Six Minutes Can Change Your Life

Six Minutes Can Change Your Life
Six Minutes of Grace cover

This week rather than posting one of my regular articles I want to give you a sample from my new book Six Minutes of Grace available HERE, from Amazon as a paperback and as an eBook (audio book coming soon), or in store from House of James in Abbotsford B.C. and the Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Resource Center in Langley B.C.


By now you should be able to recognize in yourself the traits of either the Doer or the Dreamer. Perhaps you’ve even found yourself looking for the happiness that supposedly is found within. With those shadows of our heart exposed, we now come to the place where we can discover how to overcome the Great Lie and find the happiness which Doers and Dreamers spend their lives chasing after.

The first thing we must do is accept that we must turn toward our Creator in order to find purpose, joy, and success, all of which are rooted in a relationship with Him. This all begins with our making regular time for God in our life. No matter how busy, convoluted, or chaotic our life may be, we must actively carve out time to sustain our relationship with God.

The first thing we must do is accept that we must turn toward our Creator in order to find purpose, joy, and success, all of which are rooted in a relationship with Him.

The words of Paul provide us with inspiration about how we’re to make time for God: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16‑18). Notice Paul doesn’t say “some of the time,” or “every other week,” or “only on Sunday.” He’s encouraging this Macedonian church to be constantly looking toward God. Not in some legalistic or mystical sort of way, but in a real way that touches and interacts with their actual lives.

However, to even begin this journey, we must have a starting point. That starting point is accepting Jesus as who He says He is, and who the Bible says He is: the Son of God, the Lord of all, King of kings, born of a virgin, performer of miracles. He’s the great teacher who came in the flesh, died upon the cross for our sins, and was resurrected, all according to the words and prophecies of the Bible, so we can have covenant fellowship with Him for all eternity.

Before we can go further, this matter has to be settled, because all that comes next is available to us only if we’re in a covenant relationship with God through the power and atonement of Jesus. Otherwise we’re still “outside the gate” and lost within the curse of sin.

If you’ve never called on Jesus, believed in Him, and received forgiveness, now is the time. All the benefits in this book and in the Bible begin with our saying, “Jesus, I believe that You’re who the Bible says You are. I come before You a sinner lost in the darkness. I ask You to forgive me and to make me clean. I declare that You are Lord and King of all, and I ask You to adopt me into Your family and covenant. I ask You to wash me in the power of Your blood and atonement, to give me eternal life, which has its origin in You. I thank You for dying for my sins and enduring the cross, and from this day on I shall live as a member of Your family and live as You did upon the earth.”

Being now in this place of relationship with God, we next have to develop it. This is similar to how you can be very close to some family members, while others you don’t really know. Those you’re close with are those you’ve put in the time to get to know; you’ve shared experiences and conversations with them, and you feel closer. The others, even though you don’t know them, are still your family, and you may see them at a wedding or other occasions, but you have no personal relationship with them beyond that of family ties.

It’s no different between us and the Trinity. We have two options. We can be either close friends or occasional acquaintances. To have that close relationship requires time and effort, and as we’ve seen with the Doers and Dreamers, these are scarce commodities which we’re used to spending on all sorts of other things.

There’s no all-encompassing formula to develop this kind of relationship between us and God (although many have tried to produce one). There’s no step-by-step process that automatically brings us to the level of Abraham and Moses as “friends of God,” or like John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

There’s no all-encompassing formula to develop this kind of relationship between us and God.

Are there signposts to give us a general direction? Yes there are, and the remainder of this book will show those to you. They come in the forms of time and grace.

Tithing Our Time

In church we’re taught that tithing is an important concept in Scripture because it represents giving our best to God. When Abraham wanted to honor God through Melchizedek, he freely and cheerfully gave, knowing that God was trustworthy to keep His promises. Abraham trusted God and saw Him not as just a cosmic entity or simply the source of one’s possessions, but as the source of all creation.

Fast-forward to our modern Christian culture, where we’re taught to give our money to the church—10 percent of all we earn plus any other gifts or offerings that are on our heart. We’re taught that it’s an act of faithfulness to give back to God, not because He needs it, but because it’s an opportunity for loving obedience on our part. As Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 14:14).

Although this concept is taught, very few actually apply this teaching in their own lives. I’m speaking as a member of a church’s financial council, where we have to manage programs that many people demand but few are willing to cover the costs.

The problem we run into these days is that we’ve removed the value assigned to our money. If I were a Jewish shepherd living before Christ, I would find myself evaluating my flock—the little lambs I’d helped feed when they were having trouble suckling, and had risked my life protecting from wild animals, and had watched grow. I had to give away my best—the healthiest and my favorites to God. My tithe was tied directly to my efforts. I was essentially giving the best of my life, my most prizewinning efforts.

Today we’ve separated our money from our efforts. With a swipe of a credit card I can spend money I haven’t yet earned. My paycheck magically shows up in the bank without any effort on my part, and all I see are numbers on a computer screen. There’s no tangible evidence of my work other than numbers and the ending of another week.

Work is seen as the thing we do because we need to eat and pay the bills, yet money always seems to be in short supply. Most people don’t tithe because they feel they’ve fallen so far behind with bills or have overextended themselves so much that there’s nothing left to give. “God doesn’t need this money; I need it to pay the electric company, plus I have to put gas in the car, and I have to buy coffee so I can function at work, and I need the cash for that sale at the mall later this week.”

While a tithe of our money is both scriptural and important, God also wants us to put Him first in all things.

While a tithe of our money is both scriptural and important, God also wants us to put Him first in all things. Time is the most precious commodity in existence. We can trade our time for money or things, but we can’t buy more time. We live life as a series of moments, and all we have is the moment we’re in right now. Money can be printed, gold can be mined, houses can be built, but you can’t create time, and you can’t open up a savings account to store up hours to use another day.

Maybe it’s time to look at this idea of tithing from an entirely different perspective. What if I took the concept of tithing and linked it to my desire to give my all to God?

This would never replace my financial tithing, which is both scriptural and good. Rather, in my desire to give God the best of myself, what if I also give to God the only real thing I have of value—my time? How I spend my time is how I spend my life, and every moment I deliberately focus on God, I change my life for the better. This is so much greater than anything the Doer or the Dreamer could ever imagine or accomplish with where they invest their time.

Consider what Jesus told the religious leaders of His day in Luke 11:42: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” The Pharisees were giving to God financially, but they lost the point of it all. They lost sight of God’s heart, and for the sake of religious obligations, they traded away relationship with Him.

For a moment let’s replace my wallet with my clock. Let’s say I’m awake sixteen hours a day. If I wanted to tithe my waking hours, I’m looking at an hour and thirty-six minutes each day. Now, ask anybody who’s already starved for time if they could fit an extra hour and thirty-six minutes into their day to spend with God, and they’d say you’re out of your mind. How could anyone possibly change their life so drastically to even come close to doing that? Isn’t ninety minutes on Sunday morning enough?

But even if you somehow found that much time to give to God—what would you do with it?

