George Methodist Church Soul stories
21st October 2018 With Peter Veysie
The desert experience.
Our stay in the desert and climbing Masada and Ein Gedi the dead sea.
“The hardest struggles we face have the greatest potential to teach us patience and endurance.”
Here are just a few examples of desert experiences :John the Baptist spent his adult life preaching in the desert of Judea (Matt. 3:1-6; Lk. 1:80; 3:1-6; Mk. 1:1-6). Jesus went into the desert for over a month after his baptism (Mk.
1:12-13; Lk. 4:1-2; Matt. 4:1-2). The apostle Paul spent three years in the desert of Arabia (Gal. 1:17-18) after his con- version. God’s own people spent a generation wandering in the wilderness or desert (Exodus). Why the desert? What was the purpose? Deuteronomy 2
The desert is a place of solitude, of being separated from other people to contemplate and meet God face to face. Some commentators have suggested the desert is where Paul was taught the gospel by God himself, rather than parroting what the other apostles could teach him; he had his own personal encounter with the Lord validating his apostleship.
Jesus was tempted in the desert before he began his public ministry. This was a time of preparation, of perhaps firming His resolve to do the will of His Father. It was not an easy
time. Although angels ministered to His needs, He still had to face what was in Himself as a man through the tempta- tions of Satan.
What does it mean for us to go to the desert today? Going into the desert means more than our daily prayers or our weekly gathering at the church. It means more than read- ing a chapter a day in the Bible or attending spiritual workshops. It’s an acute examination of our life before God – away from distractions, demands, and preconceived ideas of what the Christian life is all about. It’s more than a relaxing, meditative retreat in a lovely woodland setting.
What can you learn in the desert that you won’t learn elsewhere?
- The desert is a place full of hidden surprises and poten- tial.
The desert is a place of extremes in temperatures that is rarely comfortable.
Most people think of the desert as a dry, hot climate. While the temperatures do indeed soar to over 100 degrees, what many don’t realise is that it can also be very chilly at night – the temperature has been recorded to drop up to 100 degrees in one day. It’s a dramatic daily change that you can’t help but notice. Being prepared for the climate necessitates an odd array of clothing and protection. The truly moderate times of the day are relatively brief; most of the day it is either unbearably hot or cold.
A time of quiet self-examination before God can also help us to see the extremes in our own nature, both good and bad.
- The desert is a land of endurance in the face of
Debbie’s endurance climbing up the mountain and staying with her to the top – about 2 km straight up on the snake path at 4am in the morning.
- The desert demands obedience to its rhythms of the day for
Obviously, a literal visit to the desert is not feasible for most, nor is it necessary to do so in order to understand the lessons of the desert. We can, however, take that jour- ney in our spirits and minds. We can seek that solitude and separateness that leads us face-to-face with God. It is a time of being inwardly still and listening for God’s voice in the silent desert.
- Water!!! One of the keys to surviving the desert is wa- Even cacti need an occasional drink to look good.
When the temperatures hits 45 degrees you need to be well watered . Climbing Masada. In scripture water is a metaphor for Jesus filling us with the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit is never scarce in our world, people who live in submission to his power are. Jesus said in John
4:13-14,“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Stay hydrated Not only could I survive in the heat if I kept drinking, but I could thrive if I stayed hydrated. So the first lesson I learned was to drink as much water as I could be-
fore the day ever started. Starting the day hydrated, like starting the day with the Holy Spirit’s infilling was crucial. I also learned it was important to keep being hydrated throughout the day. I couldn’t just drink 500ml of water and expect to function at my best; I had to keep drinking all day long. In life there are physical deserts and there are spiritual deserts. For me to survive in circumstances which feel like a spiritual desert it is not enough to have a morn- ing quiet time. When I find myself feeling like I dwell in a dry and weary place I need to be in conversation with Je- sus all day long. I learned at work that what I drank mat- tered. Caffeine and sugary sodas eventually would lead to my dehydration and the physical symptoms which would follow. This picture of Jesus being our living water is very important when we find ourselves living in a spiritual waste land.
- Three hard questions Jesus answered in the desert and remember he was led by the Spirit into the desert and tempted by the devil. He had also been fasting for 40 days and
Provision -The first had to do with knowing what is most
important in life—provision in obeying the word of God– and not living only to satisfy the flesh, or making a living, or using spiritual resources just to meet physical needs. Liv- ing by obedience to God has fallen on hard times today when so many are only interested in security of life through investments and entitlements, or indulging them- selves in the good things of life. Seeking the good life can truly crowd out the spiritual things.
Protection –The second temptation had to do with protec- tion and trusting God. Those who truly know God and ex- perience the reality of their faith daily do not need to find something spectacular to convince themselves and others. Power/worship The third temptation was about power and worship. There is a way to accomplish His plan for your life, and it calls for absolute worship and obedience to Him. But Satan always offers shortcuts, that if looked at careful- ly, will ruin your life.
The attending angels who take care of us. When going through a desert experience don’t go it alone even if you are in rebellion. You need to surround yourself with people who love and care for you.
Scriptures to look at : Deuteronomy 2: 1-7
Matthew 3: 1 -6
Luke 1:80, 3:1-6
Matthew 4:1 -2
Galatians 1:17 -18
- What are some of your experiences in a real desert ?
- Have you experienced a spiritual desert and what helped you in coping with it ?
- How do you keep spiritually hydrated ?
- Describe some of the challenges in life with regards to provision, protection and