Are spiritual droughts self imposed?
As we Oklahomans drive across our state we see ponds that are drying up. We see fields and even tree tops browned by drought. Most of us know that drought translates into massive losses. The farmer knows, perhaps better than anyone, the value of water. These conditions make the following verses (11,12) all the more attractive.
“For the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.”
Oklahomans are praying, but when and in what form moisture comes is beyond our power to choose. But the Lord is saying to Israel, and I think us as well, that He has a space that exists right now that is well-watered and available and that we must choose it. Verse 13 goes on to say how Israel, and we, can choose to possess this land.
“And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that I will give the rain in its season, the early and the late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied.”
Regarding these commands, the Lord goes on to emphasize their importance;
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
Often, in my conversations with other believers I sense an excitement about well watered lands and spiritual possibilities but when this condition about obeying His commands comes up, I often see countenances fall because they have not impressed God’s words onto their hearts. They feel this somehow has disqualified them as genuine followers. If you fall into this category, I just want to say; be strong and take courage because not even that condition can separate us from the love of God. Mastery of bible knowledge is great but its not what creates abundant life. The Pharisees were the tragic proof of this.
After placing our trust in Christ and becoming God’s children, we were not commanded to become bible scholars. We were called to walk in obedience to the light we have. There is no value in feeling inferior or guilty. The motivation of guilt and shame do not lead to God’s heart. They will not lead us to any kind of promised land at all; they are evidence of spiritual slavery. So then, if we are deficient in our understanding of scripture, why not simply set a new course.
First; let’s abandon the old coordinate that has locked us in as one who will just never know the scriptures well. “Will just never” is a fatalistic and irresponsible attitude that is incompatible with God’s Spirit within us. Second; let’s log a new coordinate onto the map of our heart that says the scriptures are important and I am able to grow in my knowledge and understanding of them. The rational being; If that were not so God would not have commended it. Third; begin taking one step at a time (choosing life) through initiatives in better understanding God’s Word. Hint; Being obedient (acting on) a few key truths will take you much farther than intellectual mastery of many texts.
Regarding scripture; They are a priceless treasure. Our new hearts are formatted to understand the spirit of the bible story. Few things bring transformation like regular reading of scripture. Find a translation that suits you and begin reading. All scripture is inspired but for a person living under the new covenant, the gospels and the apostle’s letters are shining the most relavant light on our paths. The Old Testament reveals the nature and the heart of God as it was expressed to His original chosen ones through the The Law. But today, the new covenant is the access point to the land, that by way of God’s grace in Christ, is flowing with milk and honey.
Also, like a good farmer, place the appropriate value on Living Water. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit – the One who unlocks our hearts to understand God’s words and personalizes them to us so that we may obey them. We are so blessed to have revelation via the scriptures! At the same time, I think it is also valuable to keep in mind that God turned the world upside down without the bible (at least as we know it). My point is not to devalue the scriptures. I cherish them. But, I also highly esteem and honor the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak to us personally. It is sad that this area has become a schism within the Body of Christ. Even though this stance seems to win me only the limp right hand of fellowship, I am betting everything that the Word vs. Spirit-schism will end up a “both the Spirit and the Word” rather than an “either the Spirit or the Word story.
The Lord is continually inviting us to come possess this land He has secured for us; this land that drinks water from the rain of heaven. Our hearts are dependent on the words that have been spoken from God’s lips. The bride of Christ will one day be presented to God having been washed by the words that He has spoken. Our hearts are destined to be confronted, adopted and healed by His Word. We must come personally to Him and learn to drink from His Spirit and His Word.
Regarding preaching and teaching; Just listening to the teachings and sermons of others is not much more than getting a droplet of His words. Just listening weekly or biweekly to someone else’s revelation is living the Christian life vicariously through a mediator, someone that we have allowed between us and God. Becoming conditioned to this tradition creates passivity. Toxic charity exists when we allow others to do for us what we need to do for ourselves. If we are just attending somewhere as a listener, we have become part of a spiritual welfare system where an inordinate dependency on knowledge and upon another to feed and water us has replaced the choosing of life that is ours alone to do. God wants us to personally taste and see that He is good.
The best preaching creates thirst. It demonstrates that His words are accessible and understandable to all, not just the articulate or the well-read. The best teachers model and instruct how we can and must personally develop a life style of turning to God’s Word and His Spirit. Numbers or membership alone are not the best measurements of good preaching and teaching. It is a flock of people who have learned to personally love God’s Word and His Spirit and are telling their own stories of God’s activity and transformation. I believe this is why the NT Church turned the world upside down and I suspect that is why the traditional western church has not.
Father, may you awaken our thirst and relieve us of our drought. May we see the latter rains overtaking our parched and thirsty hearts. May we see the springs from within us erupting with new Life. May Your Holy Spirit nurture our hearts such that new wine can be contained there. May we drink and be satisfied. Amen.