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.”  

I wept.    

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.  

Nate Thoreson

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!  

 

104 Comments

  1. I’m enrolled in a Mathew Bible study weekly course. The only PC I have is a Acer Chrome pad and a HP Deskjet Printer. I’d like to download and print the current lessons in Mathew that my group is studying. What steps are necessary for printing out each lesson each week. I’m a newby at understanding the navigation required for this APplication.

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    • Hi Les! We’re so glad to hear that you’re enrolled in a Matthew study! You can find all the lessons and notes for each week on mybsf.org. From there, you should be able to 1) download the files to your computer, and 2) print them on your HP printer. However, on mybsf.org you can also purchase a pre-printed lesson book for the whole year! If you’re still having technical troubles, I encourage you to reach out to your local group leader or class administrator and ask for help with printing all your materials. They would be happy to help you!

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  2. It is not by coincidence that I read your blog today. It is very encouraging. My son is 25 years old, he is scheduled for some blood tests tomorrow. It is my prayer that his health is not challenged. I place him in God’s healing hands.

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  3. Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
    For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
    Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.

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  4. Beautiful application to our passages this week in Matthew 4. It’s not about God’s word being good advice for good behavior! It’s about the Good News of Jesus Christ, who has experienced our pain in human form, and Who gives us His power and His word to sustain us. Thank you for putting flesh on God’s word, with your very real experience! It’s about trusting a God who is good and has purpose in these difficult things!! God bless you as you continue to serve Him!!

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  5. Very inspirational.

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  6. It is always fascinating to see God comes for the rescue of his children at his own timing.
    I am always encouraged by the promises of God.

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  7. I really loved your testimony Nate! You sound like you would be a really fun friend, too !” I also “love adventure, good coffee, and chocolate chip cookie dough!!!”
    I am so thankful that our LORD, Who can do anything, has blessed your son and given him a family and a ministry. That is awesome! I just want to remind all of us that the LORD’s answers are very often a road we would never choose but He builds His Body and conducts His ministry in “Unexpected” ways sometimes. I was just on a zoom meeting with my coleader and she is preparing to eulogize her sister tomorrow (wanting to share the Gospel gently) not knowing for sure if she was a Believer (though she claimed to be, no fruit). I shared that when we lost a baby daughter and later an adult daughter that the LORD packed the church both times, 3 decades apart. The Gospel was shared, joyous faith exhibited. The HOPE of the resurrection was clear. Lives were changed! The impact is far reaching and we will see more of the fruit one day. For now Julianna and Genevieve are safe in His care. Like I said, we would never choose this path but He is so faithful and perfect can’t happen here until He finally does away with sin, sickness, tears, evil and death! But He is powerful enough to bring LIFE from death!!! Hallelujah what a faithful friend!!! Seriously at work, we had the ICU packed with friends and family (more waiting in the lobby, so we rotated) for 11 days straight at the end, we sang together, prayed, laughed, cried together!

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  8. Very helpful! “not good advice but good news”

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing. I have been in BSF for many, many years and love the lessons. In fact summers are so empty not having BSF to guide my weekly studies. Since my teenage years I was turned off with the old testament, and I felt very reticent to study the books of the Old.
    Now I do soo love the old history, stories, and especially God’s prophecies. I realize the presence of the Holy Spirit in the BSF groups and lectures is so real, alive, and flowing. My daughter and her three children are now one year free of an abusive and neglectful marriage ending in a contentious divorce. We spent a huge part of our retirement freeing them from a hateful non-christian man. Divorce is wrong but he divorced his family. Our daughter has kept her faith and had been involved with BSF as a leader but all the praying which didn’t always get answered the next day, emotional pain so deep, and paternal abandonment left our grandchildren partly “mad” at God and very questioning of His reality. They are teenagers, teenager s these days need so much prayer.
    I want to ask you to pray for them, please, they were involved in BSF children’s lessons, now they are restrained by unbelief that they hear in school, sports, and social media. The girls 17 and 15 are pretty and popular at there new school and living with us. The boy 13 is overcoming depression from the pain his father inflicted, and is strongly identifying with his very Christian grandfather, who is now in his second year of BSF. He received your message and forwarded it to me. And I am reaching out to you because all you said has really spoken to me. Our lives have traveled through very hard times, I never doubted our blessed Jesus for one second. He was always my comfort, my sanctuary, my counselor. I know He carried me, I physically had a breakdown, and I know He carried my daughter, her 3 children, and my husband through a
    terror-stricken 2 years. This little family survived, but now more than ever my grandchildren need to know God did not turn His head from seeing their pain, God did not abandon them. He was right there, felt their pain, and did get them free of the evil situation they had been in. No Jesus wants to be right there in their hearts. Please will you pray for them.

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  10. I was So EMPTY today.
    I am a Caregiver for my husband who had a Stroke in 2019… I read your God Story of HIS Glory and became lifted and encouraged.
    It’s about Faith and Tryst in Jesus no matter what is before Us. Thank You man of God for Sharing it and to GOD WE give you ALL the Glory. In Jesus Name 🙏

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    • Amen Sara! To God be the glory! Praying for the Lord to be your refuge and strong tower.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your wilderness experience. It’s very encouraging and assures me that God is faithful and never forsakes His children. God continue to bless you abundantly.

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  12. What an awakening testimony of how God is always with us in our wilderness. I have just come from my wilderness of loosing several members of the family through COVID. What has come so clearly is that when l trust God with all my heart no matter how difficult the situation is God will work out the way of escape. You were worried of your son dying yet the Lord had planned that through he will come out victorious and in God service. Your message is very encouraging.

