When Christ formed in us finds free course for all His mind and all His passion; when our eyes are opened to the great purposes of His life in the salvation of the whole world; and when we hear, through Him, the cry of those for whom He was born, and for whom He died, God will pour out on us grace to send us forth—grace sufficient, grace abundant, grace triumphant. Have you come to this? Can you say He is thus dwelling in you, and working in you, to will and to do of His good pleasure? … Do not turn away with the paralyzing fear that it cannot be; that the life of Jesus can never be lived out again in flesh and blood. Remember, He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” All He was in Bethlehem, to Mary and Joseph; all He was to His work-mates in Nazareth; all He was in the wilderness, fighting with fiends, in the deserts feeding the hungry, or among the multitude—healing the sick, blessing the little children, casting out devils, and preaching the Kingdom; all He was in Bethany, weeping over Lazarus, and crying, “Lazarus, come forth”; in the garden of His agony, in the darkness of His cross, in the hour of His Resurrection, all this—all-all-all—He is today. He belongs to the everlasting Now. All He was to the martyrs who died for His Name, all He has been to our fathers, He is to us, and will be to our children, for with Him is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Yes! This unchanging Christ “is in us, except we be reprobate,” the Life and Image of God, and the Hope of Glory.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased.” … Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command His angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.
Oh beloved, it is true.
But, the liar, the thief, the devourer of souls would not want us to believe it. He would rather that we sit there in our tiny little pockets of fear; cowering in our comforts…. Afraid to go out into the dry places of the world – and share Living Water with the perishing.
But, it is in the deserts of the world that the battles get won.
This fool of a writer was – for 35 years – a man who thought he understood what it was to be a christian. I knew the right bible verses, and even went to bible college to learn about god. Oh, I was wrong, but I sure didn’t think I was. And so, I sat there in my tower of pride and worldly success – looking down on all those other people who just didn’t ‘get it.’
Well, each of us formerly lost boys knows how that kind of story plays out. Our pride, our attachment to the world and its chemical comforts never gives us what we think we wanted.
And so, somewhere coming up on ten years ago, my world was shattered. I woke up in a 3,000 square foot house, in a $1,500 bed. And by that evening, the house was no longer mine. The wife and kids in that house wanted nothing (ever) to do with me again. I had been ejected from the tower – and into the deserts of the world. I ended up very close to dead quite a few times. And this is one of the most lavishly wonderful things that G_d ever allowed me to go through.
Can we see it?
Oh yes. There are battles outside of us that must be won. There are BILLIONS of people who need to hear the good news of His Great Love. But, before those battles are undertaken, someone else needs to be beaten.
Me. (and you, dear reader).
However, once that terrible battle is over, we now need to be taken through a season where we learn (as Jesus had mastered, and perfected all the more) to get our strength from nothing in this world. We learn, out in the deserts of life, that the victory was always there (Him). But, we were often so distracted by comfort and pride that we could not see Him.
Deserts look like a place where we are going to falter. But, they really are the place where we find strength.
Then, if we are lucky, He never takes us out of the harsh environment. Rather, He sends us further out into the dryness. He takes us to places where the only possible way to survive is on Him and His Word. We get out into places where we see (like in Isaiah 41 and other places) that it is obvious that our presence in the place is only by the hand of The L_RD.
And it is out in places like this, with battles fought in the power of G_d alone, that some of the most overwhelming Kingdom victories occur.
So, are you out in some really dry territory right now? Do you feel the distinct lack of comfort and confidence in your own strength? Good, it sounds like you are just about to come up on some miraculous victories in your life. Tonight is your (and this fool of a writer’s ) night. Time to push out further into the drylands. He is calling us to some overwhelming victories out there!
That God abides in us we know by the Spirit, which He has given us. This means that a Christian is never alone, but that he lives and works together with the Thrice-Holy God.
~St. Justin Popovich