Wilderness Survival for Christians – Part 1
Joseph Herrin (04-01-2010)
I Corinthians 15:46
However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
In the Old Testament we read of Yahweh leading His people through a natural wilderness. This journey was recorded by Moses. The physical wilderness that the Israelites journeyed through as they left behind centuries of slavery in Egypt touched their bodies and their souls. The souls of the Israelites found their journey as barren and desolate as the Wilderness around them. Yahweh ever uses the natural experiences of life to impact the soul of man as He labors to promote the development of spiritual men and women.
And you shall remember all the way which Yahweh your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that Yahweh your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
I can say with confidence that a very real wilderness experience lies ahead of the people of God. It has always been God’s method to perfect His sons through trials and testing, but the present generation has largely spurned such things. They have fed on lies, deceiving and being deceived by one another. Today’s Christians have been told that Yahweh wants to bless them materially, to make them fat on all the things of Egypt (the world). They have been encouraged to live their best life now by preachers of prosperity and ease.
Yahweh is about to vomit many of these lukewarm Christians out of His mouth. A remnant, however, will accept His invitation to follow Him through a difficult wilderness way. Many who begin the trek will not finish it. Some will die spiritually in the wilderness, their hearts having turned back to Egypt.
For the past eleven years the Father has been leading me through a wilderness experience. I have written of this journey in the book Evidence of Things Unseen.
Like Moses, these experiences were intended for my development as a son. They served to humble me, and to teach me Yahweh’s ways. Many things that were once a large part of my life fell by the wayside. Some things simply cannot be carried in the wilderness. They are burdensome and make the journey too difficult. This was a lesson the pioneers learned as they traveled west across America in the 1800s.
When God calls a people to surrender all, and to follow wherever He would lead them, they must begin to make decisions about what must be kept, and what must be left behind. In my case, these decisions were thrust upon me. If I followed the leading of Christ I had to leave home, vehicles, furnishings, and many years of accumulated possessions behind. Yahweh provided no means for me to continue to hold onto these things.
Many pioneers heading to the American West started off with too heavy a load. This placed a strain on the wagon, and on the animals pulling it. In soft, wet, or rough ground, the wagon would become stuck. Many goods were abandoned along the way. Some cast away pianos, china cabinets, and other things they considered inseparable. When their forward progress was brought to a standstill they had to evaluate what things were truly essential. Things that were not absolute necessities were thrown to the wayside.
I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy as he instructed him about the proper attitude towards the goods of this world.
I Timothy 6:7-8
For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
People of God, eleven years ago I had a large house on nearly an acre of land in town. I had a household of goods. Our closets were full, as was our garage. We were overloaded with the goods of the world. This encumbrance prevented us from following the Father wherever He would lead.
The Father led me to a radical departure from the life I had been living. He instructed me to quit my job as a computer professional and to follow Him. I anticipated keeping most of my worldly goods, but the Father had other plans. He began to strip us of many things accumulated through years of indulgent living. Christians in America have little concept of how materialistic their lives are.
As God begins to lead a greater number down wilderness pathways they will quickly learn that they are able to do with much less. Some will try to carry the maximum amount possible.
About a year after the Father directed my family to follow Him wherever He would lead us, He had brought us to a place where everything our family of four owned would fit into a 28-1/2 foot long motorhome. There was tremendous liberty in this. We could go wherever the Father directed. We were not held back by our possessions.
Many have criticized me for leading my family to such an experience. In the mindset of American culture, including the American church, such Spartan living strikes many as cause for reproach. I am persuaded, however, that a great many in the days ahead will be brought by the Father to choose whether they will follow Him and leave the world behind, or cling to the things of the world.
“So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
If you are to survive your wilderness experience you need to let go of the things of this world. Some will make foolish decisions as they seek some way to hold onto possessions that have taken hold on their hearts. Their journey will be far more laborious because they started off trying to carry too much with them.
Covetousness is not the only motive for clinging to the things of this world. Fear also plays a part. It is very difficult to willingly make ourselves vulnerable. Despite the fact that practically every Christian has recited the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread…,” there are few who relish the thought of looking to God to provide for them day by day. The natural man feels insecure when he does not have a large supply of food and material goods laid aside to help him meet the needs of the future.
Yahweh had to deal with this lack of trust among His people when He led them into the wilderness. He promised them that every day He would provide their necessary food to eat. Yahweh sent His people the manna of heaven. The Israelites would find it on the ground every morning. Yahweh, knowing well the fears resident in the soul of man, assured them that the manna would be there every day. He told them to only gather enough for one day.
Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church and told them that all the things that the Israelites experienced in the wilderness were written for their instruction (I Corinthians 10:11). Paul said that the Israelites were types of the church. Yahweh must test His people today, and perfect them through similar methods. Without faith it is impossible to please God, yet this faith is not natural to the Adamic man.
