“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him . . . Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matt 3:17-4:2)
We’re all familiar with the story. Jesus had just received the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, descending from Heaven, and God had just declared Him His beloved Son. His ministry had officially begun. Isn’t it interesting that the VERY FIRST THING Jesus did after receiving the Holy Spirit was to disappear into the wilderness?
Do you remember what you did when you first received Jesus’ gift of Salvation? What did you do when you first received the Holy Spirit?
I clearly remember what I did. To my shame, I spent the next year trying to ignore the fact that I had received a gift. After begging God to give it to me, I then proceeded to beg for sign upon sign to indicate that this gift was really from Him. And, again to my shame, I remember begging Him to take it away. How much more beneficial it might have been for me to have gone to a quiet place to commune with God, to learn FROM Him about the relationship He desired to have with me, to learn FROM Him about the power of the Holy Spirit!
Why is this so important? The answer is found in Luke 4:14. Immediately after finishing His wilderness experience, the Bible records that Jesus: “. . . Returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit . . .” (Luke 4:14). The wilderness experience provided Jesus with what He needed to carryout His ministry: It empowered Him in the Holy Spirit!
But how can a wilderness experience empower someone in God’s Spirit?
First of all, Jesus spent this time in the presence of God. If you want to be empowered by God’s Spirit, then spend time in the presence of the Lord. There is no better way!
But there was more to it than this: “Jesus . . . Was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1,2). Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit because He underwent extreme temptation in extreme conditions and PREVAILED!
Friends, there is no better way to become empowered by God’s Spirit than to experience that authority in the presence of temptation, to let God’s Spirit empower you with the ability to say “no”, to stay in the presence of the Lord despite temptation!
But a “wilderness experience” isn’t exactly on anyone’s “most desired” list, is it? In fact most of us shy away from the mere thought of a wilderness experience. Why? Because of the testing that always goes along with it. How much easier it would all be for each of us, if we would simply take to heart the advice of the Apostle James: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Remember: If Jesus needed time alone with God at the beginning of His ministry, how much more, then, do we? We need time to commune with God, to learn about His love for us, to learn about His power that can work through us! Jesus wasn’t in a rush to begin His ministry. He did so only when He felt ready, when He had spent adequate time preparing. We also need to realize that there is no rush. Our job is simply to do the will of the Father, in His time, and there’s no better way to know when that is than to spend time communing with Him, getting to know Him, and working on that love relationship.
And what if you’ve already missed out on that unique, initial experience? The good news is this: It’s never too late! God is always there, eagerly waiting for us to spend that quiet time with Him. Don’t wait another day!
Enough to ponder, friends, but do ponder this: The Wilderness experience marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry for a reason: Jesus needed that time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord, and He needed to experience God’s power in overcoming temptation in order for Him to become “empowered” by the Spirit of God. If this was so important for Jesus’ ministry, then it becomes even more important for our own!
Please join us next Saturday for The Wilderness Experience, Part 2!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Mother of two teens, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org
(To access the entire “The Wilderness Experience” mini-series, please click here.)