When I was 22 years old, I felt ready to jump headlong into God's call on my life. Shortly after getting saved while attending Purdue University, I heard God's call on my life to preach the gospel to the nations—something He confirmed in many ways. As a young Christian, I thought I was ready for what God had for me, and I was eager to start running in my calling.
God, it would seem, had other plans.
Rather than launching into a preaching ministry, I spent the better part of a decade after college working all sorts of jobs that seemed disconnected from my calling. During this time, God's presence often felt distant, and I wrestled with questions about what He was, or perhaps more accurately, wasn't doing in my life. It felt a bit like God had forgotten me, but that wasn't even remotely the case.
Although I didn't see it then, God was using this time to prepare me for my future. The truth is I was in a season of wilderness—the necessary training ground that precedes the promised land. It's just how God works, and it's revealed throughout Scripture. His desire is to prepare our hearts so that success won't destroy us.
We see one of the greatest examples of this when we compare the life of King Saul to the life of King David. When Israel wanted a king, God gave them what they wanted and drafted Saul from within Israel's ranks to be the ruler over His people.
King Saul never went through a wilderness experience. He seemed humble in the beginning—hiding in the baggage from the prophet when he was named king. But after a few rounds of success, Saul's impurities began to surface. He won a huge battle, but he'd done it his way and disobeyed God's orders. If that weren't enough, he then built a monument to himself. This was only the beginning of the plethora of ungodly behaviors that would surface.
Eventually Saul was destroyed by the impurities that were never addressed. In fact, Saul loved his "ministry" to the point of killing to keep it. His success, in the end, ultimately played into his demise because it was not preceded by a season when he embraced God's preparation.
Contrast that with David. David was not a man after the throne; he was a man after the heart of God. While in the wilderness, he found his true source of joy: none other than God Himself. Twice, David had the chance to kill Saul to get the throne. The men with him encouraged him to do so. If David's motives had been the same as Saul's, he would have murdered to get what was promised to him. But he refused to take matters into his own hands. He wanted to honor God more than he wanted to inherit His promises—and he trusted God to promote him in His timing.
Because David went through a season of preparation in the wilderness, he had the character to lead God's people once he finally became king. Where Saul was prideful and self-absorbed, David was described as a man after God's own heart. The wilderness proved to be a vital training ground for what God had called David to do, and it prepared him to do it well.
The same proved true for me. Shortly before God finally launched me into preaching, I prayed passionately one morning, "Lord, it doesn't matter if I am in the middle of the desert where there is no one or if I am preaching to millions, I'll do the same thing in both places. I will pursue Your heart."
Then it hit me. I finally saw what God was doing! In the wilderness, God had brought me to a place where I saw Him as my inheritance and first love, not the ministry or anything else. I was pursuing Him over and above the dream He had given me. God wanted to move me into my calling, but He didn't want me to make an idol out of it. He wanted to stay first in my heart.
If you are waiting on God's promises, don't look for shortcuts. Stay the course. Press into God as your first love, and pursue Him more than the dream He's given you.
Rather than rush the process and prematurely step into God's promises in your own strength, focus on becoming a man or woman after God's own heart—especially in the midst of difficult seasons. That way, when God does release you into a season of breakthrough, you'll have the character to handle it well so success doesn't end up destroying you.
Listen as John Bevere explains how to discern between what you think is good and what is truly God's will.
John Bevere and his wife, Lisa, are the founders of Messenger International. His desire is to support the local church, and his resources have been translated into more than 100 languages. His latest book is God, Where Are You? Finding Strength and Purpose in Your Wilderness. Follow him on Facebook (johnbevere.page) or Twitter (@johnbevere).
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