I have a confession to make. I REALLY like survivor-type reality TV shows. There I said it.
But before you go storming off wondering how someone like me could actually watch shows like this, let me share a few characteristics of these programs:
- In many instances, men and women are dropped off in the middle of nowhere and are left to survive on their own for multiple days at a time.
- They have NOTHING. No food, no water, no shelter and in some cases, no clothes. Yikes!
- The goal? To see if you can survive with nothing.
- They are surrounded by wildlife, including BIG cats. There are no guarantees of safety.
- People who are VERY different surround them on a daily basis. They have to learn to get along together.
I’ll admit, these shows really intrigue me. I’m amazed at how people can survive when they have nothing. As I watch these shows, I often wonder if I would survive even one day. Honestly, I would probably roll up in a ball and cry. I just don’t want to be left alone in the wilderness, hungry, scared and fighting for my life.
But yet, as I’ve watched these programs, I can’t help but think of Jesus and His wilderness experience; an experience He had right before He entered into His public ministry.
In Matthew 4:13-17 we read about Jesus being baptized by John. And as He was baptized and came up from the water, the heavens opened up and He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove. And then, He heard the voice of God say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
What a moment that must have been, to know that God your Father is well pleased with you.
But, if you keep reading, Matthew 14:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Ok, what just happened? Everything was looking awesome, and now Jesus is headed into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? That sounds more like a punishment than a reward from a God that says He is well pleased. And not only was Jesus in the wilderness, but He was fasting; He was hungry. And of course, the devil took advantage of this; he tempted Jesus for 40 days.
There were three specific temptations that Jesus encountered in the wilderness:
- The temptation to meet a real need (like hunger) in a wrong way.
- The temptation to “use” God for his own benefit.
- The temptation to take a shortcut towards power and fame.
Take a moment to think this through. Is it any surprise that Satan would tempt Jesus while He’s hungry and right before He enters into His public ministry, in these three specific ways? I truly believe that Satan was doing whatever he could to keep Jesus from moving forward into the assignment, the calling, and the ministry that He was called to. Satan wanted to destroy Jesus and the influence that he knew He would have. And guess what? I know that Satan wants to do the same thing to those of us who have been called.
I honestly believe that when God calls us, we will experience a time in the “wilderness.” A time when we’re tired, weak and really questioning whether or not God has called us. It’s a time where we start wondering if we really heard God. We’ve tried to move forward but obstacles keep popping up. People keep trying to convince us to go in another direction. The funds are running low. And really, there are more questions than there are answers. And the tiredness has set in. You’re just ready to throw the towel in (just like many do on the survivor-type shows).
But if you take a moment to think this through, isn’t it interesting that Jesus went through this wilderness experience right before He launched His public ministry? And yet, He didn’t give in to the temptations of the enemy. Instead, He proclaimed the Word of God back to the enemy. And after the third temptation and hearing the Word of God for the third time, it says, “Then the devil left Him and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:11).
What does this have to do with us? Actually, quite a bit:
- The wilderness helps prepare you for your God assignment: As much as I don’t like wilderness experiences, I know they are necessary. It is through these experiences that we not only draw closer to God, but we become fully aware of our need for Christ and what it is that we are really made of. As John Maxwell says, “During this time, our motives get purified, our backbone solidifies and our calling gets clarified.”
- The enemy will come at you when you are at your weakest: It’s not surprising that the enemy took advantage of Jesus’ hunger. And guess what? He does the same with us. When he sees us at our weakest, when we start questioning and doubting everything, you can bet that he’s going to come in and start messing with our minds.
- The Word of God is vital to overcoming the lies of the enemy: Jesus combated the enemy by proclaiming the Word of God at every temptation that was thrown to Him. This is key for us. If we want to resist the lies that the enemy is feeding us, we must be prepared today. We must know the Word of God. This is the one thing that will keep us from falling prey to his schemes.
- The wilderness will cause you to see and know what you really believe: It’s easy to say we believe in God, but when things get tough, do we really act out on what we believe? Do we really believe God and what He has shared with us? If He’s called us, then we will not give in to the lies that the enemy tries to feed us to keep us from moving forward.
- There is more at stake than you can see right now: Andy Stanley says every time you are tempted, there are three things that are at stake: your future, someone else’s future and your faith. When temptation comes, you only see the here and now. But truthfully, there are so many other things that are riding on your decision to give in or power through:
Your calling: If you give in to the lies that God didn’t really call you, your future is at stake. You’ll end up living a life that God never intended for you to live. Instead of experiencing all that God had for you, you’ll live a life that is less than fulfilling.
Someone else’s future: God gives each of us a calling not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others and to ultimately, bring Him praise and glory. If you give-up your calling due to the lies of the enemy, think about all the other people that will miss out on experiencing God because you chose to believe the enemy instead of God.
Your Faith: The wilderness experience allows you to put action to your words, your belief, and your faith. Your faith will either grow during this time period, or shrivel up.
Maybe today you find yourself in the wilderness and at a crossroads. You are having to decide whether or not to truly trust and believe what it is that God shared with you, or to turn away and fall for the lies and doubts that the enemy has been trying to persuade you with.
Friend, let me encourage you, don’t let the enemy win in your life. Just like Jesus, this wilderness experience is preparing you for what God has in the future for you. As hard as it may be, keep trusting and believing the words that God has spoken to you. He will come through!