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Finding God In Your Desert Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2022 1:00 am

Finding God In Your Desert Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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December 27, 2022 1:00 am

Whether we’ve lost a job, a home, or any kind of hope, we know life is hard. Even Moses’s life confirmed this while he was on the run, living in a desert. In this message, we walk through three deeper lessons from the wilderness: servanthood, trust, and obedience. What do we do when life is hard and our options are few?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. When the economy falters, the real story is people losing jobs, homes, and ultimately hope. What do you do when life is hard and options are few? Today, the first of two messages about tough times and how to handle them.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, as we face war, disease, and economic calamity, these are indeed tough times. Help us deal with this as you begin a brief series on what to do when life is hard. You know, Dave, I have to tell you that when I watch the news, my heart breaks. When I think of children that are abandoned, when I see people losing their homes, we see people involved in war. Life is hard. But I'm absolutely convinced that the Bible speaks to these issues. It is a very realistic book, but of course, it's also a book of hope.

And you know, as we anticipate the new year, we have no idea what it holds for us. But we want to thank the many of you who support this ministry. Running to Win is in 20 different countries, in four different languages, and of course, through the internet, it goes around the world. And we are listener supported. And because of people just like you, we are continuing to expand.

Thanks in advance for helping us. Here's how you can connect with us. Go to

That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And at the end of this broadcast, I'll be giving you this contact info again and giving you the opportunity to help us as we think about the coming of the new year. It was Henry Thoreau who said that most people live lives of quiet desperation and die with a song still in them. And I suppose the song that they die with is one of hopelessness. They had such high hopes for themselves, for their marriage, for their life. And then as the bitter disappointments come, because life is hard, they die as they lived with a song in their heart. Life is hard.

I was going to use a number of different illustrations, but today I'll use only one. It's a letter that we received about a week ago from a couple whom I had the privilege of marrying many years ago. The wife has had breast cancer, so she had surgery, is recovering from that. Then she was hospitalized a month ago for pneumonia. She also has a disc missing, so she is in a great deal of pain.

That's the wife. They have two children, one of whom lost his job, so his house is in foreclosure. The other one has had several health issues, having to go to the hospital for surgeries. Now in the midst of all this, they have a mother-in-law living with them, and she has dementia and needs care 24-7. And then to top it off, they discovered recently that there is a big crack in the foundation of their house that they have to look into and take care of, all in the midst of financial issues and what have you. Life is hard.

I could tell you the story of someone who wrote a letter to me about a week ago, a woman. Her husband dies, she's in financial need, and then her son commits suicide, and she has to go through all that now alone. Life is hard.

The idea of speaking on the topic when life is hard, I have to give credit to my wife, Rebecca. I was going to speak on something entirely different, and she said, no, people are going through so much heartache, they are hurting so much. Life is hard.

I said, yeah, life is hard, so that's going to be what I will speak on as we begin this short series, because life is hard. Take your Bibles and turn today to Exodus chapter 1. Exodus chapter 1, and there we discover that for the Israelites, life was very hard.

You'll notice that in Exodus chapter 1, I'm going to pick it up just at verse 12. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied, and the more they spread abroad. It's talking about the Israelites. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel, so they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard work and mortar and brick and all kinds of work in the field. In all their work, they ruthlessly made them work as slaves. You think you've got employment problems? You don't like your employer?

You are overworked and underpaid? Imagine these Israelites working from early in the morning till later, and in the next message I'll show you how much they had to work, and they worked as slaves. Was God there? Today we're going to look at a story in the midst of this pitiful situation, and that is of Moses. Now Moses, as you know, was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. You know how he became next to Pharaoh, and you know the story of how he grew up in Pharaoh's court. In fact, he'd have studied hieroglyphics and a whole lot of other subjects.

He was very well educated. Josephus said that when the Ethiopians came against Egypt, it was Moses who led the troops to a victory for Egypt. When he floated down the Nile, it would have been to the strains of some beautiful music. And now suddenly this child of luxury and fashion decides that he can't simply stay in the palace and watch his people suffer. So the Bible says in chapter 2 now, verse 11, one day when Moses had grown up, he went out to see his people. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked that way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hit him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together and one said to the person in the wrong, he said, why do you strike your companion?

He answered, who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian? And Moses was afraid and thought, surely this thing has become known. When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midia and sat down beside a well.

And we could say, yuck. Unending gravel, heat, nowhere to go. Think of what Moses lost. He lost his position in the palace with all of the perks. He lost the power that he had. He lost all the potential, all of that training for nothing.

