Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Finding God in the Desert, Part 4

Leslie Basham: When you were given tests in school, what was the teacher trying to find out? How well you could take a test? Probably not. What the teacher really wanted to find out was how well you knew the material.

Sometimes God allows us to undergo tests as well. His tests can come in the form of an illness, a difficult relationship or as we're talking about all this week, a desert experience. A dry time that requires faith and courage. Today on Revive Our Hearts, we join a small group of women as Nancy Leigh DeMoss takes us to God's classroom to find out why tests are so vital to our faith. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The first purpose, as we go back to the children of Israel in the Old Testament and review their desert experience, is that God wants to test us. You know that in school when a teacher wants to find out if the students have learned the material, what does the teacher do? Give a test. Sometimes it's a pop quiz. Sometimes it's a mid-term or final exam. But the purpose of a test is to find out if we've learned the material.

When we go back to the Book of Exodus, we find the children having come through the Red Sea and now they are in the desert. In Exodus 15, the Scripture says, "Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur" (v. 22) and there the Lord tested them (v. 25).

Next chapter, Exodus chapter 16, they end up in the desert called the Desert of Sin. "The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin (v. 1). "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and I will see whether they will follow My instructions'" (v. 4).

A few chapters later, we find the children of Israel in another desert--the Desert of Sinai. And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."

When we come to the Book of Deuteronomy, the children of Israel now have been through forty years in the desert and Moses is reviewing for them what God has done for them in the midst of those desert experiences. And he says in Deuteronomy chapter 8, "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" (v. 2).

So when God tests us through the desert, what is He trying to find out? And really, it's not as much a matter of what He's trying to find out as what He's trying to reveal to us. I think there are at least three things God wants to reveal to us through this test.

First of all, He reveals what is really in our hearts. It's in the desert, when we're in the midst of testing and pressure that what we really are comes out. Any woman can be sweet and gracious and kind when everything in her life is going right. But when you're in the midst of the desert, when you're being squeezed and pressed, what really is in your heart will come out.

Through this testing, He also reveals the answer to this question: Will we be obedient? And especially, will we obey God when we can't see the outcome of our obedience? Will we be obedient when God's ways don't make sense to our feeble minds? Will we be obedient when God's ways don't seem to be working?

I've heard so many women over the years say, "I tried to do it God's way, but it just didn't work. My circumstances are still difficult." That's a test. Will I obey God even when it seems that it's not working?

There's a third thing that tests reveal--the test of the desert, and it's the answer to this question: Will we trust Him? When it looks like our needs are not being met? When, as the children of Israel experienced, there's no water? That's a pretty basic need in life. You can't make it long without water. When there's no food? When we're panic-stricken and we think there's no hope? There's no resource? There's nowhere to turn? There's no solution to this problem? When it seems that there is no hope, will we trust Him?

So, God has a purpose in the desert and the first one is to test us. To expose what's really in our hearts and to help us see if we will be obedient and if we will trust Him.

Now, there's a second purpose of God in the desert. God uses the desert to humble us. We read in Deuteronomy chapter 8 and I want to read that verse again that "God led you all the way in the desert these forty years to humble you." The passage goes on, God "humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna" (v.3).

Now, as I was reflecting on this passage last week, I found myself wondering, why did the children of Israel need to be humbled? Hadn't they just been all those years in Egypt being servants, slaves of Pharaoh? Why did they need to be humbled? You know, I don't know the answer to that question but one thing I do know, God had a purpose for His nation.

Remember that God was going to bring a Savior out of this nation. God had a redemptive plan that was far bigger than that particular generation or those particular people. And God knew that in order for His perfect plan to be fulfilled, the children of Israel needed more humility.

You see, God wanted to pour His grace out on the Israelites. And not only on the Israelites but on successive generations who would believe in Him. And how do you get God's grace? The Scripture says humble yourself and God will pour grace upon you.

They needed to be humbled and it was in the desert that God humbled them, causing them to hunger. Now, we don't like to think that God would be the one who would cause us to have problems. But as an expression of His love and in keeping with His purposes in our lives, He sometimes does cause us to have those problems, those difficult circumstances so that He can humble us.

And so, He tests us, He humbles us and then in the desert, God teaches us. We're still in Deuteronomy chapter 8. Here, let me read on in that passage, it says, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the lord" (v. 3).

God uses the desert to teach us things that we might not be willing or ready to learn if we weren't in the desert. And what is God wanting to teach us? Well, I think the primary thing God wanted to teach the children of Israel, as He dealt with these basic issues of food and water that you need to survive, God wanted to teach them (and He wants to teach us) total reliance upon Him. To look to Him as our sufficiency. To look to Him to meet our needs.

You see, naturally, we don't rely on God. Naturally, we rely on ourselves or we rely on others. And as long as we have resources to meet our needs, we won't tend to rely on God. So God, who wants us to totally trust in Him, will sometimes strip us of the things we think we most need and lead us to where we are utterly, absolutely dependent upon Him.

You see in Egypt, the children of Israel had lots of meat. They had learned to look to Pharaoh to meet their needs. God wanted them to depend totally upon Him.

The apostle Paul speaks of this experience in his own life, learning to depend totally upon God. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1, he details some of the hardships that they experienced when they were in Asia. And he says, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." Sounds like a desert to me. "Indeed," he says, "in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead" (vv. 8,9).

His point was even if this kills us, God can bring life out of death. "He has delivered us," Paul said, "from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us" (v. 10). So in the desert, God teaches us to rely totally on Him, not on ourselves and not on others.

I have a dear friend who is 91 years old and is now in the very last season of his life in a nursing home. I was talking with his son. I said, "Have you ever wondered why God is allowing your dad to have this season of seeming uselessness? Of a desert?"

His son said, "There's no question." He said, "My dad has always been a successful businessman and he's always been able to count on other things--on his bank account, on his reputation, on relationships--people who loved him and admired him. But," he said, "now he's stripped of all of that. None of it matters. It's just down to him and God."

And in this last season of his life, before my dear friend sees the Lord, he's experiencing that for which we were really created--to live in utter total dependence upon God.

You see, we tend to rely on things and people that we can see, but God wants to teach us to depend on what we cannot see: His character, His Word, His grace. To learn that man "does not live on bread alone," the visible realities, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Someone has said that you'll never know God is all you need until He's all that you have. And when He's all that you have, you'll discover that He really is all that you need.

Leslie Basham: We're also making available today, one of Nancy's favorite CDs called "Breath of God." It's filled with Scriptures and music designed to keep your heart focused on God, even during desert experiences.

You can call us for more information at 1-800-759-4569.  And we encourage you to visit our Web site at: www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

It's almost time for today's class to be dismissed. Please be with us tomorrow when Nancy Leigh DeMoss describes how God prepares us for future tasks. Now, let's join Nancy in prayer. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And Lord, when we lean hard upon You, we find that "underneath are the everlasting arms." We will never be more secure than when we're leaning just on You. So teach us to rely, teach us to trust, and teach us to obey when we cannot see. We pray in Jesus' Name, Amen. Leslie Basham:

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

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion