In John 6:1-13 there is the wonderful story of the feeding of the 5000. The story is wonderful for many reasons. One of the biggest is the location. He led those people to a deserted place. A desert place is a place where there is nothing. Deserted places are places where you cannot find food or water. Deserted places are places where you can be alone. Nobody lives there. A wilderness is a quiet place, no computers, there is no watching TV, no radio, and no music, and there is only you and the wilderness. And so, Jesus leads people out there where they don’t have anything.
I remember one time when a friend told me “You need to go out to Blake Island and spend three days with God. Three days!” Blake Island is a small Island in the middle of the Puget Sound and you can only get there by boat. He said to me, “I want you to promise that you will go there and when you get there, I want you to pull the boat up on the shore and you don’t get into that boat to go anywhere until three days are up. You just stay right there.”
“Ok, I’ll just bring my Walkman and some other stuff.
“No! You only bring one thing, your Bible.” I was a little scared agreeing to that but I did.
I smoked a lot of cigarettes in those early days of being saved, but just before I got in the kayak to push off, Jay said, “Hey, give me those” pointing to my pack of smokes. “You’re going to quit. God is going to take them away from you. If you want them when you get back, you can have them. If you don’t I’ll throw them away.” I was shaking a little as I gave them to him, but I was in it all the way for Jesus.
“What am I going to do for three days”, I asked myself as I paddled there. I took three oranges, three cans of food, some coffee, a knife and my Bible. That’s all I took. When I got to that Island, it was early eight o’clock in the morning and I set up my tent. I sat down and read my Bible. I read for what I thought was a long time, but when I looked at my watch, I had only been there for one hour. I decided to have something to eat, so I ate. Then I cleaned everything up, washed it and got everything back together again. Now two hours had gone by. I still had two days and twenty two hours to go. Before that evening was over, I was so bored that I had eaten all my food. The next day all I had was coffee and my Bible.
Wilderness places are lonely places. And when you are in a lonely place, there are no distractions. Its easy for God to talk to you. Its easy to get something from God. Its easy to improve your relationship with Him.
I read the book of Psalms, Proverbs and almost the whole New Testament. For three days, I just read and read and read. All I had to do was read my Bible and talk with God. I soon found myself talking with God out loud. I was asking Him some really unusual things. I asked, “God, that is an incredible beautiful leaf, how did you make that? I mean, look at all the different leaves, all the different kinds of trees in the world, and why did you make this little leaf right here on this tree?” I am not saying anything mysterious happening, but it was just as if God was standing there with me saying, “Why do you think I made that little leaf right there, the one you’re looking at?”
A leaf is insignificant. In this whole wide world there are many insignificant leafs. Now I was looking at one specific leaf and having a conversation with God over it. It was as If God put it there for this specific time in history just for me. He was showing me how beautifully and wonderfully made it. He was saying to me, “I created that little insignificant leaf just for you Ron. I put all of that detail in it so you can see how much I care. I made that leaf very special and I put it here on this tree, on this Island, just for you to see.” The thought was overwhelming. I didn’t know if it was the fasting or not, but my knees began to shake.
“What about colors God? Why don’t I just see black and white like they say animals do? What is black and white anyway?” I was asking and the resounding, repetitive answer was always, “I made it for you. I did it just for you.” God made this world for me. He made the world before He made me, and put me on it. “Why is the water blue and why does it wave the way it does? Why do I see faces in the clouds?”
“I did it for you. I gave you a mind to see it.” “Why did God give me a mind so I can enjoy these wonderful things?”
“I made you in my image, so I want you to see things like I do. I want you to see me.”
This went on for another two days. I was rejoicing in God, His creation and His word. At the end of the three days, I didn’t want to leave. I was with God and God was with me. I experienced a relationship with Him. It was a wonderful experience. It was a wilderness experience, where none of the cares of this life could bring its influence to bear. God would not let them.
At the appointed time, I returned where Jay was waiting to pick me up. He asked if I wanted my cigarettes back (he had a pack in his hand offering it to me). “No, I don’t need them any more.” I had not even remembered them. I was so excited about God. God had taken them from me and I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t know it then, but I would take them up again when I turned my back on God, but right then, I had met God in a special way, in a special place—the wilderness.
Wilderness experiences don’t come without trials. For me, there were the nights of no food; there were the nights of thinking about myself; there were the decisions I had to make. I strove with God asking Him to provide for me by miraculously making oranges fall out of the sky. Finally I reached the point where I had no choice but to just accept whatever God had planned for me. I prayed, “God, you know where I am right now and you know how to provide for me, what I need, I am going to just trust you for.”
You say, “I don’t want to go to the wilderness place. How would I get back? How would I eat? What would I drink? What will I cook? What about money? What about…?” There are a lot of things to worry about.
Becoming a Christian is one thing, but being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a very different thing indeed. Will you cross the line and say, “I will give you my whole life? I want to be your servant.” Will you give yourself to be a servant to Jesus Christ? That is what it comes down to. People do not like to hear that. They don’t like to hear those words–“give myself to be a servant and slave to Jesus Christ.” Are you willing to let the Lord take you to the wilderness place if He pleases? Are you willing to concede ownership of your life to Him? Either you are going to go along, kicking and screaming or you are going to go along willingly to have a wilderness experience.