Our family has had the privilege to spend some unforgettable ministry days on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona. When you are there, you do a lot of driving because that one reservation is the size of West Virginia. The vehicle of choice there is not a car. No, you want a truck. Many places are only accessible by roads that are steep, bumpy, and full of craters. Driving is a major challenge to the durability of any vehicle - or passenger. You'll hear many radio advertisements using this one phrase to promote the quality of their truck. This macho voice says, "It's reservation tested."
Luke 4:1-4 tells the familiar story of the temptation of Jesus. It says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.' Jesus answered, 'It is written, Man does not live on bread alone.'" There are two more temptations that come right at Jesus, and He answers each time with the Word of God. When the devil finally gives up and leaves, it says in Luke 4:14-15, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him." That was the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ.
A cycle in this incident from Jesus' life repeats many times in the life of any man or woman God wants to use. First is the Spirit's touch. For Jesus, this came at His baptism at the Jordan River. For you, it happens when the Lord comes in an evident and almost tangible way. It might be an experience or a season of your life where the Lord is dramatic in the way He reveals Himself and speaks to you, leaving no doubt He was there and no doubt that you had heard from heaven. The Spirit's touch is the first step in the cycle.
At the end of the cycle comes the Spirit's triumph. Jesus' life exploded into ministry. The cycle ultimately ends in your life becoming powerful by affecting many other lives. The Spirit's test comes between His touch and His triumph. That is our time to be reservation tested. It's hot, bumpy, lonely, and you take a beating. You can't skip that part. Jesus didn't and neither can you. There is no dove there and no voice from heaven. The devil feels more real than God does in these times, and there's doubt, temptation, and deprivation. Our feelings are not inspired anymore; they're just numb.
You're still on the road to power, but you have to go through the desert. It's not the spiritual high that makes the work of God real in your life. It's the time when there is no feeling and no outward evidence of God at work. The wilderness isn't the devil's idea. It's his opportunity, but it's the Spirit's idea. It's all part of God's loving plan to make you into a strong player for Him. The wilderness proves the reality of what God said to you in the time when He was very evident. Your Lord leads you into this wilderness to wean you from depending on evidence of Him to depending on Him only. He wants you to test the power of God's Word by facing down the Prince of Darkness with only God's Word in your hand.
You feel more powerful after the Spirit's touch, but really you are more powerful after the Spirit's test. Remember, the reason God is driving you over difficult roads is to make you a powerful vehicle for Him.