If you missed my last two posts on ambition, you might want to start there:
Oftentimes God has to bring you through the desert before he can use you.
In other words, he has to sanctify your ambition and faith in order to use you for his purposes.
If you haven’t yet gone through a desert experience where your world has been turned upside down, then expect to. God uses these desert experiences to accomplish things through you that you would never be able to accomplish apart from them.
IN FACT, SPIRITUAL LEADERS FIND THEIR GREATEST INSIGHTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS IN THESE DESERT EXPERIENCES.
Moving back to Canada from from Korea was definitely a desert experience for me. I felt like my world was turned upside down.
I knew that God had called us to Korea, but if that was really true, then why did he allow us to leave Korea the way we did? The ministry was multiplying, people were being transformed, and we had just signed a lease for a new place and bought all new furniture, only then to turn around and leave it all?
My wife, Christina, and I didn’t understand why God was allowing us to go through this, but by his unbelievable grace we did sense his presence along the way.
When we moved back to Canada, we were jobless, hopeless and our savings were running out fast.
I was disillusioned with ministry and knew I needed a break, but I also knew my family needed to be fed.
Thank God for my parents who let us stay with them. Since food, coffee and ministry were all I knew, I decided to apply anywhere and everywhere to just start getting a paycheck.
No one contacted me back—Costco and Starbucks were silent, as well as every single church position I secretly knew I was “overqualified for.” I finally got the hint and realized that perhaps God wanted to do something in my heart before he was willing to use me elsewhere.
While worshipping, praying, fasting and studying the Scriptures, I began to process what had happened in Korea.
At that point my friend Josh called me up and asked whether I would be willing to be a guest speaker at their young adults retreat in Calgary, Alberta. As I was preparing for that retreat, God did the greatest work in my heart.
I DECIDED TO PREACH THROUGH THE LIFE OF DAVID AND BEGAN TO SIT UNDER EUGENE PETERSON’S TEACHING ON IT.
I soon discovered that David went through two major desert experiences in his life—first when he was being chased by Saul and later on when he was being chased by his son Absalom. As I began to study what happened to David during those two desert experiences, God began to reveal to me that he was doing the same in my life.
FOR DAVID THESE DESERT EXPERIENCES WERE THE MOST FORMATIVE YEARS OF HIS LIFE.
Through these desert experiences his ambition was being sanctified, and his faith was being refined. For example, when he was being chased by Saul, he knew he was going to be king one day, yet he had to wait on God’s timing.
Imagine how hard that would’ve been when he had the chance to kill Saul in the cave (1 Sam 24:1–22). The future was in his grasp, the promise could’ve been fulfilled that day, but God was using this experience to test and teach David: “Are you going to have faith in yourself to bring this to pass? Or are you going to have faith in the God who can bring this to pass?”
THE REASON YOU GO THROUGH DESERT EXPERIENCES IS BECAUSE GOD WANTS TO DO A WORK IN YOUR LIFE; HE WANTS TO REFINE YOUR AMBITION AND FAITH.
After all, “the Lord disciplines the one He loves” (Heb 12:6).
When facing a desert experience, you have an important choice to make.
If you respond positively by waiting on God and engaging in spiritual disciplines like praying, fasting, meditating on the Scriptures, being in community and worshipping, then you are allowing God the opportunity to refine and sanctify you.
However, if you respond negatively by ignoring the situation, isolating yourself or even turning away from God, then you’ll never get out. Or the same situation will keep on coming up, over and over again.
So welcome desert experiences when they come. Not if they come, but when they come. Instead of fighting them, invite God to shape and mold you through these experiences…regardless of how painful they might be.
If you would like to learn more about desert experiences, you can read my series here:
- Your Desert Experience in Ministry – Part 1/4
- Your Desert Experience in Ministry – Part 2/4
- Your Desert Experience in Ministry – Part 3/4
- 3 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Job (Part 4/4)
*This was a modified excerpt from my book Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed).
This article originally appeared here.