LESSONS IN THE DESERT
Written by Barbara Robbins
The Israelites, when they left the bondage of Egypt and began their journey to the Promised Land, faced a time in the desert, a time of being humbled, tested, and taught by God. When God called us in 1997 to begin a Christian film production company, He was asking us to leave the familiarity of Egypt and move out into the desert. In the desert, there are lessons to be learned and dangers to be avoided. I Corinthians 10:1-12 says that the things that happened to Israel in the desert are to be examples and warnings to us. The fact that the Israelites remained in the desert until the first generation died off should be a solemn reminder to us that God will keep us there also unless we apply ourselves to learning the lessons He has for us during this time. Egypt is behind us, and we don't need to go back. The Promised Land is before us. And the desert is the only bridge between the two.
The primary question therefore is what do we need to learn in the desert. I believe God has three primary goals for us during this time. First, God's main goal in the desert is that we learn to love Him with all our being. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." For this to be accomplished, all the other things we have given our hearts to need to be put in their proper places. God made our hearts to be devoted to only one thing. Things we love more than God become idols in our lives, and therefore God calls us to turn away from them so we can give Him the love and devotion He deserves. Some of the false gods in our lives may be money, possessions, food, power, education, approval of others, pleasure, and self. As God shows us these other loves, we need to confess our sin to God, appropriate the cleansing of our sin by the shed blood of Christ Jesus, and determine in our hearts to turn away from these false loves and love God with our whole hearts. In Deuteronomy 30:6, God promises He will work with us through this process. "The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." He will give us undivided hearts, that we may fear His name (Psalm 86:11).
Second, in the desert we learn to obey. Since love and obedience are so closely related, this is an integral part of learning to love God with our whole heart. In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." One step of obedience that God has required of us during this time was making a commitment not to incur any further debt. This came at a time when we were preparing to sign loan paperwork for our daughter's continued schooling, and we had to step out in faith and obey, with no idea how she would be able to continue school in the fall. Romans 1:5 says that obedience comes from faith, and during times in the desert obedience may also stretch our faith, as God takes us into new areas of trust. In Daring To Live On The Edge , Loren Cunningham defines Biblical faith as "a strong assurance in God's character, knowing that even if you can't see the solution to your problem, God can." He says that Biblical faith operates only when we have no other resource than God.
This leads to the third major lesson God is teaching us in the desert, which is learning to look to God for everything we need. He is teaching us that we should depend on Him every day and every minute of the day. Not only through the situation with our daughter's schooling, but also through our dependence upon God to meet our basic needs and pay our bills, God is teaching us that He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. Once our hearts are fully devoted to Him and we have learned that He is our provider, God will then be free to allow us to experience abundance because it will no longer endanger our relationship with Him. I Timothy 6:17 says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
I believe these are the three major goals God has for us in this desert experience. There are some secondary lessons to learn as well - such as learning to humble ourselves and wait on God to lift us up, not murmuring and complaining about where God has us - but these will be learned in the process as we focus on these three major goals. There are character qualities to be developed - contentment, endurance, faithfulness, and gratefulness, among many others - but these too will be manifested in our lives as we focus on the three main goals. As we learn to love God with our whole heart, to show God we love Him by our obedience, and to depend on Him every moment of every day, we are stripped of our reliance upon anything of the world to bring satisfaction, and we learn that God alone is all we need.