“Our theology makes little room for great trials. Everyone wants a beach and not a barren wilderness. Right? But listen, just as God created deserts and wildernesses in His natural creation, He has also designed deserts and wildernesses to fulfill a crucial part of transforming His spiritual creation.” ~Brian and Candice Simmons, The Wilderness, Where Miracles are Born.
I believe that the biggest problem the church faces today is found in these passages: “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, everyone by another, and everyone by his neighbor: the child shall behave himself proudly against the elder, and the base against the honorable,” Isaiah 3:4&5. [KJ2K]
The spiritual gift of mature, seasoned discernment once spotlighted those who had been through the wilderness of preparation. These were they whom God had prepared for service and whose time of promotion had come. However, we are living in a time when proud flesh is mounting the platform of leadership and influence because no one is guarding the gate of promotion.
But God will not share the platform with our flesh.
“And He said to me, ‘My holy lovers are wonderful, my majestic ones, my glorious ones, fulfilling all my desires.’ Yet, there are those who yield to their weakness, and they will have troubles and sorrows unending. I never gather with such ones, nor give them honor in any way.”
I was practically born on the platform of “church celebrity.” I know firsthand how we exalt our musicians and leaders. Had it not been for the divine intervention of God in a wilderness season of humility, shame, and death to Self, I would be lost in the sin of pride, today.
Whether it is the person teaching our children, directing our youth, pastoring our church or leading our worship, discernment is necessary to recognize seasons. God only promotes His holy lovers; those who are called, prepared, anointed and set apart.
It is proud flesh that advances based on the political spirits of control, appeasement, fear of man, personality, intimidation, favoritism, and Self-promotion. We often wonder why God does not manifest in our midst and yet, our platforms are filled with carnal, undead flesh.
Any decision we make that arises from the manifestations and motivations of the flesh is sin.
God’s holy lovers are those who have spent time in the closet of intimacy. They are those who learned to fall on the Rock in their wilderness season of necessity, difficulty, and adversity.
They have discovered that their strength is in Christ, alone.
If God is going to “gather” with us again, discernment must make a comeback.
Spiritual mothers and fathers must be willing to speak truth to one another and to the younger generation. Spiritual growth in the church is no different than in the home. Guidance, teaching, love and correction are all necessary for maturity.
Without these things, spiritual children cannot come into their season of responsibility as holy lovers of God.
When our leaders have met with Him in private, God will gather with His people.
Transformation requires adversity
Facing our adversary on the battlefield of adversity leads to transformation because adversity is the mirror through which we observe our true adversary, which is Self.
The carnal mind is blinded to the sins of Self, though constantly aware of the sin in others.
Proverbs 11:1, “To set high standards for someone else, and then not live up to them yourself, is something that God truly hates.” [PT]
Salvation without transformation becomes a trap for setting a bar we never reach. It is the birth place of expectations, proud flesh, manipulation, and oppression.
God sends us into the wilderness of adversity to judge ourselves. It is in this mirror that we will finally begin to examine the fruit hanging from the limbs of our own behavior.
Behavior is the legal witness truth subpoenas in the courtroom of adversity.
No matter how much we protest, our behavior either testifies on our behalf, confirming that Self is dead, or it testifies against us, proving that sin is alive and well.
To see accurately and recognize the nature of Self in us is to face the adversary within.
A spiritual novice is one who has met the Savior but has not recognized the cost of grace. Neither age nor how much time has passed from the moment of salvation defines this stage.
The spiritual novice is easily offended because Self is still lord of their behavior. They see others as the adversary, which is why they are dangerous when placed in a position of leadership.
They may be called, but they have not yet been chosen.
The wilderness exposes the offended spirit that causes us to blame others. To see others as the enemy is to fail the test.
In every hardship we face, Self is being exposed. The purpose of adversity is to open the eyes of our heart so that we can tear down the stronghold that is exalting some wounded part of our undead Self against the knowledge of God, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.
Soul-salvation is the journey into spiritual maturity and the purpose of our wilderness.
Moses was a wilderness expert. Guilt led him in, but transformation brought him out.
Moses did not come out of the wilderness trusting in the gifts or talents of Self, but rather, leaning on his Beloved. It was from this position that he led the people of God into a brand, new, born-again experience. He was no longer the same impatient, impetuous man, who killed the Egyptian.