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  13. Awesome sharing! Thank you for your thoughts on Matthew 4.

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  14. Thank you, Nate! So blessed by your testimony. God’s word gives me the anchor I need in the desert… even in this weeks lesson, the passage from Deuteronomy 20:1-4… facing battle, he goes with us AND fights for us.

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    • Thank you Beth! We were just discussing that verse at our staff prayers this morning, what an awesome picture of our Lord fighting for us!

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  15. Thanks for sharing your personal experience in the wilderness of life. Advice is good but the GoodNews of God’s promises transform. I pray for God’s help to keep this in mind. Thanks.

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  16. Awesome testimony of God’s grace and mercy……His call to be transformed and not look for a return to normal but to pursue a course for sharing God’s good news!

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  17. Powerful!!! Thanks for sharing, Nate.

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  18. In God’s perfect timing, your message spoke to me!! Thank you!

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  19. Thank you for sharing . I have learnt that God transformes us from a wilderness experience to share the Good news of His goodness and greatness.

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  20. Wow, yes– needed GOOD NEWS instead of Good Advice.. that and “remembering that JESUS used God’s words to withstand temptation”.. really brought the gospel into my heart from my head. I will rethink giving advice from now on ( I hope).Thank you.. Focusing on His work, promises and character.. is what I am inspired to do from this brief lesson. Thank you.

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  21. What a heartfelt story. Nate I thank God for your witness. Your analogy
    has renew my faith for the wilderness challenge I am currently experiencing. What an unexpected blessing I received from reading your blog. PTL!

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  22. Have grown to trust God more and pray that He strengthens me to keep on loving BSF. I pray that God deals with my procrastination, worry and fear.

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  23. Thank you for sharing this incredible personal trial. It has inspired me to think on the testing of our faith and how God prepares us, walks us and leads us through every step. I thought of our Lord on the cross and the aloneness He felt, yet His eyes remained on the Father. That is true faith. That is your story. That is the hope for every believer.

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  24. It’s 6:35 a.m.. I had a great night sleep, with no pain. Thank you Jesus. I pick up my IPAD in a very quiet house to discover my BSF teacher ( whom is very encouraging) sent this to me in email. I love her. I have had so many wilderness moments in my life, so many. At 65, I can always see the Jesus was always there. From malnutrition,to hurricanes, such miracles that he performed. It makes me cry joyful tears. Only I know. As far back as 5 years old talking to bugs because I was so troubled and I can still hear him tellling me that that was not who I would be . Assuring me everything would be alright. I love Jesus. I am nothing without him. Just had to say. 🙏🏾 Thank you.

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  25. Very warming message I hope to share to others that come to me with their issues in the wilderness. I have just come over mine. Thanks so much

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  26. powerful, truthful, edifying, encouraging – work after wilderness, He will equip the called, challenging – your prayer of faith …. presentation of personal , present ( alive ) GOD – Jesus Christ and HIS ways. thanks for sharing Nate.

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  27. Encouraging piece. God is good. He is faithful and knows best. He knows where we are and what we need.
    I can trust him with anything and in every situation. Thank you.

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  28. I attend women’s BSF. Your blog mirrored my experience when my son at age 31 was diagnosed with cancer. Everything you said in your blog was what I felt and if God had taken my son, I knew I would lean into him. God honored our prayers and my son is in remission. Praise be to Him who hears our requests

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  29. Faith that inspires, thanks for showing the way trust Jesus when it’s tough

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  30. Your words are being read by me at 11:04PM. I cannot sleep. I too am standing with my faithful hope in God praying for my son. He is not sick in a physical sense but he is not following God’s will.
    I recall last years lesson when Jacob cried “I am bereaved”.
    Thank you for sharing your story and strong conviction.

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  31. Very encouraging . Pray that God continues to keep me strong through the difficult period i am going through.
    Learnt that i can trust God irrespective of the situation and at His right time He will answer my prayer according to his will

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    • This is encouraging to know God is with us all the time even in the wilderness. I pray God strengthens our faith to keep on trusting Him and also tell other people about the good news.

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    • Very warming message I hope to share to others that come to me with their issues in the wilderness. I have just come over mine. Thanks so much

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  32. I loved reading this about Mr. Nate Thoreson son’s illness and God’s answers to the family’s prayers. We walk by Faith not by Sight!!! Amen!!!

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  33. thank you for sharing, I am thankful to God that your sons life was not cut short, and he has gone on to serve Him. praise God

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  34. Thank you for the encouragement. My husband died suddenly on 9/24, 2 days after his birthday due to a mis-diagnosis of COVID that was really pneumonia. The little things I miss sharing with him… I know God is there, but I am having a hard time feeling His presence.

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    • Sharon, I do not know what to say because that is so hard. My heart breaks for you and you truly are not alone.

      Thank you God that you never leave or forsake us even when we don’t feel your presence. Please comfort Sharon and give your your mercy and grace and comfort in the ways that only you can. In Jesus Name. Amen

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  35. What would you have felt if your son had died? How would your conclusion have been different?

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    • Thank you Ardith for this important question- my prayers to the Lord when my son was on the brink of death was a confession of trust no matter whether he lived or died. What I know in losing my parents recently- grief is real and hard, And God has been my source of comfort and strength. Although my path would have been different, I think my conclusion would be the same- no matter what we face in this life our God is our ever present source of help and comfort! That is truly good news. Blessings Ardith

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