He's sitting there in the desert with nowhere to go. For him, life was hard. But you know, it's during the hard times that we really do learn the lessons that we really need to know. In fact, success is a very poor teacher. Failure and suffering is actually the best teacher. So we're going to look at some lessons that Moses learned in the desert. And then what we're going to do is to see why all of this should transform us.

Beginning tomorrow, we should look at life differently. First of all, Moses had to learn the lesson of servanthood, the lesson of servanthood. It says in verse 16, now the priest of Midian had seven daughters and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Ruel, he said, how is it that you've come home so soon today? They said, an Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds. And then, you know, he says, have him come. And he came and Moses, verse 21, was content to live with him.

And he even married one of Ruel's daughters. Now, in the midst of this, he had to learn the lesson of servanthood. Here he was and these young women are trying to water their flock and he helps them. They didn't know that they were in the presence of greatness. Moses is going to have to serve in obscurity and he will serve in obscurity for 40 long years.

This man who was so well educated, the most intelligent conversation he will have for 40 years is, ah, that'll be it. There he is serving in obscurity, but also serving in humility. We don't understand this text unless we realize that it says at the end of Genesis that the shepherds were an abomination unto the Egyptians. We're not talking about any job. We're talking about a job that Moses' culture considered to be the most lowly, the most gruesome in many respects, and the one that was most despised. And God said, for 40 years, that's what you're going to be doing.

Wow. Serving in obscurity, serving in humility, Moses learned a couple of things. That when you're going through a hard time, it is very important to be willing to do absolutely anything. Moses couldn't wait around for a job that was up to his potential. There was no way that he could say to himself, I am very much overqualified for this job, and so it's not me.

No, when you are desperate, and when times are hard, you do anything that you can do that lies before you, whether it is in keeping with your aptitude and gifting or not. Imagine Moses, all of his training, all of his aptitude lies in one direction, and all of his work has to be in another. Do you think he ever got used to it?

I don't think so. He has a son, and he names him Gershom. And Gershom means I'm a foreigner in a strange land. But he's committed there for 40 years and doesn't think that anything will ever change. There's another lesson that he learned in terms of the servanthood. When you're going through a hard time, you need other people. Imagine Moses in the middle of a desert without a family to take him in.

What's he to do? And during hard times, what God teaches us is that we need one another. The woman who is going through a time of huge trial with the death of her husband and the suicide of her son needs the support and the prayer and the hope that is given to her by others within the church. Even financially here at Moody Church, we try to do what we can to help one another.

We can't do everything, and that's always a challenge. But when you're going through a hard time, you need the community of God. There's a second lesson that Moses learned, and that is the lesson of trust.

Now your Bibles are open. You'll notice it says in verse 23, during those many days. Years ago, I think I multiplied 365 times 40. Thank God for pocket calculators.

You know, I've always said as long as I'm right 90% of the time, who cares about the other 5%? So here we do the math and we discover it's about 14,600 days. 40 years by any stretch is a long time. But was God doing anything in those period of time? Was God working or did he simply abdicate responsibility?

No. And if you're in the habit of underlining your Bible, you might want to underline in verse 24 and 25, underline the verbs. Remember what a verb is? And the Lord heard their groaning. He wasn't deaf after all. And the Lord remembered his covenant. Sometimes we keep reminding God of things as if he might forget them, but God doesn't forget.

And he doesn't know yesterday a lot better than he does 20 years ago or 100 years ago. I'm sure that it has dawned on you that nothing has ever dawned on God. And so God here is remembering, he's hearing, and he is seeing the people of Israel. He was seeing those slaves. Now next week I'm going to talk about how those slaves had to see even that calling from God.

But God is doing something. You know, what does God do when you're in the desert? I think everybody has a desert experience of some kind. Israel was in the desert. Moses is in the desert. Jesus is in the desert. I've been in the desert. You know what the desert is.

The desert is a time of monotony when nothing seems to be happening and the other characteristic of a desert is hopelessness because every day is just like the one before it and nothing ever changes. That's the desert when times are hard. What is God doing in the desert? Does he abandon us in the desert?

You know, it says in the book of Deuteronomy, very interesting passage about Israel being in the desert. It says he found them in a desert land in the howling waste of the wilderness. He encircled him. He cared for him.

He kept them as the apple of his eye. God was watching like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions. God says, I was with you there in the desert. I was walking with you during the times when you didn't have water and when you needed food.

I did not forget you during your hard time. You know, the imagery of an eagle. I understand that when eagles build a nest, of course, they use sharp branches and sharp rocks and they have this there and then they fill it with feathers and they make it very comfy and the little eaglets when they're born, they don't want to go anywhere. They love it there in their home and then the eagle sometimes pushes them out and sometimes what the mother eagle will do is she'll do something pretty mean. She'll begin to pull out all the feathers and soon all the feathers are out in these little eaglets. They are on such sharp rocks and such branches. They say, what is this? And the wind is blowing through our home and we were so comfortable and now our nest is so stirred up. Things are so bad we might as well fly out of here and die.