But even if you somehow found that much time to give to God—what would you do with it? After the first few minutes, your mind would begin to wander, and it would be a constant battle to get it back. I’m not judging you; I’ve experienced this as well. After two or three minutes, you stare at the ceiling and wonder, “Okay, now what?”

Without any idea of what to do, we can quickly become discouraged or bored, and then a sense of struggle becomes associated with your time with God. Instead of trying to figure out how to set aside so much time in our day, we should just look for a starting point and take it one minute at a time.

One Minute at a Time

Rather than trying to lump the whole tithe of time together, what if we divided this tithe of our time into more bite-sized increments that are easier to control?

In every hour we’re awake, what if we spent six minutes building our relationship with God? What if we then took those six minutes and break them down into separate one-minute exercises—six different things we could talk to God about for one minute each? Every time an hour goes by, and we see the hand of the clock change, we’re prompted to take a minute out of our busyness to pause and turn our mind toward God.

This is where the concept of “six minutes of grace” comes into play. In our time with God each hour, we take these six keys, and we use each one for one minute at a time. By focusing for one minute on each of these six elements, we’re helped to draw closer to God and to align our will with His.

This isn’t just some magic number. And doing it just for the sake of doing it won’t do us any good. It’s a starting point to transform our lives from one which is focused on ourselves to one which is focused on God and our relationship with Him.

Some people will do the six-minute exercises every hour; some will do it only a couple of times a day, and others every other day. What’s important is not checking the “done” box on a list, but really developing a relationship with God.

In my own life, this practice of making room for God hasn’t always been this formal. However, the heart of this concept is what has changed life for the better for my wife and I. This lifestyle has brought us through many rough patches. It’s the cornerstone of our relationship with Jesus. This format is the easiest way to show us what’s important in our lives, and it gives us a guideline on how to fellowship with the great Creator.

The heart of this concept is what has changed life for the better for my wife and I.

We must make room for God, and this approach of tithing our time helps to keep us accountable and focused until the novelty becomes a habit, and the habit becomes a lifestyle which produces fruit in our lives and draws us closer to God.

You can do these exercises out loud, or you can do them silently. It can happen when you’re driving, as each red light gives you a minute or so of opportunity. It can happen while you’re making coffee or breakfast, or while you’re walking, or during the spaces between life’s activities. It can happen anywhere and at any time.

Have we forgotten that God is the most interesting being in all the universe? Yet more often than not, we treat Him like a pet rock sitting on our dresser. Do we actually understand what’s available to us? The One who created everything in Genesis is standing at the door of our lives asking to be a part of it. But like the gentlemen He is, He won’t kick in the door, but will knock ever so gently and wait for us to open up to Him.

We chase after goals, dreams, money, success and happiness—all that feeds the Great Lie—but will we chase after the one thing that actually matters? The one thing that’s more real, powerful, and fulfilling than anything else we could ever dream?

Even if we have only one minute in the entire day, we can purpose to use it to show gratitude to God (more on this in chapter 6). This is the personification of Philippians 4:8, where Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Spend even just a minute in appreciation of God and of all He has done. If the minute has passed and you don’t have any more time, come back to this exercise later when you can. Focus on one step at a time, and spend longer or repeat the ones that are on your heart. Give God your attention—deliberately—one minute at a time.

The desired outcome here is for you to carry on your conversation with God throughout the day, using GRACE as a guideline. Don’t make this a religious exercise, but rather a reminder of how much we need Him throughout our day.

Don’t worry or feel badly if you forget a step, or do the steps out of order, or don’t finish. This is just the starting line for what can become a deep, rich, and meaningful relationship that will bring you so much joy.

The more you repeat the exercise, the more God will become a priority in your life. The time you’re giving Him becomes focused, because each minute has a purpose. Over time, your moments of praise will give you a new sense of purpose in all that you do. Your life will become about doing simple everyday things for the glory of God.

As you begin this journey, I highly recommend that you incorporate journaling into this process. Journaling can be a key factor in making time for God because it forces us to slow down and consider what we’re writing down. It also gives us something to look back on later. We forget so much because of the busyness of life; it’s amazing what falls between the cracks of our mind.

“If only I had ________, my life would be better.” We idealize the perfect life and attribute our own unhappiness to our failure to possess it.” Click HERE for more information.
Six Minutes of Grace cover
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Six Minutes of Grace: They Key To Happiness and Purpose. Get your copy today and discover how you can radically change your life through the power of GRACE.

Also available as an eBook here from Kindle, Kobo, Nook and other retailers.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss out on anything.

 
Creative Commons LicenseSix Minutes Can Change Your Life Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
 

Can I Truly Be Happy?

Can I Truly be happy
Six Minutes of Grace cover

This week rather than posting one of my regular articles I want to give you a sample from my new book Six Minutes of Grace available HERE, from Amazon as a paperback and as an eBook (audio book coming soon), or in store from House of James in Abbotsford B.C. and the Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Resource Center in Langley B.C.


From a young age, we’re led to believe that success will make us happy. Success will bring us a spouse, money, comfort, a home, stuff to fill that home, and the ability to take nice vacations. How often as a child did we see the phrase “happily ever after” flash across the screen?

The poor orphan goes on an adventure and becomes the king or queen of the land, or becomes a great hero in battle. It’s the idea that if we just sit around and go about our mundane lives, eventually adventure and rewards will come knocking at our door. Only then can we truly be happy, for just beyond where we are is the place of bliss, contentment, and ease.

This idea, which has been embraced by so many people, gets reinforced as we’re indoctrinated to focus on the externals of life. Yet we tend to forget that these external things aren’t always within our control.

We think the reason we’re unhappy is that we don’t have the things we want—the perfect job, the ideal spouse, or more money in the bank.

We think the reason we’re unhappy is that we don’t have the things we want—the perfect job, the ideal spouse, or more money in the bank. Regardless of what our “white whale” might be, we find ourselves thinking, “If only I had ________, my life would be better.” We idealize the perfect life and attribute our own unhappiness to our failure to possess it.

For some, it’s the white picket fence and the nuclear family. For others, it’s a mansion filled with staff to cook and clean for them. There are those who long to live in the forest, by a lake, or up on a mountain. Each person has an ideal of what their perfect happy life would look like, and they engineer their life to reach those dreams.

I watched my wife buy into these ideals as she followed the script of working hard to achieve the things that all earthly standards testify to as success. I marveled as she became a partner in a successful business with a contract to buy it out completely.

I had married my best friend from high school, who was (and still is) a loving, kind, and attentive spouse. Through our combined efforts, we became financially secure at a young age, thanks to our diligence and many sacrifices. We also regularly attended our church as card-carrying members. I was a member of the church financial council and coauthored the church’s weekly home group curriculum. Later I founded Conway Christian Resources and published my first book, Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Beliefs.

We found what many others have discovered: that the hard work put in to achieve our dream rewarded us with only more hard work.

