If you take the lessons and introspections of the wilderness seriously you will eventually find yourself at the edge of the wilderness. That place where you can finally see what is waiting for you beyond the horizon, that place you know as your calling and purpose in life. For some it’s ministry, others business, or another type of career. No matter what it is this is the place where you can finally see what you only hoped could be possible one day.
It’s that place where promises get fulfilled where you can finally enjoy the benefits and added responsibilities of becoming who God created you to be. For some this could be a paid position at a church, others a place on the mission field, or a job teaching, or even serving in any other capacity. The years of grief, training, apprenticeship, seeming futility, small victories and painful growth are finally about to bloom into something wonderful. Something that you have hoped for and simultaneously expected to never actually happen.
With David this was the place he found himself in during the last months of his trek through the wilderness avoiding the persecution of Saul. So many years had gone by since his original anointing and commissioning by Samuel as a teenager. Now the process of Anointing, Apprenticeship, Activation were about to culminate in the season of Announcement.
Finding Comfort in Unexpected Places
The path to ministry, or any calling from God for that matter is never just a clear trajectory from point A to point B. Often God will take us through twists, turns and unexpected detours not to punish us or hold us back but to give us what we need to flourish in our callings.
David faced an unexpected turn in his strategic retreat from king Saul, as he found himself serving a Philistine ruler named Achish the king of Gath. This same ruler that David pretended to be insane in front of years ago (1 Samuel 21:12-14), but since seems to have come to an understanding with. David received a home called Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:6) in exchange for him and his forces protecting the Philistines south-eastern territory from the Amalekites and other rogue tribes (1 Samuel 27:8).
On the surface David seemed to have sided with the same people who regularly raided his tribe’s territory and sent the likes of Goliath against his people. Yet by serving this Philistine king as a mercenary he also fulfilled a task which also benefited the tribe of Judah as well (1 Samuel 27:10), by keeping Israel’s ancient enemy the Amalekites (Numbers 14:43-45, Deuteronomy 25:17, Judges 6:3, 1 Samuel 14:48, 15:18) at bay deep in the southern wilderness.
What we see play out here in this story of David is how the path to our destination will sometimes take us to unexpected places. These paths seem to be taking us in the opposite direction from our calling but actually are preparing us in a way we didn’t expect. I had a season like this myself, for about three years I had a second job where I wrote investment articles about Canadian stocks. It wasn’t something I was particularly passionate about and at the time I was more focused on working on the home group curriculum and other sider project at the church I was attending.
During this season I was writing four to five 3,000 word articles each week and it taught me how to present otherwise unexciting information in an interesting and concise way. It was an education I probably couldn’t have received anywhere else and it prepared me for what I’m doing now with my books and the regular content on my website. It was the polar opposite of what I wanted to do with my time and ministry but in the long-term it was one of the best things I could’ve done with my time back then.
The experience helped me pay off my mortgage quicker, it gave me the skills to write entire term papers in a day (without sacrificing my GPA), and how to structure information in a way which helped me greatly in writing my books. But that job was only for a season and many of you will face the same unexpected twists and turns in your journey as well. You just have to be willing to accept and recognize these detours and to do the best job possible at them because later on you’ll see how those unexpected places helped you become who God wanted you to transform into.
Typically, you’ll know this season of detouring and unexpected travels comes to an end because you’ll swiftly be kicked out of the nest so to speak. With my stock writing this came in the form of cutbacks which reduced the minimum payments for my articles to the point where it wasn’t worth the effort anymore. With David this came in the form of the other Philistine kings dismissing David and not allowing him to march with their army (1 Samuel 29:4-7).
While on the one hand the other Philistine rulers wanted nothing to do with David, Achish still recognized the faithfulness of David and had nothing bad to say about him (1 Samuel 29:3). Just because you’re in this place that feels nowhere near the place of your eventual ministry it doesn’t give you a license to do a poor job or to not be faithful in doing it. David remained faithful even in serving Achish and ensured his reputation was not eroded by his actions during a less that favorable point in his life.
Facing The Last Ditch Attacks of the Enemy
After being dismissed from the Philistine’s army David and his 600 men returned to their home in Ziklag, but instead of finding their families waiting joyously for them they returned to smoke, ashes and silence (1 Samuel 30:3). In an instant everything was gone their wives, children, flocks and possessions were nowhere to be seen. It was that feeling of abandonment by God and hopelessness which many of us have faced at one point or another. You walk into your place of comfort only to find everything torn down and left in ruin.
