After leading a church for many years, Ken and I felt that God was calling us into a new season. God’s will and ways are always perfect, but even in the midst of an incredible journey we can go through tough times. It did not feel like “rivers of living water” were flowing at all.
For a season, starting just before Ken and I handed over the leading of Free Life Church and for a while afterwards, I found myself in a really tough place. So much had happened, and in the natural it seemed like I was walking through mountains of loss.
Natasha, our youngest daughter, moved out that December, leaving us as empty-nesters. In addition, our two dogs had to be put down within four days of one another. (One totally unexpected.) I am an avid animal lover and this was really hard for me.
That January we handed the church over. On one hand, it was such a joy – it was and always will be one of our greatest delights and privileges to hand over a church to our son and his wife. A church that we loved and worked hard to establish; the honor overwhelmed me. But, I love the local church community and being a part of it was a dream fulfilled, so I felt the loss when that season was over.
I remember back to the early days of FreeLife Church, preaching and sharing how it had been a long-desired dream of ours to plant a church in a foreign nation. God had sown a seed deep in my heart, which enabled me to leave our adult (but only just) children, my dying mother, our home, animals, and country to follow the call. It was not easy, but as our plane landed in New York, God said, “You are home.” With eyes steeled on Jesus (so I did not fall apart) Ken and I stepped into this dream.
Yeas later we were still living our dream and now with all our children finally here. My heart was full. But that season was ending. I knew the change was of God but when you are passionate about something, it is not so easy. On one hand my heart rejoiced at the sheer privilege and honor of both handing over the church to our son and the wonder of this new season. But on the other hand my heart was broken to its core. I had also just started a ministry called Living Free within the life of the church. It was amazingly fulfilling for me and I felt as through I had just begun. I had so many dreams for this ministry but we were handing over everything. In agreement with the team we work with and in particular, those who had walked this road, we decided that we would not attend the church for about three months. Again, the rightness of that was not the debate, but my heart was cut deeply. It felt like in this season of total heartbreak, I was not with my church family who I so treasured. God taught me years ago the amazing value of a team. For many, many years, I have worked strongly with team. But at that time, it felt like it was just Ken and I.
But then someone put a note with this scripture in my purse:
Isaiah 43:18 & 19: :Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’
I kept it in my Bible and read it daily. I knew it to be true, but I could not see it. My heart was broken. Then my precious Savior gave me this scripture.
Psalm 143:3-4: “For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in darkness, like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed.”
This might seem like a peculiar scripture to encourage one, but it encouraged me. I knew it was the enemy persecuting me and within I felt an abiding peace. David had expressed my exact feeling in this Psalm. It goes on to say:
“I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; …for I am your servant.”
That day God gave me a new hope. I continued reading my Isaiah 43 scripture and slowly the seeds were starting to sprout.
Whenever I am going through a tough season God gives me certain ways to be strengthened in Him. One of those ways is praise and worship. So I worshipped and praised with all my heart and from deep within my spirit. God started to speak to me about rivers, both through songs and through scriptures. I was totally dependent on Jesus.
One of Jason Upton’s songs says, “I’m want to build you a garden in a dry and desert place, I will find a river there.” I knew God was going to do this for me even although I felt (NOT true, and I knew that, it was just a feeling) dry, alone, and somewhat abandoned. He would build the garden and He would find the river there. It was in this that I found peace.
In Scripture water symbolizes the Life of God. John 4:13-14 says, “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him l will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jeremiah 2:13 refers to “springs of living water.”
In the natural water is needed to sustain life on earth. In the spiritual ‘living water’ is needed to sustain us in our walk with God. God is so generous in giving us the ‘water of life’:
Psalm 36:7-9: “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.”
Yet, we do not stop there. We go to that River of Life and we drink, but there is more.
John 7:37-38: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
Not only does God sustain us and give us life, joy, and pleasure, but He has given us the Holy Spirit within us that out of us rivers of living water will flow.
Our Amazing Father has chosen to give us life and life abundantly that this life would flow through us bringing and giving life to others. If we just take a moment to think about how awesome this is and what a privilege it is – we can give this life within to others.
For those of you who have or know someone who has battled to have children, you know the extreme desperation within them to be able to bring a life into this world. There is desperation so deep it can be all consuming. Imagine if we hungered and thirsted like that to bring God’s life to others; to be one that has rivers of living water flow from us. The Good News is that we are those people and we have the life of Christ within us. But sometimes it is like the faucet is turned off and nothing is flowing.
So how do we turn the faucet on?
Simply stated, we need to step into the flow of the River, drink of the River and let it flow from us to others.
We have to learn how to do this. Each of us ‘steps’ in in different ways. I can’t teach you how to step in as it can easily become a formula which moves to a religious exercise with no life. But I can share some things that help me step into the river:
- Praise and worship. I play the songs that stir the ‘Life of God’ within me. The songs may change over time, but as I find that song for now, I find myself stepping into the river.