From the outside, life looked great, but deep inside something was missing. Success didn’t equal satisfaction. We found what many others have discovered: that the hard work put in to achieve our dream rewarded us with only more hard work. There wasn’t much more happiness in our lives, but only more responsibility and less time to do the things that actually made us happy.

When Succeeding Isn’t Success

The success we’re taught from a young age to strive toward is something external. And being external, it’s only temporary. That new car will rust out, fall apart, and end up one day in a wrecking yard. That new job title will eventually go to someone else, if the company even survives that long. That nest egg will eventually get spent, and the gains erode as they’re taxed into oblivion.

All these things we work toward either degrade, disappear, or become valueless. But at the same time, all these things tell us (and those around us) that we’re successful, that we’ve achieved and arrived at a higher and better level of existence.

How will I know if I’ve succeeded if I can’t have things others are unable to possess? How will people around me know that I’m superior and successful unless they can recognize it half a mile away?

It’s the idea that “the person with the most stuff wins,” so by definition shouldn’t that person be the happiest of them all? In reality, those with the most stuff can be the most miserable, because they constantly fear losing all they have. They’re unable to enjoy it and be happy, because around every corner is someone looking to become happy at their expense by taking what they have.

On the other hand, there are those who feel that they haven’t succeeded, and they spend their time grumbling and complaining that the grass isn’t as green for them as it is for others. They look at the lush, well-manicured lawns of the successful and believe the lie that they’d be happier if their lawn looked like that. Once again, it’s the externals that are used to tell us and others if we’re happy or not.

“The greener the grass, the happier the life” is the idea accepted by many, but at no point do they question why the grass is greener. Maybe it’s because the successful person hires someone to make it like that, because they’re so busy they could never do it on their own. Or it could be that the other person actually put in the time and effort to make it look that way. Those who grumble and complain about their grass tend to be those who are unwilling to put in the work to make it better.

I remember when I moved into a house with three lilac bushes on the property. They were in rough shape and hadn’t produced flowers for several years. I had three choices. I could leave them as they were and hope for the best, I could cut them down, or I could put in some effort and fix them. It took two years of pruning, fertilizing, watering, and managing, but finally those bushes sprouted their lilacs for the first time in years.

Did this bring a sense of accomplishment? Yes. Did it make the yard look better? Yes. Did it make me happy? No. I was glad that my effort brought about a good result, but it didn’t change how I felt on the inside. To top it off, the summer that the lilacs finally bloomed was also the same summer that we moved across the country. After all the hours of work I put in, the benefits were to be enjoyed by another family.

I was glad that my effort brought about a good result, but it didn’t change how I felt on the inside.

There has to be more to life than houses, cars, and landscaping, but if these aren’t the keys to happiness, what is? Since trying to solve the matters of happiness with the external wasn’t the answer, my wife looked inwardly. She turned to self-help books, having been reading them since she was a teenager.

It wasn’t because something was wrong, but in response to her aching for more. There was something missing, and yet the books couldn’t create inner peace or transform their information into joy. Any fix was only temporary relief, a distraction from the emptiness and the gnawing feeling that in the midst of a fairy tale existence, something was still missing.

Inside, there’s a cry—and not only in myself, because I’ve heard that cry everywhere: “I know I was made for more.” It’s the feeling of unfulfilled purpose. It weighs on my heart and leaves me unsatisfied. Stuff doesn’t satisfy it, information doesn’t satisfy it. Neither do titles, success, or the praises of others.

I know I was made for more.

The Vanity of Vanity

What can you do when you’ve done everything right and found it lacking? This is what we and many other people have found out about life. Even Solomon dedicated the book of Ecclesiastes to this idea. The things we can buy at a store cannot make us happy over the long-term. We see that everything either fades away or forces us to pursue something else.

This is what’s referred to as vanity, where we have a high view of something or ourselves, but in the end it’s useless. It’s like dressing up a salmon in a top hat and a coat while calling it Lord Sebastian the Salmon, Ruler of All in the River. It doesn’t matter; you wasted your money, and no matter how that salmon was dressed up, it still ends up in an oven with some lemon and seasoning sprinkled over it.

Solomon was the richest man in the land, but still felt hollow. He eventually drifted away from God and into idolatry. He had gold, silver, wisdom, and women, but each of those things on their own couldn’t produce happiness, joy, or purpose in life. Instead, these things got in the way of his true purpose and brought about dark consequences which shadowed his nation for generations.

So what then can we do? Should we give up material success and possessions in pursuit of the spiritual? Many have tried this and failed. The idea of shunning everything made of matter was the source of many troubles for the church, and it did nothing to fill the void. If we were all to abandon what we have and hide out in a cave seeking enlightenment, we would actually be ill-equipped to meet the needs of the church and the world around us.

On the other end of the spectrum, what if we gave up the spiritual in pursuit of greater success? Again this leaves us off balance and without any type of lasting joy.

Many things we consider to be the finishing line are nothing more than tools to be used to get us to the actual finishing line. Money can be good if it’s used correctly. Possessions can be helpful and enjoyed if we understand their place in our lives. A career can be good if it’s balanced with the rest of our lives. Vanity comes when these things or anything else takes control of our lives, or we find ourselves in an endless chase for the next big thing to achieve or buy.

Many things we consider to be the finishing line are nothing more than tools to be used to get us to the actual finishing line.

I routinely find myself looking at what I have and wondering if any of it is worth it. All the time and effort that went into earning money so these things can sit on my shelf and get dusty. The same goes for my music hobby. I know spending money on a guitar pedal won’t make me happy, but it sounds good. At other times I think everything’s just a giant waste, and I regret spending the money rather than saving it where it could grow (unless the stock market has something to say about it).

Do I enjoy my hobbies? Yes, most of the time, but they cannot make me truly happy. Instead, they help occupy the time, sometimes to avoid life and other times to just unwind from it. No matter how I feel, all those things will either break down, get sold (or given away), or thrown in the trash. All that expectation, research, and the purchasing and using of those things will eventually bring about a day where it doesn’t matter anymore.

This isn’t meant to be a depressing look at our lives, but what’s being shown here is a picture that most people don’t like to look at. The reality is this: Deep down, what we hold dear and see as valuable will inevitably control our thoughts, desires, and time. If we place more value on money than on people, then our lives will reflect that. If we put more value on achievement than on family, our lives will reflect that. If we put more value on being entertained than on true joy, our lives will follow that course like a sailboat on a river.

Appreciation gets lost when we look for the greenest grass or biggest house. I had a friend who was quite well off financially, and when he encountered new people trying to be his friend, he would test them. It wasn’t something big or grand; he would give them a penny (or a nickel), and see how they reacted. If they were grateful and thankful, he invested time and friendship into them, because they weren’t driven by his bank account. If they tossed the penny aside, or complained or asked for more, he cut them out of his life. He was looking for people who valued him more than his money, or what he could do for them.

Why Am I Still Not Happy?

We see then that being happy doesn’t automatically come from things, position, pride, or gold. It comes from something deeper which cannot be bought. This has to do with what we perceive to be important and whether or not we can be appreciative of whatever we have at the time.

