Isaiah 43:18-21 (NLT) “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world.
The New Year is finally here. On this last day of 2016, what is your outlook for the coming year? Have you written down carefully thought out goals and aspirations of dramatic change? Have you prayed and sought the Lord on what His Desire for you might be? Are you merely just trying to get through today after a long hard holiday? Maybe you really are only trying to pick out an outfit and clean yourself up for a fancy soiree or one last family gathering, plastering on that smile to hide your pain, and make people think you are happy and whole when deep down inside there is broken despair? When the ball drops at midnight in the midst of Times Square where will you be? What will you be doing? What are your thoughts or whispered prayers?
Full of anticipation yet the lingering fear that next year will be the same as the one that is left. I feel this way every year. I hunger and thirst for the Glory of God. Like many there are days when the valley seems so deep and dark and life a barren wasteland despite the Goodness and Favor of God all around me. I have so much to be thankful for that this need for more sometimes makes me feel so unthankful. Yet today as I read Isaiah, I am reminded that is in the wasteland that God creates waterfalls. The thought that there must be more to life than this is not necessarily born of our flesh. No, I believe that God allows us to experience wastelands, barrenness, and dryness for the purpose of desire, hunger and thirst. The more I read the Word of God the more evident it is that my life has way more potential than realized today. To enter His Presence only makes it clear that I have only scratched the surface of the vast depths of His Love and Goodness. His Voice a whisper that beckons me closer to hear what He is saying in His Close Proximity. God wants to refresh us. His Greatest Desire is to restore us. However, personal satisfaction and human fulfillment can often stop our progress in faith and eliminate our need to trust the Lord so we enter wastelands. Are you in a wasteland today? On the verge of giving up? Do you have hope for 2017 or expect the same hard life as every year before? God wants to turn your wasteland into a waterfall. Are you hungry and thirsty in the depths of your soul? God wants to refresh, restore and renew you like never before.
Psalm 105:39-41 (NLT) The Lord spread a cloud above them as a covering and gave them a great fire to light the darkness. They asked for meat, and he sent them quail; he satisfied their hunger with manna—bread from heaven. He split open a rock, and water gushed out to form a river through the dry wasteland.
Psalm 105 details the Way of God with His People. The movement and progression of tests and trials that lead to trust and faith. Salvation comes about only one way. It cannot be reconstructed by a man or his hands. It can only be accessed with our heart. So often, we take what we need from the vast depths of His Love and Goodness thanking Him for the immediate help but then wandering off to make our own way, maintain control and hope for the best. Yet the Plan of God is too perfect just like its Maker and He will not relent allowing us to settle for less than His Best. God is always working all around us for our good. He goes before us. Stands with us. Falls in behind us. This is obviously too much for human comprehension but one’s inability to understand the Truth does not render it void. So the Lord presents us with opportunities to trust Him more and depend on Him. If only in 2017, each one who claims to be a Christian and professes belief would decide to stop looking at the barrenness and brokenness of current conditions and circumstances to see what God is doing up ahead. Sometimes it is important to shake off the reality of human perspective to gain godly perception. Our life has purpose not in our natural ability but supernatural potential hidden in disbelief behind a barrier of sin. Pride builds tall walls to protect what is left of our almost broken heart. The knock on the door is not the enemy trying to take what is left, it is the Lord who wants to come in and commune with you. He wants to plant seeds of righteousness. He longs to fill you with hope. What is keep 2017 from becoming the year that hope is restored, life renewed, and dreams fulfilled? You. Me. Our pride. Doubt. Disbelief. Disappointment. Today we have an opportunity to pack what is worthwhile and take out the trash readying to move forward and take the land as the Lord promised.
Job 39:-8 (NLT) “Who gives the wild donkey its freedom? Who untied its ropes? I have placed it in the wilderness; its home is the wasteland. It hates the noise of the city and has no driver to shout at it. The mountains are its pastureland, where it searches for every blade of grass.”
I have been called stubborn by just about everyone who knows me. I prefer the word “driven”. I decided as a young person that there were some things that must change in my life and set off on my way. Not consulting anyone but relying solely on experience, I fell flat on my face. When I did commit my heart to Jesus Christ, I really don’t think anyone believed me. So I couldn’t rely on what others thought of me but only the Lord to cultivate good fruit and be my encouragement. Over time, it didn’t matter what people thought but spiritual pride and religiosity took over.
