In Mark 1:11, Jesus rises from the waters of baptism and is greeted by God the Holy Spirit and God the Father who states simply his deep pleasure in his son: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

The struggling, faltering believer hardly dares to hope for a similar approval from God, and yet Romans 8:38-39 is direct: I am sure that… [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In other words, when we stand in Christ, we stand beneath the glowing approval of God when he utters the words “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The very next words in Mark’s gospel are calculated to detonate at the heart of our legalistic, self-righteous, if-things-are-going-well-I-must-have-God’s-approval mentality. “The Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.”

God showers loving approval on his son, then immediately drives him into the wilderness for a time of hunger, loneliness, and temptation.

If you are in the wilderness of testing, do not automatically assume that you got there by your works as if God was getting back at you for some sin or weakness or failure. If you are in Christ, it is his works in which you stand and they are all righteous works. You stand approved by God in Christ! And you have the privilege to share with Christ in his sufferings. And it is in this very assurance of God’s approval that we are best prepared to overcome the temptation in the wilderness.

Grace to you.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. Jeremy 17 April, 2012 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Thanks Jason.

    This is where the prosperity gospel falls down. We may be in wilderness financially or emotionally or otherwise, but often God can lead us there to bring us a greater blessing through knowing Him more deeply.

  2. Daniel Kriss 17 April, 2012 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    Hey Bro,
    Wonderfully written piece, succinct and to the point!
    This is a battle that we all face, but when we bring this into the right perspective and look at it through the lens of the gospel, we find ourselves understanding that God quite often propels us into the desert place without an attitude of vengence or judgment. Thanks again, it is refreshing and biblical!

  3. JM 18 April, 2012 at 12:04 am - Reply


  4. Joy 18 April, 2012 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this wise reminder. It takes complete trust in our sovereign, wonderful God to actually cheerfully yield to being in the driest desert, yet believe with all your heart that you are loved and that God is incapable of doing anything but good … especially when your desert is more like 40 years, rather than 40 days. Just resting in His almighty hand – “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” His lovingkindness IS abundant and totally incomprehensible to this undeserving child.

  5. Apo 29 April, 2012 at 12:31 am - Reply

    A great reminder.

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