Janet Smith – July 17, 2021 ©gardenministries.org
John 4:34-38 (CSB) My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus told them. 35 “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, and then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.
Luke 12:54-56 [Interpreting the Time] (CSB) He [Jesus] also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, right away you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and so it does. 55 And when the south wind is blowing, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why don’t you know how to interpret this present time?
There are two main seasons in the life of believers who aspire to mature in their faith and be used by God to their maximum potential and created purpose. These two seasons are:
- The Wilderness: receive God’s promises and patiently endure in faith as the word is tested
- The Promised Land: the struggle to shake off the effects of the wilderness and to humbly enter God’s season of rest and refreshing
The season of The Wilderness starts with God’s promise and a baptism of hope. We are then sent on a journey where our faith in God’s word is tested and our hope is tried. We fight through this battle zone until, through faith and patience, God’s word of promise grows up fully formed within us.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us that the number one characteristic of God’s love is patience. When our trust in God’s word is complete and our faith—unshakeable, then Christ’s love within us will manifest peaceful patience and His radiant glory will shine forth. This marks the season of entering The Promised Land. Only God knows when our season in The Wilderness has prepared us to enter the season of The Promised Land. Hint: we will always think we are ready before we actually are.
Both seasons of wilderness and the promised land are good seasons. And both seasons are best managed by keeping eternity in view. Without our anchor of hope secured beyond the veil and fixed in faith on Jesus, we will certainly get stuck in the weeds of our carnality and get lost to the snares of each season’s spiritual terrain. Do we want to overcome? Then we need to know what season we are in, and as we pass through it, keep eternity in view. What does it mean to keep eternity in view?
Our eternal beginnings are described in Ephesians 1:3-6 (CSB) Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. 5 He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.
We learn here that we are in our God’s eternal thoughts before He ever breathed life into our earthly body. We do not, however, learn from Ephesians 1 that any human being has the ability to exercise their free will choices before they existed in their earthly body. The idea that humans could make freewill choices before they were born is hard to back up with scripture. [See my article “The Human Spirit Pre-Birth Existence” https://gardenministries.org/2016/06/07/the-human-spirit-pre-birth-existence/]
Purposes of the Wilderness:
- Produce humility
- Cultivate unshakeable faithfulness
Deuteronomy 8:11-20 (CSB) Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep his commands, ordinances, and statutes that I am giving you today. 12 When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, 13 and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, 14 be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 15 He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint rock for you. 16 He fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your ancestors had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end he might cause you to prosper. 17 You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ 18 but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm his covenant he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve them and bow in worship to them, I testify against you today that you will certainly perish. 20 Like the nations the Lord is about to destroy before you, you will perish if you do not obey the Lord your God.
Hebrews 6:1-10 (CSB) [Warning against Falling Away] 1 Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, 2 teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And we will do this if God permits. 4 For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, 6 and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt. 7 For the ground that drinks the rain that often falls on it and that produces vegetation useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and at the end will be burned. 8 Even though we are speaking this way, dearly loved friends, in your case we are confident of things that are better and that pertain to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints — and by continuing to serve them.
Hebrews 6:11-20 (CSB) 11 Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, 12 so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. [Inheriting the Promise] 13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself: 14 I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply you. 15 And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. 17 Because God wanted to show his unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
We are being prepared for the greatest move of God in the earth since creation began. The end of the age and its harvest is in view. The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit will manifest in those Believers, who stayed engaged with God during the wilderness season of preparation, like we have never seen them manifest before. Isaiah prophesied and Paul confirmed this unique time as a time like no other. Romans 5:1-5 tells us that God’s out-poured love follows the wilderness season(s) of character shaping. God’s revealed glory will manifest the out-poured love of God in Christ’s fullness on a level and display that compels the harvest to respond.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (CSB) But as it is written, what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived — God has prepared these things for those who love him.
Isaiah 64:4 (CSB) From ancient times (Hebrew: olam = eternity) no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except you who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him.
Unique times call for unusual preparation. We may have had hints of this preparation in our lives before this last long stretch, but the grueling nature of the last season of preparation has been for many, unprecedented. Why? To ensure we are ready to go through the most difficult times of human history and not lose sight of the goal and purpose of it all: that is to be presented to Jesus as His pure and spotless bride who rules and reigns with Him for all eternity.
If we know what season we are in, we can remind ourselves of what we are doing and what we are not doing in that season. The season of the wilderness will feel restrictive and confining. The sooner we can accept and embrace that reality, the sooner we can move toward reaping the benefits of The Wilderness—that is: humility and unshakeable faithfulness.
Think of the season of The Wilderness as being in prison with occasional day passes to get out and a few visitors who get in. By accepting our limitations and restrictions, we can literally rejoice that God has us in a very focused time of learning. And though it can be hard at times to keep plowing this hard ground, if we keep eternity in view, we will better see this confinement or imprisonment as necessary relief from earthly distractions. We will stay focused on our God-given assignments as He cultivates humility and faithfulness.
Examples from the Bible of the wilderness season of promise, waiting-and-contending, and confinement:
Read: Acts 7 Stephen’s Sermon before martyrdom: Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Caleb, Joseph, David, Ruth, Esther, Job, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter, Paul, John. And most of all, Jesus.
1 Corinthians 2:6-9 (CSB) We do, however, speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age (Greek: aión: a space of time, an age), who are coming to nothing. 7 On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived — God has prepared these things for those who love him.
