The Desert Place: july sonshine

The Sonshine    July, 2017

The Desert Place by Walter Olsen

Introduction

Have you ever been in a desert place, perhaps not a literal desert, but a place where you felt all alone and you didn’t know how you were going to manage? Because of our common human condition, most likely we have all been there in one way or another. The apostles of Jesus knew such a place. When many people had come to Jesus to hear Him and to be ministered to by Him, and the day began to draw to a close, there was a problem - they were hungry! Note the text, “And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto Him, ‘Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals [food]: for we are here in a desert place’” (Luke 9:12).

Our desert places are usually places of considerable want. We are in the midst of a considerable difficulty and we don’t know what to do! Maybe some of us are there at the present time?!

By means of reference to our difficulties today, let’s make a few applications. What resources do we have, as believers, when we are in the desert place?

We have a Presence. The Presence is the presence of God Himself. In the above account we read, “But He said unto them…” (Luke 9:13). Jesus was literally in their midst, but Christians are never alone! Christians have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, a presence that will never leave nor forsake them! The question, then, is what difference does His presence make when we are in a desert place and we see no way out? Consider the following.

 When we experience God’s presence there is always hope. Sometimes all hope for well-being in this life is lost. Disease and accidents often lead to death. But consider, the believer’s hope really is not in this world. Paul’s admonition is, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). For the believer whose affection is really set on things above, the loss of the things of this earth are not so severe. Yes, there may be pain, grief, and sorrow but still, his hope is on the things of God. Hope in God never disappoints! The problem is, even as believers we often fail to set our hope in God as we could and should. The attractions of the world have held sway over our affections and so our loses in this life seem to be insurmountable.  

Should we not give more attention to our walk and fellowship with God than most of us probably do? If we were to immerse ourselves in the truths of God’s word and seek to set our affections on things above, perhaps our loses on this earth would not seem so immense. This is not to say our loses here on earth are not saddening, maybe even hurtful. The truth though, is that our gains in heaven are far greater! 

When we experience God’s presence, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This is something we know from the study of God’s word, but it is also something we know by faith. Is it not an experience of the heart to know and trust God to work all things together for His glory and our benefit? To know God is to trust Him! As we grow in faith, our trust will increase. Paul’s words are helpful here, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). It is by faith that we have access into the grace in which we stand. Without faith, we could never know the riches of God’s love and provision for us. Again, there is an appeal to get to know God personally, “…to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (II Pet. 3:18). It is then that we can have the confidence that all things work together for good. 

When we experience God’ presence, we can know His help in the midst of our trials. As Paul reminds us, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13). The point is, God knows and cares about the trials and difficulties of our lives. As Moses wrote of God, “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows” (Ex. 3:7).

Many people have suffered and do today suffer beyond our comprehension. Still, God is not an unconcerned God. He loves and cares for His own in all kinds of circumstances. That may sound a bit trite considering what we see going on in the world today, but we take it as the word of God. Many things in this life we cannot comprehend or answer but, as believers, we can leave them with God and thus find a measure of satisfaction. Again, this in no way diminishes the suffering we may go through or see others going through. Our response to the suffering of others is to pray for them and minister to them in the love of God as best we can.

We have a provision. Because God is who He is, He provides for the suffering of His own as He deems best. In the desert place with all the people, God provided with a miracle of the loaves and the fish. For the suffering and depravation of the children of Israel, God sent Moses to deliver them from bondage and bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. The question now is, can we expect God to always correct the situation and better our circumstances here on earth? Consider John the Baptist. He was beheaded!! Yet, John the Baptist was ushered in to the very presence of God in heaven. Paul’s word was, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).

Could it be that to depart from this life and go to be with the Lord is even better? Can we not accept Paul’s words, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21, 23).

Let’s remember that, when we are  walking and communing  with God, His provision is always best! Remember Enoch. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). 

Consider, no one can know just how God will provide for the circumstantial needs of His own. We can pray and trust God, but the results must be left with Him. If we know Him and trust Him in all circumstances, we can be sure to rejoice with Him in the given time. 
Consider also, even in times of suffering we have a pasture in which to feed. King David said in a difficult time in his life, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psa. 23:1-2). Believers, even in times of severe suffering, can experience something of the green pastures. If they have been walking with God, He will bring to them the precious truths of His word to caress their hearts. It is so good to know that, “…He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psa. 23:3). This does  not diminish the physical suffering we may encounter, but it does bring relief to the heart. 

It seems incumbent upon all believers to establish the reality of God in their lives when life is going well for them. So often God is relegated to a second place or worse when life is, for the most part, pleasurable. We need a moving of God in our hearts to realize just who He is and His claim upon our lives! I believe we need to be regularly in  the word of God for ourselves. We need to meditate upon His word so we can get something of His teaching for us personally. We need the teaching of the  Holy Spirit for ourselves! Also, we need to sit under the Spirit filled preaching of a man of God. Attending church as a habit is not enough!! We need God for ourselves!

