NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE—For many of us who have been around the church world for a long time, the phrase “led by the Spirit” conjures up all kinds of strange and bizarre behavior, and maybe a lot of bad memories. That’s why we need to look at the Bible, rather than YouTube, to learn what led and empowered by the Spirit actually looks like.
Matthew says that after Jesus was baptized by John, he was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” where he was tempted by the devil. Mark’s account says, “the Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.”
Being led usually implies the one leading is in front of us and we are following, maybe holding the hand of the leader. Being driven usually implies someone is behind us pushing and directing us.
Matthew says the Spirit led Jesus. Mark says the Spirit drove Jesus. Which is it? I think it is both. At times I have certainly sensed the Spirit in front of me leading me where I should go, and at the same time, I have felt him behind me driving and directing me from behind, and occasionally giving me a bit of a push.
Mark and Matthew both mention that Jesus ended up in the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. This was not a fun and joyful experience for Jesus. Rather, it was quite stressful and painful.
Sometimes in the tough seasons of life, we wrongly conclude that we must have wandered out of God’s will. This mistaken idea is rooted in the faulty teaching that God’s ultimate will is for us to be happy. We reason, “the wilderness is not a happy place, so it must not be God’s will. We must have missed God or we would be in a place of perpetual happiness.”
Jesus was in the center of God’s will, he was led by the Spirit, he did not take a detour, yet he ended up in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. He ended up in an uncomfortable place.
Lest we wrongly conclude that tough places are signs that God is not pleased with us, take a look at the previous verse, just before Mark says, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12)
Jesus was baptized by John, then, “a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:11)
A voice from heaven said I AM PLEASED! Then the Spirit immediately leads him into the wilderness to get tempted by the devil. The fact that God is pleased with us does not mean that life will not take some difficult turns.
We should never look at our painful circumstances and conclude that God is not pleased. Instead, we should look at his word and his sacrifice on the cross and conclude that he is pleased.
NOTE: Our Every Nation Nashville office is doing a sixteen-week discipleship journey through the book of Mark. Every Tuesday in our weekly staff devotion, we will look at one discipleship lesson from each chapter in Mark.
Our discipleship lesson from Mark 1 is: Following Jesus means being led by the Spirit (even if he sometimes leads us where we don’t want to go.)