Rivers & Cisterns

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple. And he said to me, ‘when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.’” Ezekiel 47:1-12 (ESV)

I spent eleven years in ministry with CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) located in Central Florida.

One of the amazing features of the Central Florida landscape that I grew to love were the springs.

I’ve seen springs in numerous regions of the US; but in Florida, the springs are amazing. They are underground rivers that pop up to the surface of the land and flow out at an incredible pace. When they flow up to the surface, they become a river that teems with life. These crystal clear rivers are filled with vegetation under the water surface and along their banks. They are teeming with all manner of animal life, from manatees to birds, to fish, turtles, snakes, and the list goes on and on. In the blazing hot summers of Florida, they are refreshingly cool and beautiful.

Wherever the waters of these springs flow, life springs up! It is a wonderful earthly picture of a recurring metaphor that is found throughout the Old and New Testaments: the River of Life!

The River

God repeatedly speaks of a river that flows out from His throne into the whole world. Wherever it goes and whatever it touches, it brings to life.

Jesus touched on the river as well (“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”). We see the unfolding and the meaning of these all cryptic passages sprinkled throughout scripture.

This river is the Holy Spirit. Wherever it goes, it brings life. The placement of the Holy Spirit into a believer is the mark of the Christian. All of us have an engine we run off of. It runs on two fuels: our own strength or that of the Holy Spirit.

Even though Christians have access to the fuel of the Holy Spirit, most of us, most of the time, run on our own fuel instead of the Holy Spirit.

You see, as I’ve touched on previously, we love to be self-sufficient. We also love to run on the fuel of the dead: idols.

Our self-sufficiency and our reliance on idols leave us weak, our spiritual growth stunted.

In the persecuted church, the pain and suffering of persecution are used to wean the believer off the world and its false fuels.

This can happen quickly, under intense persecution (i.e. imprisonment and torture), or it can happen over decades, under constant, but less intense, persecution.

The Cistern

Our own fuel tanks or cistern remains largely filled with bad fuel (self-sufficiency and idolatry). The one thing that will make us turn to the best fuel, the water that flows from the throne of God, (His Holy Spirit), is when are tank runs empty which is the usual result when we encounter great pain and suffering.

Regardless of how it happens it is vital that we learn to live on His fuel. God feels strongly about this as you can see in the following passage.

“For my people have done two evil things: they have abandoned
me –- the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves
cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”

Jeremiah 2:13 (NLT)

I used to think at this process of God using great pain and suffering to transform the believer was something reserved for the persecuted, but I’ve come to see that this is what God is doing with all of us as believers.

Only when your strength is completely exhausted and you find yourself in a state of death will you crawl over to the valve that controls the spill-gate of God’s river and, with your last bit of strength, open it up completely!

His river gushes into you and you find life.

Then, through your wounds and scars, the very cracks in your being, His living water leaks out of you. It follows you like a trail of life, and His presence is seen and felt by all around us.

The dead and dying around the believer smell the aroma of life and are drawn to its source. This is especially true in the persecuted world. This is why the church grows in response to intense persecution.

If you are in a period of death in your life, don’t run from it. Let it drive you over to the valve that controls the flow of His water. Turn it on completely.

The whisper that I heard coming from the martyrs was finally understood when the lessons above came into focus.

The martyrs are standing at the threshold of the portal to the next life.

They are waving to you, calling out to you to follow them.

The martyr isn’t calling you to courageously sacrifice your physical life in the moment of decision. No, the martyr calls you to die to your old way of life—to live as the martyr learned to live. To turn from our dead and dying way of life, centered on self and our own resources, and to fill our tanks with His fuel. That’s when we really come to life.

By Jeff King.

Source: Rivers & Cisterns – Last Words of the Martyrs

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