We see that many people turn to the wrong things to try and answer the question, “Can I be happy?” We turn to entertainment, sex, drugs, music, meditation, exercise, isolation, shopping, food, and a host of other things to try and coax some happiness out of this life. Happiness is fleeting and subject to so many variables. It’s also incredibly picky, and thrives on unrealistic expectations.

Wanting to be happy is only part of the equation, along with understanding our purpose and looking for something that goes beyond our natural lives. The truth is that we cannot buy this happiness because we can’t afford the price of it. No one can, because happiness doesn’t overcome life, and the two are most often at odds with each other.

The truth is that we cannot buy this happiness because we can’t afford the price of it. No one can, because happiness doesn’t overcome life, and the two are most often at odds with each other.

Understanding this conflict of expectation versus reality, we can start to come to terms with our lives and what to expect out of them. No longer should we continue to live according to “happily ever after”; rather, we should be hoping that our life can be summed up by the phrase “joy everlasting.” There’s something greater at work here, and how we can get to that place is determined by what kind of person we are.


“If only I had ________, my life would be better.” We idealize the perfect life and attribute our own unhappiness to our failure to possess it.” Click HERE for more information.
Six Minutes of Grace cover
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Six Minutes of Grace: They Key To Happiness and Purpose. Get your copy today and discover how you can radically change your life through the power of GRACE.

Also available as an eBook here from Kindle, Kobo, Nook and other retailers.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss out on anything.

 
Creative Commons LicenseCan I Truly Be Happy? Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
 

From Surviving to Thriving in the Wilderness Pt. 2

From Surviving to Thriving in the Wilderness Pt. 2

We’ve seen so far over the past few months the path which David’s life took as it progressed through the “4 A’s” of Anointing, Apprenticeship, Activation and Announcement. Despite our desire for God to take us straight from the place of Anointing to the place of Announcement where we are recognized as being in the fullness of our calling, we must first survive the wilderness.

It’s in the wilderness as we have seen in Part 1 where you are faced with the realities of your heart and you’re given the opportunity to test your character, preparedness and devotion to God before you are given the full measure of your life’s calling. In part one we addressed the “Why” of having to go through the wilderness and now we must look at the “How” of not just surviving the wilderness season but thriving in it as well.

Faithfulness Brings Activation

For David the wilderness was not a time of quiet reflection, it was a time of adventure, risk, action, and leadership. David was on the run from king Saul who was proverbially frothing at the mouth to kill David and secure his kingdom. This meant that David was constantly on the move and living in the less desirable areas of the Judahite wilderness. David had to be constantly on the move but he wasn’t alone. Over time he attracted others from the kingdom who were outsiders and misfits but at the same time they recognized something special about David.

Those people followed him and abandoned their comforts, security and the quietness of their mundane lives to follow this shepherd/general/musician into the desert with the hope that he would succeed Saul, the king God no longer endorsed. But for those people to follow him David first had to go out and live out a small measure of his calling. He led the people, delivered the oppressed from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23) and he forged what would later become the inner circle of the kingdom of Israel. David’s advisors, generals and mighty men came out of this season of the wilderness, and they didn’t suddenly appear after David became king,

Those people only found David because he was already acting with the wisdom, leadership, and devotion of a king, even through the crown wasn’t on his head yet. I feel that this is similar to the process we go through when we try to fulfill our calling or find our own place in ministry. You don’t automatically wake up one day and get handed the keys to a church of 5,000 people when you’ve never done any kind of ministry or received any training. That is a recipe for disaster, and it highlights the reason for the wilderness training and waiting we have to go through.

Yet at the same time just because you don’t have a 5,000 person church or a fancy title, or a paid position doesn’t mean that you don’t go about and do many of the things you would be doing with those opportunities, titles, and positions. It is the process of progressive faithfulness where you are faithful with small and seemingly insignificant matter and you are rewarded with the chance to do something greater next time (Luke 16:10). It is like the parable where those who were faithful with financial responsibilities were rewarded with the ability to oversee entire cities (Luke 19:17).

It is the process of progressive faithfulness where you are faithful with small and seemingly insignificant matter and you are rewarded with the chance to do something greater next time

How can you dream of being a great evangelist like Reinhard Bonnke or Daniel Kolenda if you refuse to go about your own community and preach the gospel? How can you dream of being a great pastor if you don’t have a heart for the people in your present church? How can you desire to be a mighty teacher if you don’t take any opportunities to teach even one or two people? All of the great things we want find their roots of their fulfillment in the little things we do today.

I’ve had to go through this as well, I’ve had times and seasons where I taught small groups but I didn’t see it as a burden or a waste of my time. It was an opportunity to learn how to teach, write and communicate with people so I could develop the skills I felt God was trying to refine in me so I could do greater things. There are times when you will feel like it’s not worth the extra effort, but it always is.

At one church I was a member of I taught mid-week “adult Sunday school” for a couple of years. It was a curriculum that I had put together and the first year I taught it I had nine people attend. I was happy with that and the 20 lessons that came out of that course I still use today and they have shown up in my articles and books. I still benefit from the work I did back then because I was faithful with the process, I treated those notes as something which could become greater later in life and I didn’t see that small class as being beneath my calling.

I was really challenged with this in the second year I ran the course, I had seven people sign up and only one showed up to the first night. That is a real challenge to not only your desire to be faithful but also your pride as well. The one person that showed up wanted to learn and that was all that I needed to know, so for the next four months we met ever Tuesday and I taught that material with the same zeal and quality I would if there was fifty people in that room.

In that moment I could of bailed on the class using the excuse that it wasn’t worth my time, or I could of thought about the times I spoke in front of hundreds of people and feeling like God had demoted me some how. Instead I saw it as a moment of testing where God wanted to see if I wanted to be a success rather than a servant. It’s not easy going through those times, I’ve taught in rooms full of people and I’ve had days where no one showed up, but I feel that it’s in the times when no one shows up that God is examining our hearts the most.

Instead I saw it as a moment of testing where God wanted to see if I wanted to be a success rather than a servant.

Impurities in gold only rise up when it’s in the furnace, and that’s what the seasons of training and wilderness does. It takes the proverbial gold of our life and calling and heats it to the point where all of the dirt, flaws, and imperfections rise to the top so they can be scrapped off. But we resist going through this process because we fear what we could lose in the process, or we fear what might be lurking inside of us so we avoid the process and remain content with being less than what we could be.

People Will Eventually Recognize Your Calling and Support You

Often what you will find is that when you have a legitimate calling on your life and you demonstrate consistent character and faithfulness people will begin to recognize those things in your life and help you take the next step. We see this idea play out between David and Jonathan where the calling of God and the faithfulness of David forced Jonathan to embrace what God was bringing into reality.


1 Samuel 23:17–18 “17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.” (NKJV)


We can’t be demanding about this, it has to come naturally and through the leading of the Holy Spirit. I strongly believe that God wants to use other people to help establish you so you can maintain a covering and protecting offered by the church community. Even with myself the majority of “opportunities” I’ve received in the church have come by a pastor or leader taking me aside and saying that God spoke to them or impressed upon them to bring me in to help in a project or a ministry. This has happened repeatedly in my life, I haven’t had to advertise my gifts or callings because I was always faithful with whatever was placed before me and I had a lifestyle which matched up with my calling.

It is that faithfulness and devotion to loving God that opens up doors in your life and not begging and petitioning anyone and everyone to give you an opportunity.

It is that faithfulness and devotion to loving God that opens up doors in your life and not begging and petitioning anyone and everyone to give you an opportunity. Really if you want to be in ministry and get opportunities all you have to do is A) show up B) be faithful and C) don’t sin. At one church I was made the “volunteer” youth pastor because I showed up to the launch of the new youth ministry and wasn’t discouraged when barely anyone showed up and all of the other volunteers ran off. I was asked to create curriculum for one church because my pastor at the time got an impression from God to reach out to me about that program. Although with that example I had already served for over two years teaching and helping out with the youth program (ages 10-12), again faithfulness brings promotion and opportunity.

This is all the personification of what it says in Proverbs 18:16, “A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.” We can see this idea also play out in the relationship Barnabas vouching and supporting Paul (Acts 9:26-27) or even to a lesser extent Baruch’s support of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:4, 10).

It is through the people God leads into your life which helps you fulfill His purpose in the world, as long as your life and character lives up to that calling. Because having people supporting isn’t always about them promoting you it can also be about correcting you and protecting you. We see this play out in 1 Samuel 25 with the story of Abigail and Nabal as David was (justly) prepared to retaliate against Nabal for denying him the commission soldiers would receive for protecting a shepherd’s flock. But in that moment Abigail who saw something greater in David than just being a mercenary for local shepherds intervened and saved David from making an impulsive decision and preventing God from intervening in the situation (1 Samuel 25:32-33).

Not All Opportunities Bring God’s Favor

Something else I believe must be addressed whenever we talk about thriving in the wilderness season is that not all opportunities are from God, or even bring more of his favor into our lives. This is a critical revelation that we must face head on if we’re to survive the wilderness. Because there is no guarantee that you make it out of the wilderness morally, spiritually or naturally alive. You could go in the bar of gold and come out being nothing more than dross (or the sludge which floats to the top).

Where many people go wrong is that they see an opportunity to take a shortcut out of the season of apprenticeship or activation and go directly to being announced (or made king in David’s case). It could be through unethical means, or through something completely innocent but either way it is an attempt to bypass God’s plan and hurry the intended results. We all know how this mentality worked out with Abraham and Hagar, but we tend to think that we are immune from such mistakes.

It could be through unethical means, or through something completely innocent but either way it is an attempt to bypass God’s plan and hurry the intended results.

Not once but twice David was offered one of these shortcuts to his destiny, in 1 Samuel chapters 24 and 26 David has an opening to kill Saul and take the crown. David’s followers tried to convince him to strike (1 Samuel 24:4) but each time David refused because of the legacy of God’s anointing on Saul (1 Samuel 24:10, 1 Samuel 26:9). Even when David only cut off and took a chunk of Saul’s robe while he was going to the bathroom in the cave there was apprehension and regret for doing that (1 Samuel 24:5).

Most other people, including David’s top lieutenants wouldn’t have hesitated to kill Saul in that moment, but David’s honorable actions forced even Saul to publicly profess David’s future as the king of Israel. Although this didn’t stop Saul from trying to kill David again later.


1 Samuel 24:17-22 “Then he said to David: “You are more righteous than I; for you have rewarded me with good, whereas I have rewarded you with evil. 18 And you have shown this day how you have dealt well with me; for when the Lord delivered me into your hand, you did not kill me. 19 For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him get away safely? Therefore may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. 20 And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. 21 Therefore swear now to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s house.” 22 So David swore to Saul. And Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.” (NKJV)


I know today we don’t have to worry about killing Saul (or our pastor) to advance our calling or ministry in the wrong way. There are still many things we can do to compromise our walk with God in exchange for a Fast-Pass to our calling. Some people use manipulation, others teach corrupted doctrines, others play politics, but the most common seems to be the desire to abandon their current church and move to greener pastures. Now I’m not saying that you have to remain at one church for the entirely of your Christian life, rather I am talking about stepping outside of God’s plan and taking matters into your own hands.

Yes, there are times when God may call you to move from one congregation to the other but that is according to his will and not your own. Often people get frustrated and imagine that everything would be better somewhere else at a place where their gifts and abilities will be recognizes, praised and put to work. But the reality is that those kinds of advancements come from faithfulness and following God’s guidance in your life. At times he will leave you were you are and at other times He will call you to another place, much like how a soldier gets transferred from one base to another.

Often you will know that it is God calling you to move if your initial reaction is pain or loss, if its relief or joy then it may be your own mind trying to lead you astray. I’m speaking from personal experience here and I’m basing this on the many people I have known who have transferred churches with and without God’s guidance. Those who did do it with God’s leading were blessed and took the next step in their calling, while those who rushed into “greener pastures” faltered and remained in the wilderness.

Thriving Today and Tomorrow

Like David we will all face challenges to bypass God’s plan for our life, or we end up like Eve who questioned God’s goodness and nature in exchange what she had for something else. The wilderness is that place where we can face these challenges with the least amount of collateral damage to ourselves and to the church at large. It’s the place where God can correct us and strengthen us before we have the pressures of the world, ministry, or the full weight of our calling placed upon us. This is done out of love because God wants not just the church to thrive but the people who make it up as well, because when one succeeds the other does also. However, God’s measure of succeeding is often much different than our definitions.

How to go from just surviving in the wilderness to thriving and developing in you calling? It’s done through faithfulness, integrity, character, hard work, devotion and the heart of a servant. You begin to thrive in the season of the wilderness when you accept that you are in that season and you use every opportunity to prepare your heart and spirit for the future. The seeds you sow in this season will become the fruit you eat when you are placed in the fullness of your calling, it isn’t the other way around.

How to go from just surviving in the wilderness to thriving and developing in you calling? It’s done through faithfulness, integrity, character, hard work, devotion and the heart of a servant.

You will thrive in this place when you begin to see mountains as opportunities, and you learn how to walk out your calling by living in part as if you have already “arrived” at the place God has called you to be. You can’t be lazy or dormant in this place because if you are you will never leave the wilderness, and you may even become stumbling blocks for those who come through the wilderness after you.

In this entire process of the “4 A’s” of Anointing, Apprenticeship, Activation and Announcement there’s no guarantee that you’ll make it through all four stages. At any point you can get derailed or lost on the journey. Matters such as work, faithfulness, and relationship with God are mandatory or you will find yourself endlessly repeating the same stage over and over again just as the Israelites continued in the same cycle of blessing, idolatry, judgment, and deliverance for hundreds of years.