We have a power. The power is not in us to satisfy our own will and way, but in Him to accomplish what He has already determined. We can rest in the fact that, whatever God determines to do, He has the power to do. We do not have a weak God! We don’t know what God may do in our lives in times of distress, but we can rest in the fact that He is in no way hindered in fulfilling His will for our lives. Jesus assured His disciples of His power when He said, “…all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

We are hindered by our lack of power to do what we may think should be done to help ourselves or others, but God never lacks power. If we suffer in our desert place, it is not because of God’s inability. If He could feed the five thousand, think what He could do in our lives. But we must remember that God does not use His great power independent of His other attributes. His wisdom, knowledge, and love all coincide with His perfect will for our lives. 

We have a peace. This may sound incompatible with being in a desert place. Often we are stressed, uncomfortable, worried, hurting, and frightened. This is compatible with our human condition. Within our selves, we don’t like to be in a desert place. Sometimes there are places of pain, grief, and doubt. Still, as believers who walk with God, we can have something of His peace. Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn.14:27). 

Spiritual peace is knowing that I am in a right relationship with God. It is knowing that, in my life, there is nothing that I am aware of that hinders my relationship with God. That doesn’t mean our walk with God is one of perfection, but it is the result of maintaining a relationship of fellowship with God.  It is a relationship in which the Spirit of God can minister to my spirit. When that is true, I can know His peace in the midst of severe trials. Such peace calls to mind the experiences of people such as Corrie Ten Boom or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

The peace of God assures us that we never lose that which is most precious to us. The trials of this world cannot touch our salvation or the assurance of His love and care for us.

Sometimes trials are permitted for the purpose of drawing us closer to God. What is really important in the believer’s life is the strength of his faith. Peter reminds us, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, might be found unto  praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:7). It is easy to agree with this truth when we are not in the midst of the trial. It is the trial itself that proves the reality of our faith.

 If we would know the peace of God in the trials of life, it helps to know His peace first in the good times. That is, our walk with God should be one of continuity, no matter what we are facing in life.

We have a purpose. The specific purpose for our life at a given time may or may not be known. We know from the Bible how we are to live out our lives for the glory of God. The Bible is a book of light regarding our walk with God. We know that,“The steps of a good man are ordered by God: and He delighteth in his way” (Psa. 37:23). Still, we most likely don’t know God’s purpose for the desert places of our lives. However, just to know that God is in control and has a purpose for all we go through is comforting.

A good example is Joseph. He suffered greatly at the hand of his brothers. Yet, at the end of the story he said, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20). Not only could he accept the mistreatment because he knew it was of God, but he extended a very gracious hand to his brothers when he said, “Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (Gen. 50:21). When we know, by faith, that God has a purpose for our lives, we can accept more readily His assignment in the desert places. 

We have a perception. What I mean by a perception is that, though we may not know the specifics of the desert place, we can still see beyond the suffering. God has revealed in His word the outcome of our existence on earth. He has revealed the truth of the rapture of the church, the glory of His coming kingdom, and something of our home in heaven. As Paul said, “For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). It reminds me of the dear lady who stood on the shores of Winona Lake and, when the beauty of the sunset was explained to her, she said with confidence, “I can see beyond the sunset”. She had a perception of the future because of her faith in the word of God.

 In our desert places, we too, can see beyond the trials and heartaches of the present. Of Moses we read of his, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater  riches than the treasures  in Egypt: for he had respect unto the  recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:25-26).

Conclusion

The desert places! They can be very disconcerting, lonely, and painful. Yet, as believers, we must remember that we are never really alone and that God has a purpose in them. This doesn’t necessarily take away the pain and grief that accompanies them, but we can and should be assured of His love and care through them. When this is true, we can bear the burden with greater comfort. It will also redound to God’s glory! Is there not great comfort in knowing that God is honored and glorified in all our experiences of life, and especially in times of being in the desert places? If you are in a place of suffering today, I pray that God will make His presence and provision very evident in your life.

June has brought many days of warm sunshine and blossoming flowers. It’s great to have the windows open!! We have enjoyed quite a few summer activities including a parade and a car show in Baldwin.

Of course, family get-togethers are great. It was nice to have BJ’s niece and husband here from So. Carolina. Also, VBS kept us busy for a week in June.

We attended a birthday party in Spring Valley, and enjoyed Father’s Day at son Tim’s house in St. Paul.

We made several trips to Regions Hospital in St. Paul to visit one of our church members who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. We also participated in the funeral for Bill Stopple’s wife, Darleen. 

It seems to me that summer is passing by very rapidly! Actually, life passes by quite rapidly. The apostle James reminds us, “…ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away. For that ye ought to say, ‘If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that’” (James 4:14-15).

Does not this remind us of the importance of making Godly decisions while we have the time and opportunity?! The decision of salvation is crucially important. We need to heed the words of Paul, “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). There is no greater loss than the loss of one’s soul! Jesus mercifully warned us, “For what is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast way” (Luke 9:25).

Also, dealing with the maters of sin in our lives is so important. Sin hinders our witness for the Lord and robs us of the joy we might otherwise have.

While all of the above is true because it is the word of God, so many still decide to make their own way!! They refuse to repent and believe and to know the forgiveness and grace of God. May all who read this be assured of their salvation and of their walk and fellowship with the living Savior.