Feb 032012

God often takes us into a dessert experience to do a deep work in private before he performs a broad work through us in public.

A life that is characterized by spiritual depth is most often cultivated in time spent in solitude, quietness and obscurity.
Paul experienced this dessert obscurity and solitude immediately following his Damascus Road conversion.

Galatians 1:15–18 (ESV)
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.


Paul spent 3 years in dessert obscurity for the purpose of preparing him for the ministry to which Jesus had called him.
I am reading Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit by Charles Swindoll, and I cannot remember EVER being taught about Paul’s 3 year journey into the dessert.  Why did he spend 3 years in the dessert prior to his public ministry?
Before we answer why, let’s take a look at who else spent time in obscurity before their ministry went public:
  • Moses fled to the plains of Midian and tended sheep for 40 years before God used him to free the Israelites from Egypt.
  • David spent 13 years as a fugitive in the caves of Engedi where many of his Psalms were born before assuming the throne of Israel he was anointed for when he was a boy.
  • Joseph spent time in jail unjustly accused in Egypt before he ascended to a place of authority that would allow God to use him to protect his family from famine.
  • Elijah spent time hiding in the wilderness being fed by ravens.
  • John the Baptist ate locust and honey for most of his ministry.  He announced the public ministry of the Messiah and he was beheaded as a reward for going public with the truth of a political leader.
Here are 3 areas that God often works on while we are in the dessert:
  1. God often desires to forge in us a work of lasting transformation and character.  To do the work of God in ministry we must have a heart for people, we must craft our theology and we need to cultivate an identity solely in Christ.
  2. Often it takes time to discover what REALLY matters.  In the dessert experience we learn that to be great leaders we must lead in areas that truly matter to God!
  3. When we are so busy and fixing everyone else at breakneck speed, we simply can’t hear God’s voice clearly.  God takes us into solitude in order to slow down, get quiet and listen to his still, small voice.
I spent some time in the dessert under a pastor that lacked integrity and leadership.  It was in that experience that I learned to depend on God.  My relationship with my wife grew stronger during this time as we leaned into God and one another.

The church I planted and now pastor went through a very difficult period two years into the plant.  It was a bit of a dessert experience where I learned what really mattered.  

Have you spent some time in the dessert?  What did you learn?
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