Those who followed David went from faithful companions to near mutiny, where they wanted revenge by killing David because of their loss (1 Samuel 30:6). The Amalekites struck knowing that the Philistines and Israelites were too busy fighting each other to protect their southern frontiers. This also could have been done out of revenge for David’s earlier attacks on them (1 Samuel 27:8). Either way David’s enemy had struck leaving him and his followers broken and at the point of despair.
We have to understand that our enemy is also an opportunist who lives at the edges of our own lives, looking for moments to invade and carry away the blessings God has given to us. Satan always attacks hardest right before you enter into something new and powerful. He and his forces watch as you reach the summit of the mountain blocking your destiny and they wait just below the peak to stop you from seeing the lush valley of promise and fulfillment below.
They understand that the more successful you are at contributing to the expansion of God’s kingdom in this world the greater risk you pose to their own territory. In reality you are like David and his forces making raids into enemy territory and carrying off the spoils back to their own lands. The forces of the enemy see you as the great invaders who are coming to take their people away from them so they lie in wait for a moment where you are unprepared to resist their retaliations.
In that moment David lost everything, but he didn’t cower or give up but instead rose up and sought out God’s will in that situation (1 Samuel 30:7-8). Upon receiving the green-light from God David lead his forces to take back all that was lost. Days later David and his forces defeated the Amalekites and took back everything which was stolen, plus the riches of the Amalekites. David later shared those spoils with the leaders of Judah who supported him.
We must learn from this experience because we will have trials and times of failure and loss and we have to endure and push through it otherwise we will never recover what was lost and we end up drifting back into the heart of the wilderness and blaming God for our misfortunes. When we face these seasons of loss or spiritual attack, we have to come at it from the perspective of “I’m going to fight back and reclaim what was lost, plus interest.”
You cannot use these types of losses or attacks to discourage you from continuing in the path to your calling. Because if you throw in the towel, you’ll just become another beggar along the road or corpse in the ditch serving as a witness to all those who come along this journey after you, that “happily ever after” is not guaranteed.
There are struggles and battles that have to be won, and you can’t do it all alone, what would have happened if David left the six hundred behind and went off to fight the Philistines alone? He would have most likely ended up like the swordsman in Indian Jones, struck down without any real effort. Then all of the promises and anointing David received would have been made meaningless. You need to fight these battles with others as well, you need the support of those who are still in the wilderness and you need help from those who have come out of it.
The End Is In Sight
If you have proven faithful in the seasons of unexpected detours and the surprise attacks of the enemy, you’ll soon find yourself at the edge of the wilderness. The place where you’ve reached the summit of the immoveable mountain of your life, the one which said you could never enter into the fullness of your calling.
All that remains now is to walk down that mountain and enter the valley God has been preparing for you. The place where you are announced as being who God created you to be, the place where the anointing placed on you long ago manifests into an active calling, a visible platform, and the added responsibilities become real. To make it to this place you have to have learned how to benefit from the detours of life and you need to have developed the courage to take back what the enemy has stolen from you.
Otherwise you still may find your way out of the wilderness, but you will be ill equipped and left with nothing but the proverbial shirt on your back. You’ll soon find out that you weren’t prepared and will have to go through the season of training and refining all over again. When we come to the summit of that mountain we don’t want to be like Moses who only received a glimpse of the promised land (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Rather we want to be like Caleb who was able to enter into the promised land and take the territory promised to him, with a little help of course (Joshua 14:14, Joshua 15:13-17).
Just like the entire process of surviving the wilderness where you have to cultivate faithfulness, character and your relationship with God, exiting the wilderness takes even greater mastery of those matters. You can’t coast down the mountain so to speak because if you do you will inevitably fall over and impale yourself on a tree or fall off a cliff. This steady march down hill can be the most perilous part of the process because you begin to let your guard down and you try and rush the process because you are so close to the end.
This is where we tend to get lazy and “forget” the three great keys of 1) Go to Church, 2) Read your Bible and 3) Don’t Sin. Or we no longer see one or all of them as being important because we can almost touch the place of our Announcement into our calling. We hear that Saul has been killed and realize that in a matter of days or moments we will be made king so to speak. This is why we have to take the lessons, experiences and times with God we have lived though during the wilderness and become even more diligent so we can make it to the bottom of the mountain and receive our commission.
For those of you who do make it to the bottom of the mountain and are free of the wilderness, receiving your commissioning and having your calling announced to the world is not the end of the story, Next week we will look at the two paths your life can take once you have received the fullness of your long promised anointing.
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Reaching The Edge of the Wilderness Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.