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A Desert Decision

Several months ago, while scrolling through some of my Twitter feeds, I came across the following passage of scripture courtesy of a tweet posted by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church:

“…nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” – Galatians 1:17

The passage struck me as a very interesting one, so I decided to pause for a few minutes and read a few of the scriptures that came before it. This is what I found:


“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”Galatians 1:15-17

I have been in and around ministry for most of my life, but I cannot recall ever reading these words written by the Apostle Paul. For if I had, I probably would have made some very different choices when I first fully embraced a call of service within the local church back when I was still in college.

It is amazing to read that when Paul became aware of who Christ was, but more specifically, that he had been commissioned to share the message of Christ with others around the world, Paul decided to do something very unique. Something many of us as leaders would probably shy away from.

Paul decided he would NOT confer with flesh and blood first.

The word ‘confer’ means to seek out an opinion concerning something or someone; to have a discussion with someone who consults others. Paul decided that what God shared with him about his purpose was something he needed to think through privately, before making it public.

Paul also choose NOT to go to Jerusalem and seek out the wisdom of the apostles.

More often than not, when those of us who have embraced a life of service in ministry as our primary vocation, we are taught to seek out the wisdom, training, and eventual confirmation of those leaders and elders of the church who have gone before us. While many pursue further biblical knowledge and training through seminary, a large majority of church leaders today were ‘baptized’ into service by fulfilling the duties and tasks given to them by other leaders. Although Paul could have chosen to follow this ancient rite of passage into ministry, he choose a different path. {Enter verse 17}

Paul choose to go to Arabia instead.

I absolutely love this decision. Paul, after a divine encounter with God and what his purpose on earth would be, did not confer with his family and friends, nor did he seek the confirmation of the elders of the church, but he choose to go to Arabia instead.

He choose to spend time in the desert.

No different than during the days when Paul was alive, the Arabian desert is one of the largest continuous bodies of sand in the world. A peninsula that spans nearly 900,000 square miles, Arabia is known for its extreme heat by day, and its freezing cold temperatures by night. Paul drove himself into one of the most deserted, driest places on earth to investigate his new call of ministry.

What an act of faith! Can you imagine where many of us would be in life if we practiced such discipline? To intentionally endure hardship before pursuing success? The desert can be a beautiful place indeed.

I dare you to go there sometime.

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Milan Ford has been a leader and a survivor of ministry within the local church for most of his life. A lover of Red Vines Licorice and all things pointing North, Milan is the author of 83 Things I Wish The Black Church Would Stop Doing, and is now currently preparing to release his second book, I Still Love Those Fries, the fall of 2011. Milan and his wife Imani are the proud parents of three children: Kayla, Aliyah, and Ethan.