A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

June 5, 2024

"Everybody Wants the Mountain; But Nobody Wants the Wilderness"

The title of this blog is a quote by Pastor and activist Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, who appeared on the docu-series, Jonathan and Jesus, which records a pilgrimage of faith by Jonathan Roomie, who stars as Jesus in The Chosen. The comment is made in response to a conversation the two had regarding what it's like to experience a season of testing in your faith.

First, I want to clarify what it looks like when you're in the midst of a mountaintop experience. For many Christians, the subject of faith is academic -- we intellectually know all the theological language about faith ... it is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). We can also go through the motions of getting baptized and doing all the religious sacraments that we are asked to do as evidence of our faith. But all this can be a cerebral understanding of faith [or head knowledge]. God seeks a heart understanding of faith. 

To have a mountaintop experience requires that we have a very real encounter with the living Christ. It is a moment of revelation and supernatural disclosure from Heaven, where our spiritual senses are overcome with the reality that He is near; that you are feeling His touch and absolutely know [and are convinced] that He is with you and for you. It's like the experience Moses had with YHWH on the mountain; coming face to face with the knowledge that Jesus is truly your Savior and the King of the Universe.

For some that happens easily and quickly; for others it takes diligent practice of your faith -- lots of prayer and studying of the Word; seeking daily communion and relationship with the One who Saved you. Whether your mountaintop encounter happens quickly or slowly and gradually, it will happen, if you are consistent and persistent in seeking it. But here is a truth that you must discern whenever that blessed encounter happens ... everything that God anoints and approves, He tests. And that's when we often will find ourselves undergoing our wilderness experience.

So, what does that look like? It's interesting to me that both experiences are often linked. After enjoying your spiritually transformative experience on your mountaintop, you may suddenly find yourself in a period of intense isolation and trials. Think of the Israelites, who having been set free from 400 years of slavery and bondage in Egypt, suddenly found themselves being tried and tested in a desert-like wilderness. They were to take possession of the Promised Land, trusting God to provide a way for them. But through their doubt, unbelief and lack of faith, their disobedience led to the wrath of God and a punishment of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until that unbelieving generation died off.  

The Bible also tells us that Jesus, Elijah, Job and Paul were among many other Biblical figures who experienced their own wilderness experiences. And it can look different for different people. Personal struggles can come in the form of temptations, personal loss, physical attacks, and extreme isolation. You can experience profound burdens upon your body, soul and spirit. It is a severe testing of your faith and you are forced to surrender to God, relying on [only] Him to mature you and grow you in your walk with Christ. As Paul says, when you find yourself in your wilderness of testing, you will "be hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed". But if you can surrender to the work that God wants to do in you, your life will be a testimony that it is the unsurpassed power of God [in you] -- and not by your own power -- that He accomplishes a renewal and strengthening of your faith and accomplishments for His Kingdom.

I can personally testify that as wonderful and joyous as the few mountaintop experiences have been to grow my faith, it is the wilderness episodes that have had the most dynamic effect. I experienced a particularly trying time when I spent seven years in what I call my "most personal and difficult wilderness encounter with God". I have shared it before on this blog, but I hope that this latest depiction will resonate with someone and they can learn something from my experience. 

God had ordained the steps of my husband and myself after we married, and sparked a desire to know more about the Word and what our relationship with the Lord should look like. He led us to a small group of older, faith-filled Believers in a big church in Austin, where we found the discipleship and equipping that we were desperately seeking. I cannot say that we were anywhere close to gaining the maturity in our faith that God desired, but we were growing in our knowledge of the Lord and His heart for us to step into our purpose for His Kingdom on earth. Just as we were feeling confident that we were "going places" in our faith, we found ourselves moved to 129 acres west of San Antonio in a small, rundown farmhouse that needed lots of repair, and totally isolated from everything that had fed our "comfortable" lives.

We not only found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, but removed from everything and everyone that had provided all of our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs... no big grocery stores, no movie theaters or bookstores, no church family, and what felt like solitary confinement away from God, Himself.  We tried the small country church in a nearby town, but the rigid, religious spirit in that church only served to make me feel even more alone. I was also confronted by fear, doubt, and unbelief that we would be able to prosper in this place. It was right after September 11th, 2001 and our financial situation was dire, to say the least. My husband was beginning his career as a professional artist, still in the phase of "paying his dues", and we struggled to pay the bills each month.

I praise God, to this day, that He gave my husband a firm faith that never doubted that God would take care of us. I, on the other hand, was struggling to remain established and settled in my faith. I fought against doubt and unbelief and the whispers of the Liar that I couldn't count on God to be my Jehovah Jireh. Yet, each time that God provided and a painting sold, I would praise Him and believe in His goodness towards us -- until the next month when things got tight again. I never doubted that we were following the path He had set before us, I just found myself trying to solve our lack of resources myself, instead of trusting that He would not abandon us. But He never gave up on me! I would stumble, then renew my commitment to trust Him, and with every step backwards, I found His grace to take two steps forward in my faith. And then one day, after fervent prayer and telling Him I was tired of the doubt with which Satan tempted me, and I wanted to let it go for good, I heard [in my spirit], "If you will be faithful to Me, I will be faithful to you". 

From that day forward, it has been a journey of surrendering to Him and trusting in Him. And I can now say that I know my Jehovah Jireh [the God who provides]!  I don't just know about Him, but I surrendered myself and allowed my spirit to be put in a place where I had to meet Him in order for my faith to survive. My wilderness journey lasted 7 long years, but I wouldn't trade it for anything! It's where I learned to live in quietness, solitude and intimacy; a place where I heard Him speak to me and received His reassurance that He has me and will never let me go. Yes, the Mountaintop is a glorious place to be; full of the magnificence, splendor, joy and wonder of being close and connected to Almighty God. But the Wilderness offers the opportunity to fight for that relationship and grow in your identity in Christ in order to understand that God-ordained testing comes when you have been approved for His purposes. His goal is to refine you, strengthen you, and prepare you for a life of service to Him. My advice is to enjoy the mountaintop, and embrace the wilderness. He will meet us in both places! Hallelujah!

Psalm 63:1    O God, You are my God; with deepest longing I will seek You; My soul [my life, my very self] thirsts for You, my flesh longs and sighs for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.                

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