“The child John grew and became spiritually strong. He lived in the desert until the day he appeared to the people of Israel.” (Luke 1:80)
It was said of John the Baptist that he grew and became strong in spirit – “while he was in the desert.” Something about hard and difficult places make us stronger than when we lounge about in cozy beds of ease. We grow when we are challenged.
And notice that this growth is primarily spiritual. The fact is that no growth is complete that leaves out spiritual development.
I often heard Bill McCartney tell his football team, “The spiritual is to the physical as four is to one.” By this he meant that a man with his spirit set right by God had far more going for him that a man with nothing but muscles. Take a guy who is physically fit and infuse him with the Holy Spirit – and you have a formidable package! That’s what John the Baptist was like.
Notice the scripture goes on to say of John, “He was in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” Hmmm. I wonder if the Lord sometimes puts us in the desert in order to have us grow and become strong in spirit. It certainly would seem so, looking at John as an example.
A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor are godly men and women made without trials. Think about it. Haven’t the greatest strides in your spiritual journey always come during times of significant difficulty and hardship? “Many men and women owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.” (C.H. Spurgeon).
John was in the desert until his showing forth unto Israel. Might not the same be true of you? This pattern certainly holds true for many of God’s champions.
Paul was himself in the desert for three years, and then sidelined in Antioch for fourteen years before the Lord brought him forth into his apostolic ministry. Joseph endured the hostilities of false accusation and unjust imprisonment long before God exalted him in all of Egypt.
Moses tended sheep for forty years before leading the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and into history. David was faithful in the unseen and uncelebrated duties of ordinary labor, and there secretly slew a lion and a bear, long before God brought him out publicly to slay Goliath, and lead a Nation.
It seems clear enough that God uses the dry and desperate times in the desert to effect a spiritual maturity in our lives.
Jesus is our best example of patient growth during un-noticed years of quietness and apparent inactivity. Luke writes of Jesus that He “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52, NIV).
Mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially ~ these are four areas of life in which God wants us to experience healthy, balanced growth. Are you growing in these areas? In which one would you say are you the most undeveloped? Might this season of dryness be a gift to you from the Lord to develop that one area?
A lesson from nature will suffice here to make a simple point. Healthy growth requires shade as much as sunshine. A plant needs the dry season, as well as the rain. If this is true of plants; might it also be true of you and me? Could it be that God is effecting a significant transformation of your life during this season of disconsolate dryness and seeming barrenness?
I think so.