You can’t just rely on pleasantries between you and God to carry you through this season, this is the time where you develop your relationship with Him. Otherwise if you fail to learn these lessons, you neglect your relationship with God, or you take a shortcut out of this season you’ll just end up launching a ministry where the only god you serve is yourself.

“If only I had ________, my life would be better.” We idealize the perfect life and attribute our own unhappiness to our failure to possess it.” Click HERE for more information.
Six Minutes of Grace cover
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Six Minutes of Grace: They Key To Happiness and Purpose. Get your copy today and discover how you can radically change your life through the power of GRACE.

Also available as an eBook here from Kindle, Kobo, Nook and other retailers.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss out on anything.

 
Creative Commons LicenseFrom Surviving to Thriving in the Wilderness Pt. 2 Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
 

From Surviving to Thriving in the Wilderness Pt. 1

blog 35 from surviving to thriving pt1 FB

No one wants to be in the wilderness season of their life or calling in ministry. It’s a place where the crowds don’t see you, it’s a place where your weaknesses are exposed, and it’s in the wilderness that the motivations of your heart are tested and brought to light. The wilderness is the time in your life when your roots are tested to see if God can build upon your life in the way He wants without destroying you or those around you. God didn’t lead you into this place just so you could barley make it out alive, no He brought you there to thrive. Because if your life and relationship with God can thrive in the wilderness then it will be able to survive the chaos and demands of your everyday life and ministry.

Many people don’t make it out of the wilderness. This is a truth we must come to grips with, as it is easy to assume that your life is just on autopilot and you will end up where God wants you to be no matter how you live or react to your situations. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, the wilderness is the place of refinement and while some make it out to the other side there are many who simply die spiritually (or morally) in that place.

Many people don’t make it out of the wilderness.

Or there are others who become overly comfortable in the wilderness, where no one can see them, and they can do as they please. Some misinterpret the wilderness as the fulfilment of their callings where they go and “suffer for Jesus” for the betterment of unnamed “others.” Then there are the few who perceive the wilderness as being a deserved judgment on their life that they must embrace indefinitely.

We can look to stories about the wilderness such as Jesus’s temptations, Elijah’s refuge, Moses’s escape or the migration of the children of Israel from Egypt. In all of these examples we see a pattern emerge: God calls a person or group and manifests in their life, then they end up outside of the comforts of home and into a place where they have to either prove their dependence upon God or prove that their hearts are in line with God’s.

Jesus resisted the temptation of Satan, Elijah learned the secret of hearing God’s voice, Moses became humble and encountered God in the burning bush while tending Jethro’s sheep and the people of Israel were refined into a nation which could enter the Promised Land. Jesus left the wilderness in power and authority, Elijah had his strength and faith restored, and Moses understood his role in God’s plan. These three men left the wilderness forever changed, they were changed in a deep and profound way and it is because of that change that they were able to leave the wilderness intact.

These three examples not only survived but thrived, unlike many nameless faces who have gone into the wilderness and never returned. We see this with the children of Israel as the majority of them died in their season of wilderness, as only those under the age of twenty along with Joshua and Caleb survived. They rejected their wilderness journey, they rejected God’s goodness, they refused to trust God and they resisted God’s attempts to take Egypt out of their hearts. Who knows how many others have fallen victim to these same failings when they went into their own wilderness experiences? This is what I mean by saying that entering the wilderness is a guarantee, but leaving it is not.

But we have another example of someone with a calling from God on their life who had to enter the wilderness, David.

The Wilderness Is Not To Be Feared

As we’ve seen over the past few months the story of David is one which is rich examples of how someone who is called by God is to live and fulfill that calling. We’ve seen so far the path of David’s life which followed the 4 A’s of Anointing, Apprenticeship, Activation and Announcement. Normally we want God to take us straight from the place of Anointing and initial calling and carry us directly into the place of Announcement where we are recognized as being in the fullness of our calling, just as when David was formally made king of Judah and later Israel.

Normally we want God to take us straight from the place of Anointing and initial calling and carry us directly into the place of Announcement

However, in reality to get to the places of activation and announcement we (and David) must go through the wilderness. In the previous article I spoke of how David entered the wilderness because of Saul’s obsession with killing him. I spoke of the need for the wilderness in our lives but now I want to take you to the next level where we actually thrive and see the true purpose that we were brought into this place.

In some ways the wilderness is like finally arriving at your dream amusement park (be it Disney, Universal, Six Flags or even Walley World) only to find out that it was closed, indefinitely, without warning. What would you do in that situation? How would you react to reaching what you though was the pinnacle of your perceived calling and life purpose only to find the gates shut, the lights off and a bumbling security guard keeping you from your dream?

I know the wilderness of life isn’t a fun place, I’ve been there, more than once, I know what it’s like to go into that season kicking and screaming and finally when I was exhausted from all of that, I saw the wilderness for what it really was. I saw it as the place where my personal failings were brought to the surface, not publicly but privately so they wouldn’t be (or not as much) an issue later on in life. I’ve had three such seasons in my life, with one of them lasting almost a decade, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without that time of hiding and refinement.

Much of what I write about, be it in the articles or my books found their beginnings in those seasons of darkness and wilderness. I can honestly look back at several of those times in my life and say that they were worth it. They were painful, I was gripped by hopelessness, I stood face to face with my own expectation, and I lost my sense of purpose. I grappled with the ideas of God’s goodness, faithfulness and love in not just my own life but the world in general. In that place I was forced to ask the real questions most people in church don’t dare to ask or think about (at least out loud). The questions that go beyond a normal motivational message, the questions that determine ones life.

Much of what I write about, be it in the articles or my books found their beginnings in those seasons of darkness and wilderness.

Despite all that I experienced, lost, learned, forgot, relearned, suffered, tolerated or enjoyed I always saw that distant shimmering light at the edge of the horizon and did all I could to follow it.

At the tail end of my last wilderness season God spoke to me through a picture. One day in prayer after reading A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller, I finally saw what was going on in my life from God’s perspective. I saw myself walking through a desert with rolling dunes which saw their sand being carried off by the wind. It was not long before dawn when the sky was dark but there was enough light to see where you were going.

Among the stars was one which sat right along the horizon which was brighter that the rest and pulsed its inviting light. I watched myself march endlessly over each dune. At times briskly other times I struggled and dragged myself over them with my arms. At one point I gave up from the exhaustion, it tried to reach that light but my body gave out and slowly the winds and sand began to bury me. All I saw around myself was lifeless desert and sand and emptiness.

At that point my perspective shifted as if I was lifted up by as if by a crane and I could see beyond the horizon behind me. I couldn’t recognize it because I didn’t see a barren desert but lush trees and an oasis the size of a forest. The new life was creeping along the sands behind me but just beyond my ability to see it, and when I stopped it stopped as well. Then I saw myself again buried in the sand and I lifted myself out of the dune and continued the march towards the light.

Even in your season of wilderness you can have an effect on people, you can grow, develop and achieve great things when you work with God.

