Empowered in the Wilderness
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Luke 4:1 NIV
I imagine the wilderness isn’t high on your list of places you’d like to visit. It certainly doesn’t top my list. Give me oceans, lakes, or mountains with bubbling streams any day.
Yep. I’m a water girl. Something about the way the light glistens atop it stirs my soul. I love its sound, the feel of it on my skin, even the coolness in the air as you get closer to it. Water refreshes in so many ways—which makes the wilderness pretty unappealing.
So I find it surprising that the very first place the Holy Spirit led Jesus after His baptism was the desert.
Does it surprise you too? I mean, Scripture teaches that we’re supposed to follow the Spirit to abundant life. So why would He lead Jesus straight into the desert?
Verse 2 tells us what happened there.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:1-2
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me. The wilderness offered Jesus confrontation from the evil one and an empty belly. Conditions like that tend to defeat most of us. We wallow in our misery and assume that God has abandoned us.
But that’s not what happened to Jesus. Verse 14 describes Jesus at the end of His wilderness adventure:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Did you catch it, dear one? Jesus entered the wilderness under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and He left that wilderness empowered by the Spirit. Notice the Spirit never left Him. But what happened in the wilderness moved Jesus from simply following the Spirit to operating in His power.
Could it be that our own treks into the desert hold that very same purpose? What if our testing in the wilderness holds the key to igniting the power of the Spirit within us?
Listen, dear one. God wastes nothing. Nor does He allow or ordain anything for our lives that He can’t bring great good from. Jesus needed His wilderness experience to fulfill His purpose. If He didn’t, God never would’ve led Him there.
You and I spend our lives trying to avoid the desert. We want to head straight into our Promised Land that flows with milk and honey, endless provision, and rest. But we fail to realize that we’ll never make it into our Promised Land without traveling through the desert. God uses the wilderness to strengthen us in His Spirit so that we can defeat the enemy camping out on our inheritance. We will need to conquer the enemy to take our ground.
So what must you and I do to become empowered in the wilderness instead of defeated by it? We do what Jesus did. We must choose to stand on truth when faced with the enemy’s temptations.
When Satan challenged Jesus to take the easy way out and turn a stone into bread to end His hunger, Jesus replied, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:4).
Over and over, each time Satan tempted Him, Jesus quoted Scripture to refute him.
Beloved, you and I are not strong enough to defeat the enemy on our own. But when we choose to challenge him with God’s truth and stand on His Word, something beautiful happens. The Spirit within us perks up. He rises within us to give us the strength we need to remain standing.
Unfortunately most of us don’t exit our wilderness experiences victoriously. When the Spirit leads us into the desert, instead of drawing on His strength to stand against the enemy’s fiery darts, we succumb to them. We allow the enemy to govern our thinking instead of standing on truth. We feel defeated and remain that way because we haven’t ignited the Spirit within us by choosing to claim and believe the truth of God’s Word.
Many of us even prolong our stays in the wilderness by allowing the enemy’s lies to control our thoughts.
What if you and I learned to do what Jesus did? What if we chose to respond differently in the wilderness? What if we determined to stand on Truth instead of bowing to the enemy’s lies?
I think we’d find what Jesus found. Each time we exercise faith by standing on truth when we don’t feel like it, the Spirit will equip us in our need. We will become stronger and stronger in Him. And when it’s time to exit the wilderness and head toward our destiny, we won’t just follow the Spirit. We’ll go in the power of the Spirit. And we’ll be equipped to claim our ground.
Kind of sheds new light on James 1:2-4, doesn’t it?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
That’s the point of the wilderness, beloved. God doesn’t want you leaving any of your blessings behind.
When one lives in the wilderness long enough, the beauty of the wilderness comes into view. then it is no longer avoided.