Wilderness Survival for Christians Series
by Joseph Herrin of The Parables Blog
An Absence of Applause
The church calls Christ “Lord.” It is perhaps the most common appellation used in reference to both the Son and the Father. The church speaks of the cross, albeit usually in reference to the one that Yahshua bore. The church speaks the word “Faith” endlessly. Observing these things, you might think that someone who truly accepts Christ as Lord, surrendering to obey the leading of His Spirit in all things, and who embraces a walk of faith would receive much encouragement and support from other Christians who observe their life.
If this is your expectation, then I must warn you that you will be greatly disappointed.
That small remnant of the people of God who commit to following the Father wherever He leads; those few who find the narrow path to life and walk it, will experience trials, tests, and sorrows due to their surrender and obedience that makes the experiences of the carnal and lukewarm pale in comparison. During significant portions of their walk these disciples of Christ are waging war with Herculean effort. They are refusing to turn aside despite intense pressures from within and without.
One might expect other Christians to see their struggle and to encourage them on their way. They might anticipate that others would confess that they are doing right, even if those saying such things are unwilling to walk the same path. One might think that it would be obvious to the church that this suffering saint is experiencing all this hardship because of their commitment to follow Christ no matter the cost. But the reality is quite different.
Let me share with you an illustration from the Israelites’ wilderness experience that reveals the truth of this situation. It should be kept in mind that although 600,000 men, as well as women and children, went into this wilderness, these people are not to be confused with those who stand as types of the disciples of Christ. They are merely types of the church, the ekklesia. They were called out of the world, but few of them actually embraced this calling.
The majority of those who went into the wilderness regretted immediately having done so. Had they the opportunity they would have returned to Egypt. They were kept in the wilderness by the strong hand of the Father.
Among this large number of people we read of only a few who were intent on following the Lord. There was the smallest number who did not entertain thoughts of returning to the comforts of Egypt. Among these were Moses, Joshua and Caleb. The majority of the people did not have any desire to endure hardship, or to face trials and battles, even if the end result would have been an inheritance described as a land flowing with milk and honey.
The majority of Israelites in the wilderness represent the mass of Christians today. What was their response when they observed a small remnant among them who were willing to embrace hardship and difficulty? We can observe their attitude when, after approximately two years in the wilderness, Yahweh brought them to the border of the land of Canaan.
Yahweh instructed Moses to send in 12 men to spy out the land. These 12 spies spent 40 days looking over the land. They saw its abundance. They saw the bountiful fruit, the flowing streams, the fertile valleys and the forested mountains. The land was so fruitful that it took two men to carry a single cluster of grapes on a staff carried between their shoulders. Truly, Yahweh was setting before them an incredible inheritance.
Yet, these same men also observed a great many people living in walled cities. They observed giants, the descendants of the Anakim and Nephilim, dwelling in the land. They understood that it would be no cakewalk to go in and possess this land. Great courage would be required. Fierce battles would have to be fought. And enemies more numerous and mightier than themselves would have to be overcome.
Yahweh had promised His people that He would fight for them. They had adequate proof of this already. The mightiest nation on earth had seen its entire military destroyed in the Red Sea as Yahweh fought for the Israelites. The Israelites had complained bitterly at this event. They did not relish facing an enemy. They had no stomach to fight. They manifested great unbelief in Yahweh’s presence with them, and His willingness to support them. They rejoiced AFTER they saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore, but we see their hearts revealed when they were brought once more to face an enemy stronger than themselves.
Thus they told him, and said, "We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan." Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it." But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us." So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."
People of God, do not think too hard of these Israelites who shrank back from the battles before them. The majority of Christians today are doing the same thing. There is a cross that all disciples must take up if they are to follow Christ. There are giants of fear, and unbelief to be slain. There are walled cities of lust, pride, and covetousness to be conquered. There are many enemies in the land that we must take possession of, and few Christians have the stomach to fight.
Yahshua said “The Kingdom of God is within you.” He also said, “The kingdom of God suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” There is no other way to establish Yahweh’s kingdom in our lives than by fighting battles with an array of enemies that dwell in our hearts.
Consider for a moment the thoughts that arise in your own heart as you contemplate surrendering the leadership of your life to Yahweh. Does not fear leap up as a great giant as you consider the paths Yahweh might lead you down? Does it not cause your knees to grow weak to consider the complete surrender of the direction of your life to the Father? There is a reason that Christ uses the imagery of crucifixion to describe discipleship. Who could consider submitting to crucifixion and not be tempest tossed within their soul? Even Christ wrestled to the point that He sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane as He viewed the things before Him.
Joshua and Caleb were not insensible to the risk before them. They too must have known a quivering in their soul as they looked upon the Anakim dwelling in the land. But they knew it was Yahweh guiding them to these battles, and He had promised to fight for them. They subdued the turmoil in their soul and began to reckon on Yahweh’s presence. They were willing to cast all over into the care of Yahweh, considering Him to be faithful.
Both Joshua and Caleb counseled the people to go forward as Yahweh was directing them. They were willing to put their lives on the line. The rest of the congregation were not.
Did the congregation of God’s people confess that Joshua and Caleb were courageous? Did they admit that these two men were more dedicated to obeying Yahweh than they were? Did they encourage Joshua and Caleb to go in and fight these battles? No, we read there response in the following verse.
But all the congregation said to stone them with stones.
Men, women and children, in one accord, looked at these two men, both of them types and shadows of Christ’s disciples and the overcomers, and they wanted to stone them to death. This too is the response of the church today when it observes those few who are willing to follow the Lord wherever He leads. They will not praise you. They will despise you. They will vilify you. They will hurl many rocks of insult and reproach at you.
It took a wrestling of the soul for Caleb and Joshua to rule over their own fears, and to commit to a path they knew to be perilous. Yet they received no applause for their faith. Neither will you.
When you commit to follow the Father, to surrender to the leading of His Spirit, you will be led into experiences that others have not gone through, experiences which they do not even want to contemplate for themselves. The church will observe you being stripped of houses, lands, possessions, and encountering division in your closest family relationships. They will see that you have truly counted the cost of surrendering all your possessions and relations in order to follow Christ. And despite the fact that you arrived at such a surrender only after great inner wrestling that has taxed you to the utmost, they will not praise you. No, they will condemn you.
The wilderness is a type and shadow of the disciple’s cross. It is that daily struggle through difficult situations, following the Spirit wherever He leads. Did the people of God applaud Christ for His supreme sacrifice as He hung upon the cross? No! They hurled abuse and insults at Him. He was counted as a transgressor. They judged Him to be smitten and stricken of God.
So too will the majority in the church view your afflicted path and judge you to be suffering due to disobedience.
Discipleship is a lonely road. Though there be professing Christians in abundance, the path to life is found by only a few. Many are the called, but few are chosen.
There is an aspect of every disciple’s life where they must bear the cross alone. When Christ went to the cross His disciples were scattered. Only John was named as being present, along with Yahshua’s mother and some of the women. It is certain that those present watching His suffering did not understand what He was going through. His closest friends could only grieve as they watched Him suffer.
Christ was the Great Pioneer of this victorious wilderness journey. His example is a pattern for those disciples who would follow after Him. We read of His suffering that there was present in it the false judgments of His own people.
Isaiah 53:3-4 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
I desire that you would have your heart prepared to anticipate similar things. Be at rest in your suffering. Do not add to your burden by seeking the applause of other Christians. Do not be distressed when no one understands the great spiritual battles you are fighting. Yahweh sees all things. The day will come when He will reward you openly.
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