and provides for us and ministers to us in the midst of the desert experiences of our lives. Now, the first thing that stands out to me in the passage we just read is that deserts often follow times of unusual blessing or unusual victory, great spiritual victories or times of great blessing. We see that this was true in the life of Jesus. In the first verses we read, beginning in verse nine, we see Jesus going through this experience of His baptism, where He is being publicly recognized by God at the beginning of His earthly ministry. This was an incredible experience. We see that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove.

We see that God spoke to Jesus in the hearing of all those who were watching and God affirmed His love for Jesus. God affirmed You are my Son--God affirmed we have a relationship. This was a powerful, close encounter between God and the Lord Jesus--the Heavenly Father and the Son here on earth. This was the experience by which Jesus was launched into His earthly ministry.

Now, we have this mountain-top experience where God just reveals Himself in such a powerful way and then Mark tells us in verse 12, "At once, the Spirit sent Him into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days." A place where there were wild animals, temptation, hunger--we'll see some of the things that took place in Jesus' experience. One writer has said it this way, "After benediction comes battle."

Now, the Israelites in the Old Testament had many experiences of this type. They knew what it was to have great encounters and experiences with God but they also knew what it was like to have desert experiences. In fact, in the book of Exodus, chapter 15 through 17, we have three accounts of the Children of Israel having a great experience with the power of God and then immediately following that, having a desert experience. Let me read to you some of those accounts and I'm just picking selected verses from those chapters.

Beginning in Exodus, chapter 15, we have the end of the story of the crossing of the Red Sea. The Children of Israel had been delivered out of Egypt by God's great hand, they had been taken by God through the Red Sea and the Scripture says that when Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. And then the people sang this song, "Sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted. The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea." Next verse, "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the desert." The desert of Shur.

For three days, they traveled in the desert without finding water. So, first they had this great experience of God's deliverance, a time of great blessing and spiritual victory, and immediately, God leads them through His servant Moses into the desert. Later in the same chapter, Scripture says they came to a place called Elim, where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees. It was an oasis. And they camped there near the water. I'm sure they were relieved to be at this place of blessing and plenty, and perhaps just hoped they could stay there for the rest of their lives. But the next verse, chapter 16, verse one of the book of Exodus, tells us the whole Israelite community set out from Elim and they came to the desert. The desert--this one was the desert of Sin. From the place of blessing immediately into the desert. The same thing happens again in chapter 17; we have two accounts that took place at a place called Rephidim. This was a place of great blessing and abundance. This was the place, you will remember, where the Children of Israel had no water. And God said to Moses, "Strike the rock, and water will come out of the rock." And that's exactly what happened.

Two million thirsty Jews there in the middle of this dry and barren wilderness and at God's instruction, Moses strikes the rock, the water comes gushing forth, their thirst is quenched--it's a place of great abundance and blessing. That took place at Rephidim.

Same chapter, they have another great spiritual victory. As the Amalekites come and fight against the Israelites, Moses sends Joshua out to lead the Children of Israel and Moses holds up his hands. Aaron and Hur stand by and hold up his arms as he gets weary and the Children of Israel fight under the power of God's Spirit. They win that battle against the Amalekites. It's a great spiritual victory.

So, they've had the water coming out of the rock, they've had this great victory at Rephidim. Now, chapter 19, verse one, "In the third month, after the Israelites left Egypt, on that very day, they came to the desert of Sinai." So, we see that desert experiences often follow times of unusual blessing or victory or plenty. I can think sometimes of having this great quiet time, God just speaks to me through His Word and I'm encouraged and challenged and I've had this fresh meeting with the Lord. Sometimes, it's not three minutes before I'm out of that holy place and I've lost it. After benediction comes battle.

Some of the times when I've experienced the greatest fruitfulness in ministry and just seen the power of God at work in the lives of people, and immediately following those times have been some of my darkest and lowest and most difficult moments. I frequently find that the next stop after the time of blessing, victory and plenty is the desert. The problem is that we have this expectation that after a great spiritual experience or a great blessing, we think it's just gonna stay that way. We want to just camp out there and live at that oasis. But that's not the plan of God.

And I would say to you, expect to have desert experiences. Don't be surprised. Don't get caught off guard. God isn't caught off guard in those desert experiences.

You see, this is one of the ways of God. This is part of the plan of God. Your desert experience following that time of blessing and plenty is not an accident. God didn't get off His throne when you went into that desert. God has a purpose. He has a plan for you in the midst of that desert. And then, let me say this, that God wants to meet you in the midst of your deserts.

He wants to reveal to you aspects of His character, His heart, His glory and His ways in the midst of the desert that you may not be able to see anywhere else. In fact, we talk about deserts following times of blessing, let me say this to you--your desert can actually become a place of blessing for you. Don't resent it. Don't resist it. Embrace it and remember that in the midst of that desert, God will never abandon you. He's going into that desert with you. You can trust Him.

Leslie Basham: You also may want to order a copy of Nancy's book, A Place of Quiet Rest, for a suggested donation of $15. It will inspire you to develop a deeper devotional life, even during dry desert times. You can also find information about all of Nancy's books and tapes on our Web site, ReviveOurHearts.com.

We hope you can be back with us tomorrow. Nancy will help us understand how we learn to trust God more fully while we're going through desert experiences. Now, here's Nancy with a final thought for today. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That You will reveal Yourself to them in the desert. May they see Your glory and Your grace and find blessing that they might not have found any other way or in any other place. Thank you, Lord for taking us into deserts. And thank You for leading us through the deserts,and for what You accomplish in our lives in the midst of the desert. I pray in Jesus' name, amen. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministries.

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