Posted by: glorifyhim1 | September 24, 2012

A Barren Place

As I read the Scripture passage for my Sunday School lesson this week, the following verses caught my attention.

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in the city.”

(Acts 8:4-8)

“Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is desert.”

(Acts 8:26)

Philip was instructed to go from the city to the desert, from multitudes to few, from manifold miracles to a questionable mission – from a place of great joy to a barren place. And Philip went.

I cannot help but wonder what went through Philip’s mind at the angel’s command. Did he perhaps wonder why God would want him to leave Samaria when so many people were responding to his ministry? Was he reluctant to leave the city, longing to continue his present ministry. Or was he excited to head into the desert, eager to discover what new thing God had for him there?

This is one of those times when the Scriptures give no clue as to whether Philip left Samaria reluctantly or eagerly. Acts 8:27 just states simply: “So he arose and went.” Because of Philip’s obedience, he was able to help a man from Ethiopia, who was traveling the road, to understand that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Upon the man’s profession of faith, Philip baptized him in a nearby body of water, his mission into the desert accomplished.

As I thought about this story, I realized that each of us, at one time or another, can find ourselves in a barren place. Sometimes it may be an actual physical place. At other times, however, it may have nothing to do with where we are physically.  We can be barren mentally, emotionally, financially, and even spiritually. And while sometimes we may help get ourselves to our barren places by choices and decisions we make, at other times, we just end up there through no fault of our own. But more than how we get there, the real question is what we do once we’re there. What do we do when we find ourselves in our barren place?

  • Seek God’s presence. Jesus spoke: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Whether we’ve run headlong into our desert experience because of sin and rebellion, or whether we’re facing illness or loss or something totally outside our realm of control, God promises His presence if we will turn to Him and call upon Him. And not only does He promise to be with us, but He also promises to give us rest. As hard as it may seem, we can find peace in the midst of our troubles as we turn everything over to God and trust in Him.

 

  • Remember God’s faithfulness. David encouraged the nation of Israel to remember. “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations.” (1 Chronicles 16:12, 15). When we’re in the middle of our barren place, it is easy to become discouraged and hopeless. Yet God is a faithful God on whom we can depend. As Joshua declared: “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). Our God keeps His promises. Scriptures are replete with evidence that our God is a promise-keeping God. Remembering His faithfulness can strengthen our own faith as we trust Him in our tough times.

 

  • Stay sensitive to God’s leading. Philip continued to listen for the Spirit’s guidance in the desert. It was the Spirit that led Philip to talk to the man riding in the chariot (see Acts 8:29). When I’m facing a problem or trial, I tend to try to work things out myself. I’ll weigh alternatives and consider different solutions. But God’s Word should be the first place I turn. As I read His counsel in the Bible and pray for His guidance and direction, I will be more sensitive to His Spirit leading me and showing me what to do and the right time to do it.

 

One thing is for sure. Just as God is with us when we are experiencing spiritual victory, He is with us in our barren places, too. Consider just a few examples from the Old Testament. He was with Abraham and Sarah as they waited for the fulfillment of His promise. He was with Hagar as Sarah angrily sent her out with Ishmael. He was with Jacob as he left home and traveled to Padan Aram. He was with Joseph as he was sold into slavery and carried off to Egypt. He was with Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. He was with Naomi as she buried her husband and both of her sons in a foreign land. He was with Hannah as she prayed fervently for a child. He was with David as he fled from King Saul. He was with Jonah in the belly of the big fish, with Daniel in the lion’s den, and with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace. Just as God was with each of these men and women in their barren places, and just as He was with Philip, He will be with us, too.

 

“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Yes, I have a good inheritance.

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

(Psalm 16:5-6, 11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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