Sweetly Broken: Into the Wilderness
By Moses Asamoah, Jr.
Excerpt from the book Sweetly Broken by Moses Asamoah.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. ( Matthew 4:1)
Every man or woman of God with a true call on their lives goes through seasons we’ve come to know as the wilderness. One warm summer day in 2005, I boarded the bus from Norfolk, Virginia, to Alexandria, Virginia. Sitting alone on the front row seat, I read the book Power Healing by John Wimber. In the introduction by Richard Foster, he wrote:
“I have been seeking God to raise up an incendiary company of Spirit-led, Spirit-ordained, Spirit-trained, leaders . . . leaders who are, lone like the Tishbite (Elijah), like the Baptist (John) bold; cast in a rare and apostolic mold.”
For some reason, I began to tear up. I believe it was an acknowledgment that the call of God will require me to be alone like the Tishbite. It is my firm conviction that what is termed the wilderness experience is that time in our walk with God when the road becomes narrow, wide enough for only you and God. All others fall away, howbeit temporarily, so God can have his fullest and most personal time with you.
My First Wilderness
After leaving the shores of Ghana and being separated from my parents and siblings, I felt a degree of loneliness and separation. It was a trying time adjusting to a new culture, weather, and people. Every fifteen-year-old leaving his parents to go to a foreign land across great bodies of water will feel the same way I did. It was difficult nonetheless, but that season does not compare to a wilderness experience that lasted an entire year, beginning in June 1998. Up until that time, I had never taken a day off from school. I had received my admission letter from the Ohio State University and was extremely excited. When I found out I could not go because of financial reasons, I was very disappointed. It was no fault of mine, but I had to live with that reality. This shocking truth ignited a season of breaking and rebuilding in my life.
First, I had to overcome the victim mentality that everyone was out to get me or at least to slow me down. All my peers would be a year ahead of me, and I felt left behind. Sometimes I would say, “If only my dad was here.” Dad was always there to make sure school fees were paid and my education was never interrupted. This time, the road was wide enough for only my Heavenly Father and me. I had to walk through this without human assistance.
The wilderness experience strips you of competition and comparison to others as your indication of your success. I began to look at myself more as an individual with God, rather than as part of this clan of people. Without people, who are you? You will answer this question in the wilderness.
A few months into the summer, I was working two jobs as a cashier in a grocery store and as a sales associate at an office supplies store. It was a hectic schedule for a seventeen year-old boy who really wanted to go to college. There were times that I arrived at one store at 6:00 a.m., completed my shift at 3:00 p.m., ran home, ate, showered, then ran to the other job to work from 4:00 p.m. till 9:00 p.m. Instead of studying economics from books, I did so by mopping floors, bagging groceries, and selling office furniture. God stripped away the “why me?” mentality.
In this wilderness, God made me realize that I was not abandoned. He was my ever-present help in my time of need. Adversity does not mean abandonment! It was at these jobs that I learned work discipline, customer service, and business protocol. These same bosses who provoked character growth in me also gave me the greatest compliments. These compliments were to me like drops of water in that dry season of my life. I saw glimmers of hope, and I felt I was somebody. My time would come! (Habakkuk 2:1-3).
I declare over you right now that your time will come, in Jesus’ name! You are blessed of God and certainly not forgotten! Paychecks came weekly. I saved some money, bought groceries for the home, bought school supplies (I knew where I was going), and some clothes. The most important financial lesson I learned during this wilderness was paying my first tithe. It was the greatest feeling to actually be able to practice what I believed and preached. I have not stopped tithing since. Giving a tenth of my income plus my offering is an expression of my confidence in God and because God commands it. Truthfully, any hesitation about paying your tithe to your local church is not a money or church problem, it’s your heart. Check yourself!
The dictionary description of a wilderness is a wild place untouched by human development. There is wildness about the place that causes us to reconsider ways of doing things and focusing on the priorities. In the wilderness, you feel alone, out of place, abandoned, disoriented, and inadequate and not in control. Welcome to the transformation chamber! Here, all wild urges and out-of-control personalities are brought under the authority of Jesus Christ.
