SCHOOL OF ISRAEL
Mini-Study Guides, 1994-5
"More Than Conquerors"
13. The Way of Realism
Scripture Meditation: John 17:1-19
You were asked to read some passages from Isaiah for today's meeting and invited to consider two questions. The first was: "What has God promised those who go through the wilderness and desert?" and the second was: What will they be called?" Our theme is The Way of Realism and you may remember that last November I pointed out to you that the Christian life is one that is lived in the world whilst at the same time not being of it. Ours is a walk of realism, not idealism.
The first reality we must face is that this world is a spiritual desert. There is little, if anything, in the world that will satisfy the spiritually hungry. Back in September I talked a little to you about our goal of gathering to Zion which I compared with the exodus of Israel out of Egypt. Part of that exodus involved a long and difficult desert journey. Our exodus, both spiritually as well as physically, must involve -- and has already involved -- a long desert journey.
Every single soul coming into this Church must expect to undergo a long wilderness journey, especially those who have come out of a secular or a nominal Christian background. That means we must go through an inner process of cleansing -- a process of cleaning out our wrong thinking and feeling -- until we think and feel as God does, for only in this way can we know Him as He really is.
This requires tremendous self-discipline and surrender. It requires, I am bound to say, considerable suffering especially for those who find it difficult to let go of preconceived or cherished worldly ideas. It requires nothing less than a complete reorientation of soul.
I feel terribly sorry for some of the children who come to the school where I work. They arrive in winter here in Norway unable to speak either Norwegian or English, sometimes never having experienced anything but tropical heat, and find themselves in a totally alien culture. It must be a nightmare for them. For most of them it is a tremendous struggle to adapt. Some give up completely. But I've noticed that those who do persevere develop a tremendous sense of self-confidence and achievement and experience enormous character enrichment. They are, in most instances, far maturer psychologically than those who have had no struggle at all.
Our heavenly Father knows that dying to our old self and accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour requires no less a struggle and sacrifice only the rewards are far, far greater. So I would like to ask you now the first question again: "What has God promised those who go through the wilderness and desert?" . Let's read what He says: "The desert and parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy..." (Isa.35:1-2a, NIV). There is the first promise: joy! And why? Because what seemed a barren desert in our souls will turn into a veritable garden of beautiful flowers.
And now I am going to give you a personal experience to illustrate what I meant. When this New Covenant work began seven or so years ago we were showered with blessings. Early on I had a dream which some of you may remember. I dreamed that Sister Kirsti and I were gathering water on a camel in the desert. We were filling goat-skin bags with water and taking it to a small desert settlement. Underground was a HUGE reservoir of water, many, many times larger and deeper than an olympic swimming pool. I still remember the astonishment I felt in the dream at the time. Little did I know at the time that this was the spiritual water we would have to survive on during the Church's desert wandering.
We have been wandering in the desert for many years now, just as the ancient Israelites did, as the Lord burns out our stubbornness and resistance to His authority in our lives. A few months ago I had another dream which shocked me -- that vast reservoir of water was now little more than a tiny pool, no more than about 1 cm deep and about 5 m across. There we were as a people stooping down drinking the last dregs.
Not so long ago I was shown a vision which you will all by now have heard, of an enormous wall of rock blocking our way forward. It seemed as if our progress was forever blocked. But then the Holy Spirit lifted me up into the air to reveal to me an outdoor reservoir which was a hundred thousand times as large as the one we built in the old Church. Can you imagine that??! And I knew that we would be given it once we had passed through our desert.
The prophet Isaiah says: "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come...to save you" (Isa.35:4, NIV). Brethren and sisters, He is coming, and He is coming to those who stayed in the desert and saw their wandering through. And He will yet come to all those who join with us and walk patiently through their deserts! And then, as Isaiah says: "..the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa.35:10, NIV).
But before this can happen, everyone must be realistic -- you must be under no illusions. You will experience great hardship, and yet God promises: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned..." (Isa.43:2, NIV).
And now to my last question: Who can tell me what the saints will be called who pass through the wilderness and desert of affliction? If you have forgotten, look up Isaiah 61:3 [Oaks of righteousness]. Yes, we will be called "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour." Is that not a worthy promise to inherit? Who can tell me the quality of wood that comes from oak trees? [Hard]. Yes, oaks are known for their hardness. The British used to build their ships out of it before steel was invented, and they were called "Hearts of Oak". But did you know that Palestinian oak trees live for centuries, and some of them up to a thousand years or more? The "oak of righteousness" is therefore supposed to convey a picture of spiritual strength and eternal life.
Brethren and sisters, with such great promises in store, and already little miracles happening amongst us, should be give up? [No!]. No! Let us pray:
Dear Father, thank you that you have put the victory in Christ where it is reachable and attainable -- right in the midst of things. Thank you for our wilderness wandering and thank you for all the promises You have given which we know will be fulfilled if we remain true and faithful. Forgive us when we have doubted or wanted to run away and remind us continually that we can conquer in everything. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This page was created on 16 May 1998
Updated on 16 May 1998
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