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