Sojourns in Solitude: Leaving the Desert, Trembling
by Pastor Gene
March 16, 2018
In Matthew 14, Jesus performed one of His most astonishing miracles: He fed a multitude of 5,000+ bewildered people with a few fish and few loaves of bread.
God had moved and moved powerfully. He’d manifested His omnipotent control over the natural in a supernatural display of divine capability. It was dynamic, startling and exhausting.
Whenever God moves in our lives – when He illuminates some darkness and gives us understanding, or provides for some need in unimagined way, or lights our path and gives us direction through the Word and the Spirit – it’s always dynamic, and startling, and exhausting!
The apostle Paul instructed, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Notice, work “out” your salvation (deliverance) does not mean work “for” your salvation. Paul’s writing to believers, those who are already saved. But he tells us to work this salvation out with “fear and trembling!”
Why? Why should I tremble? Why should I fear? Well, he tells us in the very next verse, “for it is God who works in you” (Philippians 2:12-13a).
Meeting God is always dynamic, and startling, and exhausting! Ask Moses. Ask Isaiah. Ask Ezekiel. Ask Peter and James. Ask John who, upon encountering the Risen Christ, wrote: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).
Such awareness of God’s presence calls for careful contemplation.
Jesus, of course understood this and modeled it for us. After feeding the 5,000, the Bible says, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat, and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone” (Matthew 14:22-23).
He was there. With the Father. Alone.
We need that too. To be alone. In careful contemplation. In desert times with the Father.
When we sit before Him reading, meditating upon His Word, praying, listening, and He actually speaks to us through His Spirit, it should cause us to tremble a bit.
It is in these times, there, alone with God, that we gain real perspective – His perspective. And in considering what He has shown me, I gain the strength I need to follow in the way He’s leading.
Contemplation is taking in the whole event. It’s considering how the verse or verses we’ve read before the Lord has led us through a conversation with Him about His will for our lives. We consider what changes we need to make to more fully experience our life with Him. Perhaps this leads us to pour out words of adoration upon Him for His goodness to us – for welcoming us into His fellowship, for illuminating our hearts, for teaching our spirits.
We ask …
‘What does this mean to me?’
‘Lord, how have I strayed from the path you’ve hewn for me?’
‘Father, let me live in the light of the things you’ve shown me today!’
We contemplate the Father’s faithfulness to keep His promises to us: we’ve asked and He’s answered, we’ve sought Him and found Him, we’ve knocked and He’s opened the door.
Jesus promised that, “everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8).
And, once again as always, He’s proven Himself faithful! Why? Because He is good. Jesus asked, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)
How much more indeed!
So, before we leave the desert and return to the noise, we contemplate all that the Lord has done. We take it all in. And we agree with Jesus that we should expect nothing less in these sojourns in solitude than amazing things, “good things” from the hand of a good, good Father given to “all who ask Him!”
To consider …
- Why do you think that Jesus, after feeding the multitudes, needed to send the people away and go “up to the mountain by Himself to pray”?
What do you think He found there in that quiet place that He wants us to find in a similar place?
- Do you think it’s true that whenever God moves in our lives it’s dynamic, startling and exhausting? Why or why not?
What was the response of men or women in the Bible that encountered the living God? (Cf., Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1-2, Revelation 1, etc.)
- What do you think Paul means when he tells us to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling”?
Are you doing that? How?
- Do you agree that the awareness that we’ve been in God’s presence should cause us to tremble a bit? What does this mean?
- Why is it important to contemplate God’s faithfulness before returning back to the noise of the day?
- In what ways has God shown Himself faithful to you?
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