Sands of Pleasure


A parent’s love for their children is a powerful and mysterious force! When I was around 12 years old, my mom, brother and I lived in the desert part of the USA—Las Cruces, New Mexico! One day, my mom walked in the door from work and she asked me to go to her car and get some stuff. Well, I grumbled under my breath and assumed this was my regular “bring in the groceries” chore. I took her keys and strolled out to her car and opened the back hatch and was utterly shocked! There was a brand new bike…bright black, with yellow mag wheels! It took a couple minutes for it to register in my brain what just happened…my mom had surprised me with the bike I had been wanting! I ran in and gave her the biggest hug and kiss ever! She actually seemed happier than I was! Parents receive deep-running pleasure when they see that their children are happy! It was not my birthday, nor Christmas, nor any special day. And, no special events had taken place, such as me coming home with straight A’s on my report card, because that never happened, not even close! My mom bought me that bike because she loved me, and because she delighted in me, and because she was unconditionally pleased with me!

In Mark Chapter 1, we read the story of when Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. Afterward, from Heaven, God the Father said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. (Mark 1:11). Then, something very strange and illogical happened: the result of God the Father being well pleased with His Son Jesus was not the “typical” expression of love a parent gives to their child, such as giving them a twenty dollar bill, or ordering them a pizza, or having their friends spend the night, or giving them a new bike. Rather, God gave His Son Jesus the command to go and live in the desert, “At once the Spirit sent him [Jesus] out into the wilderness [desert], and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.” (Mark 1:12-13). Why did God do this to His Son?

As He did with Jesus, God will intentionally send you and me into the “desert” too, even at the most illogical and unexpected times! There are several things we can learn from this desert story in Mark Chapter 1. The first thing we notice is that Jesus was sent into the desert because of His obedience, as God stated in Mark 1:11, “with you [Jesus] I am well pleased.” When a Christian is going through some tough “desert” times the first reaction from others may be to ask, “Have you sinned?”  This may be the case with some of us, as we may need to repent of our half-hearted focus on, and service to, Christ and others. I know my own sins and bad judgment have gotten me into unnecessary “desert” times. But, it is clear from this Bible text that we can be placed in the desert by God Himself because we have been obedient and because the Father is “well pleased” with us. So, if we are going through a desert stage an important question to ask ourselves is, “Am I in this desert because of my obedience, or my disobedience?”

A second thing about life in the desert is isolation. Jesus was alone in the desert for “forty days” (Mark 1:13). Isolation during our desert phase is a very important component because it digs deep into every category of our humanity. As an introvert, I don’t have much of a problem with isolation, so I have to make sure to get out with people for balance. Yet, for many people, the quiet of isolation can be disturbing. The silence speaks loud while our busy schedules snuff God’s voice. Isolation can tune our spiritual “ears” to hear more clearly from God. During isolation we may finally become still enough to the point where God can begin to surface our “less than best” life patterns. Isolation can surface, and begin to break up, any behaviors, and opinions, and thoughts, that we have never been conscious of and never dealt with before. Isolation can trigger our blind spots and weaknesses.

A third life application we see during Jesus’ time in the desert is that “He was with the wild animals” (Mark 1:13). His entire 40 days in the desert was a super battle between Jesus and the devil. Therefore, the desert is for warfare training! These “wild animals” Jesus encountered can refer to satanic powers and demons. But, notice the wild animals did not harm Jesus because Jesus had power over them. You and I also have power over Satan’s temptations through Christ…IF we learn how to recognize and process spiritual warfare. Jesus had encountered a “spiritual high” when He was baptized and anointed, and being sent into the desert was like a spiritual “boot camp” and reality check for Him. The same applies to you and me! Our spiritual discernment is sharpened and we are empowered for life and service in the desert, that is…if we let God have His way to train us for spiritual war “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). If we are truly following and serving Jesus Christ we will encounter satanic warfare at times. If we don’t, then something is obviously wrong in our walk and service to Christ.

Another thing that can happen during our desert time is that emotional wounds may surface. It is possible to be so busy and focused on outward “things” that we, even subconsciously, can attempt to stay one step ahead of any unresolved past issues. Most homes today suffer from a barrage of things that damage us such as divorce, violence, alcoholism, compulsive behaviors, workaholism, etc. A child who grows up in this environment most likely winds up emotionally wounded. Eventually exhaustion, frustration, and even physical symptoms like weight loss, and anxiety, and sleep pattern changes, can begin to hinder our lives. The desert can let us know that we need to take time to resolve and heal from any wounds and pains from our past. Perhaps the next step is Christian Counseling?

One last lesson we learn from the desert is the preparation for service it builds within us. After His time in the desert, Jesus started His ministry! I used to play baseball in the minor leagues for the Detroit Tigers. In a sense, God has His own “desert minor leagues” He uses to prepare us for more fruitful and powerful ministry. After being released from my professional baseball contract I became a janitor at a campus ministry. It was during my janitor time of “toilet bowl cleaning and floor vacuuming” that the Lord actually called me into global evangelism. Being a janitor was vital and humbling preparation for serving in the ministry God called me to. Sending a minor league pitcher to the major leagues too early can damage him. Similarly, God may go out of His way to shut doors while He has us in the desert because we are not ready for the next step yet. What type of ministry is God preparing you for?

Are you in a “desert” today? What are you learning? What phase are you in? It won’t last forever…let Jesus hang on to you as you let go of you! Let us know how we can pray for you.

From the sand dunes,

3 Responses — Written on August 25, 2016 — Filed in Blog

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