Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai…Exodus 15:27 – 16:1
Some time after they occurred, Moses sat down to chronicle the events of the Exodus. In his telling of the story, he included this obscure little detail in a single sentence in Exodus 15:27. It was very early in their journey, just about the time the reality of the wilderness would have set in (no water, no food, vast wastelands). They found an oasis, complete with shade and with natural spring water, and they stayed there for a short while…a very short while…so short, in fact, that nothing meaningful happened there. And then they left.
It seems important to note that nothing particular chased them from that place of comfort. They were no longer running from an Egyptian army. They were no longer frantically fleeing for their lives, running to any safe harbor at all. This oasis was a place of comfort and a place where all their physical needs were being met. Logic alone would have said to stay right there for a while, maybe even indefinitely. Couldn’t this have even been God’s answer to their prayers? Couldn’t this have been a “promised land” of sorts?
But Moses is quick to point out that they did not stay there long at all, that they left almost immediately, and who led them to leave this place of comfort was God Himself. The pillar of smoke and fire with which God led them was leaving this place and was beckoning them forward and outward into a vast wilderness with no clear signs of food or water in sight. They had a choice to make: stay there in their comfort or go with God. They could not do both. And neither can you and your church.
It is a blessing indeed when we as a church find ourselves in a season of comfort. We are meeting budget, we are having success in ministry, our worship is unified and spirit-filled, our leadership team is stable and fulfilled, we are debt-free and in a truly wonderful place. But it would not be like the God of the Bible to leave us here. He wants to challenge us. He wants to place assignments before us that bring us to a crisis of belief. He wants to press us forward and stretch us, probably beyond what we thought we were capable of. That is the way of God.
As you and your leadership discern God’s desire for you, on the occasion when you find yourself in an oasis of comfort and ease, give thanks to Him for that and then cast your eyes toward the horizon and ready your people for the next assignment. God will not leave you where you are. He will call you to follow Him…into the wilderness…where our lessons are best learned and His glory is best revealed. Whatever that wilderness holds and wherever it takes you, it will not be about comfort. It will be about your growth and about His glory.
Ready? Set? Here we go!