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July 14, 2022

Defined & Refined in the Wilderness


In the wilderness, will you leave in power or stay and perish?

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:1-4 (NIV)

I encourage you to read the whole passage, but the devil goes on to tempt Jesus two more times, and Jesus ends up leaving the wilderness after 40 days (as it says in verse 14) in the power of the Holy Spirit. Now we’re going to take a quick look in the Old Testament of how the Israelites handled being in the wilderness…spoiler alert: NOT WELL.

“The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Joshua 5:6 (NIV)

There is a BIG difference between Jesus’s time in the wilderness and the Israelites’ time in the wilderness. So let’s break it down. In verses 1-2 of Luke 4, it says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”

Just because you’re full of the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted.

Jesus is God! Just because you’re a leader or you’ve been following God for a long time – doesn’t mean the enemy won’t try to trip you up. Especially when you’re alone and at your weakest. It says he left Jesus until an “opportune time.” The enemy knows when to strike. Will you be ready? What are you doing today to prepare for the battle tomorrow?

Do you want to know why the Israelites stayed in the wilderness for 40 years? It wasn’t because God hated them – He had just delivered them from Egypt! It was because of their disobedience and unbelief. They forgot who their God was and who they were. They lost their identity, purpose, and hope for the future.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but it is up to us how we respond to the trials in our lives. Your response in the wilderness will determine whether you stay for 40 days or 40 years.

Will you let this trial be a season or a cycle in your life?

There are 3 main things you need in order to grow through the trials in life and leave empowered by the Holy Spirit:

#1. Walk in Obedience. In Luke 4:1 it says that Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” What? God led Him into the wilderness? Why would He do that? Jesus could have been like, “Nope, I’m not gonna do that. I’m good, thanks.” But He obeyed because He understood that there was a purpose in the testing. The Israelites had hundreds of opportunities to obey God in the wilderness to get to the Promised Land. But what did they do? They complained, they were filled with doubt, and they were disobedient.

So many of us try to find our own way and complain when things aren’t going our way. But let me ask you this: What are you doing today to build your faith and to obey God? Are you living like the Israelites – full of doubt and fear? Or maybe you know what you should do, but you’re not doing it? You have to come to the unshakable truth that God is good, and He will work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

#2. Understand the Purpose. Jesus knew his identity. He knew this testing had a purpose. He understood that in order for Him to fulfill the call of God on His life, He needed to know who He is, know the Word of God, and persevere. The testing Jesus endured produced a character in Him that would sustain Him and His ministry. He had perspective – He knew that this testing period of life was temporary. He had hope for the future because of what this testing would produce in Him and through Him. Our trials are not about us. They are about refining us so we can be more like Christ and fulfill the purposes of God on the earth.

Will you allow the power of the Holy Spirit to operate in and through you, or will you allow fear to control your mind and paralyze your faith?

#3. Know God & His Word. Jesus knew the Word of God. He studied and hid the Word of God in His heart so He would not sin against Him. Do you read God’s Word everyday? Do you meditate on it? Do you know it? Is it deeply rooted in your heart? Jesus’ weapon against the enemy always started with, “It is written.” We need to know His Word. It is the only real weapon we have to fight against the enemy’s schemes.

What you may not realize is that right before Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He was baptized in the Jordan River and commissioned to begin His ministry. Luke chapter 3, verse 22 says:

“heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven saying: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Do you know how much God loves you?

Jesus didn’t perish in the wilderness because He knew who He was and how much God loved Him. He didn’t just know the Word, He knew the character and authority of His Father. He had a genuine relationship with God. Do you believe that God is for you and not against you? Do you truly believe that you are who He says you are?

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11 (NIV)

We overcome the enemy by living in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ and sharing what God has done in our lives. How can we have a testimony if we haven’t been tested? How can we show others the transformative power of Jesus Christ if we haven’t been refined in the fire? How could have Jesus sacrificed himself for our sin if He hadn’t been tested and proven blameless in God’s eyes?

If you are going through a difficult situation today – if you feel like you’re in the fire – know that you will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of your testimony. Do not give up and do not give in. Let God define who you are: You are a child of God. He loves you and He will never leave you. Let God refine you: Obey His commands, keep the faith, understand the purpose in every trial, and watch how you come out of this season in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 (NIV)
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