After the Wilderness: When Receiving from God means Fighting Battles

The wilderness metaphor is often used in Christian circles to describe the times of wandering that are common to our journey into the promises of God.

The story of the exodus into the wilderness and God's grace and provision to his people during those forty years have much to teach us. But the past few days, I've been thinking about what happens after the wilderness.

As the forty years journey in the wilderness ended, God took Moses up the mountain to look over at the land, but that was as far as he went. He did not enter. The Bible says he closed "his eyes undimmed and his vigor unabated." (Deut. 34:7) Moses' died and Lord buried his body. (Isn't that amazing?) His spirit, however, was received into the greater promise, life in the presence of God. The next time we see Moses in Scripture is on the mountain when Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus' transfiguration as He met with his friends Moses and Elijah (Mark 9).

Moses passed on his leadership mantle to Joshua before his death. As a young man, Joshua had been in the land as a spy. He knew that even though the land belonged to Israel by the promise of God, the nation would need strength and courage to possess it. The character of the people would need to be solid to stand up to the barriers and temptations before them. Their obedience to God's standard, as put forth in the law they carried before them, would keep them near to the heart of God. When they forgot those commands, there were consequences. Like Israel, some of our biggest battles aren't with our enemies; instead, our biggest defeats come from our lack of faith or outright disobedience.

All of us want out of the wilderness, but are we willing to enter into the battles we will face to receive the promise?

Every year at the end of September, I set aside time to reflect on my days in the wilderness. After many years,18 as of 2018, most of my reflection is upon the grace and healing that God gave me when I was in the darkest place in my life. (You can read about that here.) Somehow the pain I endured no longer smarts like it once did. The wounds have healed completely.

When I think on these things, my heart swells with gratitude that God rescued me. Time and perspective are helping me to see how I was given the strength and courage to fight so that I was able to take hold of God's promises. I chose Life.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land..." (Deut. 30:19-20)

Israel didn't cross the Jordan on dry ground one day to begin hanging pictures on the walls the next. They went in and took the land. The conquest included everything from trumpets and shouting that brought down a fortress to outright brutality. They did not make this conquest without mistakes. Character mattered. When Israel forgot that, the consequences of their sin reached far into the future.

I remember after my time in the wilderness, I felt like a victim of my circumstances. I was feeling sorry for myself because of the things I had endured. With godly counsel, I came to understand that if wanted to take hold of life again I would have to take it. I had to participate in the battle for the promise of healing and hope---of freedom and abundance that was already mine.

The enemy of my soul wanted me to sit in the ashes and stay there. 

The Lover of my Soul wanted me to get up and fight for the life Jesus purchased for me on the cross.

With the Spirit's help since that time I have won many battles as I've taken hold of the life God has for me. I've lost a few too, but I learned from both the victories and the defeats. When I've sinned, I have repented and returned. God has been gracious to restore me and remake me. 

And just so you know, I'm still a work-in-progress.

As I retraced my path to the Jordan again this September, I stopped at certain places along the way to remember where I've been and how far God has brought me. I realized that I don't have to fight like I once did.

I have found a place of rest.

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:8-10)

Can I encourage you to fight for what is yours in Christ Jesus? Take hold of his promises and get suited up for battle. Get into God's Word so you have a weapon, so you know the Truth. Seek to know his heart in prayer. There is life after the wilderness. I know because it is my story and I'm sticking to it!

If I can encourage you or pray for you, let me know. You can comment below or message me through Facebook.


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