- Walking in nature is a great help to me. I love nature and I find stillness there. Peace and quiet floods my soul as I look over the water of a lake or a river, gaze upon the majesty of the ocean or a mountain, see the beauty of a deer, hear the singing of the birds… And this is all created by the One I love.
- Praying in tongues I find to be a very powerful way to get into God’s Presence; my spirit communicating with His Spirit.
- I find ministering to others takes me to that place of really seeking and listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit because without His leading I have little to offer.
- At times, I simply choose to focus my mind, heart, and my very being on Jesus and become aware of His Amazing Presence. As that awareness rises within me, I am able to step into His Presence.
- Talking to my Father through prayer or intercession, but also in day to day things like finding a parking or buying a gift. It keeps my fellowship with the Lord current. I know He is with me.
- Praying with Ken or a friend helps focus me and from there I can step into that river.
- Meeting with other believers and connecting with them, speaking about Him and sharing stories of this Amazing God we serve strengthens me and draws me closer to Him.
These are some of the ways that help me, but each of us will find our own ways that we can step into that River of God and let that living water flow through us.
Out of that River of Life flowing in and out of us, God’s Kingdom is advanced as His life goes forth. In closing I want to share a prophetic Word from Cindy Jacobs.
“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 where the river flows everything will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9)
In 1984, I had a vision while in a hotel room in Temple, Texas. I was all alone and not met anyone in the city. At 6:00 in the morning, there was a knock on my door which awakened me out of a sound sleep. Puzzled and a little shaken, I peeked out of the window. No one was around. As I lay back down, I murmured, “Do You want to show me something, Lord? Did You wake me up?”
Immediately I began to have a vision. It was a vision of a river and I knew it was the River of Life. Oh, what a beautiful sight it was! I thanked God over and over for showing it to me. All of a sudden, I saw people come and get in the river. I realized they were the Church. They started throwing up into the river and tossed garbage from their houses into the water, causing it to be polluted and unclean. The people erected a large pediment sign that read “River of Living Water.”
I asked the Lord what had polluted the river, and He to me said in my heart, “Judgmentalism, criticism, sectarianism, strife and divisions. These have polluted My river.”
After a while, I saw people coming to the bank of the river. I sensed they represented the world. They looked at the sign and the people in the river who appeared to be having a fabulous time and decided to try the water.
Kneeling down, they started to drink. It only took one taste, and they spat it out of their mouths with disgust and went away.
Meanwhile, the Church hardly noticed what had happened. Nobody could tell that the water was polluted because they had tasted it so long that they thought it was good. No one was able to tell the difference between polluted and clean water.
Later, they all got out of the river and fell asleep on either side of the bank. The army of God was fast asleep, and no one cared what had happened to God’s river.
A Mighty River – Pure and Clean
As time passed, a couple of sleepers awakened and looked up, astonished at the river. They tried to shake the others awake but were unsuccessful. I believe they represent the prophetic gifts in the Church. At last, two angels from Heaven came down and put little pots of eye salve into their hands, instructing them to put it on the eyes of those asleep.
The two prophetic people applied the salve to each person, one at a time. Everyone had the same response after having the medicine put on their eyes. They sat up, looked at the river and declared, “Oh, what has happened to the River of God? How did we let this happen?”
Finally, they all stood up in one accord and went into the river to try to clean it up. Alas, they sadly failed. It was too polluted for individuals to clean with their hands. As I watched, I could see they had found a strategy. They were building a huge water purification plant in the middle of the river.
As they finished the plant, I saw a tiny trickle of fresh water flow out of the other side of the unit. Then increasingly water flowed, until the trickle became a stream, and at last, the stream became a mighty river, pure and clean.
The water purification plant represents the houses of prayer which are springing up all over the world. Isaiah 56:7 says: “Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer… For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The next sight I saw was puzzling to me. I saw trees on either side of the river bank, dropping their leaves into the river. It was several years before I would come to the understanding that the leaves were for the healing of the nations (Ezekiel 47:12).
The last part of the vision is the most precious. In the vision, children were in the river, laughing and playing. They splashed and dunked each other, having a perfectly glorious time. I believe this is symbolic of a children’s revival which will span the globe.
The ending part of this scene was a great blessing. I saw the people of the world come and look at the children in the river. Gazing at one another, they asked, “Should we try to drink one last time from the river?” Kneeling down, they put their mouths to the water and began to drink. They drank and drank and drank as if they would never get enough of the pure River of Life. At that moment, the Lord spoke to me and said, “O taste and see that the Lord, He is good!”
In looking back over the last few decades, the Lord has done and still is doing a great work of purging in the Body of Christ. Ezekiel 47 tells of pure water issuing from the temple. Out from the cleansed heart of the Church are issuing many streams which are becoming a mighty river of revival (John 7:18).
Oh Father, may Your River flow in us and through us.