Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. Luke 4:1-2
We saw a lot of beautiful lonely places on our recent vacation through Michigan’s upper peninsula and Wisconsin. Now granted, because I am married to a woman, there were several non-rugged spots along the way. B&B’s, afternoon tea, carriage rides, and things men generally defer from mentioning, especially using first person language, or while smiling.
I’ve had many solo wilderness moments in my lifetime, but this trip simply touched the fringe on that real estate. What I might consider “great” by myself, would not have held up as a wonderful experience for us. We enjoyed our vacation because it covered a lot of our shared interests: Scenery, quiet, walks, picnics, solid lodging, and being together. I can go tromp in the woods and get stinky at other times of the year. She doesn’t want to see that. Actually, nobody wants to see that.
What I wanted to talk about, however, is this “wilderness” passage from Luke that I’ve included above. I’ve been preaching through this gospel, and as anyone who teaches the Word will tell you, you can’t exhaustively share in one message everything you have learned and pondered from a passage. So I’ll share here another thought I’ve been mulling over from those verses that introduce Jesus’ testing.
Being sent into the wilderness was the immediate order that followed Jesus’ public presentation and confirmation. Think of it: Jesus, sent to do the Father’s will, is directed by the Father into a firestorm of testing. At first glance, we might find this odd. Shouldn’t a dedicated Jesus, or any other believer in Christ, get special treatment and smooth paths for choosing to honor God? Obviously, that is not the case. Without much effort we can discover that this “wilderness walk” is not an unique event in God’s Word. Many times, individuals called of God are thrust into their own wilderness tests.
Why would this be?
Perhaps for some, it was to temper pride. Surely Jesus did not possess that deadly sin. For others, it may have squelched independence; a lesson that compelled them to lean upon the Father. Yet Jesus was resolute to do only the Father’s will. But in every case, it had to reveal the truth that the enemy was real, was active, and was bent on turning the wilderness student from the path God had prepared for them to walk. And again, in every case, the test was to be a rebuff of Satan, giving further evidence that he cannot possibly sway every human, detour God’s plan, nor find a foothold to overcome the One True God. The endurance in the wilderness brings Glory to God alone, and a scathing indictment of the enemy of our souls.
I find that truth most satisfying in my walk, and I trust you might take solace and strength from it as well. We will all face numerous wilderness tests, just as Jesus would continue to face (read 4:13 to confirm this.) This is not an “if” but a “when” truth. But tests are not permitted simply to destroy us. The wilderness becomes our opportunity to glorify God, to walk even closer by His leading, and to grow in our wisdom and discernment. We need these trying and painful experiences, for how would we learn to deflect the enemy’s frontal or subtle attacks, if life were just a carriage ride and a tea room?
Learn from the wilderness. There is a beauty in it. Be willing to obediently follow the Lord, even into the lonely places (Psalm 37:23-26).