Monday, November 9, 2015

The Water

Jeremiah 17:5-8

5This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.

7“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

John 4:14

14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Here we have in the book of Jeremiah the Lord speaking through Jeremiah to tell us that being close with him is like a tree being close to a stream; it has no fear of the sun or worries of thirst if a drought comes. Then more than 500 years later we have the Lord again referring to himself as a life giving spring that will forever eliminate your thirst, which could be easily taken to mean your needs and worries. What an amazing document we have in the Bible!

Without the Lord our resources can be found in one thing only, Man. My identity, my self-esteem, confidence, love, acceptance, moral guidance, ethical standards, and inner strength will all need to come from the people that happen to be around us and nowhere else.  
I will again and again (whether I realize it or not) use observation and comparison to look around to other persons in my life for guidance and direction on these things. I will have only humans and the world with they’re limited resources and failings to tell me who I am and what kind of person I should be. We all do this to an extent, but when it’s the only source we have it is not only lacking and unstable but often leads us and others to destruction. If my inner well-being and outer moral character are up for grabs to whoever might have the most influence on me in any given life circumstance I find myself born into the odds for a really bad outcome are incredibly good, great even. We can see the outcome of this plastered across our newspapers and on our nightly news programs. As a young man I was always looking for purpose and identity in those people around me rather than looking to my Creator to tell me who I am and what kind of person I should be. This worldly source of identity and strength fails us miserably because it cannot possibly provide what we truly need.
This human I may choose to emulate, gain strength from and find my identity in may be an abusive and violent father, or an uncle that’s main occupation is dealing drugs on the street, or maybe a morally bankrupt business tycoon that cares for nothing but the next profit. Now of course we could happen to be born into a circumstance where those influences could also happen to be positive and morally sound people and if so our guidance and direction in life will possibly be better, but we will still find it lacking greatly. We will still find ourselves searching for purpose and identity somewhere where it cannot possibly be found. We often don’t realize what we are looking for but we are beings born searching for identity, for meaning, for purpose and guidance that only God can provide. God intended and still intends for us to find these things in him but when we remove him we can only seek the ways of Man, which are inherently wicked and evil.
 You might say this isn’t you at all, that you’re an independent thinker and don’t allow the thoughts, possessions, and morality of others affect you. You might ask yourself if you’d be bothered driving a vehicle produced in the 90’s to your work if everyone else was driving new vehicles, or if having the smallest house out of all your friends or family would bother you, or maybe if when buying clothes your looking for those brands you see on everyone else even if it hurts your wallet to buy them. I am not at all saying it is wrong to have nice things but if we feel we need to have certain houses, cars, and clothes to feel secure about ourselves then our inner worth, our strength and guidance might be based more on Man and the World than on God. It’s the weight we give these things not the having of them that is the problem.

If you’re a news watcher, and I am not, you’ll see articles on yahoo and programs on television featuring everything from gang violence here in our own back yards to terrorist bombings and be-headings over seas. Some of us watch these programs and feel comfortably separated from the people that are the perpetrators of such atrocities. “Those people are evil” we say and think.  “How could those people do that?” We can look at the history of mankind and see literally millions upon millions of people meeting a grizzly and terrible end. We can see it in wars, in death camps, in gang violence, mass shootings, people being killed by every means imaginable for thousands of years now, and some of us still don’t get it. We sit in our comfortable living rooms having never committed most of these acts and feel good about ourselves and our own lives. We can look at those circumstances and those people many times and compare ourselves out thinking they must have been especially evil to have done such things. The terrifying truth is that “Those people” are you and me without God!
 What we see painted across the headlines are the potentials that you and I could reach so easily if we are using only the man next to us to measure ourselves by and he is using us. When we let the world define us and the world we are born into is doing incredibly evil things, without a relationship with the one true God, we join in. If you or I were born into a violent gang controlled neighborhood, and all we’ve seen or known is that life style the chances of us also choosing it are astronomically good without God and the inner strength and identity that comes through knowing him we would be sure to emulate our surroundings and quickly assimilate ourselves into the same behavior and activities.
Once we have truly accepted Christ only then do we begin to know who we are. It is a tragedy that many people go to the grave having only ever been a carbon copy of one or two people they really liked or looked up to, never really discovering their true selves through Christ Jesus. What I mean by this is that not only can we never provide for ourselves a greater path than what our own maker has planned but that there is a fundamental piece of ourselves that can only be found in Christ.
The world offers us temporary hollow pleasures, puffed egos, and a lot of pride. These things are shallow in meaning and fleeting in happiness. It offers us a life wrought with worry having only ourselves and possibly a few other people to gauge the directions of our decisions with. It tells us we can have it our way, and that it’s all about us and actually that is why it works so miserably. Sure this type of self gratifying lifestyle will bring with it some sensory pleasures but it leaves us with no real meaning or purpose to our lives. It creates broken homes, fatherless children, and a society on the take and never out to give. We were not created to live for ourselves and when we do it brings spiritual bankruptcy. At some point the old hollow pleasures yield no more gratification than watching a movie you’ve watched 20 times before, sure some of the parts are still mildly amusing but you know exactly how the whole thing is going to end. You will at some point in life begin to ask yourself “Isn’t there more than this?” and the answer to that question is Good News!

Christ offers us an opportunity to be complete in him, to truly know ourselves through knowing him. Living in him I need not worry, only work toward accepting what is to come as his will and remaining confident that regardless of the size of the storm or the circumstance he may bring me to I will have his joy and strength to carry me through it. Having it not be about me is a good thing, no it’s a great thing! 

Depending on the world for our fulfillment we become like the bush in the wastelands, as the verse states. We wait for our next bit of happiness or pleasure to come from the material world around us, and when it does come it’s good, but then it’s quickly gone again leaving us searching for the next bit of happiness or momentary feeling of fulfillment we might find. In the mean time we are left feeling empty again and again saying “Now what?” Some of us continue this pursuit by seeking material things, or wealth, or by changing relationships, or forever searching for some dream job, thinking that something will finally provide what we are seeking.

When we finally stick our roots in the water we find a stream of life that not only sustains us, it provides us with a strength, love, and joy that are unending. It wells up in us a spring of eternal life! All we need to do is drink and take in what is being provided. Once we begin to do this how we see the world will change, and with time how the world sees us. No matter how little or how much we have we will have a contentment that did not exist before. We will begin to count the smallest things as blessings, things we once took for granted we will praise God for. We will finally find ourselves planted next to the water!