The evil rulers of this age want to keep humans trapped in the power of their dominion and stop Believers in Jesus from overcoming them. As long as a Believer’s old man nature remains uncrucified and unsubmitted to Christ’s Lordship, the evil powers of this age will affect how we experience life. That’s why Paul tells us who our real enemies are. And guess what, they aren’t human!
Ephesians 6:10 (CSB) Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
The Believer’s way through this battle is through faith and patience in God’s Word and letting it cut the fleshly selfishness off of our God-born spirits as we embrace the cross as Galatians 2:20 describes. If we don’t embrace the cross and follow Jesus into full maturity, our unsanctified souls will continue to succumb to the increased pressure exerted by the rulers of the age.
Hebrews 12 describes the wilderness season of sonship maturity as a season of discipline where we “struggle against sin” as we learn to stop resisting God’s corrective side of love. There can be much joy in this season if we keep eternity in view and simply Trust God where we don’t yet understand Him or His ways. If we don’t look at Jesus as our example and trust His leadership, we will keep looking at ourselves and/or blaming others. We may never make it out of this wilderness and die in our unbelief.
What does a season of discipline entail? It is the season where we learn the side of God’s love that embraces the cross. Our God-given assignments are designed to bring us into maturity. They will necessarily include opportunities to pick up our cross, deny self, and follow Jesus. We will be called to make daily choices to rely on Jesus rather than relying on ourselves. In doing this, we will no longer be what Philippians 3:18-19 describes as “enemies of the cross.”
Philippians 3:18 (CSB) For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame; and they are focused on earthly things. 20 Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.
In both seasons, we learn to accept God’s love that comes with strong discipline. In one season, it is pounded into us. In another season, it is gently sustained. In every season, we are commanded to love God first. We learn to discern what God’s love is versus what human self-love is. As we embrace the eternal love of God, that cannot fail, our own fickle, fallen, human, self-love is replaced. Can we tell the difference between the two yet? If we follow Christ, we will.
Proverbs 23:12-16 (CSB) Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge. 13 Don’t withhold discipline from a youth; if you punish him with a rod, he will not die. 14 Punish him with a rod, and you will rescue his life from Sheol. 15 My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will indeed rejoice. 16 My innermost being will celebrate when your lips say what is right.
Focused on earthly things: when the tyranny of time in this age bears down on us and we do not choose to rise above it, by sinking into the humility of trust in God and waiting for Him, we will sink into self-centered earthly thinking, and look to our old man carnal nature for ways out of the pain and pressure. This is where the rulers of this world apply their elementary principles and try to get us to seek worldly pleasures to alleviate the pain and pressure. But Ephesians 3:10-11 tells us that the church is supposed to be the overcoming example to these very rulers. God’s eternal purpose is supposed to showcase His multifaceted wisdom through us, His Ekklesia church in the earth.
We are called to overcome the rulers of this age and the spirit of the world through faith and love for Jesus. To overcome them, we absolutely need an eternal perspective on our purpose in Christ. It is NOT to fulfill the American Dream or any Globalist’s Dream. It is to fulfill God’s Ephesians 1:10 dream which is to bring all things in heaven and earth together in Jesus Christ. As the end of time in this age quickly approaches, overcomers in Christ will transition into seeing things from heaven’s eternal perspective.
Without an eternal perspective, when the tyranny of time and its pressure hit, and the pain rises, we will struggle and scramble to process all the mixed messages. This need not be the case. We can be very sure-footed and unafraid in the high places if we are fixed on Jesus and His eternal purpose and how it plays out in our everyday life. This will keep us from falling into the traps of our real enemies who are hell bent on keeping Believers from overcoming them by entering into bridal union with Jesus.
Steps toward recognizing and choosing the path of humility and faithfulness:
- Is my intimate love for Jesus growing or shrinking? Why? Am I pursuing Jesus or pretending to?
- What season of God’s love am I in? Wilderness & Discipline OR Promised Land & Refreshment.
- Has God given me promises that carry me beyond this wilderness season? What are they? Am I eagerly believing them and making daily choices that back up and walk out what I say?
- Has God given me assignments and mandates within this Wilderness or within this Promised Land? What are they and am I faithfully walking them out as I grow in my love for Jesus?
- What is the tyranny of time trying to pressure me into right now? Do I have thoughts like this: “I think I’m behind, I’m late to the table, I’m not good enough, I think they are behind, they are late, they aren’t good enough, they are holding me back, etc.” Can I take responsibility for my walk with God?
- When I am tempted to shut down in passive, victim-oriented shame and indulge in self-pity, or when I am tempted to blow up and blame others in angry pride, will I instead take responsibility for my life in God and choose to be the God-loving person I want to be in that moment?
Whenever we choose to rise in faith and take on an eternal perspective by looking at Jesus as our answer, we step outside of time and by grace, we are given access to heavenly wisdom. James 3:17-18 describes the fruits of righteousness available to us when we access this heavenly wisdom. We become peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.
An eternal perspective lifts us up above the rulers of this age and gives us access through Christ to heavenly wisdom. Heavenly wisdom is transformative because it renews the way we think and feel. The love of God flows through heavenly wisdom in truth and subdues the evil ruler’s lies and pressure to conform to their demonically-laced earthly wisdom and self-centered solutions.
Luke 18:8b (CSB) “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes (Greek: erchomai), will he find faith on earth?”
When Jesus comes, will He find me eagerly waiting and believing that He loves me, that He wants me and cares deeply for me? Do I believe that that the season of The Wilderness is to prepare me to humbly receive when God pours out His love with great generosity in The Promised Land? Beyond words, does Jesus have evidence of my faith, hope, and love for Him? If we are faithful in and humble with little, we can be trusted with more.