From The Wilderness
Are you ready to be molded? The hand of God is continually molding his people. We pass from a wilderness to an oasis of peace and rest only to be prepared for the next wilderness. It is interesting that the next wilderness the Isralites had to pass through was called, “the Desert of Sin.” Let’s take up the story from Exodus 16:
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai. (v. 1)
Actually, the Hebrew word for “Desert of Sin” is not the word for sin or evil, but the word for clay. A wilderness of clay! This is the place where we are shaped and molded by the Master Potter. In this wilderness, sons will become soldiers. How did one million slaves become the might army of God? Only hardships could turn sons into soldiers. Ask the marines! They can tell you about the crucible they had to pass through in order to become marines. God’s preparation is no less thorough.
Exodus 12:51 states, “On that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army.”
The delivered must go through more deliverance, a deliverance from complacency and passivity. God knew that they needed to be trained to face the battle conditions that were ahead. Thus far, they had been sheltered. The Hebrews had not fought any battles, yet they were about to go into a land of giants to dislodge them from their strongholds. Cowards would never survive these battles. Only the army of God would be able to prevail against these gates of hell.
It takes a wilderness to shake the complacency and complaining out of us and train us for war. To live victoriously means we must endure hardships and prevail by grace over every difficulty. We must overcome the pain and fear of pressing on into the land of promise.
When God Squeezed Me
Our journey brought us into a place of being pressed like clay in the hands of God. Shortly after moving into our jungle village of Pucuro as church planters, we began to feel the isolation and pressure of being in an unfamiliar land. It seemed as though the entire village was mocking us and our God.
One evening during a drunken fiesta in the village, I (Brian) lay awake through the night, praying for the people to come to the light of Christ. At about three in the morning, I heard voices outside the door of our hut – angry voices. As I listened, I heard their curses and threats, but as I arose from bed to see who was cursing us, there was no one there! No, it wasn’t my imagination – the demon powers in our village were outside our hut, hurling their insults and disgust at our presence in their domain. They wanted us out and were taunting me as I prayed for the village. Their threats were real, but so was God’s peace that washed over me that night
On another occasion we were forced to do battle in prayer as “soldiers in the war” when our precious Joy was bitten by a Bushmaster, a venomous snake, while she was playing on the banks of our jungle river. The Bushmaster’s venom is deadly. Many in our village said she would be gone within hours!
As we prayed over her in our hut, a massive hoard of stinging ants came up from underneath her bed and began to swarm all over the floor. Not a good thing! I scooped her up in my arms and took her to another spot in our hut where we could continue our prayer for a miracle.
It seemed in just a moment that things went from bad to worse. Praying in Jesus’s name, we had stirred up a hornets’ nest, literally! A swarm of hornets appeared out of nowhere in the room and filled the air. At that point, there was no doubt that we were in a struggle of greater proportions than we could have ever imagined. A five-foot-long Bushmaster snake, biting ants, and stinging hornets – this wasn’t what we’d envisioned when we answered the missionary call! We felt like we were definitely wrestling with tremendous demonic powers that were trying to remove us from our mission by taking the life of our daughter.
With our hearts clinging to a promise from the Word of God, we prayed out loud this Bible verse:
This is how faithful God will be to you: he will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face – so that you can bear it and walk through it. He will also provide a grace-escape so that you stand up against every hard thing that comes your way. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
As we claimed that verse, we spoke out loud: “Lord, you promised us that you would never allow something into our lives that we would not be able to bear. This is it! Lord, we can’t bear this! You have to work a miracle.” And he did!
God wonderfully proved that he is faithful! As we prayed, both the ants and the plague of hornets disappeared. Our prayer was answered at daybreak when our mission’s airplane flew in, unannounced and unscheduled, to our village. We were able to fly Joy out to a hospital so she could get the medical care she so desperately needed. Joy survived the snakebite as a miracle of grace. Our God is a God who will mold us through our hardships but will never leave us without miracle power. Ask our daughter Joy. She knows firsthand!
What wilderness do you find yourself in today? Is it a place of feeling isolated, even abandoned? Does it seem like the days passing by are taking you no closer to your destiny and the fulfillment of your prophetic promises? Could it be that the hand of the Potter is upon you right now to shape you into a mighty champion: one who will never give up and never quit?
I will not let you lose your way! I have led you through many difficult seasons and demonstrated to you my miracle power. Even if you are blind, I will become new eyes to you. Even if you are lame, I will be great strength to you. I will not allow you to wander any longer. When weakness causes you to stumble, I will swiftly run to pick you up and place you even farther on your path. The darkness will become light in front of you, and I will make your steps firm and secure. No matter how well you see me, I am there to uphold you. No matter how clearly you perceive me, I will not let you lose your way. I will lead you to the oasis of my presence, and you will be refreshed for your journey. This day I have decreed new eyes and great strength into your life.