Thinking more about yesterday’s blog and the power of Jesus’ life in us, I was reminded of the promise that Jesus made, when He stood in the Temple in Jerusalem on the last and greatest (most important) day of the feast. We are told that ‘Jesus stood up and cried out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were to receive.’ John 7:37-39, NASB.
What He said here must have reminded His hearers of the picture the prophet Ezekiel had of the River of God flowing from the Temple, getting deeper and deeper and bringing healing and life wherever it went. It even flowed into the Dead Sea, where nothing lives, and brought ‘life’. The Prophet ‘saw’ this river and wrote of it, ‘When it empties into the sea (Dead Sea) the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so wherever the water flows everything will live.’ Ezekiel 47:1-9.
These two passages illustrate to me the power of the life of God that Jesus said would flow from a believer, bringing the life of God into dead places. Or, as we were saying yesterday, draining out the atmosphere of the ‘the prince of this world’, John 14:30, and releasing into that atmosphere the life of God. It is something that we see Jesus doing time and time again, as He did with the woman caught in adultery. With one statement He changed the atmosphere around that woman from hatred, fear, vindictiveness and condemnation, to peace, mercy, forgiveness and restoration. John 8:1-11. How wonderful is that? And as we read the narrative in the gospels we see that He did that time and time again.
It is important, however, that we realise that not everyone welcomes this river of life invading their world. We know that with Jesus Himself, it sometimes made people very angry. Some Jews accused Him of being demon possessed, John 8:48. Sometimes they tried to seize Him, John 10:39, and of course eventually the power and the goodness flowing from Him so enraged them that they called for, and got, His crucifixion. Matthew 26:65-68. The whipped up crowd, on the day, chose death in the form of Barabbus, rather than the life that was flowing from Jesus. Matthew 27:15 – 22.
It is also the case that Peter and Paul, who were used so powerfully to release this life changing river of life, as they ministered in different communities, suffered imprisonment and floggings, Acts 5:33-40 and Acts 14:19,20. Stephen we know was actually stoned to death when he preached. The point is this, carrying the presence of God, and releasing the river of life, can indeed change lives and change whole situations, but it can also bring opposition. The question then is this– If the truth is that ‘greater is He that is in you , than he who is in the world,’ why does evil seem to win and these things happen?
When Stephen died however, his enemies may have won an earthly victory, but ‘Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’. He was also able to pray for his killers as Jesus did “Lord do not hold this sin against them”. Acts 7:54-59. Was this what Paul meant when he wrote, ‘But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ among those who are perishing. To the one we are a smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.’ 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
To quote Bob Mumford again ‘to insist we will always come out on top of every difficult circumstance is neither biblical nor realistic’. We might not always see an earthly ‘victory’, but God’s heart is that, like Paul, we will find ourselves, in all the challenges of life, to be ‘more than a conqueror through Him who loved us.’ Romans 8:35,37, as we let His life and love flow through us.
The encouragement therefore today is to keep thanking the Lord, even in those difficult and seemingly unresolvable situations. Thank Him that His life is flowing from you. Thank Him that His life can flow, even into the ‘dead sea’ places that we encounter, and bring life. Even where there is opposition or rejection let us keep thanking Him that He is still with us, let us keep releasing His blessing, and let Him lead us ‘ in triumph’ His way, the way that will bring Him the most glory.
It may even be that as we give thank and keep our eyes on the Lord, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we will recognise the presence of ‘another’ in those fiery trial moments that we may be facing. Daniel 3:25!!