In recent months, I’ve written a couple of times on desert life — going through seasons of spiritual dryness, either personally, or due to the spiritual climate surrounding us. I’d like to finish that theme with a few more thoughts, which I hope will encourage any of you who are currently experiencing the desert.
Paraphrasing 2 Corinthians 3:18, God takes us ever upward by His Spirit, from “glory to glory,” as we behold Jesus. I’ve discovered three ascending levels which we can attain to while living in spiritually dry surroundings. This was exciting revelation for me, and I hope it will be for you, too.
Level 1: Survival in the Desert
This is where we start. We become able to endure the dry spiritual climate in which we live. This is a time of growing in strength, stamina, and sensitivity to the Lord, as we pursue Him in the midst of dry outward surroundings. It is a time when the Lord is intent on forming us into warriors who can bend the bow of steel, as mentioned in Psalm 18:34. Paul the apostle exhorted young Timothy, “… Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. … Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1, 3). Timothy probably wasn’t living in a revival hothouse when Paul wrote that to him. He was going through a difficult season.
At this survival level, we may internally feel an intense thirst for more of the Lord, while sensing a lack of spiritual fervor in the people of our city or region. There may be no church fellowship available with an understanding of worship which draws the tangible presence of God down into its midst. Solid Bible preaching and teaching may be a hard commodity to come by.
If your own church house is not meeting these needs, it is easy to make the mistake of murmuring that you are “not being fed,” and then move on to a new church in hopes of finding lusher pastures. There is a time and place for moving on, but if God has you in a desert to build your spiritual muscle, you don’t want to miss His purpose.
If we neglect to pursue and cleave to the Lord during this first desert level, we become accustomed to meager sustenance. We give up and resign ourselves to the dryness, accepting it as all there is — and we end up staying there until we die. This is where a great portion of “good” Christians are at. They learn to just barely make it. Some become pew-sitters, while some suppress their gnawing sense of lack by working ever more diligently for the Kingdom. In either case, living in this perpetually parched environment, spiritual life gradually fades.
If, however, we continue to seek the Lord for more of Him, He will be faithful to get us to the next level, and that’s where we’ll pick up next time. This first level is not much fun to read about (or live through), but the story will get more encouraging as we continue on. I promise!