This may come as a surprise to you, but it was only an 11-day journey from Egypt to Canaan. So why did it take time 40 years? Did they take a wrong turn? Did Moses get his map turned upside down? Did they enjoy the extended camping trip? No. God kept His people in the wilderness because in the wilderness there were some lessons that they could learn in no other way.
In Webster, and in life, wilderness precedes wisdom.
There were two significant wilderness experiences in my life. The first was as a young man. I had a job pouring concrete for a living. I built storm shelters in Oklahoma. In the spring and summer I would often work 70 hours a week in the most labor intensive job I had ever known. I remember being covered with dirt, cement and sunburned thinking, “What am I doing here? This is not where I belong. I have a calling to preach God’s Word and build His church and I am building this old man’s storm shelter.” I was miserable. But my hunger for God’s Word was as intense as at any time in my life during those dry years.
The second wilderness wandering has lasted 7 years. Only recently has it abated and I have felt the cool spring rain of relief. For the last many years I traveled the country conducting training seminars on supervision and management principles. On the surface you might conclude that I might enjoy that work. I am using my speaking talent and getting to see lots of places. And like the satisfaction that comes from putting in a hard day’s work pouring concrete I did enjoy that I was able to find utility for my talent as a teacher. But I can remember many occasions waiting for a delayed flight starring at my reflection in the terminal window and thinking, “What am I doing here? This is not where I belong. I have been called to preach and teach God’s Word and I am teaching these folks how to do a performance review. This is not where I belong.”
For the last year I have found a promised land. I am honored to serve along side a man who loves Jesus and wants to see as many people brought into the Kingdom as possible. I am humbled to be building God’s church again and occasionally teaching His Word. It is raining again.
I have learned much in the wilderness and I want to share that with you over the next few articles.
If you find yourself in a spiritual wilderness remember that John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul and the Apostle John, to name just a few, have spent time in the wilderness.
Some of you have a heart so broken that you don’t ever think you are going to get it back together again: Children that won’t respond to your love, or your family has disowned you, or you are tired to waking up in your bed alone, or financially you are on the edge of chapter 7.
Wilderness. No one likes being there. Let’s learn some wisdom from the wilderness.
“As Pharoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'” Exodus 14:10-12(NIV)
(MANY YEARS HAVE PASSED BETWEEN THESE TWO PASSAGES)
“So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: ‘Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’…(The people say) “Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!” Joshua 1:10-11, 18 (NIV)
What is the difference between Ex. 14 and Joshua 1? DISCIPLINE.
Discipline is very hard for me. I seem to do better when I am under a deadline, when there is a sense of urgency in my life. When things are placid I tend to stagnate. When I have to be disciplined…I am.
Someone is reported to have asked a concert violinist in New York’s Carnegie Hall how she became so skilled. She said that it was by “planned neglect.” She planned to neglect everything that was not related to her goal.
These Israelites learned a very important lesson while they were in the wilderness: Circumstances force you to the discipline necessary for the circumstances. That is the way life is. There are things you will never learn unless you learn them in the wilderness.
When the Spanish conqueror Cortez was invading Mexico, he found that his troops were dispirited and lethargic in battle. So he went to the harbor and burned the Spanish Galleons that would take them home to Spain. He told them, “Either conquer or die.”
That’s a wilderness experience. And when you get against the wall like that you begin to pray like never before. My best prayers are when I am scared. Do you know where I learned that? In the wilderness. I learned the discipline of Bible study, silence, solitude, fasting, moral integrity in the wilderness.
In life and in Webster wilderness always precedes wisdom.