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The Wilderness Years: Laying Deep Foundations in God

When we first get on-fire for God, He often honours that commitment and faith by blessing us with special words, encouragements and sometimes even healings, miracles and special moves of the Holy Spirit in our lives. However, as time goes on many people who have sold-out to God, find that these Divine ‘manifestations’ become less frequent and they may even be led into the wilderness and wonder – ‘What is happening Lord?’

In the life of Christ this happened too. There were many miracles of protection and blessings of provision for his parents, when He was young, and in the temple His wisdom was made known; then He was led into a hidden life to grow up and we know little of those thirty years of His life. Later, John the Baptist recognised Him and God anointed Him in public. Yet, even after this blessing the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness where He was tested. Luke documented what happened when He came out of the wilderness – He “returned in the Power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:1-14).

The silent years (and the years of testing) are all part of the preparation for true ministry. Even King Solomon realised that there are special seasons in our lives, some of testing, others of great blessing. ‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to gain and a time to lose…a time to keep silence and a time to speak’ (Ecclesiastes 3).

Young David was anointed in public by Samuel, but what followed was decades of severe testing of that call and anointing. In his many wilderness experiences he had great trouble; he even became the enemy of the state. In one of his tests, he spoke prophetically as he was identified with Christ. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Whey are you so far from helping Me?” (Psalm 22:1). Yet, when He came out of those big tests, He became ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ With that deep foundation, He went on to become Israel’s greatest king.

The periods in our lives that seem barren, are often designed by God to be our wilderness experience. In these years, we learn to know Him and trust Him on a very deep level. If we were busy all the time, we would not have time to fellowship with Him on a abstruse level and embrace the principles of John 15. He is the Vine, we are the branches. After we have spent some time in the wilderness, we learn to be able to see the ‘bigger picture’ of what God is doing in our lives and around the world.

The wilderness also strips us of all trust in self. Moses believed he was the man to deliver Israel and killed an Egyptian, but when everything went wrong he had to flee to the wilderness and after forty years he truly met with God. All those silent years of testing prepared him for the challenges ahead. The wilderness strips us of pride and we must recall that it was pride that brought Satan down. Timothy was warned that if we are promoted when we are young (which can be spiritually, as well as physically), we may become proud and ‘fall into the same condemnation as the devil’ (1 Timothy 2:6).

The testings of the wilderness years, including material as well as spiritual lack, helps reveal to God if we want Him, or just His blessing. He waits to see what is in our hearts. When we are humbled, will we rebel, run away and curse God, or we will be like Job who remained faithful? (Job 1:22, 2:9-10). This process is described by Moses. ‘You shall remember the way the Lord you God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you - to know what was in your heart, wherever you would keep His commanded or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger...that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every Word that precedes from the mouth of God’ (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

Therefore the wilderness years of testing help lay very deep foundations in our lives. We are building on the Rock, Christ Jesus, rather than the sand of self-confidence. These foundations take time to dig and we may not even realise that God is preparing them; however, when we look back we will learn that those thick foundations prepared us very well for the ministry ahead. God is good and works with a long view for our lives!

‘Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake in Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy’ (1 Peter 4:12-13).

Paul Backholer


Paul's Books:
Jesus Today Go
Holy Spirit Power Go
The Exodus Evidence Go
The Ark of the Covenant Go
How Christianity Made the Modern World Go
Heaven - A Journey to Paradise and the Heavenly City Go