Exodus 15:22. Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water.
What do you think the Israelites were thinking would happen after they crossed the Red Sea? Now that they were free from slavery surely God would lead them into a bountiful and beautiful life. A life of ease and pleasure. Right?
There’s no way that they could have seen a hot dry desert in their future with no water. They walked through a sea of water into a sea of thirst. How ironic.
What did you think your life in Christ was going to be?
Did you foresee a life of blessings and bounty? A life free of doubt and fear? Maybe even a life free of suffering?
If you’ve been saved for more than three days, then you probably have figured out by now that being in Christ is the wilderness and not the promised land.
Sadly many Christians just aren’t prepared for what lies ahead after receiving Christ. They’re not ready for the desert. What lies ahead is a lifetime of growth and progress, all of it through the continual training that comes by passing from death into life.
The truth is that much of our life in Christ is flat and dry. No mountain tops. No oasis. Think about Christ’s own life for a moment. He passed through the waters of baptism, saw the sky open up, heard the Father speak over him, affirm him, love him, the Spirit came upon him like a dove, and then…..off into the desert. 40 days of nothing but trial and temptation. God is silent. Satan is screaming. Jesus is suffering. But he is also progressing. He is being made perfect in that suffering (Heb. 2:10).
This is our same path in Christ. Why? Because we must learn to love God simply for who he is and not for how much he can “bless” us. We must learn that all of our spiritual blessings are found in Christ and Christ is found in dying.
When we first get saved it is often all about doing. Doing things for God. Establishing the visible spiritual practices that make us feel like a Christian. This is not a bad thing but it is a spiritually immature thing. Something God wants us to outgrow. He wants us to grow into trusting who we ARE far above what we DO. And that is why he leads us into the desert. Jesus entered the desert and was tempted with things to DO. But Jesus passed the grueling test by relying on who he IS – the Son of God.
This too is our test. Our process. Our growth into true holiness. Not just outward holiness but true faith in God alone.
The wilderness seems completely backwards because it is. But so is the gospel. The way up is down. Strength comes in weakness. Life is found in death. Glory is received in suffering.
And unless this is explained to a new Christian it will throw them for a loop. The work of God might seem like the work of Satan and the work of Satan may seem like the work of God.
The result: bitterness and grumbling.
Exodus 15:23-24. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
They were looking for what they could see instead of trusting God to provide even when they couldn’t see the provision.
And so we can pause here and ask, “What have you complained about today?” Your grumbling reveals your object of faith. It reveals what you are trusting for today’s salvation. Big or small, has it replaced Christ in your heart’s desire?
Growth in Christ and faith in his indwelling life means that more and more we will trust the invisible inward gift of Christ’s life far more than we trust the visible and outer gifts of God. As Christ becomes more and more our hope, our joy, our peace, our everything, all else become less and less, even God’s “blessings”.
“To live is Christ” is a journey into the desert. The place where we learn to desire Christ himself more than anything else. The place where only he can satisfy. Only he can make our bitter waters sweet again. And only by the life of his cross.
Exodus 15:25. And [Moses] cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.