In the last days and hours of Jesus’ life on earth, He experienced immense separation from everyone. His brothers and sisters, the Jews, were against Him. The religious authorities were plotting to kill him. His disciples were sleeping when He needed them to pray. The Roman soldiers were about to crucify Him and plunge a spear through His side. His Father was about to separate from Him for a moment while He carried and destroyed the world’s sin that He carried. Jesus knew all of this, yet after crying and weeping, He concluded, “Nevertheless not My will but Your will be done.”
His ministry journey began with forty days in the wilderness and ended with intense wilderness in the garden and on the cross. The wilderness experience is God’s personal time to break off the old and replenish with the new. The only way to endure and reap the full benefits of the wilderness is to embrace it and enjoy the aloneness with God. Consider it your personal encounter with God—a time for equipping you for the task at hand. Jesus’ wilderness at thirty prepared Him for the ministry. His wilderness in the garden of
Gethsemane prepared Him for the cross. His wilderness on the cross prepared Him for eternal glory.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:8-11).
Just like Jesus, let’s embrace and enjoy the wilderness knowing:
Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3).
The wilderness experience is very much God-initiated. You will normally be well into a wilderness experience before you consciously know that you are. It is all part of God’s design. If you knew you were about to enter the wilderness, you will most likely want to delay it by a few days, weeks, months, or years . . . truth be told. So how do you know when you are in the wilderness of God?
These are three signs of a God-initiated wilderness experience.
SIGN 1: The people who used to understand you no longer do.
PURPOSE: At the end of the wilderness, you will have a renewed vision and a new group of people (eagles) to help you accomplish it.
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs13:20).
SIGN 2: The activities that used to be fun and pleasurable fade away
PURPOSE: A change of appetite comes with the wilderness package. A hunger and thirst for God alone is needed to deliver God’s gift to you.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).
SIGN 3: Your weaknesses and character flaws become glaringly obvious to you.
PURPOSE: A higher level of character is required for the new level of anointing. God will expose you to yourself so you can humble yourself to Him and be repaired.
Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5:17).
The wilderness experience is continual because we area work in progress. It is not only spiritual; it is physical, emotional, social, and in every area of your life. To walk with God, we will constantly need a person makeover. Expect it, embrace it, and enjoy it. Let’s process the experience of two patriarchs, Joseph and Moses, when they were led into the wilderness to be perfected for their life-long assignments. We’ll observe the three signs of a wilderness experience and how they responded to them. You are not alone!
Josesph: From Canaan to Egypt
Joseph enjoyed the maximum attention he needed and wanted from his father, Jacob. He was his favorite son, and he wore the one and only special, custom-made coat of many colors. He was loved, and he was a dreamer who willingly shared his dreams. Then God’s next plan for Joseph was set in motion.
SIGN 1: The people who used to understand you no longer do. Joseph’s brothers no longer saw him as one of them. His dreams had pushed them to the brink of hatred. Jacob, their father, also joins the boys after Joseph’s latest dream. The people who once understood Joseph no longer did. To them, his words, actions, and dreams were extreme and weird. That is how it is with your wilderness. Those who thought they had you figured out soon realize they don’t.
Please note that this will frustrate and irritate them, but you must continue to obey God.
SIGN 2: The activities that used to be fun and pleasurable fade away. Joseph had a pretty comfortable lifestyle. The most he did was to send food to his brothers when they worked in the fields. I would imagine that he did not allow his designer coat to be soiled by the daily activities of farm life. When he was thrown into a pit and sold into slavery, he lost his coat and woke up to a whole new world of living. His life got replaced with floor scrubbing, market shopping, toilet cleaning, and sheep shearing. Let’s not forget some jail time and a real-time realization of how soon man forgets what s done for them. What used to be fun and pleasure faded away. We would notice the maturity of Joseph in Egypt. The attention on him shifted to focus on God. He declared before Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16). That was only possible because his hunger shifted from life pleasures and himself to knowing God and helping others.
SIGN 3: Your weaknesses and character flaws become glaringly obvious to you.