In 2011, my entire world fell apart and my heart was broken irreparably. I should have died in that moment. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think beyond the next sixty seconds. After a desperate consultation with the Lord in my complete devastation, I was asked to trust Him. Not just with my life, but with my precious son. I said, “Yes.” I had no idea the journey ahead that would span three long hard years and even now two years into remission haunt me from time to time. Yet, I can say with transparency and complete honesty while I would have never chosen to go through or for our son to be put to such a test, I would not trade the faith obtained in that moment. I cannot humanly explain the course of events any more than the medical team involved. All I know is that I trusted and believed. God delivered.
With this in mind, consider the trial and test you are in right now today. When the clock strikes twelve, it will not dissolve or go away. You can resolve to trust the Lord. You can decide that this year your faith is going to reach a handbreadth farther than your fear. Your doubt will be overshadowed by the Light of His Love by basking in His Word, finding a promise, and letting it shine in the darkness. Freedom is found only in Jesus Christ. Who the Son sets free is the one who is free indeed. I can claim freedom but not necessarily live in it bound by sin, shame or a number of other foolish emotions or temporary things. God is attempting to move us from slavery to Sonship. We can only achieve a new destination by leaving our present position. The Lord wants to take you higher than ever before. Are you willing to go through a wasteland to get there? Friend, you are already in the wasteland looking for a waterfall. Faith splits rocks. It moves mountains. But first – it must move you!
Isaiah 35:1-10 (NLT) Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Life is hard. The past was difficult, today has troubles of its own, and next year will present further complications. Welcome to a world infiltrated by sin. This place called home will end one day and be completely destroyed. The only thing capable of lasting is the human soul. A diversified life yields no real gain. To live in the gray zone never truly committed to Christ but not really living for the world is called lukewarm mediocrity. The Lord would rather you be hot or cold. I am not trying to paint a dim picture or cause you to relinquish the last bit of hope you hold on to at all. Just gain a clear perspective of what is and what is to come.
It is time to decide if our dedication is sincere. True repentance or turning can only be accomplished once the course is set. Otherwise it creates an endless merry-go-round spinning but going nowhere. Before you set goals for the future, one must truly evaluate where it is you are today. Examining our heart reveals the truth of our commitment to Christ. Are you willing to look past your pride to see the real you? I can fast and pray in the New Year but I stay the same nothing will change or come to pass. It is in the complete surrender of all that I am to all He is that creates a catalyst for change. I cannot achieve deeper levels in God if I am not willing to move from my present position of comfort, convenience or complacency. Rather than leaving the valley, I must go through it. It’s called endurance. Rather than crying for rescue, maybe a little refreshment is all that I need. Hunger and thirst only come in the absence of sustenance. Perhaps, I have been relying on others or even myself to provide when God has Goodness stored up for me that He is desperate to deliver.
Is your wasteland really a wasteland today? I leave you with this thought to mull over while you cook the meal, or prepare for guests or get gullied up for the grand event. Think about it. A wasteland is a barren place or one that is uncultivated. It may be a devastated area. We all have some places like that. It is considered to be something that is spiritually or intellectually barren. To be barren means unproductive or unfruitful. These are not qualities characteristic of believers because the Holy Spirit works day and night to produce good fruit in us. The wasteland you are in is the gateway to your future. You must go through it to get there. The promise was on the other side of the Egyptians, Red Sea, wilderness and Jordan. Not everyone made it. Many died in their wandering looking for God’s Promise their way. When Jesus came, many died in their own expectation because how could the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords not be of noble birth or die at such a young age. They died in disbelief when the Promise was an arm’s length in front of them. Perception can cause us to lose sight of godly perspective. Hope is not seen in the reality of this life. It is perceived by us through faith that sees past the valley and through the wasteland. It requires trust. Is your wasteland really a wasteland today? I encourage you. I implore you today. Before you make a long list of resolutions, get this revelation. Trust God in 2017. Trust Him with your life. Your whole life. If we can do this one thing, wastelands will soon become waterfalls overflowing in the Glory of God and filled with His Goodness.
Isaiah 40:3-5 (NLT) Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”