Leadership Lessons Learned in the Desert, Pt. 3: PERSEVERANCE

Desert1Not many of us like to wait for things.  Myself included.  I’m so used to getting most things pretty quickly: if I need a quick answer, I Google.  If I need to send a message to someone, I text or email.  Or Facebook.  Or Twitter. Regardless, it gets to them fast!  If I need a quick meal, I go to Popeye’s.  Or Wenny’s Chinese joint.  Or I fix up a bowl of chicken-flavored Ramen. 🙂  Gone are the days of having to wait in line for a pay phone… we have cell phones!  We no longer have to go to the movies, or rent from Blockbuster… we can stream movies online – anyone ever heard of Netflix… or iTunes??

Shoot… we don’t even have to go to church anymore… we can find a pretty decent service on cable or online nowadays!

We… that’s me, that’s you… do not like to wait!  We expect quick fixes to everything… even our situations in our lives that we pray about.  I remember, when I was pastoring Mosaic, I was praying for certain situatioans to change in my life, and it seemed like either God was taking His sweet ol’ time or He wasn’t hearing me at all.  I saw little or no change in those situations that I was praying so fervently about.  And I became angry.  I became bitter.  Inside, I wanted to throw in the towel… and, eventually, I did.  Because I got tired of waiting… the pain was overwhelming, and the anxiety was taxing… I just got tired.

But the thing we have to remember… when we’re in the desert.. is that there is ALWAYS a purpose to our pain.  We might not see it right away, but God is steadily unfolding His plan in our lives.  Because He is not bound by time constraints like we are, He’s always on time.  Never late.  Never hurried.  And so He tells us to wait (Ps. 27:14; Isa. 40:31).  He won’t forget about us, and He’ll come to our rescue… the question is, “Will we wait?

During their desert wanderings, the children of Israel would constantly gripe and complain about their needs.  They would get upset at Moses… and God… because they simply could not understand why God would allow them to suffer even one little bit.  But the desert is designed to test usto humble us… and sometimes, it’s painful!  And God uses that pain and discomfort to squeeze out all the impurities of impatience, selfishness, complaining, unbelief… so that what remains is a life fully dependant on and fully surrendered to  His plan.  The desert teaches us to persevere, because there is nothing else in the desert for us to rely on, except God.  He wants to be our everything… our treasure hidden in a field and our pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46)… so He teaches us to trust Him and lean into Him, and He often uses a desert experience as our classroom.

Can I be honest?  I hate the desert!!  It’s lonely, it’s painful… it’s a really rough experience!  But it’s taught me… no, it’s teaching me… to hang on and wait for Him… even when it seems all hell is breaking loose and heaven is silent!   The children of Israel were all into God before they hit the desert!  But the Psalmist says about them, after their Red Sea Miracle experience, “Then they believed His promises and sang His praise.  BUT they soon forgot what He had done, and they did not wait for His plan to unfold.  In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test” (Ps. 106:12-14).  In the desert, it sometimes seems like God has abandoned us… left us to fend for ourselves… but it’s all a part of His plan to make us stronger, as we persevere and wait for him.

It might be dark.
It might be lonely.
It might be painful.
It might seem like we’re not gonna make it…

But His promise is that “those who wait in hope for the Lord will gain a new strength” (Isa. 40:31).  Waiting… it’s seldom fun… but we know that “the testing of our faith produces perseverance” (Jam. 1:3).  It’s all a part of God’s plan for us… to make us stronger… to make us better… to transform us into a people who wholeheartedly follow His voice.

Perseverance is a tough thing… especially when there is no answer or relief in sight.  But as Christ-followers, and especially as leaders, our hope is to be grounded in His character – knowing that He loves us, and will never leave or forsake us.  The question is, “Do we trust Him enough to wait for Him?”  I heard a Twila Paris song many years ago… and I’ve forgotten every single word, except for these four lines:

When you don’t understand…
When you can’t see His plan…
When you can’t trace His hand…
TRUST… HIS… HEART!

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