The wilderness is designed to take a people who are carnal (fleshly) and transform them into spiritual beings. Let us not think too lightly of the tests that the Israelites faced. What would your response be to God sending you forth into a wilderness place where there were no stores, no growing grain, and no animals to eat? What if He did so with only one day’s supply of food? Would you go forth boldly? If you are like me, you would experience great anxiety, and have to battle daily with worries and unbelief.
This was certainly my experience in 1999 when the Father led me to quit my job and I had a wife and two children for which to care. We were soon brought to extremities. Our money ran out and our stored food was consumed. When the cupboards were bare I experienced great fear. I knew the Father had directed my path to this walk, and I could not turn back. How potent were my fears. I was tormented by them.
At the time I was encouraged by a message I heard preached where the speaker said that sometimes we have to “do it afraid.” I knew that if I turned back that the Father would be greatly displeased.
But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
I do not know that I would have responded much different than the Israelites when they first began to receive the manna. They disobeyed Yahweh by gathering more than one day’s supply. That which was left over bred worms and became rancid (Exodus 16:19-21). For forty years He would give them only one day’s supply of food at a time. He was teaching them to trust in Him.
And the sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
People of God, one of the first things you will have to deal with as the Father leads you to your own wilderness experience is this matter of letting go of the things of this world. You will discover precisely how much covetousness and fear is a part of this fallen flesh in which we dwell. To survive the wilderness you will need to buffet your body and keep it in subjection. The greater the faith you manifest in Yahweh, the easier the way will be before you.
Those who seek to hold onto the things of the world will hesitate in following the Father’s leading and suffer for it. Others will encumber themselves with too many things, and their way will be made burdensome. It is those who will freely lay aside all, and commit their lives to the Lord, that will find the way made much easier. Those who enter the wilderness must not make emotional decisions predicated upon either lust or fear. They must quiet their souls that they might hear clearly the voice of the Spirit of Christ. They must do precisely what He instructs them to do.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
I am observing the lives of some who at this very season are having the goods of the world stripped from their hands. They would in no way freely depart from these things. Their unwillingness to obey has led God to deal with them through very stern measures, even to bringing them to homelessness and imprisonment. It is not necessary for the Father to deal with His people so forcefully if they will attend to the still, small voice of his Spirit.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.
If we will attend to the voice of God, He will not have to jerk our heads around to get us to comply with His desire for us. If we prove stubborn and unresponsive, it is truly a merciful thing that He would not abandon us, no matter how harshly He must deal with us to bring us to a divine correction.
It was not necessary for Lot to enter Sodom as a wealthy man and leave with only the clothes on his back. He hesitated. He would not depart even when his soul was vexed day after day by the sin he saw all around him (II Peter 2:7). When Yahweh sent angels to bring him out Lot hesitated again. The angels had to grab Lot and his family by the hands and lead them outside the city. Lot’s family lost everything. Their way was made much harsher due to their hesitation. Lot and his daughters ended up sleeping in a cave. Had he departed earlier he could have had his tent and some things that would have made his experience less painful.
What was it that kept Lot in Sodom when the time came to depart? Lot was attracted to ease and worldly abundance. When Abraham asked Lot to depart from him for their possessions had become to great to abide together, he invited Lot to choose for himself which way to go.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere – this was before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of Yahweh, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan…
People of God, our natural tendency is to choose a path of ease, to select for ourselves the way that is the most comfortable and appealing to the flesh. It is easy to grow dependent upon such comforts, and it is with great difficulty that we will let them go. Lot should have gotten the message when Sodom and Gomorrah were conquered by foreign kings, and he and all his possessions were taken captive. Abraham had to raise an army to deliver his kinsman, yet Lot returned to Sodom for it was comfortable to him.
Are you able to heed the voice of God when He speaks to you to come out of Sodom? Or does natural affection for the things of the world keep you rooted? Will you get up quickly and depart when the Spirit says to do so? Will you lay aside all the things of this world that you have accumulated and take with you only what the Spirit directs you to carry? Or will you hold onto as much of the world as possible?
Beginnings are very important. If you know that a wilderness experience is coming to the people of God (the Spirit testifies that it is coming quickly), would you not want to be as prepared as you might possibly be? Some have been hearing the Lord instruct them to get ready for years now. They have accepted willingly the reduction of their worldly goods. They have moved to smaller homes, or given up homes altogether to dwell wherever the Father has directed them. Many have simplified their lifestyles. They have learned to eat less food and healthier foods. Some have been riding bicycles, or walking, instead of driving everywhere.
By accepting these things now from the Father, they have been acclimating themselves to those radical changes that the Spirit is testifying are to come to America and many other places.
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