11 December – 40 – Days in the Wilderness

11 December – 40 – Days in the Wilderness

11 December: 40 – Days in the Wilderness
(Isaiah 35; Luke 4:1-14; Hebrews 4;14-16)
As I look back over my life, I’ve had many wonderful holidays. I wish I had time to share some memories and photos with you, but you probably would find all of that more than a little boring. Apart from a few travel delays and minor hiccups, everything has always gone according to plan.The forty days spent by Jesus in the wilderness, after he had been baptised in the waters of the Jordan, sound like the worst possible holiday from Hell. Not exactly picture postcard surroundings, but a lunar landscape with hills like dust heaps and endless jagged rocks. Not to mention the constant, blistering, dead heat.

The accommodation mustn’t have been worth writing home about either, because it isn’t made clear if he had a roof over his head at night. If there wasn’t a bed, there was definitely no breakfast, since we are told that by the end of forty days he was hungry. I would love to do a series on understatements in the Scriptures!

Jesus was preparing himself to begin his public ministry and found himself being sorely tempted by the devil who offered him all kinds of subtle and beguiling incentives. Jesus could turn stones into bread, because it would be much easier to satisfy the material than the spiritual needs of the crowds. He could lower his standards, appeal to the lowest common denominator and allow people to drift with the tide. Or he could become a celebrity magician performing endless tricks and enjoy the adulation of his followers.

These temptations to wealth and power are also ours too until we realise that the material does not ultimately satisfy. It’s a heart transplant we need rather than a cosmetic makeover. Why settle for a crowded motorway when you can have the panoramic views and the tranquil bliss of a rural road less travelled? Why try and please the crowds when you will only ever be as good as the latest trick that you can pull from the bag?

Jesus always countered the devil by quoting Scripture and so should we: “Man does not live on bread alone”; “worship the Lord your God and serve him only”; “do not put the Lord your God to the test.” He provides our deepest needs, fully satisfies when we give him our undivided attention and we can take him totally at his word.

We are told that Jesus went into the wilderness, full of the Holy Spirit and returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. When we feel we’re running on empty or have reached the end of our resources, there is more of God and less of us. If you’re weary and dry right now, simply invite him to refresh you with his life giving streams of water. Just as he went into the depths of the wilderness, so he can redeem the hardened desert place of our lives, transforming them into an oasis of abundant life.

Fullness, but also power! The apostle Paul speaks about God making his incomparably great power available to all who believe – the power of his resurrection. He lifts us from death to life, despair to hope, darkness to light, brokenness to healing, mourning to comfort, trouble to peace.

Our holidays have always gone according to plan. Exactly the same is going on here as Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and was thus totally in control, however hostile the environment. Whatever is going on in your life at the moment, be assured that he is on your case and making all his resources available to you. Fullness as opposed to emptiness and power instead of weakness.

Lord, we come empty-handed and we wait upon you. The tide has gone out on our lives. We long for it to come in. Come, as streams of living water and fill us, we pray. Thank you that we do not need to rely on our own weakness, but your strength. Help us we pray. Amen   

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