At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Jesus was not just in the wilderness; he was surrounded by the wilderness. It was like the wilderness was an envelope and he was put in it. The flap was shut behind him and securely sealed. He was in the desert and there were no exit signs, no way out.
He didn’t have one foot in the wilderness and the other in an oasis. He didn’t commute to the wilderness in the morning and then return home that same day. He didn’t go to the wilderness only to take conference calls and check into Zoom meetings throughout the day.
He wasn't just twiddling his thumbs, accomplishing nothing. He didn’t go into the wilderness to practice playing games on his phone. He was actively engaged and pursuing something with all of his heart, all of this focus, all of his energy. He was pursuing perhaps the most important activity in life.
He was listening for and to God. He was listening because the wilderness is the place where God speaks.
There is nothing so important, effective, and life changing as going into the wilderness to get alone with God. And that's because the wilderness is the place where God speaks.
But the wilderness is something more, there is the other side of the coin. It’s not only the place where God speaks, but it’s also the place where we listen. It’s the place where we get away from everything else; all the distractions, all the interruptions, all the small and unimportant things of this life and invest everything in something much more important.
It’s like those EF Hutton commercials with the tagline, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.” The commercials were trying to tell us that what EF Hutton has to say is so important that it’s worth dropping everything else, stopping all other conversations and leaning in in order to make sure you don’t miss one drop of information, one syllable that can make the difference between success and failure.
How much of this kind of focus do we have in our modern, 21st-century life? We are so easily distracted by the latest tweet, the latest fad, the latest statistic, the latest news flash, the latest short video posted on social media. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but there’s the statistic that says our attention span is less than what a goldfish as. I’m not sure what that says about the achievements of the goldfish, or something about us that we should hide our heads in shame.
While you’ve been reading this short paragraph, how many times have you actually picked up your phone check for an alert? Or how many times have you thought about picking up your phone to see if there’s some new juicy tidbit? How many times has your mind wandered, wondering about what’s going to happen today, what you need to do and accomplish today in order to just keep your head above water? Did your mind drift and focus in on that person or situation where you have a broken relationship?
Jesus didn’t passively think, “Well, I have this unexpected opening in my schedule, so I’ll mosey on out into the wilderness for 15 minutes to see if God talks.” Nor did he say, “I know I’m more spiritual than everybody else, because I have set aside some time specifically to get together with God. I’m going to jam everything I can into my quiet time so I can maintain my spiritual superiority.”
No, Jesus was driven into the wilderness because of God’s Spirit. The presence and pressure of God’s Spirit pushed Jesus to leave the everyday, normal, garden-variety events of life. But this was no vacation, this was to do serious business with God, to listen to God, to be taught by God.
With everything else is going on around us, could there be anything more important than being driven into the wilderness to do serious business with God? When was the last time you felt pushed by God, driven by God, to take some time away from life’s normal, crazy, pressure packed, daily life just so you can actively pay attention to the voice of God?
When the Bible talks about listening, it’s more than just letting the vibrations move through the air and into your ears. Listening from God’s point of view always, always, always involves it moving into the very pit of our soul and changing us. God is not in the business of giving us information, but he is in the business of transformation, changing us to be more and more into the image of Christ.
If Jesus was willing to leave the everyday things of life to listen to the voice of God, what could be more important for us to do the exact same thing? How much time and effort are you putting into listening for and to God?
Let’s move on because this question is far too convicting.