While serving as missionaries in Haiti during the early 90’s, we discovered the value of worship during wilderness seasons. Our mountaintop home outside of Port-au-Prince had no phone, no TV, and no internet. Electricity and comforts were sparse, and communication was limited, but God’s presence was tangible. Our finances were tight, but in the evenings, we would worship and pray, trusting God and drawing near to him—our faith deepened.
One night during one of those worship sessions, our daughter Hannah, just a toddler then, crawled over to the couch where I was playing the guitar, pulled herself up and began to take steps back and forth while holding onto the couch! She was discovering her dance steps and learning to walk at the same time. The heart of worship and love for God was developing in her life. Today, she has developed into a vibrant young worship and youth leader in our church.
You see, when you choose to worship in the wilderness, the fruit of your intimacy with God will ripen and eventually, a harvest occurs.
I shared last week the importance of having an undivided heart of worship to God. Today, I’ll finish this series by examining how worship in the wilderness positions you for breakthrough and promotion. We’ve been looking at the life of David who demonstrated a lifestyle of worship.
David was a man after God’s own heart, because he was a worshipper at heart.
David demonstrated through his lifestyle of worship, a hunger for God himself—not just his blessings. In Psalm 27:4 TPT, David declares,
Here’s the one thing I crave from God, the one thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house, finding the sweet loveliness of his face, filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to him that he takes pleasure in my every prayer.”
David just wants to be up close and intimate with God! It’s his deepest passion and desire. His freedom in worship demonstrated love for God and hunger for his presence.
As David brought the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem, his wife Michal despised David because of his exuberant worship—she robbed herself of God’s intimacy and presence. 2 Sam. 6:16 states, “she despised him in her heart.” Then in Vs. 23 we read a sad epitaph for her, she “had no children to the day of her death.” Michal was barren. Her criticalness of David’s worship caused her to be unfruitful, but the problem was deeper.
Michal’s lie years earlier about David (see 1 Sam. 19:17) became an offense and bitterness later toward David—the man she deeply loved. It kept her from true worship and abundant living. David didn’t sin against her, but she resented David. The result: Michal was barren. Unless the heart is transformed, we judge what we don’t understand.
A life devoid of genuine worship, demonstrated through following Jesus obediently, is empty—barren.
True fruitfulness in life is discovered through intimacy with Jesus. Everything else is a cheap substitute for his presence. God’s presence always precedes his power, and all things are possible because of his presence—his glory. He delights to demonstrate his power to those who are close to him.
Sadly, like Michal, some blame others for their barren heart. An empty heart, devoid of love and compassion often indicates a drifting from Jesus, our first love. But, in his love and mercy, Jesus tenderly calls us back to himself—back to intimacy.
David demonstrates that one can be a true worshipper, despite failure, through repentance and consecration to God. David repented—Michal remained bitter.
David learned a deeper level of worship in the wilderness with God.
During a wilderness season, David wrote this declarative song about his desire and trust in God,
God! My God! It’s you—I search for you! My whole being thirsts for you! My body desires you in a dry and tired land, no water anywhere. Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary; I’ve seen your power and glory. My lips praise you because your faithful love is better than life itself! So I will bless you as long as I’m alive; I will lift up my hands in your name. (Psalm 63:1-4 CEB)
David’s entire being craved God’s presence. I can relate. Whether personally or corporately, nothing compares to being in the environment of heaven, where the manifest presence of God consumes you. Like David, I can say, “Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary; I’ve seen your power and glory.” And I’ll add, “And I want more God—more of your tangible presence!”
In our society, we like new methods, “How-to Principles” to live better, exercise more efficiently, diet better, etc. We sometimes approach spirituality the same way, but abundant living is discovered in Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s presence. He is our comforter, counselor, guide and friend! There is no shortcut to abundant life—it begins with surrender and daily following Jesus joyfully.
David learned greater depths of God’s love, grace, and purpose in the wilderness.
David didn’t want to flee for his life and go to the wilderness for years, but he had no other choice. God removed the familiar, the comfortable, and even key relationships in order for David to enter a season of divine preparation for the next level of authority he would be entrusted with.
When you are faithful to God’s call, you will go to places others don’t want to go to—or maybe even go to yourself. It’s called the wilderness, but the depths of God’s love and grace are discovered there.
Little did David know that after he was anointed by Samuel, he would spend the next several years in the wilderness hiding from Saul. He was called, but his commissioning came years later after he had gone through God’s seminary of training.
David had a new identity and he was beginning to discover his true purpose. God was preparing him to be the next king of Israel, and in the process was removing the shame, low self-esteem and false identity of his past. The wilderness would refine David and his men to rule with God one day. We prefer a palace, but God often chooses the desert to prepare us for new levels of responsibility and authority.
Proverbs declares, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” (Prov. 18:16 NKJV) But before there is elevation, there is preparation.
However, what you think is a place of wilderness may be the very place God may be preparing you for the next level—for greater authority.
No one likes the notion of being alone or isolated in the wilderness. But, there will come a time in all of our lives that we will find ourselves in a wilderness place. A place where you feel all by yourself, a place where no one seems to understand where you are or what you are going through.
Your wilderness place may be the result of circumstances: the death of a loved one, your sickness, your addictions, a marriage that went bad, domestic violence, job loss, foreclosure, abuse as a child. It could also be the delay of God—a process. Whatever the cause, it’s a desert place where you may feel alone—and God seems distant.
Remember my earlier story about our worship in Haiti while serving there as missionaries? What I didn’t share in detail was just how challenging living there was. There were many difficulties, tight finances were just one problem. Systemic poverty, poor infrastructure and roads, chronic crime, and Voodoo witchcraft all around us—to name a few of the challenges. We knew we were in God’s will, but our human nature at times wanted to run from there!
One day while driving down the mountain to the mission center, the Lord spoke something to me. I had been discouraged and ready to give up. He said, “Bob, if I asked you to stay here for another 20 years, would you?” Instantly I began to weep as God’s love and presence filled my heart and the old Subaru I was driving. I simply said, “Yes Lord, I’d stay here for another 20 years if that is your will.” It was a defining moment for me and I chose worship in the wilderness! Remember, worship is your life offered on the very altar of God (see Rom. 12:1).
Right after this encounter with God, and he had my “yes,” he then began to speak to Carolyn and me that our time in Haiti was almost done. Within the next couple of months, we left Haiti and returned to the USA, for the next assignment and chapter in our lives. Sometimes God just wants to know that you are all in—period.
Continual surrender is required to remain on your destiny journey. “Follow Me” is not an option—it’s a directive. There is no true worship apart from complete surrender to Jesus and following him obediently.
A couple of years later while living in Florida, we discovered that sometimes the wilderness season can be a pause or a place of rest before the next season. We learned to rest in God and allow the season of rest with our family to be foremost. God began to speak to us during this season that we were resting now, developing strong family bonds, and were being prepared for a very busy season that was ahead. He said, “Enjoy this season, for soon you will be very busy!” So, we took God at his word and bought a family pass to Disney World for a year—wow, a great year that was for our family!
True to God’s word, within 2 years after that season of rest we relocated to Arizona. Soon after God directed us to plant our church here in Tucson and we’ve been busy since! Sure, we’ve had some vacations since coming here, but the season of rest nearly 20 years ago in Florida prepared us for what has, and is, unfolding here in Arizona.
We rarely choose the wilderness; it usually is thrust upon us when we least expect. Again, we prefer ease, but God will use it to prepare us for the next season we face.
If we follow the path that David walked, then you and I will understand that worship is at the center of our lives—especially in the wilderness. Destiny is discovered here.
Like David, Paul discovered worship in the wilderness season. While imprisoned in Rome, he wrote:
And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me…” (Phil. 3:10 TPT)
Paul wanted to know Jesus intimately, personally—from prison—that’s true worship in the wilderness!
Worship allows the Holy Spirit to fan the flame of God’s love in your heart (see 2 Tim. 1:6). Ongoing encounters with God bring you into greater dimensions of his love and presence. His Word becomes alive in the seedbed of his love. Growth occurs in this place—his Word becomes active in the fertile soil of his love and presence—in the wilderness! Paul writes of Christ’s love that fuels our love and passion,
For it is Christ’s love that fuels our passion and motivates us, because we are absolutely convinced that he has given his life for all of us. This means all died with him,” (2 Cor. 5:14 TPT)
We love others because his love changes our hearts and our passions. Our love for him draws us into his presence—this is where greater love and compassion flows for others. The Holy Spirit in us becomes a river of love, revelation, and his power to effect change in our lives and in others.
You see, God is still in the business of making streams in the desert!
We discover fullness of joy in his presence—the depth of abundant living is discovered here. Jesus is abundant life, and in the desert, where there is no water, no sign of life, you can cling to Jesus confidently!
What we may not understand about the wilderness, is that it can be the best situation for God to show up and reveal His glory. This period in our lives is not for our detriment; rather, for our good. The wilderness or isolation is a place of preparation.
In the wilderness, renewed consecration to God occurs. A surrender to the process of God deepens. A greater understanding of the timing of God develops.
Undivided hearts yield undivided worship. The pursuit of God’s presence becomes your passion—if you choose—in the wilderness. The passionate pursuit of God yields his presence, which draws you into humility. Humility, peace, and joy manifest through time in his presence—the wilderness refines your character.
Some of you reading this may be in difficult circumstances, or a wilderness season. Consider the words of Paul and take heart,
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Rom. 5:1-5 CEB
Worship in the wilderness deepens your trust in God as spiritual endurance increases, character develops, and hope keeps you anchored to Jesus and all the promises of God. God’s hope doesn’t disappoint and will not put you to shame! God has your future in mind and is working all things together for your good—trust him!