Desert Training

John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets. I know we do not see him until the Gospels, but he was a prophet in the true Old Testament sense. He spoke of the coming Messiah, only he actually got to see Him and announce His actual arrival: “Behold! The Lamb of God!” (John 1:29, 36)

Like many of the OT prophets, John the Baptist was a bit of an eccentric. He wore a “raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). He was also given an unusual ministry. He was the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Mark 1:3; see also Isaiah 40:3). Perhaps the most difficult aspect of his ministry was that he was called of God to serve a transitional role. John was the bridge between the Old Testament and the New. Once Messiah arrived and John fulfilled his task of announcing Him, his own ministry would fade: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Eventually, John’s testimony and his outspoken prophet’s nature would cost him his life. While imprisoned for his faith, he spoke out against the illicit affair between Herod and Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. He told Herod plainly: “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Because of those words, Herodias had John beheaded.

He died a tragic death, but he died a hero and he knew going in that his life and ministry would be difficult. Like the apostle Paul he had the advantage of knowing his purpose from the start. How did God prepare this man for such a difficult life? Desert training:

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel (Luke 1:80).

The hard lessons of the Christian walk are not learned by “armchair” Christians, those who “live” the Christian life in theory only. The believers God uses are those who yield to God and who allow God to put them into the trenches to suffer the trials and tribulations that must come into the life of a believer. John could not have had the ministry he had without the hardship of growing up in the desert. When Moses understood his calling and that he was to lead Israel out of Egypt, it was not until after he had spent 40 years in the desert that God was able to use him. Because he was no good to God as a leader without the hardship of living in the desert. The apostle Paul said he spent three years in Arabia, a desert place, before God began to use him. He, too, was useless to God without the hardship of the desert to train him up first.

Perhaps you’re finding yourself in “desert training” now. Things are hard and you don’t know how you’re going to get through it. I know my wife and I are going through some desert training of our own, but most great opportunities don’t come until after great difficulty. I don’t know what God has in store for us, but I think we’re in good company, because like John the Baptist, and Moses, and the apostle Paul we’re going through desert training.

[Photo by Giorgio Parravicini on Unsplash]

On a personal note:

I hope no one is offended by my sharing this here, but we have a need I’d like to make known. The other night after we got home from the Wednesday night service at our church, my wife slipped and fell as she got out of our truck. The fall broke her ankle and the injury is serious enough to require surgery. Jane and I only have part-time jobs which means we have no insurance. Please visit the link below and share the link with others you know. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

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