The Season of Deserts

August 19, 2001

Exodus 3:1, Matthew 4:1, Acts 8:26

Introduction

  1. A. Feel the need to offer a different sermon today. To express a word of comfort and support today.
  2. B. Have Crystal Lewis’ song, “Seasons Change” played over sound system.

Why this sermon?

  1. A. Fall is a time of change – we often notice the passing of time in the fall. Kids start new grades, new schools, and new chapters in their education.
  2. B. These changes remind us of the changing seasons of our lives – both expected and unexpected.
  3. C. One such season is a desert experience – “seasons of dryness” in our lives. How do we get through them?

Transition: My 1996 trip to Phoenix

  1. A. Trip to a large park south of town.
  2. B. Expected green grass, trees, and lots of things to hang on.
  3. C. “Got desert” instead. Magnificent beauty however. Great view of the valley in which Phoenix sits.

Why are there dry spells in my life?

  1. A. Deserts – large parts of the Middle East are deserts. Yet life thrives in them. People learn how to adjust in them.
  2. B. Trent Butler has said, ‘the dry, mostly uninhabited desert held fear and awe for Israel. God could turn a city into a desert as stated in Jeremiah 4:26, but His grace could turn [it] into a garden as indicated in Isaiah 41:17-20.’
  3. C. Deserts have come to represent the dry spells in our lives when it seems that both God and others are nowhere to be found and we are left in the dust all alone, confused, and afraid.

Transition: But deserts can represent three different seasons in our lives. And the Bible gives us clear illustrations of those seasons in lives of three Biblical characters: Moses, Jesus Christ, and the Ethiopian Eunuch.

In the life of Moses we see that deserts are places of consequences – Exodus 3:1

“One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he went deep into the wilderness near Sinai, the mountain of God.”

  1. We see Moses tending his father-in-law’s flock in the wilderness. Not necessarily a desert, but a desert experience for Moses.
  2. B. But, Moses is there because of the choices he made as describe in chapter 3 – killing an Egyptian and running from the authorities.
  3. C. Once a powerful leader, now a sheepherder.
  4. D. Moses is in a dry season of life – but it is about to change.
  5. E. In verse 2 and forward we read of his encounter with God via the burning bush. God is in the desert!
  6. F. Sometimes we are in a dry season of life because we have done something that has alienated us from God and others. But, we have a choice – we can stay in the desert, stay angry and even feel sorry for ourselves or we can be open to God’s presence and make things right.
  7. G. I have to ask, “What were the consequences of Moses’ action on the Israelites?” They had to have been affected by Moses’ choice. And we need to remember that when we make a choice that drives us away from God and others, it has an impact on others as well.

Think about this: While desert times are because of the consequences – ours or others or both they can also be times of change for the better. Leonard Ravenhill tells the story of some tourists visiting a quaint English town. One of the tourists asks a villager sitting on a bench, “Any great men born here?” The villager shot back, “No just babies.”  A profound answer, no? No instant heroes. Growth takes time and sometimes it takes place in desert seasons of life.

In Jesus’ life we see deserts are places of development. – Matthew 4:1

“Then Jesus was out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil.”

  1. A. I have to ask, “What would Jesus’ ministry been like if he would not have had this desert experience?”
  2. B. This is a time of preparation, of development for Jesus as He readies for His public ministry.
  3. C. Sometimes our desert experiences are very painful and difficult – and have nothing to do with something that has gone wrong.
  4. D. For example, In Galatians 1:17 Paul mentions that after his conversion he goes to Arabia for a period of time. Alan Cole believes, “he retired immediately to think out by himself and for himself the implications of this new discovery.”
  5. E. A wilderness, a desert can become an outdoor school of learning and growth in preparing for a new chapter in life.

Think about this: It takes the US Navy two years and millions of dollars to train 22 and 23 year old 1st Lt to fly their multi-expensive and multi-fast F-14’s and F-18’s. That period of time is tough and hard but necessary because it takes time for an eager Naval Aviator to learn to fly.

In the life of the Ethiopian Eunuch, we see that deserts are also places of transformation – Acts8: 26 – 40

“As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he did, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah; so he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

A woman testified to the transformation in her life that had resulted from a conversion experience. She declared, “I’m so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much that I vowed that I’d never go to his funeral. But now, why, I’d be happy to go!”

  1. A. Philip is sent to help a man of a different culture, a different race, understand God’s plan for him.
  2. B. Philip explains the passage and the man is both converted and baptized.
  3. C. Here is new life in the midst of desert surroundings.
  4. D. Many people are dry in their souls and their lives. They are looking for relief from their inner pain, frustrations, and disappointment.
  5. E. God can, and wants, to meet them in their desert.

Think about this: In Isaiah we read, “Someone is shouting: clear a path in the desert! Make a straight road for the Lord our God! There is good news for Zion. Shout it as loud as you can from the highest mountain, “Your God is here!”

Are you going through a dry spell, Yes, I’ve been there before, where the trees are slowly withering, where their roots cry out for more, where the desert floor is dry and cracked, no clouds hang in the sky, no winter rain or spring it seems, no change in sight.”

Yet – God is here!

We have times of dryness in our lives because:

We have made the choice to do something that causes us to run from God and others – God is ready to take us back and bring us back into the fellowship of others.

We are undergoing a period of growth for our benefit so that we are better prepared to serve the Lord – and God is present to help us grow into the person He would have us be.

We are in need of transformation that only God, as we allow Him, can make happen. Our souls, our lives are dry and empty and we are miserable. God seeks us out to give us Good News – of forgiveness and new life.

Are you going through a dry spell – Our God is here!

Amen.

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