40 Days in the Desert
For a long time after beginning to attend church the Bible still seemed like a bunch of words to me. I had my doubts about it being the actual word of God let alone the Living Word of God. Then something happened. One day while sitting in church I was reading along with the Pastor and the words came to life. Tears began to stream down my face and my heart was pierced with God's word. After that day my faith began to grow in a whole new way. I would read things in the Bible and know that it was true because I had personally experienced it in some way. God really started revealing himself to me by showing me through his word how he is involved in my personal life. Before this spiritual eye opening I had a positional knowledge of God. Meaning, I agreed I am a child of God. I received Jesus as my savior. I knew I needed to glorify God in my life (although I lacked the power of the Holy Spirit to do so). I just had not experienced God. Suddenly His word came to life and I began to experience Him. There have been many specific ways God has revealed himself to me. One way is His timing.
For a while I noticed a certain ebb and flow to my life. It seemed things would run along smoothly for a couple of weeks and then things would seem to sort of unravel for a while. Then things would be okay, even really good, then change up again. It was easy to see the good times were usually much shorter than the bad. At the same time my realization of these ebb and flow cycles was coming more clearly into focus God was also directing me to certain stories in the Bible that pointed out a specific time frame. Forty. I have meditated and prayed on this for quite some time now and feel confident to share what I believe the Lord is showing me. The first lesson is taken from the story of Moses who led the Israelite's into the desert for forty years.
In Exodus 13:17-18 God chose not to lead the Israelite's the short way out but instead the long way. Why? God knew they did not have the mature faith yet to withstand the battles they would face coming into the promise land. Instead he led them the long way through the desert. By doing this He was able to display not only His power to save them if they would just trust His leading; but also the desire of His heart to save them. In Exodus 14:14 Moses tells the people, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." The only people I know willing to fight for me are the ones who have great love for me. God showed His power to save but He was also showing His great love by fighting for them. What does this have to do with me personally? God uses this story to heal me from my past. All of my mistakes were not a waste. The hard times had value. God is also preparing me so I can withstand the battles yet to come. I can know that he has been fighting for me my whole life and will continue to do so because of His great love for me. On a smaller scale; other stories have revealed the forty days and forty nights time frame that is the ebb and flow I live in presently.
In the gospel of Mathew chapter 4 Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted. He is not tempted right away though. He goes in spiritually strong and nourished. He has just be filled with the Holy Spirit after all. But after forty days and nights without food he is hungry. It is then that Satan comes to tempt him. Not when Jesus is on some sort of spiritual high but rather when his flesh is weak. Satan first tempts him with bread. That's probably what Jesus wants the most. It is most likely the hardest thing to turn down. Basically Satan goes for the throat right off the bat. He doesn't even bother easing into it. Then he tempts Jesus by questioning the Father's love for him. A kind of mocking, "Go ahead see if God really is there watching over you." Then as if grasping at straws Satan tries one more thing. He offers the splendor of worldly riches to Jesus. I looked at that for a long time thinking that Satan waited to save the best temptation for last but that's not true at all. Looking at this account of how Satan tempts us in reverse I can see something totally different. If I were to be offered all the riches of the world I would know right away it's impossible. But I might be more likely to wonder if God is really looking out for my best interest day to day if I were suffering. And I know I would be willing to do almost anything for food if I had not eaten in forty days or nights. James 4:7 comes to mind, "Submit yourself to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Jesus overcame the temptations by submitting to God. He used scripture each time. His resistance showed no wavering or him-hah. After a few attempts eventually the devil had no choice but to flee.
God has used this story to show me a few things. First, Satan is not likely to strike in the "good times" when I am physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually strong. When I get weak in one of those areas I become susceptible to temptation. Second, when God leads me into a desert period it is for a reason. To mature my faith. Jesus came out of the desert on a whole new spiritual level preaching repentance with authority. The Israelite's came out of the desert as whole new generation willing to be led by Joshua who was leading by God's authority. Third, he is showing me how to do it. By using His word to resist the devil and hang on in faith I can be sure he will fight for me. In a short amount of time He will lead me out of the desert equipping me in a whole new way. I only need to be still.
This whole lesson about God's timing could not have happened if His living word wasn't revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. The opening of my spiritual eyes has been such an awesome blessing. Each day I feast on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mat. 4:4). He nourishes me in all ways. He teaches me. He shares His heart with me. I pray God's word has come alive for you as it has for me. If it hasn't I pray it does. Amen!
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Trecia, yes i also wondered about the word 'forty'. It was a real eye opener. Though the subject was discussed, your article is very good.