Part 1 of 2–The Separation of Abraham, Jesus, John the Beloved, and the Apostle Paul
The question “Are you alone?” is trending on social media. Sorrowful or angry responses reflecting despondency are rapidly growing in the Christian community. Depending on one’s life experience, the answer varies, “No, I live with family, roommates, spouse and children, but still feel alone,” “I have family and friends, but I live alone,” and ” Yes, I am alone without friends or nearby family.” We usually associate being alone with persons who are single, widowed, divorced, and without friends or family.
Although we frequently interpret alone as feeling lonely, it is not the same. Loneliness is a feeling that creates internal distress and sorrow. Have you experienced the sudden dissolution of relationships with familiar associates, family, and friends for no apparent reason? If you answered yes, God has separated you to fulfill His plans and purpose for your life–God has placed you in the “Spiritual Wilderness.”
The Separation Into the Wilderness
Since God said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” why would He separate us from the familiar people, places, and activities that bring joy to our lives? Consider the definition of “Alone” from another perspective. Alone is isolation. Isolation would negatively impact our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As Christians, we are never alone! We have our Spiritual Team, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and guardian angels.
God does not isolate us or take any good thing away from us. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV).
The Act of Spiritual Separation
Did you recently commit to love and serve God by surrendering your will and desires? God takes us seriously when we renew our covenant with Him. Then God has placed you in spiritual separation. He has removed the obstacles that prevent your daily spiritual growth and development–Sanctification. God is ready to take you to a higher level in your relationship with Jesus Christ. He is preparing you for Eternal life.
God gave Jesus His earthly assignment. And Jesus has given every believer an earthly assignment. As disciples, our lives are pre-destined to receive eternal life. “Not my will, buy Your will be done. Amen.” Most are familiar with the Great Commission as defined by Jesus–to make disciples.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)
For us to accomplish our spiritual destiny, we have received Spiritual Gifts.
The Apostle Paul tells us the Holy Spirit gives Spiritual Gifts to every believer: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good..” (1 Corinthians 12:4-5, 7, 11)
We understand that the Holy Spirit has given us pre-destined gifts, talents, and purpose. Yet, do the Scriptures identify spiritual separation as necessary to fulfill God’s purpose? Whatever God determines is required for each believer, we receive direction from the Holy Spirit to bring His purpose to fruition.
A narrow focus is required for our journey of spiritual growth. God will remove all distractions that would prevent us from achieving His plans. The prophet Jeremiah admits, “LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own, it is not for them to direct their steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV).
Biblical Evidence of Spiritual Separation–Abraham, Jesus, John the Beloved, and the Apostle Paul
Abraham Instructed to Go–A Condition of God’s Covenant
Consider Abraham who was instructed to go: “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Leave your country, your kindred, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing.… (Genesis 12:1-2).
God’s covenant with Abram required that he separate from his kindred and friends, who would influence him to question God’s plans. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham as a sign of God’s promise. Separation prepared him to fulfill God’s promise of a Son in their advanced age who would produce a blessed lineage of people who represented God. Without leaving the familiar, Abraham would have never passed his ultimate test of faith–sacrificing Isaac, his only Son.
Jesus’ Separation into the Wilderness–Alone and Fasting for 40 days
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'” (Matthew 4:1-3).
Through His obedience, Jesus prayed in confidence, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4-5).
Jesus’ separation was necessary to prepare Him spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically for His rigorous suffering and death by crucifixion. Yet, in His mercy, God had limitations on the extent of Jesus’ suffering [As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. Matthew 27:32]. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” the battle was won for our salvation from sin. Hallelujah! Amen!
The Apostle John’s Exile to Patmos
Believers who find themselves distressed from their spiritual separation should consider the disciple John who was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Jesus revealed all that is in Revelation to the disciple that He loved. For John to receive the visions, wisdom, and an elevated level of understanding, God determined that he needed to be physically isolated for the remainder of his life.
Satan did not gain victory when John was boiled in oil. “Tertullian in A.D. 200 wrote, ‘at Rome, the Apostle John, having been immersed in hot oil, suffered no harm at all from it'” (The Prescription against Heretics, chapter 36). Yes, this is John the Beloved disciple. Why was John loved by Jesus? Because he desired to have the character of Christ and allowed his heart to be completely transformed from a “Son of Thunder” who had a bad temper to a loving, faithful, and obedient disciple. Note: John was the only disciple who was not killed.
The Suffering, Separation, and Imprisonment of the Apostle Paul
Before His final imprisonment, Paul writes, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea…” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25)
The Apostle Paul was approximately 60 years old when he was beheaded. No other apostle who suffered for serving God was imprisoned for many years. Yet, Under Divine Inspiration, he wrote The “Prison Epistles” — Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Paul never complained about His circumstances. He was grateful for suffering for Jesus Christ. “Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Corinthians 9:23).
We may wonder how Abraham, Jesus, Paul, and John the Beloved possessed the strength and endurance to obey God under stringent requirements. They faithfully believed and had the assurance from God that “Suffering never ends in defeat. Suffering always leads to Victory!”
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Part 2 will focus on “When Separation is Required for Our Spiritual Growth and to Save Our Souls.”
Prayer: God, we thank You for Your love and guidance in our lives. Please give us the strength to obey Your will. We ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and to remain faithful and obedient during our wilderness separation. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.