We often think of the desert as a bad thing. It’s dry, hot, barren, and pretty much uninhabitable. We tend to apply those same thought patterns towards our Spiritual walk, when we enter seasons of being in the desert. What if the desert wasn’t a problem, but it was really a training ground?
Let’s look at three popular examples from scripture that show us the training ground principle.
Moses In the Desert (40 Years)
Moses actually ran to the desert to get away from his past. He ran away from Pharaoh’s house after getting called out for killing the Egyptian soldier.
I’ve been there. I actually moved across Texas to get away from God at one point, but he wasn’t having it. He came and found me just like he did to Moses.
Have you ever run to “the desert” to get away from God?
Moses spent forty years in the desert. He thought he was living a nice comfortable life, but unbeknownst to him, he was actually in the training ground. For forty years he was learning:
- leadership principles as a shepherd,
- how to endure hardships,
- how to find resources when there seemed to be none,
- and how to navigate the wilderness.
God was preparing him to go back to Egypt to lead the people to freedom. Each of the principles he learned in the desert were invaluable to him as a leader. Without the time in the desert he would have tried to lead on his own ability and the leadership styles he witnessed from Pharaoh and his men.
Moses was a type and a shadow of Christ who was to come. His forty years was a shadow, or a foretelling, to the forty days Jesus would spend there. Moses’ temptation came in the form of wanting to quit and turn back.
Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all. – Exodus 5:22-23
Even in the midst of his temptation to quit God reminded him of his call and purpose.
Jesus In The Desert (40 Days)
After Jesus was baptized it says He,
was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came… – Matthew 4:1-3
In the Old Testament the High Priest was set apart. They did not get involved in many of the same day-to-day particulars as the people, and therefore were not tempted in many of the same ways as normal men. Even though Christ was fully God, He was also fully man, and his time in the desert is better illustrated through Hebrews 4:15,
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus was led to the desert to go to His training ground. Not that He really “needed” training, but He understood his call and purpose. He only did in the earthly realm what He saw the Father doing in the Spiritual realm. The initiation of His ministry came from His time in the desert so that in His humanity He could relate to our trials and temptations. God was relating to His creation through Christ by way of enduring the same temptations we do.
Paul In The Desert (roughly 40 months)
We don’t know the exact amount of time Paul spent in the desert, but we know from His letter to the Galatians that he went there for around three years.
For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ… I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. – Galatians 1:12, 17-18
Paul was a smart man. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, and was advancing as a Pharisee faster than most of his contemporaries. He wasn’t in need of teaching on Hebrew Scriptures, because he knew them forward and backward. What Paul needed after his conversion was time in the desert to be taught by the Holy Spirit. His revelation of Jesus Christ empowered his entire ministry.
Once again, we tend to think of the desert as a problem in our spiritual lives just like we view it in the physical realm. The living water seems to be gone. The Word has dried up. God’s voice is so parched that it can’t even be heard. The sand is blowing and chafing our skin.
It is in these times of silent, dry, and seemingly uninhabitable spiritual existence that God teaches us the most. The revelations and spiritual training we get, whether from purposeful running to the desert or running away, prepare us for the ministry and lasting impact he has for us when we return from that dry and dusty land. Moses returned from the desert to lead the Israelites to freedom. Jesus returned from the desert to fulfill the main portion of his ministry. Paul returned from his time in the desert to bring the Gospel to the gentiles.
Don’t view this time of being in a spiritual desert as a problem. View it as God’s training ground for what He is preparing you to do next. Whether you stand on the dunes of the spiritual desert for 40 days, 40 months, or even 40 years, live your life in crescendo, because your greatest impact on this world lies in front of you.