It seems like from the age of seventeen on, we are continuously in the “almost but not yet.” Almost graduated from high school or college, but not yet. Almost working our dream job, just not yet. Almost dating, almost engaged, almost married, but slow down, not yet. Almost parents or homeowners, but not quite yet. Almost here, but not here. Almost there, but not yet there.
Imagine that you can see your future. You see the next few years of your life. It is filled with newness, wonder, and adventure. It has been promised to you your whole life. You have been waiting for it. You have been working for it. And now, you have been given some kind of sure knowledge that it is coming.
And just like that, you are placed in waiting. But not just any kind of waiting: desert waiting.
The kind where it is hot and sticky, where there is no food and water is scarce. It is the kind where your legs grow tired and the beating heat seems to suck all of the energy from you.
I know of two places that this occurred in Scripture: the Israelites wandered for forty years and Jesus wandered for forty days.
They were just on the other side of their promise land and He was just on the other side of His ministry. Yet these two scenarios represent two very different kinds of almost but not yet. The Israelites represent flesh.
Their story is filled with groaning and complaining. It is what our desert periods often resemble. Jesus’s story is filled with grace and resistance. It is strong and beautiful and what we so want within our waiting. It is also what we are least likely to do.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
(Matthew 4:1-4 ESV)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
While they went begrudgingly, He went faithfully.
The Israelites clearly and rightfully did not want to wander the desert for forty years. Yet they had to because of their disobedience. Their lack of faith. Jesus, on the other hand, went into His forty because He needed it. He needed time alone with the Father. He desperately desired that there would be no distractions before Him and that He would only rely on God’s glory to sustain himself within temptation.
Most of us have been in both of these situations. We have been disobedient and made to wait. We have listened to the call of God and stepped into a time of waiting obediently. No matter the reason, let us remember that we have a choice. We have a choice to either go with the knowledge that He will provide or be pushed into a desert. We can either drink of the Living Water or spend years searching for the waters of this earth.
While they distanced themselves from God, He communed with God.
Which brings us here. The Israelites–though they were being punished–had a sweet, sweet opportunity to cling to God and grow with Him. They had forty years of seeking His presence.
Yet they searched for other idols. They complained about where they were. They wanted more from Him though they prayed to everything except Him.
And yet Jesus fasted.
He could have walked back into the city and eaten whenever He wanted, but He chose to stay. He chose to wander. He knew that His Father would provide. He was God, and yet He still prayed earnestly. He could have made Himself full whenever He wanted, yet He chose hunger because He wanted to be filled only by God.
While they sold themselves to temptation, He resisted the Devil.
As the Israelites wandered, they took the jewelry they had from Egypt–the gifts God had given them–and melted them down to make a new god. They took their riches and flung it toward empty promises and vast sin.
Jesus faced Satan Himself and still didn’t budge.
He used His knowledge of God and Scripture to stand firm against the temptations of the Devil. You see, Satan understands the concept of weak spots. He gets that humans will be swayed by human things. He knew Jesus’s physical body thirsted deeply for food and water. But what He didn’t expect was His supernatural power to overcome. He didn’t see that that power is the same power that the Holy Spirit brings during times of temptation. He didn’t plan that Jesus would use His own words to push away His human desires.
While they cowered with fear, He moved with confidence.
And then God said, “Go.”
He showed the Israelites the way to the promise land. He showed Jesus that it was time to begin His ministry. He gave the go ahead. He whispered, “Now is the time.”
Just as you might expect, the Israelites responded to go with no. They were scared. They didn’t trust God to overcome what looked like barriers and bring them to the luxurious milk and honey that He had been promising for so long.
Jesus, on the other hand, knew what He was getting into. He knew that He was going to begin the three-year journey that would eventually lead to His cruel death. It would lead to His torture and betrayal. He would soon be without a home or any sort of consistency. He would be called horrible things and spat upon. But He went and He did not look back.
Now you are probably thinking, “Of course Jesus did all of that! He’s Jesus.”
To which I respond, then why do we doubt His Spirit in us to do the same?
Here is the difference between God’s people pre-Jesus and post-Jesus: His dwelling place. Before Jesus died and rose, God dwelled in the inmost part of the temple. Post-Jesus, God dwells in the inmost being of His children. If you have confessed with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you have His Spirit living within you.
The same Spirit that went faithfully.
The same Spirit that communed with God.
The same Spirit that resisted the Devil.
The same Spirit that moved with confidence.
Our waiting time may be forty days. It may be forty years. It may even just be forty minutes! But we can choose how we sit within them. Do we give into our flesh? Or do we let the Spirit within us take over?
Do we question Him? Or do we trust Him? Do we spend our gifts on our own success? Or do we save them for His glory? Do we cower in fear and sit in our waiting? Or do we move when He tells us to?
We can choose the second because He chose the cross.
So choose the second, Sister. Always the second.
I imagine that if you are reading this, you are in an almost but not yet phase of your life. Can I just encourage you for a minute? Can I just remind you that what He has for us is beautiful? That He has granted us a hope and a future? That His presence is our promise land?
I am not saying that He will give us exactly what we think we want. I am saying that He will give us what is right and what is good. I am saying that He will fill our cup and be our Living Water and Bread of Life. I am saying that He will make you look more like Himself if you give your whole self to Him in this desert. I know it feels dry. I know it is hard and your legs are heavy. I know your lips thirst. Mine do too, and that is all the more reason to drink of Him. Sip His grace, Beloved. Drink His goodness.
Let Him teach you about Himself and let His Spirit guide you through this. He has already promised to.