Even in your season of wilderness you can have an effect on people, you can grow, develop and achieve great things when you work with God. That was the lesson I learned that day, the lesson of not needing to see the fulfillment of each of my steps but to trust the God would honor my faithfulness in following Him no matter how much my mind or body begged me to stop and submit to the wilderness, with its darkness and cool breeze. God is always watching and God is always working, even when we think our lives or experiences don’t’ matter or that we have been forgotten the refining process continues. Then when you emerge from that process your heart is ready to be who God called you to be. This is the truth you can’t have a testimony without a test and you can’t be in ministry without a refined heart.

But enough about me let’s look back at David and how he navigated this season in the wilderness.

Now Is The Time Of Activation

After fleeing from Saul we see that David didn’t just go hide off in a cave and wait for Saul to die. Nor did David just stay out of the way of the world during this time of testing and preparation. What we see here is that the season of the wilderness not only helped to refine David but also gave him the opportunity to see his gifts and traits needed to be a good king begin to blossom.


1 Samuel 22:2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.


Even though David was not the king of Israel he was still a leader and a person God had singled out for great things, and many people took notice of that. In the wilderness David began to lead a group of people of his own, unlike the soldiers who had previously been obligated to follow his orders. From all over the wilderness of southern Judah people began to flock to David to be led by him even despite Saul’s persecution.

David began to see what it would be like to be the king, but before David was king over a nation he had to prove to himself, to others and to God that he could lead this small band of followers. Because the same lessons apply to leadership no matter the size of the congregation, if you fail in certain areas with a small group you will surly fail in the same ways with a larger group.

David began to see what it would be like to be the king, but before David was king over a nation he had to prove to himself, to others and to God that he could lead this small band of followers.

This idea even applies to ministry, often when people feel a calling to be in some form of ministry, they automatically desire to have the biggest platform, the grandest reach and the most influence possible. Many people don’t value the baby steps it actually takes to get to those levels, and they think that they can automatically succeed if they are given the grandest platform first. In reality this is like teaching a teenager to drive by handing them the keys to a racecar instead of something they can handle. It seems that less and less people appreciate the process of incremental promotion and success. Before you can succeed with a congregation you must succeed with at group, and before you can succeed with at group you first have to succeed with an individual.

Even my own life I have been a youth pastor, a Christian wrestling promoter, a home church pastor, a home group leader, a blogger, a teacher, a coffee maker, a chair stacker and a curriculum writer. I didn’t just start with the platform I have, I worked my way through all of these assignments and opportunities and learned along the way so I could handle the greater opportunities which came later. This is the same lesson we see here with David, though he was not the official king he learned how to lead people so that when his kingship manifested he knew what to do and how to do it.

We see this idea play out in places such as 1 Samuel 23:1-13 where David and his 600 men delivered the town of Keliah from the Philistines. David wasn’t a king, he wasn’t apart of Israel’s army, he had no official status but he did what a king would do in that situation, he saved his people from an attack. He didn’t let the city fall because it wasn’t “his turn” to lead Israel or to officially protect the people. In that moment David didn’t tell himself that someone else more qualified would eventually show up, no he acted out the fullness of his calling right then and there and the city was spared.

Did that victory make David king, no, and even that victory wasn’t the end of the story. even after that accomplishment life and troubles continued, soon Saul found out about the battle and send his army to Keliah. It was only through the guidance of God which was revealed through Abiathar and the ephod (Uruim and Thummim possibly) that David fled the city he just saved and went back into the wilderness.

This Is Just The Beginning Of This Story

For David the wilderness was the time of the Activation of his calling, but not the full manifestation of it. It was the time when his gifts and abilities began to mature and strengthen so he was ready for the inevitable day when Saul passed, and the crown would be placed on his head. Next time we will go even deeper into David’s time of activation and see how it carried him out of the wilderness and into the place of Announcement when it was proclaimed it the nation that David was now king.

But before I close I have this question to ask: where are you in this journey? Are you at the beginning where the call on your life has begun to stir? Are you in the place where that fire is being kindled? Are you where David is in this part of the story where God through the wilderness is doing His work of activation and refinement? Understanding where you are in this process will help you succeed in what God has called you to be. You must be honest with yourself and God about what’s happening in your heart and life so that you can survive the place you are in and be effective in not just ministry but you entire life.

For David the wilderness was the time of the Activation of his calling, but not the full manifestation of it.

“If only I had ________, my life would be better.” We idealize the perfect life and attribute our own unhappiness to our failure to possess it.” Click HERE for more information.
Six Minutes of Grace cover
To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Six Minutes of Grace: They Key To Happiness and Purpose. Get your copy today and discover how you can radically change your life through the power of GRACE.

Also available as an eBook here from Kindle, Kobo, Nook and other retailers.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you won’t miss out on anything.

 
Creative Commons LicenseFrom Surviving to Thriving in the Wilderness Pt. 1 Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
 

When The Wilderness Calls

When The Wilderness Calls

Everyone wants to remain in their own proverbial Eden and wait for God to bring them blessings on a silver platter. It’s no wonder why we look down upon seasons of difficulties or even the idea of having to go through a wilderness to arrive at the place God has called us to. At times people go into the wilderness by choice, such as with Jesus and Moses. But there are other times when people like David were forced to run into it, because their life depended on it.

As we’ve seen over the past few weeks David really hasn’t done anything wrong, he served Saul faithfully, he protected the people from the Philistines and was generally admired by many. The shepherd boy who killed Goliath and lulled Saul to sleep at night stood as a paragon of virtue and the favor of God. But not everyone appreciated what David was becoming. Saul was becoming increasingly paranoid and his rage was replacing the place in his heart which used to be filled with God’s anointing.

Repeatedly Saul lost his temper and tried to impale David with his spear (1 Samuel 19:1-7), only to apologize later on after Jonathan or another calmed him down. Saul reacted in this way because he knew something was up, David was loved by the people, he was a mighty warrior and now he had not only married his daughter Michal but made a covenant with his son Jonathan, the heir-apparent to the throne of Israel. As far as Saul was concerned David was fast becoming enemy number one and posed a threat to his family, his kingship and his life.

Dark to Light

What does this have to do with us today? Not everyone has a Saul in their lives who is watching and plotting against them with a murderous paranoia. Yet at times it may feel that way, and even spiritually we have someone even more broken than Saul who is working against us so that no one can take his throne and replace his royal family.

Saul had fallen from God’s graces and was destined to be replaced by God’s new anointed choice, David. We today can see ourselves playing the role of David, as we look forward to the day when the wicked king is fully dethroned and God allows us to walk into the fullness of our calling.

As I said we don’t always face a physical Saul in our life but there is a spiritual one, one who is active and paranoid that at any moment one of God’s anointed ones will rush into the castle and dethrone him. Satan and his forces are like Saul, they have been entrenched and see themselves as still having a legal right over their territory despite their falling away and the stripping of God’s anointing from their lives. So, they go about and like Saul they hurl their spears in an attempt to kill, discredit, or convert anyone who poses a threat to their continued rule.

