Wilderness Survival for Christians Series
by Joseph Herrin of The Parables Blog
I have learned much from my own wilderness walk. I desire to share these things that I might lessen some of the agony that comes to people when they do not understand what is happening to them. Oftentimes perplexity can lead people to despair for they may believe they have somehow gotten out of God’s will and are on their own. To think such a thing will rob the saint of peace and make it very difficult to continue on their way.
I have shared that in 1999 the Father brought me to a place of surrender to follow Him wherever He would lead. This was actually my moment of counting the cost of being a disciple of Christ and accepting it. I was immediately led into a wilderness walk. The narrow gate opened before me and the afflicted path to life greeted me.
The Father instructed me to quit my job as a computer professional and to begin a ministry of writing. He said He would supply all of our needs. My way was made very difficult because I had false expectations of what that would mean. Yahshua has promised all His people that if they seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, His Father will supply all our needs (Matthew 6:33).
The immediate context of this passage in Matthew finds the Lord speaking of the birds of the air being fed daily by the Father, and the lilies of the field being clothed in raiment. These are the necessities of life, food and covering. The apostle Paul echoed this sentiment to Timothy, declaring that with these things we should be content.
I Timothy 6:7-8 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
When the Father led me through the narrow gate in 1999, I found that it was so narrow that I could not carry all of my worldly possessions with me. I have written elsewhere about the meaning of Christ’s words concerning a camel going through the eye of a needle, but I believe it is appropriate to share it again here.
Matthew 19:23-24 "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Many have misunderstood the message of Christ in these words, for they have mistakenly equated “the eye of a needle” with a sewing needle. Camels do not go through the eye of a sewing needle, so this makes little sense. In the days of Christ cities were surrounded by walls for protection against invading enemies. Gates were set in the walls to allow people and materials to come and go. These gates were closed at night and in times of danger, but it was still necessary to allow a limited flow of people in and out. Therefore, built into the large gates was a small door which could be opened to let a man in or out. This small door was called “the eye of the needle.”
Camels at the time were used for transport of goods. They would be piled high with merchandise and goods to be traded. If a man came to the gates after they had been closed and needed to enter, it was possible to go through and take his camel along, but it was very difficult. The master of the camel would have to take all the merchandise off of the camel, and the camel would have to go through the gate on his knees.
This is a picture of how a rich man must enter the kingdom of heaven. Getting on one’s knees speaks of humility, and removing all the goods from the camel’s back speaks of the necessity of Christians being unburdened from their possessions.
Matthew 19:21-22 Yahshua said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.
The word rendered as “perfect” in this Scripture is the Greek word teleios. This Greek word means “perfect, mature, of full age.” What Yahshua was telling this rich young ruler of the Jews is that if he wanted to come to maturity as a son of God, then he needed to free himself from his possessions which were making his life very comfortable and easy. He would then be free to follow Christ. Christ would lead this young man down an afflicted path, but it would lead to spiritual maturity. Holding onto his possessions, and clinging to his comfortable lifestyle, would hinder this man from coming to a perfect conformity to the image of Christ.
Most Christians think that the Lord’s words to this young ruler were exceptional. They have been convinced by preachers of prosperity that this young man had an inordinate affection for the world’s goods and therefore he was required to give them up. They are told that this example does not apply to them. What the saints have not understood is that the Lord is revealing a very general principle through these words, a principle with application to all of the lives of Yahweh’s sons and daughters. A life of material ease and comfort will hinder all men from coming to maturity in Christ. “The way is afflicted” which leads to life. Comfort and affliction are opposites. We cannot choose to live comfortable lives and expect to find the life of Christ revealed in us at the end of our journey. It will not happen.
I did not understand this in 1999. According to the Biblical definition of wealth, I was wealthy. So too are many who are reading this. Paul contrasts the person who is content with food and covering with the one who desires to get rich. This then must be our standard to understand what an inordinate desire for material things is. If we cannot be content with food and covering, but must have many other material things, then we are those who desire to be rich, and we risk falling into a snare and many hurtful desires.
Now, I am not saying that a Christian cannot have more than their daily bread and the clothes on their back. What the Scriptures teach is that if this is what the Father chooses for us, we must be content.
When I was directing my way I naturally accumulated a great amount of the world’s goods. I had a house, multiple vehicles, many furnishings, closets full of material goods, and a garage filled with the same. Many of the things I had were for entertainment, comfort, or ease. I anticipated that in following the Father that He would continue to supply me with the financial means to keep this mass of worldly goods.
