From The Wilderness
As new believers, we became fascinated with the Bible. After seasons of soaking our heart in the Word of God and prayer for hours a day, God would give us dreams of reaching a tribe of unreached people with the gospel of Christ. More than anything, we wanted to go where no one had gone before and pioneer a kingdom outpost for our Lord Jesus. Our heart’s desire was to be missionaries of the Lamb and to be the first people to share Christ with those living in spiritual darkness.
Our personal belief is that everyone that comes to Christ has had someone praying for them. A mother, a friend, or an intercessor somewhere – someone has prayed you into the Kingdom. We certainly had those who prayed for us, a group of intercessors. They were elderly women who had stormed Heaven for the youth of our community to turn to God. We both also had intercessors praying for us personally. Candice’s aunt Mildred prayed her into the Kingdom. Brian had some former high school buddies who had all been praying for him to come to Christ. Their prayers were answered powerfully as Brian turned from darkness to Christ on a Sunday morning. Jesus gripped his heart powerfully and captured him. Our whirlwind romance began at a Bible study group and led us to our wedding day. We were convinced we could serve our King better together than apart. Missions would be our passion, our pursuit. Jesus wanted all of us, and we said, “Yes,” to him and, “Yes,” to each other.
After four years of training and one year as a pastoral intern, we set out as a family for the jungles of Central America. We did not have an angel appear to us, telling us to go to the jungle as missionaries. God simply put an ache in our hearts that would not go away – an ache to see tribal people that had never heard the good news of Jesus Christ have a chance to hear the wonderful message of salvation.
We will never regret the times we only had a “maybe” and stepped out, only to find a miracle. We have had many times where we stepped out with a “perhaps,” but each time it resulted in a great victory. We were weak, young, inexperienced, and perhaps even a little cocky, but we believed that when we acted in line with God’s heart, we could usher in God’s will. Perhaps you can imagine how we felt as we took our newborn son and two daughters into the dense tropical rainforest for the first time to reach a tribe with the message of Christ!
We had never met the Paya-Kuna people before, but we had seen them in our dreams. We longed to be the ones to tell them that Jesus was the Savior and that his Word would be their hope and joy. What a surprise when we were taken into the meeting hut, a large communal meeting place, and were greeted with these words:
“You might as well go back now and leave! The missionaries that came before you told us they loved us only to leave us when it became difficult. We have seen others come and tell us they would learn our language and give us God’s trail [Word]. But they have all left us. We know you will leave us too! You might as well take your family and go back home.”
Our hearts sank low as we heard those words. We assumed the people would be thrilled that we were willing to move into the midst of their poverty, learn their language, and give them the life-changing Word of God. Instead, they were hard, calloused, and, at times, even violent as we started to assimilate to their culture. There was one man in particular who seemed to want Brian dead. Even his secret Kuna name was ominous: Kill Morro. They never called him Morro, meaning “turtle,” without using Kill with it. More than once he made us feel that if we dropped our guard, Brian might end up dead in the rainforest!
Yet something (or Someone) rose up inside of us, and we determined right then that we would not go home or give up. We would stay there no matter what happened – they could bury us there, but we would not leave them or turn aside until they had the scriptures in their own language! Holy stubbornness can keep us in our calling. So many times the Lord promises us that we will reap if we do not faint or give up. “Keep going, and you will bear much fruit,” the Lord seemed to say to us.
With God’s unchanging grace and a revelation of his love, we can endure any wilderness and be faithful in any desert. The God of mercy, who understands our weakness, can empower us not only to do a miracle but to be a miracle of steadfastness, if we will only let him take over our hearts. That was the greatest miracle we witnessed in the jungle – God would not give up on us!
Godliness Is Not Geographical
Let us tell you another secret we learned while on our jungle journey. Even in a wilderness, God will meet you and satisfy your heart with his presence. We often think that when we find our perfect place in the will of God, life will flow like a river of milk and honey. This is a fantasy and not a fulfillment of faith. Jesus was a tender plant in a desert land, (Isaiah 53:2). He was the opposite of his surroundings. In a hard and dry place, God can make you tender and overflowing with his life within.
We must come to the place in our life when we can promise God that we will never let our relationship with him be determined by where we live. I’m quite impressed with a lesson that Jeremiah can teach us through his parable of the ripe and spoiled figs, (Jeremiah 24). The two types of figs describe the two types of situations God’s people find themselves in. It was those who were taken into captivity in Babylon who were the “good figs.” Those who were left in the holy land of Israel were the “rotten figs.” Babylon, though an evil place, produced the good figs, while Judea, the good place, produced only rotten figs. Oh, how this speaks to our hearts!
The best “geography” is within you. The best place to be is not the easy place, but the place where we yield to Christ. The worst place to be is the place where we choose comfort over Christ. Your heart can be right even though your surroundings may be evil. Are you a “good fig” in a “rotten” place?