This new man exercised patience over and again as the people struggled with the traditions, behaviors, traumas and habits of their time in slavery. Because of his own wilderness experience, he stood as their intercessor, not as their judge.
Oh, that we would understand this principle.
When we promote those, who have not been through the wilderness of transformation, we promote proud flesh who assassinate the slaves in their midst.
I have seen one too many memes about how people hurt pastors these days. As the daughter of a pastor who was married to the son of a pastor, I cannot compute the image of a true shepherd who is a victim of the people.
Every authentic leader understands the cost of grace. They are aware of the wasted years they spent in the bondage of mental addiction and emotional slavery. They are acutely aware that they can do nothing of themselves.
A true leader is prepared for the pain of leading slaves out of bondage because they never forget the pain they inflicted on others when they served their old masters.
The same grace that lifted them out is the grace they extend. The same mercy that covered the shame of their sinful behavior is the mercy they offer.
What I can testify to, however, is that when a leader abuses the people, God intervenes: Jeremiah 10:21; Jeremiah 23:1-2; Jeremiah 50:6; Ezekiel 34:2-10;21; Zechariah 10&11; etc. There is a special judgment for those in a position of influence, James 3:1, which is why, only those who understand the cost are qualified for the position.
For that reason, before He promotes us, He prepares us.
The second time Moses tried to blame the people for his actions, God acted quickly and severely. Moses did not enter the Promised Land, Numbers 20:12.
Pride, anger, and blame are adversaries that infect our heart and arouse sinful behavior.
Pride perverts our perspective. Anger triggers us to do the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time and blame causes us to meet injustice with injustice. Only by leaning on our Beloved can we keep these adversaries from arising.
When we fail to give God His rightful place of honor, Self rises to the occasion and causes us to sin against God.
Moses forgot the lessons of the wilderness and it cost him.
It was Self that forced Moses into the desert; the same stronghold that controls all who refuse to endure their time of purification in the wilderness of adversity.
When we promote someone before their time, we abort their true destiny.
Insecurity is the result of terminating the process that leads to humility. Cutting the process short produces insecure leaders who mistake their lack of confidence for humility. Instead, their insecurities cause them to lean on the arm of flesh rather than rely on the Holy Spirit.
God saw a leader in Moses when he was in his mother’s womb. He saw the potential for humility long before Moses experienced the meekness of a contrite heart.
“Seeing” potential is not the same as “realizing” potential.
God knew that one day Moses would be known as the humblest man on earth, but not without the wilderness.
Love sees beyond the physical and into the future, but it does not interfere with the process. Love does not cut the cocoon or help the butterfly avoid its struggle.
In the name of love, we have done that very thing, creating disfigured, distorted caricatures of authority; leaders who abuse the weak.
Humility is critical to promotion in God’s house, but it does not surface without killing the Goliath of Self.
When there was no one left to blame for his sin, Moses learned humility.
He was raised in a palace with everything he wanted at his fingertips. He was a celebrated prince of Egypt. He conversed with kings, managers and heads of state, but in the wilderness, he was just another shepherd keeping watch over the sheep.
Sometimes, God must reduce us before He can promote us.
After 40 years of wilderness experience, Moses embarked on a conversation with a bush.
God knows when the work is done.
Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” [NIV]
When Moses was willing to talk to the burning bush, God knew that the work of humility was complete.
Hearing God’s voice is the number one priority of leadership, but how many leaders would dare talk to a bush?
Pride keeps us from speaking to strange and unlikely receptacles.
Pride keeps us from hearing God’s voice.
Pride hides the Self that the wilderness exposes, but humility embraces responsibility and finds freedom in failure.
Hiding sin creates shame. Shame reinforces pride and pride leads us back to our sin. It is a vicious cycle; a cycle that traps countless leaders in the prison of Self-focus.
When we refuse to humble ourselves and face our true adversary, we miss the burning bush and the talking donkey that carry God’s voice.
The wilderness of adversity freed Moses from the shame of sin.
It was in his own, personal desert, that Moses faced the Self-serving Self within; the man who blamed others for his angry outbursts and subsequent casualties. It was in the wilderness that Moses became a man of character, integrity, and hope.
All because he was willing to face the truth about Moses.
It is only when we face the adversity created by our adversary that we come to the end of Self and receive the grace necessary to rise, again.