Well, that's one way to get them to fly and then of course, as you know, the eagle goes underneath them, picks them up and takes them back until they've learned to fly. God says, that's what I was doing with you during those hard times in the desert. I was with you. I was hearing you.

I was seeing you. You know, it's easy to trust God when the bush is burning, when the water is parting, when the mountain is shaking, when the money is flowing and your employer is glowing. It's easy to trust God then, but it's difficult to trust him in the desert when it's unending sand, monotony, boredom, nothing is happening and you look around and you think to yourself, I have no reason to believe that God is here, but he is.

He is with us. So what I'd like us to do is to understand that he had to learn the lesson of servanthood. He had to learn the lesson of trust and then obedience because in chapter three, the bush burns. God says, Moses, I'm calling you and going to Egypt and Moses standing there if you please on holy ground.

He had to take his shoes off. He's standing there on holy ground and he's arguing with God as to why he shouldn't go. God says, go and Moses says, no. God says, I'm adequate for you. Moses says, I don't care.

I'm just not going. Fear of failure, fear of transition. You know, it's interesting that Moses says to God, I'm now in chapter three, verse 11, but Moses said to God, who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? Who am I?

Isn't that the question of the century? I've known wives who've abandoned their husbands and children just to find out who they are. Husbands have left their wives to find out who they are. Where I grew up, everybody sort of knew who they were, but we live in a different age and we have this whole business of self image.

Who am I? You know, I read a book one time by a very good author otherwise, but it was on self image and he was talking about this beautiful Swiss girl and she wouldn't look in a mirror because she thought she was ugly. And so he helped her hold her chin up and open your eyes and see how beautiful you are. And I thought to myself, you know, we need a theory of self image that not only works for beautiful young women, but also for ugly old men, don't we? If I might give a personal word, my philosophy of preaching is this. We have to have the Bible in one hand and reality in the other. And our desire here at Running to Win is to help people as they navigate life in all of its difficulties and complexities. And we want to thank the many of you who support this ministry. You know, during these times that are so tough with so much conflict, and of course we anticipate coming conflict in the new year. During these times, we need people like you and we thank the thousands of you that are helping us. Running to Win, for example, is throughout the Middle East in Arabic. Isn't it wonderful that those people in countries like that can hear the Word of God?

Would you consider helping us with a year-end gift? Here's what you do. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Shall I say that again? RTWOffer is all one word.

Or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thank you for holding our hands as we anticipate a new year. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. The Bible says that one day God will wipe away all tears from the eyes of the redeemed. Dr. Lutzer, an anonymous listener, has a lot of tears as we'll soon come to understand. Our listener says this, My adult son committed suicide several years ago. He struggled with alcoholism and a troubled marriage.

He left four children behind who are living with their mother. My problem is that every year, at the time of his death, I become very depressed and angry. My friends think I should get over it and move on.

Pastor Lutzer, what do you think? Well, I might begin by saying that it's easy for your friends to say that you should get over it and then move on, but they're not the one that lost the child. And the circumstances under which your son died are very difficult to accept, and then to add to that four children that are left behind with their mother. So I say this to you, first of all, it is very natural for you to grieve. And the fact that you go through a time of depression and grief whenever that date comes up, that is understandable. My only hope and prayer for you is that each year it will get somewhat better, that you'll make another step in being able to accept the death of your son, so that you are no longer obsessed with what happened, as I'm sure you were at the beginning, understandably so.

Just the other day I was counseling someone who has lost his wife, and his grief is so deep that all that he wants to do is die, and he prays all the time that he will die. I gave him some assurance that I'm going to give to you as well. Someday the sun will shine, as I hope it is already shining for you, and even during those difficult times, the sun will continue to shine. You'll never really get over it, of course, I don't understand how a parent can, but you can make progress in accepting it, and I pray that that will be your experience. You and God can work this out. I think that your friends are insensitive. God is with you, yes.

You can get over it more each time, but it will be there, I think, for the rest of your life. Thanks so much for writing, and my heart goes out to you today. Some words of hope from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or, call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Herding sheep in the desert was Moses' lot for 40 years, a time during which God was preparing him for leadership beyond his wildest dreams. Many of us are now in the desert, learning lessons for a day yet to come when we'll understand why we needed to learn them. Next time on Running to Win, more about your desert and about the God who sees the end from the beginning. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Thanks for listening today. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McCallister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-27 03:29:04 / 2022-12-27 03:37:50 / 9

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