We don’t always face a physical Saul in our life but there is a spiritual one, one who is active and paranoid that at any moment one of God’s anointed ones will rush into the castle and dethrone him.

Like David we can’t just barge into that throne room after we “kill Goliath,” no, to achieve real and lasting victory in our hearts we need to go through the process of refinement that comes from entering and abiding in the wilderness. Otherwise we end up being worse than those that we replaced or ridiculed. Imagine if David had gone against his heart and just straight up murdered Saul the first chance he got, would he still be a man after God’s own heart, or would he have become worse than Saul. We can even look at the lives of David’s descendants and see the answer to the question. People like Absalom, Rehoboam, or Manasseh who allowed their hearts to be corrupted and ended up as even more broken and wicked kings than Saul ever was.

This is why the wilderness is a necessity in our relationships with God, it refines our heart and takes us out from the place of Apprenticeship and brings us into Activation. Some people like David won’t have a choice in the matter, if they want to remain spiritually (or even naturally) alive long enough to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives.

Running Into the Wilderness

In the opening of 1 Samuel 19 we don’t see a scared and cowardly David looking to abandon His divine purpose in life because things got “too hard.” This was a last resort to preserve his life and the calling God had placed upon him. We see this play out in David’s request to Jonathan to find out exactly what was going on in Saul’s heart. At first Saul once again relented in 1 Samuel 19:6 but not long after Saul once again tried to turn David into an unwilling wall ornament in 1 Samuel 19:9-10.

Now was the time to run, not out of cowardice, or an abandoning of his calling but because God was orchestrating events to lure David outside the comforts of the castle and his royal position and into the place where his heart would be refined even further. It’s easy to get comfortable, it’s happened to me and I know it has happened to you as well. Comfort leads to contentment, and contentment leads to inactivity. This place of comfort is something we all want to enjoy at some point but at the same time that comfort has to power to smother the fire God has placed inside of us.

Comfort leads to contentment, and contentment leads to inactivity.

No one, or should I say very few, people want to abandon those comforts and go out into the wilderness. In the castle David had food brought to him, but in the wilderness he had to seek out his own food or rely on others for help. The wilderness is one of the spiritual antidotes to our pride and self-sufficiency. It’s the place that forces us to hold up our priorities and relationship with God up against the realities of our hearts desires. Those seasons of wilderness that we dread are really God’s method of pruning our hearts and minds like one prunes a tree of fruit vine. In the wilderness the dead branches of our heart, mind and desires are exposed and allowed to be removed so the source of life can flow freely through us.

We’re not the only ones that must face these seasons of wilderness refinement. As we’ve already seen Jesus and Moses both had seasons like this, but so did Elijah, Paul, Jeremiah and a host of others who were used mightily by God. The wilderness can be painful, stressful and full of vanities but God uses that time to draw us closer to Him and to ensure that we don’t place our trust in the wrong things. No longer do we rely on the royal chefs to bring our meals each day but now we rely on God’s provisions (Matthew 6:25-27).

Our Spiritual Testing Grounds

Not only is the wilderness a season of dependency but it also prepares us for what God has called us to become. With David his time in the wilderness was not one of isolation or contemplation. Rather this season gave him the opportunity to experience many of the responsibilities he would face when he became king. He learned how to lead and manage and defend his people. Many of the lessons David needed to learn in how to be a good king came during this season where he lead his band of misfits and evaded the murderous rage of Saul.

The wilderness can then be seen as a microcosm or a testing ground for our divine callings where we can learn, grow and apply what God is calling us to be outside of the public eye. It also allows us the opportunity to fail without being discredited before we master our callings. Or we can be like the Apostle Paul who used his decade long post-Damascus wilderness to relearn the scriptures through the light of Christ.

The wilderness can then be seen as a microcosm or a testing ground for our divine callings where we can learn, grow and apply what God is calling us to be outside of the public eye.

I know that everyone wants to go from the poor shepherd directly to being the king with nothing in-between. But it is in that in-between time that our heart, mind and character are supposed to be prepared to be a king after God’s own heart. Otherwise we run the risk of ending up like the fallen and wicked kings of Judah and Israel.

Even I’ve had my own wilderness experiences I’ve had several seasons in my life where as I was trying to fulfill. my calling and become who God created me to be I suddenly found myself outside of the proverbial promised land and alone in the dark, barren wilderness. I can honestly say that while I was in those seasons of wilderness that I was less than pleased to be in them. I grumbled and complained like ancient Israelite who left Egypt and I would regularly question God’s goodness.

But eventually I got to the point where I recognized where I was and what God was trying to do in those seasons and my perspective began to change. I reached a point in the wilderness where I saw what God was trying to do with my heart, character or motivations and began to allow Him to do his work. I allowed this because I began to see how the things God was addressing in my life would end up crippling my calling and would lead to others being affected as well. Looking back at those seasons I still don’t enjoy the pain, discomfort or struggles I endured but I to enjoy the place that I am in now because of it.

This whole concept of the wilderness can be compared to breaking your leg. After the injury you can either go through frustration of depending on a crutch and having to endure the pain of having the bone heal, and even become stronger in some aspects. Or you can take the easy way out and avoid all of that pain and discomfort by just cutting of your leg instead. I feel that many believers prefer to cut off their broken legs than allow God to take them through the wilderness. Then afterwards they go about brag about their piety for enduring life without a leg to stand on when all God wanted to do was to strengthen them and make them more grounded in Him.

Welcome to the Wilderness

Despite Saul’s murderous temper tantrums David was still in his season of apprenticeship, he was one of the leaders of the army and was the one bringing victories to Israel while Saul remained at home wallowing in his misery. David was earning the love and respect of the people simply by being faithful to the tasks set before him. He didn’t try to outmaneuver Saul politically but simply did his duty for the people and the kingdom as God gave him the needed support.

Even though Saul was trying to kill David, David did not relent from doing what he knew he needed to do at that time. He didn’t refuse to fight the Philistines or plot to kill Saul, however once the danger became too great then and only then did he flee. But David did not flee to an enemy to seek vengeance on Saul, no in that moment David fled to where the prophet Samuel was staying. David fled to the only real place he could go to as an anointed servant of God. He went to the place where other anointed people were, the place where God was speaking so he could find shelter and insight into what to do next.

Don’t fear the wilderness because that’s the place of activation.

This time of apprenticeship in the wilderness David the experience he needed to learn how to lead the people and it gave him a platform for the others to recognize themselves what God has placed upon him. The wilderness was not a demotion but a staircase to the next level of David’s life, but like a natural staircase it takes effort and intent to reach the top. Our hearts want an escalator to carry us to our dreams and promises but in reality God wants to walk hand in hand with us up those stairs so we always remain dependent on Him for our promotion and success. Don’t fear the wilderness because that’s the place of activation.


Psalm 55:6-7 “So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness.”


To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth

 
Creative Commons LicenseWhen The Wilderness Calls Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.