Reaching The Edge of The Wilderness

Reaching the Edge of the Wilderness

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.

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.

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.

The path to ministry, or any calling from God for that matter is never just a clear trajectory from point A to point B.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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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Creative Commons LicenseReaching The Edge of the Wilderness Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
 

Be Ready For Unexpected Challenges

Be Prepared For Unexpected Challenges

Those who have been given a call and purpose from God will inevitable find themselves facing a great decisive and unexpected challenges which will determine if they will continue down the path God has laid out. However, this challenge is not always expected and more often than not we find ourselves stumbling upon it going about our daily lives.

Not every battle is laid out before us in advance and many times we will find ourselves stepping into the unexpected and then we discover why God led us to that place. We don’t always get pulled aside by someone and given a tactical briefing about something special or unusual that is going to happen that day which has the potential to reshape our lives. But that’s what happened with David he went about the mundane dealings of life and suddenly found himself standing face to face with Goliath.

This is the third part in my look into the life of David to help you discover how we to live you life after being called, commissioned or given a life’s purpose by God. Already we’ve seen how David’s heart handled the anointing by Samuel (Pt.1 HERE) and how David had the humility to serve Saul as his royal minstrel (Pt. 2 HERE) while still maintaining his family responsibilities (1 Samuel 17:15). Now we move on to the defining moment that launched David out of his season of Anointing and into his time of Apprenticeship.

God Combines Anointing With Opportunity Pt. 2

Not long after David became the royal minstrel Saul and the Philistines went to war, to fight over control of territory in western Judah (1 Samuel 17:2). Israel was trying to retain the land taken by the likes of Joshua, Caleb and Othniel while the Philistines were looking to push inward. However, this time was different it wasn’t just two waves crashing together in battle this time there were theatrics at play. The Philistines had their super-weapon and they were looking to coax someone from the Israelite army to agree to a champions battle (1 Samuel 17:8-9). In this battle the Philistines had Goliath, a giant (Anakim), and a descendant (or even a distant relative) of a tribe of giants disposed by Joshua’s conquest of the land given to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 11:21-22).

Now a champions battle which Goliath was trying to bait Israel into is when a conflict is decided by a single warrior or small group of representatives from each army engaging in combat to determine an overall victor. This isn’t that crazy as it does prevent unnecessary loss of life in a conflict, although it appears to be more popular in stories than in actual battle, however there are real examples of this from history outside of the Biblical account.

This is the part of the account where David comes into play. After several weeks of the Philistine’s taunting Israel David’s father Jesse got the idea to send some supplies to the front lines of the pending battle (1 Samuel 17:17-18). David’s three oldest brothers were there so Jesse (fun fact: the son of Boaz and Ruth) asked David of all people to bring some food for them along with some cheese for their commander/regiment, then return home with a report.

David didn’t go to the front lines to specifically fight Goliath that day, he went at the request of his father to bring supplies to the army and his older brothers. David and Jesse probably had no idea about what was going on at the front line with Goliath taunting and challenging the Israelite army. David was just being obedient to his father, even though he was king Saul’s personal minstrel and the next anointed king of Israel.

David didn’t go to the front lines to specifically fight Goliath that day, he went at the request of his father to bring supplies to the army and his older brothers.

The Face Of The Giant

Once David arrived at the front lines days later the reason God led him there became apparent. As David was passing through the camp after delivering his supplies he overheard the commotion coming from the Philistine side of the battlefield (1 Samuel 17:23). After hearing the words of Goliath David demanded to know what would happened to the person that takes out this giant. David even goes as far to say “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” in verse 26.

It becomes apparent here that David’s trust and relationship with God gave him the faith to speak these words and to do the things he did later that day. By calling Goliath an “uncircumcised Philistine” he was declaring that Goliath was outside of God’s covenant and represented no real threat to those who serve and follow God. This is why David called Israel’s army the “armies of the living God,” as opposed to the Philistines who only served idols and demons.

David like Joshua and Caleb generations ago recognized the formidable foes that stood before them but had more hope in God’s ability to fight for them than in the giants’ ability to squash them. It’s the same with us today there will come times in your life where circumstances, opponents or even yourself will appear to be like this mighty giant that is taunting you to walk into what appears in the natural to be an unwinnable battle.

David like Joshua and Caleb generations ago recognized the formidable foes that stood before them but had more hope in God’s ability to fight for them than in the giants’ ability to squash them.

How many thousands of Israelite soldiers where there from all twelve tribes yet none of them had the faith (Numbers 13:33, Deuteronomy 1:28) to stand up against this giant (aka Rephaim, Emim, Anakim, sons of Anak) in the same manner that their faithful ancestors did (Joshua 11:21, 13:12, 14:12-15, 15:13).

Giants are not immortal or unbeatable but they are difficult to destroy if we go out in our own strength and without God’s assistance. David realized this He knew that God was more powerful than any living or breathing being outside of the covenant. To David this battle was not impossible and perhaps he was even reminded of the story of Caleb and Othniel fellow members of the tribe of Judah who killed several giants 300 or so years previously (Joshua 15, Judges 1).

This giant wasn’t there specifically to challenge David, Goliath was there challenging every person who followed the God of Israel. It was an open challenge to each and every soldier who claimed to follow the God who brought them out of slavery and into this Promised Land. Often this is how many “giants” in our lives operate they are not always looking not attack us directly but are looking to attack or embarrassed anyone and everyone who serves God. They do this to discredit God in the eyes of the people and to lure people into thinking that the giant’s gods/demons are the ones with real power and must be served.

