The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness … We find this in Mark 1.12, and to be honest, I find it almost shocking. These words imply, surely, that Jesus might have preferred another course of action, but his choice was made for him. Deep within him the divine presence made itself felt. He was to go into the wilderness, with all the loneliness, deprivation and vulnerability that this would entail.
To have faith in God is a great comfort. Many Christian people would say that they have felt the reassuring, steadying hand of God upon them in time of trial. Which is just as it should be. But is this all that the life of faith does for us? Or is there another aspect to our life of faith? Surely having faith can be a challenge to us too. Here are three examples.
Reconciliation. In many ways it is easier to hate. In divided communities, this can mean that it is easy to nourish an ancient hatred. For individuals, it means brooding over resentments or betrayal. The life of faith, however, resists this. The same Spirit that drove Jesus into the desert drives us to seek reconciliation.
Taking a stand. Nobody likes taking a stand. It can be very costly. But it might be necessary. Health professionals, for example, can find real pressure on them to take action that conflicts with their faith. The same Spirit that drove Jesus into the wilderness can encourage them to say No.
Vocation. A calling to serve God is a joyful thing. It can take many forms. I knew a plumber who went to an African country recovering from war, to spend a year repairing the pipes and toilets in devastated schools. He was delighted that his skills were useful to some of the poorest people in the world. And he was a deeply Christian person. But responding to the call of God can also mean overcoming resistance; our own fears, our doubts, our worries. Sometimes family and friends, meaning well, may urge you to do 'something better'. The Spirit, however, that drove Jesus into the wilderness is still with us today, a power and a presence within men and women challenging them to bring their best gifts and use them for God.