Soon after quitting my job and entering a full-time ministry of writing, my money began to run out. I knew I had heard Yahweh correctly, for He had given me an abundance of affirmations that I was walking the path He had chosen for me. Yet my expectations were not met, and this led me to much inner wrestling. Perhaps the word terror would more accurately describe this period of my life. I did not understand what was happening, and great doubts began to assail my mind, as well as fears of being out on the street homeless with my wife and kids.
It became necessary to begin selling some of our accumulated possessions to have money for food and to pay the bills. So we had a garage sale.
The money would last us for a time, and then I would find that it was necessary to lighten the load some more. In God’s sight I was still carrying way too much worldly baggage with me.
I found that I could not get past the narrow gate with all of these goods. The first thing the Father did upon my surrendering to Him was to begin stripping me of the baggage of this world. I believe this to be the pattern for a great many people who are brought to a place of counting the cost of following Christ. Christ traveled very lightly through this world. His focus was not upon material acquisition, or personal comfort, but upon doing the will of His Father.
When we read of the story of the rich young ruler, many Christians automatically think that the story does not describe them. They do not consider themselves rich in this world’s goods. The Bible describes this young man as one who “owned much property.” Does this not describe a majority of Christians today? Property is not merely real estate. It is every item that we purchase. It is all the things that fill our homes, our attics, our garages, and our storage rental buildings.
The reaction of this young man who came to Christ is the same as a great many Christians. If Christians today heard Yahshua speak to them, telling them to sell all they had and to them come and follow Him, most would go away greatly saddened. What the church has done instead is to change her doctrines. The church promotes the accumulation of goods. They have made the gate very wide and the path broad, but they are leading men and women to destruction.
Christ’s first disciples testified that they had left all behind to follow Christ (Mark 10:28). They are not an exception. We find in the book of Acts that the Christians of that first church in Jerusalem began selling possessions and lands and bringing the money and depositing it at the apostles feet to be distributed to those in need. They did what Christ urged the rich young ruler to do. We see then that Christ’s words were not an exception to be applied to one man who was inordinately wealthy. The entire church began to practice this disengagement from the world and its possessions.
Acts 4:32-35 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them...For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.
Notice the highlighted words. They reveal that what was done by the first Christians was a general work, not an exceptional one. Upon surrendering to Christ, I too found this to be an immediate work of the Father. I believe the reason we see so little of this occurring today is that there have been very few saints who have yet counted the cost of following Christ. There are hardly any who have accepted the invitation of the Spirit to follow wherever He would lead and do whatever He would say. Men and women who are directed by their own souls are not naturally led to do those things that Christ directs His disciples to do.
People of God, my purpose in sharing these things is to prepare your heart to have correct expectations of what you will meet with when you surrender to be led of the Spirit. I was tremendously distressed, for I did not understand these things. My heart was filled with anxiety, but I submitted to the stripping of my worldly goods nonetheless. Each time I had a sale the Father cut deeper into those things I thought I needed to have, or desired to have. At the end of a year my wife and children and I found ourselves with a 28 foot motorhome and a small car in tow. We had clothes, and a few possessions which would fit into the motorhome. We also had freedom. We had no debt and no attachments to a specific place. We could go wherever the Father directed.
The Israelites who left Egypt to enter the wilderness had to leave many things behind. They could take only what they could carry, or what their few wagons could hold. They left homes in Goshen, and furnishings, and a great many things. Necessity dictated it. For forty years they dwelt in tents. The day came, however, when they took possession of Canaan. They received houses they did not build, and vineyards they did not plant. They became possessors of a land flowing with milk and honey.
We too are seeking to enter into the land of our inheritance. Our Savior has promised us that He goes to prepare a place for us. We will one day receive many glorious things, but on our journey to that destination we should travel very lightly through this world. We are aliens and strangers here. This is not our home.
These things I write are for that remnant of Yahweh’s people who will surrender the direction of their lives to Him. I would that you would not be tormented by the perplexity I was met with when I began this journey. I am now accustomed to traveling light through this world, but the initial adjustment came as a shock. I would now have it no other way. What I once possessed actually possessed me. I had been in bondage to the material things I owned. Now my burden is light, for I am yoked to Christ and I am walking as He walked, and continues to walk.
Wilderness Survival for Christians - Part 1
Wilderness Survival for Christians - Part 2
Wilderness Survival for Christians - Part 3
Wilderness Survival for Christians - Part 4
Wilderness Survival for Christians - Part 5
Wilderness Survival for Christians - Part 6