by Rayola Kelley
The inclination of fallen humanity is to believe we are in control of our destiny. We are, in fact, able to do so but only in the sense that we ultimately choose where we will spend eternity: Heaven or Hell. However, how we reach the end of our destination is a different story. The truth is different currents run through each age. The current we find ourselves in will depend on the type of shoreline we have sought out to obtain our life.
There is the shoreline of wishful thinking. It is made up of the unsteady sands of worldly possibilities. When the tides of the world come in, it quickly picks a person up and ushers him or her into the fast moving currents of illusive hope. As the different ideals of success, happiness, and satisfaction are pulled out of a person’s hands by the fast current, the person begins to lose all hope. Eventually, these individuals slam into the rocks of vanity, leaving them in a state of utter despair. These poor souls know that they have missed obtaining a purposeful life.
On the shoreline of lustful pursuits, the current of the riptides of undisciplined flesh can roll in, pulling the person out into the unpredictable ocean waves of life. These waves lead these individuals right into the paths of destructive storms. As the different storms ebb away any semblance of personal strength, life, as these individuals perceive it, begins to leak out through the cracked vintage of what once was, and of what could be if they had chosen a different path. As they become more and more consumed by the consequential storms of life, there is a weak consensus in their innermost being that if anything reaches the shore, it will be bits and pieces of a miserable existence that will reminisce of a life that will never be due to the utter foolishness of such meaningless pursuits.
When it comes to the shoreline of prideful expectation, people wait for the waves of self-sufficiency to come along so that they can ride high on their surfboards of arrogance. In their mind, there is no way they can fail to conquer the challenges of the currents of life as they ride above that which would drive them out to the ocean of uncertainty. From the height of prideful expectation comes the sense of infallibility as such individuals come closer to the shoreline. In their conceit, they fail to see the hidden rocks of judgment that will greet them as the wave they are riding on thrusts them towards their ultimate collision with the inflated vanity of their ego, the reality of their ineptness, and the demise of any personal character.
The final shoreline has to do with personal piousness. It is highlighted by the towering rocks of personal righteousness. People who stand on such rocks can see the storms coming; however, they perceive that the waves created by the storms will break against their rock and simply be nullified from having any real impact on them. Even though their rock seems high enough, they have failed to calculate the verbosity of the winds that different storms can bring. They do not realize that they are not really grounded in the Rock, they are simply standing on the height of personal arrogance. As a result, the winds will not only topple them, but it will cause them to fall into the angry waves of judgment and failure.
If you are like me, you have visited each of these shorelines at one time or the other in search of life. However, the current, waves, storms, or winds have revealed the vanity of each pursuit. The currents have ripped out all fantasy from your grasp, the waves have either taken you out to expose you to the storms of life or they have hurled you headlong against the rocks or left you grounded on the sand. And, what about those winds? They have shaken every faulty foundation you have been standing on to expose how unsteady you are in your life.
When I became a Christian, I had to learn that God has provided a current for His people that will enable them to find and experience the life that He has ordained for them. However, it is not always simple to come to terms with this current. After all, the world’s current looks more appealing, because it is faster and more exciting, but it is like the Jordan River.
The word “Jordan” means “descended.” The Jordan River’s course is a little more than 200 miles. It varies in width from 45 feet to 180 feet. It starts from the foothills of Mount Hermon and runs through the Sea of Galilee. This brings us to the reason for its name and its final destination. The Jordan River descends from 1200 feet above sea level down to 1286 feet below sea level. You talk about the rush you could experience on such a descent. It descends at a rate of 25 feet per mile. There are 27 rapids between the Sea of Galilee and its final destination. And, what is Jordan’s final destination? It is the Dead Sea.
The currents of the world may be fast, but they are quickly leading people down to the depths of death. These currents may start from what looks like a productive source of water and even grants a temporary experience of the benefits of a place like the Sea of Galilee, but eventually it can only lead to the vanity of that which will come to rest in a place that has no life. People may float in the Dead Sea, but they cannot remain there for they will die as well. When they get out of the lifeless waters, they must wash themselves because they have the stench of death upon them. Surely, this represents the essence of the current of the world, but how many people insist that it will lead them to a life of happiness?
When it comes to the currents of the flesh, such currents operate much like a tsunami. They will come upon you when least expected. They have a subtle nature to them. For example, the more one gives in to flesh, the greater the momentum the lusts of the flesh gains in one’s life. As the lusts demand more of its captives’ affections and loyalty, the more the water of life seems to recede, but in reality the water is gaining the addictive heights that will consume all that is in its path, leaving no real semblance of life behind. This is why it is important for Christians to discern where their affections and attractions are being directed towards.
When it comes to the waves that entangle those on the prideful shores of expectation, I was reminded of the gigantic waves on the North Shores of Hawaii on the Island of Oahu. Those who know anything about surfing know this location is where champion surfers are made or potential ones are stripped of all honors or hope of victories.