Joseph’s character and resolve to please God was strengthened in his time in Egypt. I am not aware of any specific weaknesses Joseph had, but we know he did because he was human. The strength of character is evidenced by the favor of God and the favor of man upon him. Whatever Joseph did prospered (Genesis 39:5-6). Potiphar, his master, made him plenipotentiary over his entire estate. Later on, Pharaoh did the same. Even when thrown in jail, he found favor before the keeper of the prison. When advising Pharaoh concerning the famine to come, Joseph did not toot his own horn. He told Pharaoh to find a man to execute this survival plan. What great humility! It was a sign of a man whose character had been processed. Another proof Joseph’s character was fortified by his wilderness experience was his reaction to his brothers when they came to Egypt for grain. He acknowledged the journey of his personal wilderness was God’s plan to save his family.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said,
I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8)
Moses: From Egypt to Midian
Moses had his socioeconomic status changed within ninety days of his life. He became a member of the royal family of the greatest country in the world at that time. Moses escaped becoming a slave and gained instant access to the best education possible. In human eyes, Moses had it going for him. Then God’s next plan for Moses was initiated.
SIGN 1: The people who used to understand you no longer do. Moses became restless when he knew he was a Hebrew and saw his fellow Hebrews being tormented through slavery. I could picture Moses asking questions of both Egyptians and Hebrews. He no doubt asked his adoptive mother numerous questions to understand who he was. He later killed an Egyptian and had to flee Egypt. The royal court was stunned. What has come over Moses? Why does he spend so much time with the slaves? The Hebrews on the other hand might have also wondered why this Egyptian was always over at their place and doing favors for them. It’s a trap, he’s a spy, many may have thought. All of a sudden, those who understood Moses no longer did. Those with whom he had things in common could not see him as one of them. Egypt wanted Moses dead!
SIGN 2: The activities that used to be fun and pleasurable fade away. Moses’ job description changed from general in the Egyptian military to keeper of sheep at the backside of the desert. Moses’ appetite began to change in his last days in Egypt. He hungered for justice and freedom. The niceties of his birth country were no longer fulfilling. He hoped there was more to life than that. In his wilderness experience, Moses traded his Egyptian scrolls for classroom sheep. He was the student. The lesson topics included but were not limited to the following: “Quiet, God is Speaking,” “How to Navigate Impossible Terrain,” “How to Defend and Protect Sheep,” and “Loving, Forgiving, and Guiding Rebel Sheep.”
SIGN 3: Your weaknesses and character flaws become glaringly obvious to you.
Moses had an anger problem. He killed a man in Egypt, he destroyed the first set of Ten Commandments tablets, and he struck the rock when God asked him to speak to it. In the wilderness, Moses was forced to confront that troublesome area of his life. Justified anger was no excuse to destroy things. He learned that quick and fast results did not apply to people—one of the many lessons he acquired from hanging out with sheep. In his encounter with God at the burning bush, Moses realized that strength and might were not the answer to everything. God exposed Moses’ inadequacies, and then affirmed him that he, Moses, was able to accomplish the mission because He, the “I AM THAT I AM” was with him. At the end of the wilderness experience, you would:
- be humbled;
- have greater confidence and reliance on God;
- lose some friends; and
- have greater and refined character.
The wilderness is a place between you and the manifestation of God’s promise in your life. Until you embrace and enjoy the wilderness, your ability to handle
God’s best for you is, at best, weak and incomplete. Let God have His way with and in you. Accept this invitation to the wilderness. It is only those who are sweetly broken by God in the wilderness who understand, appreciate, and truly know His love, power, and grace!
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Moses Asamoah, Jr. is a motivational storyteller, life coach trainer and organizational change consultant. He serves as Executive Pastor at Light of Life Christian Center in Chesapeake, Virginia. He is a member of the faculty of Pneuma Bible Institute. Moses is founder and president of Impacting Words and is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences, seminars, churches and schools. He is the published author of the African Folktale Series: I Stand in Defense of My Dreams and Redefining Success. Originally from Ghana, Moses is a graduate of the University Of Mary Washington and earned both Master of Divinity and Master of Organizational Leadership degrees from Regent University. He lives in Chesapeake, VA with his wife, Delali.
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