There was a season of ministry that I, for some time, considered my "wilderness season." The idea had a negative connotation to it, as I felt like I was just going through the motions and not really seeing any growth. My perspective was clearly jaded. I looked at growth in terms of numerical success and ministry invitations so when those things weren't happening I felt unsuccessful.
It's interesting to me how our perspectives can shape our views of ourselves and our world. I had a very performance-oriented perspective. I was still trying to work for God as if I owed Him this debt I'd never be able to pay. When it came to studying the Bible I would study to prepare for a sermon but not for devotion. I witnessed to people out of obligation and not out of love. I gave because I thought that I had to, not because I wanted to. It's no wonder I would look at this season as a "wilderness."
My perspective had me thinking I was in the wilderness in which the Israelites spent 40 years wandering. All of my wandering and striving to please God was based on my own effort, void of real connection to Him. It was tiring, it felt like a slow death just constantly trying to do more, be more, give more. Much like the Israelites, I had totally missed the heart of God. All that He desired from me was relationship.
God, in His goodness, didn't allow me to stay in this place of striving and struggling. One day I felt Holy Spirit say to me "you're living in the wrong wilderness!" In that moment the LORD directed me to Jesus’ journey through the wilderness. This was a bit of an "AHA!" moment for me but it was also a profound moment in my relationship with the LORD.
You see, Jesus went into the wilderness because He was led there by the Spirit. It was in this place that Jesus developed His own relationship with God that would prepare Him for what lay ahead. It was in the wilderness that Jesus learned how not to depend on His own strength, He learned to trust God, He learned to resist temptation. This wasn't a place of punishment it was a place of preparation.
The LORD was showing me that He didn't have me in that season to suffer but to prepare. To show me His goodness, to speak life and identity into me, and to develop me through a deeply connected relationship with Him. No longer do I feel like I owe God, I'm His son. No longer do I study the Bible for sermons, I study out of desire to know Him more. I don't witness to anyone anymore, instead I just love people everywhere I go. I don't give because I'm obligated, I give because it's not mine in the first place. God gives us resources so we can be a channel to bless others.
I don't say this to boast about myself or my relationship with God but to encourage you that these seasons of preparation are paramount to producing long term fruit. I can't stress enough that I am not more special than you! We are His children and His desire is to grow us and bring us to a deeper place of love and connectedness that breaks us free from the performance mindset and brings us into the liberty of sonship!
A friend recently said to me, "before you fire something from a slingshot, you have to pull it backwards." The farther you pull back, the more power propels the object you're firing.
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness until a whole generation had died off. Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of Holy Spirit and changed the world. That same power is available to all of us! We can change the world but if we don't embrace the process we won't get very far. If you're in a wilderness season of your own I want to encourage you to embrace it. Let your weakness become His strength, let your uncertainty become trust in His plans for your life, let your temptations become the victories that further secure your identity in Him! When He fires the slingshot there's no limit to where you can go.
Anthony currently serves as a co-host on The Alliance Podcast at boldcupofcoffee.com and founding pastor at Thrive Church as well as a public speaker and author.
Anthony had a 15 year love affair with heroin addiction and spent time in prison, but an encounter with God, one night, radically changed his life. Since that evening Anthony has had a desire and passion to serve the LORD and spread the Gospel of the Kingdom wherever he goes. Using Biblical insight, his experience, and street knowledge, he is able to reach people in the darker places of society. Anthony and his wife Tanya currently serve as Senior Leaders of Thrive Church. He is a gifted preacher and teacher with a desire is to build people up into their destinies, living a supernatural lifestyle, and manifesting the Kingdom of God in their everyday lives.
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