When the waves of the North Shores are at their peak, there is nothing more fascinating or beautiful to behold. At their height, they look as if they are touching the sky, but there is also a fierceness to them that not only brings awe, but dread. There is a defiance to them, and as they roar into shore, there is almost a taunting echo. It is as if the waves are daring those surfers to come out and give it the best shot they have, and just maybe they will find the right wave, catch it at the right time, and experience an honor few have, and gain a title that few possess.
Is this not what pride is all about? It wants to conquer the impossible to lay claim to bragging rights. However, it is all a temptation because there will always be better waves that must be conquered and other champions to be victorious over. Such exaltation represents one moment of great ecstasy as one may even touch the heights of success and satisfaction, only to be brought down to the reality that each success is temporary, and that one must always strive for or remain on top of the wave of arrogance to experience such ecstasy.
We Christians must avoid getting caught up with the various temptations and games of pride. We must neglect our need to come out on top, our desire to claim supremacy in a matter, and our so-called “right” to be important and indispensable to others. We must learn how to come to a state of humility, bow before that which is worthy, and give way to that which is honorable.
When it comes to personal piousness it reminds me of the association two great rivers in the Middle East have with each other: The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Amazingly, these two rivers have been known to run parallel and have even joined together at different places; however, they do part and go their separate ways. The amazing fact about the Euphrates River is that it was and is to serve as one of the borders to the Promised Land.
Man’s religious best can often run parallel and even join with the matters of God, but eventually it will go its own way. The ways of God may appear harsh at times, but they will always bring us to the place of possessing His promises. We must flee any notions that will cause us to run alongside of the ways of God instead of becoming lost in His current. There is only one course, one current, and one river that will bring us into the full promises of God.
The river and current of God are described in Ezekiel 47:1-8. The waters of God are living and powerful. Jesus in John 7:37-39 tells us that rivers of Living Water can flow from us, but they must be uncapped in our soul. This only happens when a person is “born again” from above. At this point the individual can become a channel in which the Living Waters can freely flow forth with the life of Christ.
However, to ensure the flow of the Living Waters, we must be brought to the shorelines of this river. At first we cannot gauge how wide the river is, for we must first get into it before we can experience its current and power. The Bible actually describes four depths that can be experienced by believers. Each depth simply shows the level of maturity a Christian is operating in.
At first, believers are brought into ankle deep water. In other words, they are more of an observer of the Christian life than a participant. Due to their immaturity they are happy to wade in the water, but avoid going any further because they have not really learned to walk in the deep truths of God. These people can remain on the outside fringes of that which would bring maturity to them until they become more founded on the Rock of Christ.
The second reading was taken at knee level. Here the believer has been brought into deeper water. Such individuals have received some revelation about the Christian life, but remain closed to the shoreline. They do not yet want to be swept off their feet by that which they cannot understand or control. Such individuals must give up their need to understand and learn what it means to walk in faith towards the immovable Rock of Christ.
The third group stands in water up to their loins. These individuals have had experiences with God, but they are not comfortable in completely consecrating their lives to experience the depths of Christianity in order to ascend to the heights of greater revelation. They are quick to settle for giving the impression they have experienced the depths of the Spirit, but as long as they are being seen of men, it remains obvious that it is simply a show. It is vital that as believers we avoid being content to run parallel with the things of God—we must get in the current if we are going to grow and reach our high calling in Christ.
The final group represents the swimmer. The deeper we get into the river of the Spirit, the more we will become aware of how impassable it is. Since the current is in the deep part of the river, the final group must swim in faith and obedience to the place of the current before the river can take them to the places of maturity and promises.
This river will take us through the dry desert of testing, but in the end it will bring us to the sea, ensuring that our lives will be made whole as all that is eternal will eventually be restored to us. It is said that on the banks of this free-flowing river there are many trees. Trees are associated to life and shade. In the current there is not only healing, but wholeness is there to be obtained and promises to be discovered. Granted, the terrain will change, but in the end the river will forge a path through the landscape, leaving the deep impression of the Spirit of God upon the soul of the believer.
There is much to be discovered in this impassable river of the Spirit, but rest assured, the life of Christ is our lifejacket. If we sink into the depths of the ocean of life, He will provide the stamina to endure the rigors of those depths until we once again reach the current of the river. If we find ourselves being drawn by the riptides of the flesh, the current of the Spirit will pull us back into the place of safety. If stormy waves threaten to capture us, the Holy Spirit will lift us above them, and if a tsunami tries to overtake us, He will take us to greater heights.
The question is, what current or wave are you presently riding? Are you dancing around the shorelines of wishful thinking, lustful pursuits, prideful expectations, and personal piousness, or are you in the current of the Spirit? Are you simply an observer of the greater Christian life, the one who is content with mediocrity, or the one who gives the best religious appearance? Or, are you the swimmer, willing to risk it all in faith to possess all that God has for you?