Joseph was a prisoner. Sarah was barren. David, a fugitive. Job was broken, both emotionally and physically. Daniel became bait for the lions. Isaiah was rejected. Jesus was abandoned by His own followers. Peter was martyred. Paul was persecuted. And the list goes on and on. Do you think we should chalk these situations up to circumstance or God’s purpose—His plan? I believe the latter. While some would venture to say that these were unfortunate circumstances, I’m convinced that God allowed each one to happen for a reason.
Read the following verses:
“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” Isaiah 46:10-11
Write out Psalm 139:16.
According to the previous verses, is there any doubt in your mind that God has a purpose, a plan for His people? Explain.
Throughout Scripture, I read of one absolute truth: all the things that have happened to me—the good and the bad—have been filtered through God’s hands. Imagine how different, even rewarding, our lives would be if every time we experienced pain, our hearts would be open to a lesson taught by God? Here’s an important truth: it’s in the valleys where true growth happens in our lives. But isn’t it true that sometimes months or years will slip by before we glean the important truths through each and every valley? And if this is the avenue to which we are to grow and mature as a Christian, then we want to welcome the valleys as much as the mountaintops. Today, I am challenged to look for God through my desert. I pray you are, too.
Now, let’s relate this thought to the nation of Israel. Look up the following passages and write out what you think God’s purpose was for the Israelites’ forty-year wilderness wanderings.
What lessons do you think God wants for you to learn in your desert experience?
Please say the following prayer along with me:
Dear Lord, You are the Almighty God, the One who loves unconditionally. I trust in Your will and plan for my life. Please use each valley as a way to bring me into deeper intimacy with You, my heavenly Father. Open my eyes to see beyond my flesh and into Your throne room. As I walk through this wilderness hand-in-hand with You, let me experience joy and peace. Help me keep my eyes steadfast upon You. In Jesus Name, Amen
Describe the plight of some of our forefathers based on Hebrews 11:32-38.
What if this passage ended on such a bleak note? We might think, “Why bother?” Thank goodness though, this Hebrews passage continues on further and offers us hope.
What is the hope and, ultimately God’s purpose, according to Hebrews 11:39-40? Fill in the blanks.
“These were all ____________________ for their ________________, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned ___________________ ________________ ….”
Read John 9:1-3.
What question did the disciples propose to Jesus?
What is Jesus’ response?
Do Jesus’ words give you hope right now? Explain.
In the weeks ahead, we will walk through some extreme desert experiences with a few of God’s most faithful servants. We need to remember that just because their stories are recorded in Scripture and most of them end on a positive note, there are still many whose wilderness road ended the moment they entered glory. But, God still had a purpose. Even though His plan proved different than their own views on living the Christian life, God blessed them because they kept the faith and continued to look forward to the end reward. They were commended for their unwavering faith. The desert these early believers walked through was often a wearisome journey, but God poured out His blessing upon them. How beautiful is that?
Read Romans 8:28.
This verse has provided comfort to me many times in the midst of my troubles. It speaks of an undeniable truth: God will bring good out of the desert times in our life. But we have to be willing to let Him. He has a greater purpose we cannot see. One of the most unsurpassed blessings we have is that we live on this side of the cross, and we can see whole stories unfolded before our eyes. At the beginning of this lesson, I mentioned several biblical characters and their wilderness wanderings. Let’s now take a look into their future, after they came through the wilderness. Next to each name, I have listed their desert, and under each name, I have described at least one good thing that came out of it.
He helped to save a whole nation from extinction.
Her son, Samuel, became a great prophet of God.
David ruled over God’s people and, through his line, Jesus Christ was born.
The latter part of Job’s life was more fruitful than the first.
Daniel (lion bait):
He became a great prophet of God.
He was used more than any other to prophesy about Jesus, the Messiah.
Peter’s profound and inspiring writings have been included in the Scriptures.
Paul’s circumstances helped him to find strength in God alone. And his letters comprise the majority of the New Testament.
As you make your way through this study, I trust God will show you His purpose for your life, and possibly the reason for the desert you may be in right now. Listen while God speaks. Then trust that He will intersect all the pieces together until a beautiful and glorious picture is formed.
Say the following words out loud:
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
Relate these words to a desert you might be in right now. How do they help you?
Please hang in there with me. We have so much more to learn as we study God’s Word together.