This picture was taken on my honeymoon. My husband and I went to British Columbia and hiked and kayaked around one of the most beautiful places on earth. On this day, we kayaked in an inlet of water near Sechelt. Mountains rose up all around us. I was surrounded by captivating beauty and felt so small and was in awe. That feeling was just a glimpse of what was to come for I was unprepared for what I’d physically endure. In the last hour of paddling I was so worn out and in pain physically that I cried and came very close to pulling over to the coast early in hopes that the group would come get me. We were fighting the wind and I just wasn’t strong enough. My husband’s voice rose over the wind and waves to encourage me to keep going. Somehow I did.
I’ve heard it said that when you are feeling weak but continue to hold on, perhaps you are the strongest you’ll ever be.
The Lord told Paul something similar to this. He said that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
What do you do when you feel weak in your faith or when you’re walking in one of those dreaded spiritual valleys?
Should any time be a valley if we’re walking with Christ?
What about when you can’t stomach another news story on TV of a pastor who has twisted the gospel or taken advantage of trusting parishioners?
When you’re weary of seeing people you care about turn away from the church and to a godless life.
When it seems that you see anger and fleshly responses more than you see spiritual responses? Not just in others but yourself.
When you aren’t sure what to say anymore to the evil and tragic in the world because everything you’ve always said is starting to sound like a broken record. Maybe even a bit…canned.
I often go back to how I’ve seen God change my life since coming to faith. But recently there has been something in me wanting more. The voices of my culture are in my head and demanding more…. They tell me that I can’t be sure and…isn’t this crazy? To give up my life thinking I’ll find it? The culture and the news demand…most of the time silently…that I make sense out of this faith and the reality that there are tragedies that kill, evil that seems to reign and people who call themselves Christian who malign the name of Christ (including me).
The Holy Spirit is with me and He always comforts, encourages and brings His Word to mind…keeping me from straying. During this season, however, I’ve wanted something more solid than feelings of comfort and more personal than scientific, historical and archeological facts to remind me of how sure my foundation is.
My husband told me to do something simple. Look to Jesus.
Praise God that we’re going through the book of John right now at our church.
Jesus. The God-man. When I look at Him I remember why I believe and in whom I believe.
When I simply read through the gospels, the Holy Spirit affirms my faith and my spirit seems to say, “Oh my God…this is REAL!” Because Jesus is the Word and the Word is active and living. Sharper than any two-edged sword.
So that is what I do. I read the book of John. The book of I AM statements. The book written so I…we…would believe.
As I read John, I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s trilemma.
In a much-cited passage from Mere Christianity, Lewis challenged the view that Jesus, although a great moral teacher, was not God. He argued that Jesus made several implicit claims to divinity, which would logically exclude this:”I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Some scholars will say that Jesus did not say He was God. But any who say this are not willing to look realistically at the texts.
For a Jew to say and do the things Jesus did, He would have been…for sure…crazy, evil or…truly God. And because I also see the character of Jesus on display in the gospels, I will never believe that he was crazy or evil.
I love the account of Jesus going to the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7. I love that we see his brothers basically calling Him a liar or lunatic. In John 7 it was if they were saying, “If you can really do these things….you should go up to Jerusalem and do those things in the most public way you can.” I love that by later accounts we know that they put their trust in Him as their Lord. I love that this was a time of celebration when particular ceremonies and traditions were carried out making it the perfect time for Jesus to do what He did.
As you may aleady know, the people would gather in Jerusalem to stay in artificial tents (tabernacles) to commemorate the forty years that they spent in the desert, a time when God provided them with the manna to eat and with water to drink. For an entire week during the festival, each day, the people would gather together and the priests would lead them out to the pool of Siloam and the priests would gather water in golden pitchers. There the people would sing Psalms and other Old Testament passages about how the Lord had provided water for them in the past. And then the priests would march out in front of the people and they would all return to the temple.
But this time…on the seventh day…the priest would circle the the altar seven times in succession–just like at the walls of Jericho. And when he came around the sixth time, he would be joined by another priest carrying the wine. There would be a pause then after the seventh time as he would raise his pitcher. The crowd would begin to shout to the priest to hold it higher, and he would try to do so. (Do you remember the people shouting just before the walls of Jericho came down and then the Lord’s power being shown?) It was considered to be the height of joy in the Israelite’s life if he could see the water being poured out onto the altar. This was done as a sign of longing for the Lord to give the water that would finally and fully quench the deepest thirsts of the people.
And it was on this day and at this precise moment…after the water had been poured out…that Jesus cried out.
Although Jesus refused to go to the Feast of Tabernacles earlier, He has come now…secretly. It is as if He cannot contain Himself. Even though He knows people will want to kill Him for it…He goes for it. And like only a lunatic or God himself would do, he reveals His true identity. Jesus stood up and cried out, “’If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Could you imagine being there? Knowing what we know now? Would you bow down and worship Him right there?
What about now…whether you’re in a valley or a mountain-top…would you bow down and worship this God-man who was willing to enter into this world willing to be called a lunatic or a liar…or Lord.
And here is the question I’m asking myself today: Am I willing to be called a liar or lunatic for standing up in the crowd and crying out out about the streams of living water?
R. Kent Hughes says in John…That You May Believe, “We do not serve an enemic Jesus. Our Lord was in control. He chose just the right psychological moment. His words were precise and powerful. What a beautiful, powerful, dramatic presentation of stupendous spiritual truth…..Are we satisfied, or are we thirsty? Is God’s life flowing out of our inner-most being and bringing satisfaction to others?”
In pondering all of this, I realize that I must once again look to…turn to…Jesus. I have been in a valley. A time when I have seen much discouragement, sadness, evil and tragedy moreso than at other times in my life. I will not find satisfaction or have my thirst quenched in this world. It will always give me tragedy and evil. To hunger and thirst for the water that Christ gives is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. This thirst is ONLY quenched in Jesus whom I already have.
His voice cries out to me…to us…over the wind and waves…to keep going…to keep believing…to keep submitting our lives…to keep turning …to the streams of living water within which continually quench our thirst for righteousness, goodness, refreshment and love.
Linking up with these lovely sites today: