“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert”
Isn’t it fantastic! We have the most amazing time with God. We cry and repent of our sins. He forgives us. We receive the Holy Spirit and see amazing signs and wonders. Now have the great helper and teacher to keep us pure. God has opened heaven and poured his blessings upon us, and reminded us that we are his sons and daughters, he loves us, and he is pleased with us.
The question is what happens next? Anyone who has been a Christian for a while will recognise the pattern, but for those who have received the spirit for the first time it may come as a surprise and a shock. A lot of Christians expect that after such a close encounter with God life will be a happy ever after tale. They dream that now the Holy Spirit is inspiring them they will live a godly life and be conquerors in everything.
We certainly have that ability, but the reality is that we also have a human nature that fights against the Spirit. For this reason, when we receive the Spirit, we can expect the next step to be a time spent in the desert.
You see God doesn’t give us those great experiences so we can spend the rest of our lives living in them and never do another thing for him. These experiences are the sweet honey, a reminder of God’s great blessings, to make the locusts that we have to eat more palatable. We need to look back on them when we go through the tough times and are tempted to give up. “Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” (Psalm 78 v7)
What is the desert? It is any place the Spirit leads us, but we can guarantee it will be outside our comfort zone. John the Baptist, as we have already seen in the previous devotionals on Mark, spent his time in the desert too. In fact his whole ministry was in the desert, but he was able to remain Godly, even in this difficult circumstance by eating honey and locusts. How did he do this? Because of the promise that “…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” (Luke 1 v15)
You can’t step out of your comfort zone unless you have the Holy Spirit. We are not supposed to take risks on our own strength. Our fear of stepping out is actually well founded, because if you are not being lead by the Spirit then you will most likely die in the desert. But if you are being lead by the Spirit then, as we have already seen, “…the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest” (Isaiah 32 v15).
No matter what kind of desert you think the spirit is leading you into, it’s only when you step outside your comfort zone that you will find a fertile field that produces all kinds of fruit (see Galatians 5 v22-23 to see what kind of fruit I am talking about), resulting in a very rich harvest indeed. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” (Isaiah 44 v3)
So don’t be afraid to “Abandon your towns and dwell among the rocks…be like a dove that makes its nest at the mouth of a cave.” (Jeremiah 48) If the spirit is calling you out of your comfort zone it is because, just like Jesus, he has far greater blessings in store for your life.