David was there that day to honor his fathers request to bring supplies to the front lines, he didn’t go to fight or to impress the crowds he simply did as his father requested and once he arrive an opportunity was there waiting for him.

What’s Your Motivation To Face Unexpected Challenges

After seeing this display from Goliath David asked what if any was Saul promising to give the one who silenced this giant. A soldier responded to David by saying that the reward would be riches, Saul’s daughter, and tax exemption for his (and father’s) family (1 Samuel 17:25). On the one hand this sounds like everything you would want if you were anointed to be the next king. Riches to solidify your position among the people, a marriage to bring you into the royal family and the added benefit of you and your father’s house getting tax exemption status.

Many people would jump at the opportunity to receive this reward alone, except in this case they didn’t. There was something all of the other soldiers were missing, they were missing God in this equation. To David these rewards were not the reason for him wanting to challenge Goliath, David’s motivation came from wanting to stand up for God, the rewards were just a bonus for his faithfulness.

If one of the other soldiers had taken up Saul’s offer and lost then the army would have had to stand down and serve the Philistines as slaves, conscripts and Saul would become a vassal or be executed. The risk was too high just to receive riches alone, which is why things changed when David arrived.

I feel/fear today that far too often people who are anointed and called by God rush into these battles just so they can receive the natural rewards that are offered. They want the riches and recognition now and their hearts are in the wrong place. Often they only realize this after they have been defeated, but many times that defeat has lasting consequences on them and on those around them. Just as if an unanointed soldier had challenged Goliath and died the nation would have suffered the consequences I feel that often the same thing happens with the church at large.

I feel/fear today that far too often people who are anointed and called by God rush into these battles just so they can receive the natural rewards that are offered.

Far too often we seek out money, fame, influence and lose sight of why we are doing the things we are in ministry. It becomes more about advancement and position and less about pleasing God and doing what’s right in His eyes. David stood up against Goliath because of the things Goliath was saying not because he was looking for a wife or gold.

Courage To Face A Challenge Invites Judgement

David’s inquiries into the possible reward for killing Goliath didn’t go unnoticed, David’s oldest brother Eliab overhead his little brother and snapped at him. Eliab said in 1 Samuel 17:28 “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

This is an astounding response from David’s brother because he knew who David was called to be, he was there when Samuel anointed him. Eliab knew full well that God had appointed David to be King of Israel yet he still responded in this manner. He took David’s questioning about Goliath and declared it as being prideful or just wanting to watch the battle and perhaps “play the role of a king,” or thought that David was hoping for to Saul be killed.

Eliab wasn’t alone as others mocked David as well, but this type of response always goes hand in hand whenever anyone has faith for God to do mighty things. Even Jesus received this type of mockery by the people of Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). Others such as the prophet Jeremiah faced the same criticism from the people of his own home town Anathoth (Jeremiah 11:21). There is always this repeating resistance to anyone who tries to actually take God, his promises and His words at face value and try to do something to fight back against these so-called giants and unexpected challenges.

It’s no different for us today, if we believe that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives we have to be prepared to face several things. We have to be ready for unexpected giants to cross our paths and we need to be emotionally ready for the complaining and push back we receive from others when we try to do something about those giants. It’s always easier to sit back and complain about the challenges in front of us and its comforting to ridicule others for trying to deal with problems we have no desire or faith to overcome ourselves. It’s that notion of settling for mediocrity and making sure no one else tries to rise above that level, because if they do then our excuses of why we never did anything about those challenges evaporate and we are left in shame.

This is where David found himself, he saw the giant and heard his accusations against God and his people, he had enough faith to ask what would come about for the one who wiped out this accuser and he was faced with ridicule. Were the people so far removed from the victories of Joshua that they no longer had any faith in God’s intervention, and what did they expect would happen if no on answered Goliath’s challenge. I’m sure eventually Goliath and the Philistines would have run out of patience and overrun the Israelite camp, leaving scores dead and the people in slavery once again.

Avoiding these unexpected challenges is never an answer because eventually they will overcome you and your walk with God. You can’t just camp out of the battlefield and hope the opposing force gets bored and walks away.

Avoiding these unexpected challenges is never an answer because eventually they will overcome you and your walk with God. You can’t just camp out of the battlefield and hope the opposing force gets bored and walks away. That’ll never happen, the only solution is to partner with God and stand against them. That’s what was in David’s heart He saw the giant, heard His words but unlike the other Israelite soldiers he had a firm grasp on who God is, what was available to him through the covenant, and how little a threat Goliath was in God’s eyes.

Taking A Stand

We can move out in the same faith today to see these unexpected challenges through the lens of our New Covenant and the power of God. We need to do this because if we don’t succeed in these challenges we will find ourselves in bondage to them and our anointing, calling and purpose will either become imprisoned or we will be forced to take the long way to our ultimate destination.

These times of unexpected challenges are the times when God proves to us that what He promised is real, they are times where our own strength cannot prevail and through these victories the next stages of our walk with God begin to open up.

Next week we will see how David faced this unexpected challenge head on and how it took him into the next phase of his calling. As he progressed from the place of Anointing to the place of Apprenticeship, because someone overhead David talking and rather than ridiculing him went to the king to tell him the news that someone was ready to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:31)

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 LicenseBe Ready For Unexpected  Challenges Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.