AWARENESS (see Exodus 19:3)
The first outcome is just an awareness that God exists. Sometimes we take that for granted. Not every person is convinced that there really is a God, that he really does exist, and that he really cares about them. In the wilderness, when you’re in creation and you’re looking around at the detail, you start to ask questions about who made all of this. Where did this all come from? That’s one of the outcomes we see in the Bible consistently: people who go and wander in the wilderness become aware that God really does exist.
BELIEF (see Mark 4:35-41)
A second outcome is belief in God and belief in Jesus Christ. There are so many examples in the New Testament of the disciples being challenged in wilderness excursions with Christ. What Jesus was really after in these regular retreats, was their faith. He wanted them to put their full weight down on him. He gave them some difficult circumstances and as a result their belief deepened.
COMMUNITY (see Luke 5:1-11)
A third outcome is Biblical community. People today are so lacking in experience of true biblical community where they are loved, where they are using their gifts, and where they recognize that they are an important part of the church. The wilderness was the place where Israel, wondering around for 40 years, learned that they were special and that God had a plan for them and that each of them had an important role. People need to learn that today as well. A wilderness experience can really do that. It brings a group together and gives them a vision for their life. Recent research indicates development assets that everyone needs. One of the external assets they highlight is that people need to be given a “useful role in community.” Wilderness excursions are a prime way to provide that all-important need to people.
DISCIPLINE (see 1 Kings 19:9-13)
The fourth outcome is the idea of discipline. People typically look at discipline as something bad. They don’t want to come under authority. They don’t want to be told they shouldn’t do this or that. They often have a completely wrong view of discipline. The Bible is very clear that discipline actually leads to more freedom. When we love God, we’re willing to follow him on his terms. When we follow his design, we will need to say “no” to some things. In saying “yes” to God we actually experience more freedom and more joy in our lives. Saying “yes” to God will inevitably call us to say no to to lesser, worldly things.
The wilderness is a challenging place to go. You have to get up early. You have to do certain things you’re not normally used to doing. An outdoor leader can facilitate and help people see how discipline is actually good thing. “Hey we got up early this morning and that wasn’t very fun right? But look at what we got to do because we had the discipline to get up early.” Then ask your group, “Would you do that again if you have the chance?” And they will all likely say, “Yeah, I’m glad we got up early because this was so cool what we got to do.” Connect that to discipline by saying God loves us and his discipline is a sign of his love and it actually gives you more freedom. You don’t need to be afraid of discipline.
The Bible is very clear that discipline actually leads to more freedom.
￼ (see Col 1:15, Psalm 8:3-4, Ps. 33:6-8, Ps. 139:7-14, Ps. 148:7-14)
The fifth outcome is a sense of focus on Christ. When the disciples and John the Baptist spent time in the wilderness with Jesus, you really see them start to focus more clearly on who Jesus was as the Messiah, as the Savior, and as the son of God. Even Peter said, “You are son of God!” When I take people out for a few days and pull away from distractions of the city, I share God’s word with them, have adventures, and encourage them to spend quiet time with God in the silence of the wilderness. They start to have a clearer picture of who Jesus actually is. Maybe they’ve heard some things or seen some things before that they’ve connected with Jesus which actually aren’t Jesus at all.
GAINING AN ACCURATE PICTURE OF JESUS
When people are given an accurate picture Jesus Christ I really believe the natural response to him is to want to know more about him and to embrace him. There’s a great book written about hundred years ago by Francis Clark that talks about this. I revised it to be used as a Bible study and training resource for leaders. In The Personality of Jesus,: How to Introduce People to Jesus Christ and Help them Grow in their Faith, we see that people’s normal response to Jesus is that they want to know him. The problem is usually that we’re not giving young people an accurate picture of Jesus. That’s the real problem. I really believe the wilderness context is so clarifying and so pure in many ways. It’s pristine because it’s God-created. There’s really nothing that’s tainting it. That environment can be really helpful for people to see Jesus accurately for who he is. The natural response is, “I want to know more.”