What did I learn yesterday? To be accurate, I actually “re-learned” something the Lord has already taught me, but I’d lost sight of. The past few weeks, I’ve struggled, feeling a bit static and stuck in my walk. I have stumbled and fallen a lot in the past weeks, and have wondered why. Well, the Lord showed me yesterday. Let’s see if I can do this concisely…
Back in the first half of Luke 1, where we are currently studying, Zechariah was struck dumb because he doubted that what God was promising him would come true. God’s promise to Zechariah and his wife was that they would have a son, after being barren for decades, and that their son would be the one preparing the way for the Messiah – John the Baptist, in fact.
In verses 57-66, we see this promise fulfilled, and Zechariah’s speech restored when he exercises his faith by naming the baby boy “John,” instead of naming him after someone in the family, as was the normal custom.
Pastor Jim used this story to illustrate how faith works the same way in us. If we begin to really doubt the Word of God, or allow ourselves to stop growing, we will certainly not be bold in acting out or speaking out our faith. We too, will become “mute” where God is concerned. We will have nothing to offer the thirsty. This often leads to our complaining that we “don’t get anything out of church.”
It’s a very simple principle: If we keep getting stuffed full every Sunday, then neglect to give of ourselves by living out our faith during the week, we cannot expect to receive anything from God. We are already full, and the water is getting stale.
My pastor used the following illustration to drive the point home:The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea have an interesting relationship. The Sea of Galilee is the recipient of fresh water coming in from the east and north, and it has a major outlet of fresh water via the River Jordan. So, it stays fresh, and is the source for irrigation and drinking water for much of the area surrounding it. It was also host to a thriving fishing industry in Jesus’ time.
The Jordan River runs out of the Sea of Galilee, south, and into the Dead Sea. Unlike Galilee, however, the Dead Sea has no fresh water outlet. At all. It is so full of salt and minerals, that nothing can live in it. Well, except for some bacteria and fungi, but who cares about that? No animal or plant life exists in the Dead Sea.
With no outlet to allow the flow of fresh water to continue, the Dead Sea is stagnant and, well, dead. While it has some medicinal properties, it cannot sustain life.
It is just so with us. If we continue to take, take, take – even from fresh, godly sources – but never pass on what we learn by sharing our faith, we too become stagnant. We have nothing to offer. Maybe a few trite, spiritually “medicinal” offerings, but we cannot sustain a spiritual life. Soon, the fresh water we take in has no effect on us. We can no longer “receive” anything good, but instead turn that fresh water into undrinkable salt water.
Needless to say, it has been a very long time since I have complained about what I get or don’t get out of my time at church, because I understand that what I get out of it is directly dependent on what I give out, and on the attitude of my heart.
Instead, I now go in asking God what He has for me each week. There’s always something, and yesterday, this lesson was driven home again. It caused me to turn inward, and look at my day-to-day life to find out if I have a fresh water outlet. I mentioned above that I have struggled a lot in the last several weeks, and I am pretty sure that I had stopped up my outflow.
Thank God for his grace in placing a mirror in front of me! I can do something about this! Like Zechariah, I am far more free to minister and bless others only as long as I am exercising my faith by sharing it and walking it out in practice. I can only give and receive as long as I am doing both myself.
It was the giving part I was missing these last weeks. I was focusing so much on what I needed from God, that I neglected to pass on what I received.
So, starting today, I’ll be finding ways to get that flow going again – to stay fresh. First, in giving to my own little family, and then out from there.