I love the desert. I grew up in the prairies among rolling hills and wheat fields – I didn’t love it. I left my parent’s home in 1992 to spend a year living in the Austrian Alps - I loved it. For the past 24 years, I’ve lived on Canada’s west coast, virtually at the water’s edge - and I love it, even when it rains. I’m a West Coast girl through and through but still, I love the desert.
The desert surprises me, and I love surprises. At first impression from my vantage point inside the car, there isn’t much to see and it’s hard to imagine the desert being able to support much life. Once I step out of my air conditioned vehicle and into the hot sun, I don’t have to imagine anymore. I know there’s no possible way anything can survive the heat. I think to myself, “This is what hell must feel like,” and I’m grateful because that is as close to hell as I’m ever going to be. But no matter, I’m there for an adventure so I slap on some moisturizer, drink a bottle of water and forge ahead into paths unknown.
Before too long, it’s obvious there is life in the desert; there’s lots of little animals and short, low-to-the-ground vegetation. It’s hard not to be impressed with what is able to survive in the desert, especially in comparison with where I live – perpetual green, and huge, towering vegetation and large wildlife, in and out of the water. You don’t even have to try to grow something on the coast. I’m a terrible gardener but even I can’t muck it up. If I forget to water the garden, it rains making me look like I have a green thumb. In the desert, though, only the toughest and meanest survive.
The desert gets a bad rap because it is hard to survive there, but not impossible. It requires grit and endurance. But even in the desert, you can find an oasis. An oasis is a fertile spot, where water is found. But what does it take to make an oasis in the desert? It’s still in the desert, in the middle of scorching heat and dry winds, but vibrant, rich and full life exists.
Our natural world provides an incredible visual understanding of we can’t see or understand, but still feel in the spirit realm. Scripture speaks a lot about the desert (wilderness). The Israelites literally walked through it for 40 years. Elijah was sequestered for three and a half years. Even Jesus was lead into the wilderness for 40 days. If the Father didn’t spare his chosen people, or a powerful prophet, or His own Son, then it’s unlikely anyone who is in relationship with the Father should expect to avoid a desert experience.
I won’t go so far as to say I love the desert - spiritually speaking – but almost. I definitely like it, and if a desert experience is eminent, I’ll run toward it willingly. I don’t love working out, but I love the overall wellness it adds to my life. I am resolved to go after everything the Lord has available. The Bible is full of testimonies of individual men and women, and nations who went through a desert experience and came out the other side. They are always blessed because of it. The Israelites received the Promised Land, and Jesus returned – full of power.
Recently, I’ve turned my attention from only surviving a desert season, to wanting to thrive in the midst of the trial. I want an oasis to spring up, and I want there to be life in the process, not just on the other side. The Father revealed His thoughts on how to make it happen.
God wants worshippers. He’s wanted it from the beginning and it’s the only way to thrive in the desert; the only way to become an oasis.
Exodus 3:12, God answered, "I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain."
In some ways I’m like a petulant child, I hate being told what to do. I love to worship but being told I have to makes me want to dig my heels in, and refuse to open my mouth. I’ve struggled and complained and argued with God a lot over the years about this exact issue…until, I finally shut my mouth and quit my whining long enough for God to show me who He is. Once I understood who He is, the only choice I have is to worship.
When God said to Moses, He was bringing the Israelites out of Egypt so they could worship Him, or when Jesus said (John 4:23) He was looking for worshippers, what He is saying is that He wants to demonstrate Himself so fully to us – his children, our only response is worship. Therefore, worship is the fruit of knowing God. When the right condition exists, i.e. God reveals Himself so we may know Him and His ways, then worship proceeds as a natural response.
Even the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) is not really a sacrifice (something we give but don’t want to) because the sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips that continually confess His name. Fruit is produced because of the environment where it grows has the right conditions for growing fruit. In the case of Hebrews 13:15, the right condition are lips that continually confess His name.
A desert experience, then, is designed to allow us an opportunity to know Him better, so we in turn will worship. Worship creates an oasis, a place where we thrive, even in the midst of the desert. Worshipping in sight of our enemy is a pleasure we will not be able to participate in eternity. When we are finally with Jesus in glory, there will be no more enemy, and the opportunity to worship in the midst of the desert, or in the midst of a trial is lost. He delights in our worship at any time, but thriving in an environment where, by all accounts, it looks impossible, gives God even greater glory and He responds back by turning His face more fully toward you.
John 4:23, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.