We call them “desert” or “wilderness” experiences, which are normal for most Christians. They start innocently enough – through illness, death, job loss, even the hormonal changes that come after a child’s birth can bring it on through postpartum depression. And somewhere along the way, we lose our feeling of closeness to God. We become disinterested in anything to do with the church or the Bible. We make excuses to avoid our Christian friends because we don’t feel “spiritual” enough. Before we know it, we are wandering in the desert, wondering if we have lost our faith in God forever or if we were ever saved in the first place. But there is good news. By looking at Jesus’ desert experience, we can have victory over Satan’s attempts to lead us away from God. Today, if you are going through one of those times, it is my hope that you will be encouraged by what you find.
I don't know about you, but for many years after I found out about Jesus and believed in Him as my Saviour, I thought I needed to do things for God to merit His salvation. In other words, I tried very hard to be good, so God would not be disappointed in me, change His mind, and revoke my salvation. I was simply terrified that if I made a mistake, it would be the end of my relationship with the Lord.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment,
is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NKJV)
In January of this year, I began rereading the Bible from the beginning. Around the time that we all realized how dangerous COVID-19 was, I was reading about plagues, how they started, who started them and, more specifically, why. For the record, it always had to do with sin, and God always initiated the plagues. So, am I saying God started COVID-19? Well, I know that nothing gets by Him and that He will use everything to bring His people back to Him.
I also know that like an earthly father, our Heavenly Father will not hesitate to correct disobedient children (Leviticus 26:14-45). Yes, these verses were directed at the children of Israel. But for those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, according to the Scriptures, you are now part of Abraham's family tree (Ephesians 2:11-13; Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 3:6; Romans 11:17-24), and when we are disobedient, God must act. I do not see the COVID-19 virus as a punishment for those who don't know God. I see it as a "wake-up before it's too late" call for those who claim they do.
Have you ever read the Christmas story when it wasn't Christmas? Perhaps not, but Luke 2:4-20 gives us a great example of what qualifications (if any) are needed to proclaim Jesus to others. If you have ever felt that you needed a degree in theology before you begin a ministry God has called you to, just remember the shepherds who were out in the fields the night of Jesus' birth and what happened to them. If you need a refresher, the story can be found in Luke 2:4-20.
During biblical times, shepherds were despised among the general populace. They were thought of as untrustworthy, illiterate, uncouth, unclean misfits. The religious leaders held them in the same regard as they did prostitutes. They were quite literally the social outcasts of their day. This is what makes their story so amazing.
Angels did not appear to anyone else the night Jesus was born. The angels appeared to despised shepherds, trusting them to spread the news that the Messiah was born. The shepherds knew their position in society, and so did God, which is why their story is so unique. The first thing they did after seeing the angels was to immediately go to Bethlehem to verify if a baby had been born. The second thing they did was to tell everyone they met about the child and how they had heard about him. The third thing they did was to return to the fields to watch their sheep, all while glorifying and praising God for what had happened to them. In other words, they praised and thanked the Lord for the privilege of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.
Do you know what that makes them?
The first witnesses/preachers in all of history to proclaim that Jesus was Lord!
Now let's think about this for a moment. Jesus came in the lowliest of manners. His birth was proclaimed by men considered outcasts by society. I personally don't understand the archaic reasoning as to why shepherds were so despised at the time. But they were, and God chose them to be His mouthpiece. The angels did not appear to the learned religious leaders of the day. Just like Jesus' lowly birth, those considered the least important in society were the ones elected to spread the news about his arrival. I don't know about you, but this brings me comfort to know that the great God of heaven chose to use men of little influence to announce His coming.
While God does use those who have been ordained and trained in theology to preach, He can and does use anyone to proclaim His message - if we are willing to take that first step of obedience by declaring Him before others.
Unfortunately, it is the one thing most Christians don't act on because of fear. Fear that they will say something wrong. Fear that people will react negatively, fear of being ridiculed, and doubt that they are not qualified to teach or preach because they do not have diplomas to back up their authority. Did you know that the only disciple with a "real" education was Paul? He was taught by the great Rabbi Gamaliel. All the rest of the Apostles were (to put it bluntly) uneducated people with a message to share. So if you are not sharing your story about Jesus with others because you feel you need to go to school first - think again. God revealed Himself to you in a specific way. He has called you to go and share that story.
So, what are four steps to sharing our faith?
How and when did you first hear about the Lord? We need some uplifting stories today. You never know who might be encouraged by your "faith story." How did you come to know the Lord? Share in the comments below.
Have you ever stopped to think about how God chose Mary to be His vessel for Christ’s entrance into the world? Have you ever stopped to think why He chose you? We know from Scripture that God knows each one of us intimately, before we are even born.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
Do you marvel at the wonders of God? Even before you were born, He appointed a set number of days for you to live. According to Ephesians 2:10, you were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." During this pandemic every Christian should be a shining light for Jesus. Pointing the way to salvation. So, why isn't that happening?