Responding to the Wilderness
By Nate Thoreson – Regional Director
I strained to hear any sounds through the phone. Nothing. I told my son I loved him, but he didn’t respond. He was 3,000 miles away in the Critical Care Unit, and my wife was on a flight to be with him. The stark reality weighed heavily on me as I thought, “My son may die today, and there is truly nothing I can do to stop it.”
While attending college in Massachusetts, our 20-year-old son contracted double pneumonia. His lungs mysteriously filled with unstoppable fluid. Waiting for news across the country, I prayed, “Lord, I know that you are the only One who is sovereign, and I know that you can choose to let my son live or choose to take him. If you do, I want you to know that I will still follow you.”
Everything in me was being tested at that moment. I felt completely alone. But remembering God’s Word prepared me to face the fear of the present. I didn’t understand God’s plan, but I knew I could trust Him. I realized my faith was real, and my God was, too.
Into the Wilderness
Matthew 4 begins with Jesus in the wilderness. As a man, He had been pushed to His very physical limits. Completely alone, Jesus was tempted by the father of lies. In this gripping passage, Jesus not only withstood temptation but used God’s Words to do so.
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.”
In my own personal wilderness, waiting for news about my son, I was tempted to fear, worry, anger, doubt and so much more. But remembering Jesus’ response in the wilderness helped me to see beyond my “desert.” Focusing on His Word, His promises, and His character gave me the strength to stand firm in my faith.
Years before my son was even born, I approached God’s Word as good advice, a way to do good things and avoid bad behavior. But my attempts to earn God’s favor only left me exhausted and joyless. Slowly, God revealed to me the truth: Scripture is not offering good advice, but good news!
I didn’t need good advice while waiting to hear about my son’s fate. I desperately needed good news. And the truth that Jesus felt what I felt, walked where I walked, and gave His life for mine was more than enough. The ultimate power of His resurrection and ascension secured my hope in His eternal promise and gave me a foundation to stand on when trials came.
That day, God spared the life of my son and strengthened my family’s faith. We were transformed in the wilderness. When we emerged on the other side, we wondered, “What now?”
Sharing the News
After His testing in the wilderness, Jesus did not go back to His normal life. He went to Capernaum, and in verse 16 we are told He fulfilled the prophecy “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Jesus began to preach to many, and He called a few. Walking beside the Sea of Galilee, in verse 19, Jesus simply said, “Come, follow me, I will send you out to fish for people.”
For those of us who have experienced Christ, who have seen the light in the wilderness, we are compelled to share that good news
When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, He offered them more than good advice. He offered them a path to follow, a purpose to pursue and the power to change. Jesus asked them to come, promising He would do the transforming and the sending.
So where is God sending you? Take a moment to remember your own days in the wilderness. Think about Jesus’ comfort, presence, and power. How will you respond?
Matthew 4 gives us the framework. Following Jesus’ example, we can simply share and invite. Perhaps God is also calling you to share with a co-worker, a friend, or a family member from your own wilderness experience to offer them some Truth, hope, or peace.
Today, I see the fruit of God’s Matthew 4 promise in my own life. Our son, who nearly died, is alive and following Christ. As a newly trained pastor, he and his wife are responding to God’s direction to “fish for men.” The seeds God planted through His Word have grown in ways we never imagined.
A simple way to start is by inviting someone to experience BSF. What would it look like if every person in your group invited someone to join? How would our communities change? How might God transform our families through His Word?
We may not have good advice to offer in every situation, but that’s okay because we have something better. We have the Good News of the gospel, and that lasts for eternity.
BSF Regional Director
Nate is the Director of Men’s and Regional Directors at Bible Study Fellowship Headquarters. A physical therapist by training, he and his wife, Barb, moved from Idaho to Texas to answer God’s call to BSF Headquarters. Their son and daughter-in-law, Luke and Sierra, and baby Amira live in Boston. His daughters, Kiana and Sara, are dancers in college. Nate has been a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, and Teaching Leader. He loves Jesus and likes adventures, good coffee, and chocolate chip cookie dough!