Haven’t you found strength growing within even in the weakest place in your life? God is ready to pour himself into your need if you will turn to him as one who is “poor in spirit.” There is a strategy in these last days to leave us weak – weak in ourselves so we can be strong in the strength of another. The great exchange takes place when we deposit our weakness in front of his cross and ask for his divine strength. The surprise of the ages is that God delights in making weak ones strong. Let all the weak ones join us in this journey.
Let the Weak Say, “I Am Strong”
The Bible makes an amazing connection between miracles and troubles. To really receive a miracle means you must first have an impossibility facing you. Miracles come out of messes. The bigness of your problem only means a greater miracle ahead. Yes, God’s greatest faith lessons come out of calamities.
God will deliver you from trouble over and over again – until you understand that no matter what you go through, he will rescue you, and make sure that no evil will touch you! (Job 5:19)
Notice this verse teaches us that God doesn’t always steer us away from trouble, but he majors in delivering us from our troubles. Trouble is a pretty good sign that God is with you! The three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, discovered that the king’s order to heat the furnace seven times hotter was the perfect recipe for their miracle deliverance, and their fiery furnace was transformed into a four-man dance hall! Daniel found his greatest deliverance took place inside a lions’ den. A greater Lion, Jesus, gave Daniel the courage that replaced his fear of lions!
Are you in any kind of trouble right now? If so, then you qualify for deliverance in the midst of your trouble as you set your love upon him. If you compare your troubles to yourself, you are in trouble. But if you compare your troubles to God, your troubles are in trouble – they will have to bow before the King of all kings!
We are committed “Christian triumphalists.” We believe that God triumphs over all. He triumphs over everything around us and everything within us. He triumphs over every spiritual foe and every spiritual flaw.
God’s greatest goal for your life is not to just make life comfortable for you. He wants to build character. Listen to the words of a true apostle, the apostle Paul. Look at the lessons of his life and ministry. We can learn from him the redemptive value of all that comes into our lives. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, he encouraged us with these words:
All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. He always comes alongside of us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside of those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort which God has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ. So if troubles weigh us down it just means that we will receive even more comfort to pass on to you for your deliverance! For the comfort pouring into us empowers us to bring comfort to you! And with this comfort upholding you, you can endure victoriously the same suffering that we experience. Now our hope for you is unshakable, because we know that just as you share in Christ’s sufferings you will also share in God’s comforting strength.
Can you see it? Your life is a blessing, and that blessing is released through the troubles you endure. God’s love can make us happy no matter what we face. If God is going to make you like Christ, then even enduring suffering for following him will work a greater comfort and strength into your heart.
God Turns Setbacks Into Comebacks
We are not a depressed couple, nor are we given to prolonged melancholy – yet we have gone through days we wished never happened! How about you? Have you ever been overwhelmed with a sense of, Why do I have to go through this Lord? Do I have to take this test? Do I have to walk through this valley? We have written this book, this personal story of ours, to hopefully give you some encouragement. Here’s what we know to be true:
So no matter what happens, we will not give up. For even if our outer person wears out, on the inside not a day goes by that we are not being renewed as we embrace a new kind of life! We view our slight distress and momentary troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as what unfolds within us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond any comparison. So we don’t fix our gaze on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen [the wilderness] is temporary. But what is unseen [the glory] is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
This passage gives us the four reasons we don’t get discouraged or lose heart:
- We know our troubles are slight – the glory far outweighs any distress we may pass through. Even when your mind tells you different, begin to say, “The troubles around me are not as heavy as the glory within me!”
- We know that all troubles are temporary – they don’t last. Say to yourself, “This trouble won’t last forever, but his love for me lasts longer than eternity!”
- We keep our eyes on God, even when it’s not easy. Say it from your heart today, “My eyes are fixed on the reality of Christ, not the troubles that are passing away!”
- We know that God is using our troubles for a greater eternal purpose. It’s time to say, “My glorious God has an eternal reward waiting for me. I know he will help me make it through this wilderness!”
These are the most important lessons of life. They are the anchors that keep us from drifting from God and what we know to be true. Yes, there are surprises ahead. Trusting God in the surprises of our lives makes us his true disciples.
Our journey will lead us down the path of the ancient Hebrew people as they were rescued from Egypt only to be taken through a process and a refining that required a wilderness. It’s just the very process needed to transform us into the royal bride that will come up out of the wilderness leaning on her Beloved.
More than riches, more than finances, you need my grace flowing through your life. I am the God of great provision. I have seen your needs before you ask, before you are even aware of them. My glory will take care of you, and my promise will never let you fail or be in want. I am the shepherding God who will lead you into the true riches that I have prepared for you. Even in your need, I am there to show you my love. Even as you consider what you lack, I consider how to bless you even more. Have you forgotten that my name is Father? And as your Father, I will care for you and provide for you. All that you need this moment I hold in my hands, so come to me and find the overflowing love that is the inheritance of all who seek me.