Resources for Christian Living
I want to speak to you concerning the resources for Christian living. I meet so many discouraged, defeated, disillusioned Christians! Some are in business life carrying heavy responsibilities, and the pressure of it all has proved too great. Their testimony has suffered. Some are in the ministry, and the burdens and claims of people have caused them to snap under the strain. In spite of their college training they just haven’t got what is required for the onerous task of the ministry. Others are housewives who have the cares of a home. Sometimes their husbands don’t understand and are not always sympathetic with the constant pressure of home life. Then there are students who are on the verge of giving up! They thought their training would meet their need, but they are stuffed full of knowledge—nearly bursting indeed—but spiritually they were never so dry in their lives as they have become since preparing for their life work.
If this description is at all accurate, there is an urgent need to take stock and to search our hearts. Why is it that we believe so much, and experience so little? The head is full and the heart is empty—why? Ezekiel 47 has the answer in picture language. I am not unmindful of the future fulfillment of this chapter in the millennial age when our Lord Jesus will reign in Jerusalem in visible glory and His Kingdom will be established. In symbolic language here is a picture of blessings which will then be world-wide. But also there is a graphic illustration of Resources for Christian Living.
The Bible is an Eastern Book and the pictures and illustrations are in that setting. The people of the land knew the value of water. The ground was often like iron and the heavens as brass. The picture here is of a great river. It is rivers which make cities and establish countries. There would be no London without the Thames; no Rome without the Tiber; no Egypt without the Nile; no New York without the Hudson; and no Chicago without Lake Michigan. The difference which a river makes is the difference between desert and garden. It is not surprising therefore, that much is made in the Book, of rivers to illustrate this truth—“Springs of water,” “Wells of salvation,” Showers of blessing,” “Floods on dry ground.” These are all immensely significant phrases in the Bible.
In many instances the refreshing power of water is stressed: Isaiah—“In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” Psalms—“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.” The theme is developed by the Lord Jesus who said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink and out from him shall flow rivers of living water.” Yet again, John in describing the New Jerusalem saw no moon; no sun; no sorrow; no sin, but a river—“A pure river of water of life as clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Refreshing! Clear! Invigorating! What is the significance of this language? John explaining the words of the Lord Jesus said, “This spake He of the Holy Spirit…” Ezekiel records that God said everything shall live whither the river cometh. Put those phrases together. God’s promise is then linked with the longing of our hearts.
Oh, that the desert, the barrenness within us might be transformed to a garden—a watered garden full of fragrance rare. Do you know these lines?
Spirit Divine, attend our prayers
And make our hearts thy home.
Descend with all thy gracious powers
Oh come, great Spirit, come.
Come as the dew and surely bless
This consecrated hour.
May barrenness rejoice to see
They fertilizing power.
Let us think then of the essence of the River’s Power:
- The Source of It (verse 1). It proceeded out from the threshold of the temple; out from the mercy-seat; from the very Throne of God. All the true blessing that any of us can ever know owes its origin to that source. What assurance it brings to our hearts to know that the flow of the River of life—the life of His Spirit—has its origin from a throne to which Jesus has been raised, where justice has been satisfied, where no promise is ever broken, and where He received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit. Yet how solemn—there can be no trifling with such a God; no light-hearted, easy-going religion. We must live in reverent submission before His throne.
- The Course of It (verse 2). The waters came down at the south side of the altar. The only way this life-giving stream can reach the world is by the Cross, by way of the altar. The Holy Spirit was not given till Jesus was glorified. He proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb. He comes to my heart by no caprice or chance, but because the Blood has been shed, sin has been put away, and therefore He in us is the necessary outcome. It is all of grace that it might be all of faith. I will seek for His presence and power in vain until I bow in true repentance and faith at the Cross. Calvary precedes Pentecost, and that is as true in experience as it is in history. We cry for the one, but so often are unwilling for the other. We want the power, but are unwilling for the essential price of crucifixion! He will not give His glory to another.
- The Force of It (verse 3). This river grew in power and depth until only a mile from its source it was too deep to cross—“waters to swim in.” Yet no tributary had entered it. It was not reinforced by any other stream. It owed its growth and power to the constant springing up and pouring forth from the sanctuary. The streams of Earth could add nothing to it. God gives the Holy Spirit without measure whenever He can find a channel ready to receive Him. You know—or do you know: that God does not expect you to live the Christian life, whether it be in business, in the pastorate, in the home, the Institute, or anywhere else in your own strength. You can no more do that than you can save your own soul. The fact is that in the Lord Jesus Christ there is provided for us all that which is needed in any circumstance to live triumphantly. You received forgiveness by faith in a crucified Lord. At that moment you were sealed by the Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit, Who has come to meet every demand that can ever be made upon you, in answer to your faith and obedience, and your assent to the will of God.
Yes, He, the Holy Spirit, is God’s answer to your discouragement, defeat, disillusionment or despair. He is the answer to the business man’s pressure; to the pastor’s problems and personal life; to the student’s worries and preparation for a life of work; and to the mother with household cares—the glory of the Indwelling Christ. No matter how thorough may be your study for your life ministry, this is something which no college can give you. If you have the greatest academic training the country could give you, and you have never learned to tap the resources that are yours in the Indwelling Christ sooner or later your life’s hopes and ambitions and dreams will lie in shattered ruins around you. For, said Jesus, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Nothing we can do can add to His power.
If you are failing in your life and witness, remember God expects nothing of you except failure! Christ is to be your life, and He in you will turn failure into triumph. Bow before Him in acknowledgement of failure. Appropriate all of His strength, wisdom, grace, patience, love, to meet your need, and face all of life’s future saying, “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who liveth in me, and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”