Monday, April 7, 2014

Tough Faith for Hard Times

The deserts of our lives are not pleasant pilgrimages that we journey through at leisure. Most often when we think of a desert, we think of a place that is inhospitable, harsh and fraught with hardship, and the potential of danger. A desert exists geologically as a place where nothing useful grows to sustain life. A few animals can survive there, but for humans, it is a place to avoid, not head toward.

Personal Life Deserts are harsh emotional wastelands, void of vital resources when needed, and have the capacity to break our spirit. In Scripture, many times, the use of the word desert, wilderness, wasteland or dry land is interchangeable. Deserts are places that you travel through, when you have no other way to get to where you need to be. Deserts are real, and they are, tough places to traverse. In a symbolical sense, they illustrate those hard, seemingly unprofitable times when our lives are stymied, on hold, or we are spiritually as dry as a mummy’s breath. 

As a shepherd and soldier, David spent a lot of time in the dry wildernesses of Judah. He often found the need to flee to the desert during times of threat and personal crisis. When he served under King Saul and was suspicious of treachery, David fled to where he had the best chance to find a hiding place. 

In the Desert of Ziph

“David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.” 1 Samuel 23:14

In the Desert Of Edom

On one of David’s many forays into the wilderness, he was being pursued by his son Absalom, and his life was in peril. David went into the desert to find a safe haven, and discovered that amidst the turmoil, hardship and deprivation, his longing for God became an intense and insatiable reality. Deserts have a way of separating us from our natural comforts, and they strip us of the barest of life’s essentials.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”  Psalm 42:2 

In the desert, God can speak to us in ways that He can in no other place. Be it under a mound of unresolved problems, painful discouraging long term health issues, a broken marriage, years of depression, or seasons of dissatisfying spiritual dryness, the desert creates a pilgrimage process, that has but one purpose: to lead us into a deeper life with God.

The Desert Creates a Thirst for God

After days of wandering in the barren wilderness, David trekked deep into the wasteland of the Valley of Baca. The interpretation of Baca (bacah) in the Hebrew could be translated, “The valley of weeping.” It was a dry lonely desolate place. As life became more desperate for David, his heart began to thirst for God. 

How lovely (Beloved) is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:1

This was not a muffled sob coming from David but a shrill longing cry from an anguished heart. The word that is here rendered cry, is from the Hebrew, that signifies to shout, or cry out with great emotion, as soldiers do at the beginning of a battle. 

While in the wilderness, with every labored step, he was longing for and crying out to be near to God.

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar.” Psalm 84:3

The reawakening of spiritual thirst happens in the midst of adversity, not because of adversity. Trials will not produce revival within our hearts, neither will correct moral responses or behavior. It is as we draw near to God, that He draws near to us. In that synergistic moment we are touched by God and we are changed, and are never the same.

“ Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

The Desert Ignites a Need to Praise God

There is something profoundly powerful and deeply moving, when our heart reaches up to praise God in the darkest night in our personal desert. When God hears the heart inspired praises of a Christian in the desert, it pleases Him for it is the epitome of trusting faith.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:18

When David feigned madness before King Abimelech, and he hid in the dark lonely desert caves at Adullam, he wrote Psalm 34, with a key emphasis on praising God in the midst of adversity.  (See I Samuel 22:1-2; Psalm 142:4-7)

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1
That is why David was so moved to praise God in the desert valley of Baca, because he recognized that wherever he was, God was there with Him. In the desert he began to recognize that the God of the Burning Bush, had become the God of the Burning Heart.

“O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah” Psalm 84:3b-4

The Desert Stirs is a Hunger to Know God

While Paul was in prison, he had but one aspiration, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:10

Tough times stir the heart to become bitter and disheartened, or they stir the heart to a hunger to know God more deeply. For David, the journey through the Valley of Baca, could only be done with the strength of God. Spiritual strength came in the midst of the valley as he passed through it, not before he entered it. 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” The natural heart is a pathless wilderness, full of cliffs and precipices. When the heart is renewed by grace, a road is made, a highway is prepared for our God." Frederick Fysh

 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”  Psalm 84:5-7

The Desert Awakens the Heart to Worship God

There is no more comforting a place than on our knees worshiping God before the Throne of Grace. Everything else fades into silence while our heartbeat harmonizes with His Heartbeat, our purpose aligns with His purpose, and our will responds in obedience to His will. That most often happens in the midnight of our own Gethsemane.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the Throne of Grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
In the desert David was humbled by the majesty of God, and he experienced His presence while in the isolated barrenness of the desert. As he experienced the presence of God, and renewed his absolute trust in God, he could only bow his head and pray,

Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob.  Selah Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Beloved) O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:8-12

Thirst   Praise   Know   Worship

The more we Thirst for God, the more we will begin to Praise Him, and the more we Praise Him, the more we will hunger to Know Him, and the more we get to know Him, the more we long to Worship Him.

When you are in the desert remember that you are not alone...He is there, and it is not your strength that will get you through it but His. 

Take a few moments and reflect upon the meaningful and encouraging message in this song, "Find you on m Knees" by Kari Jobe

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