September eNews: Christian, Keep Your Soul from Barrenness
“O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)
This world is a dry and weary land. Nothing will deaden a person’s spiritual appetite like the spirit of this world. Even believers with the best of intentions find that their passion for God wanes in the spiritually polluted atmosphere around us. And the more immersed we become in it, the more dry and weary become our souls. Every minute we spend watching television, listening to secular radio, surfing the Net, playing video games, reading newspapers & magazines, strolling through the mall—and a thousand other activities which beckon us—the more barren we become spiritually.
The deception of it all is in the innocuous nature of these different pastimes. While many TV shows could have a quick and powerful effect on me spiritually, watching a segment of Headline News is not going to drive me away from God. Reading the Sports page—in itself—is not going to make me spiritually dull. The problem is how much accumulated time people spend in these different pursuits. By the end of any given day, it is not abnormal for a believer to have spent two or three hours filling his mind, in one fashion or another, with the voice of the spirit of this world.
Most believers understand from past experience that the more time they spend in worldly activities, the more difficult it will be to break into the presence of God during their devotions the following morning. They will have to fight through that fog Jesus called “dissipation:” the spiritual hangover that comes from being drunk with the things of this world. It is simply a fact that the world deadens spiritual sensitivity.
One would think that spending time in the world would create a great thirst for the rivers of life, but actually it has the very opposite effect. The things of this world give a person a false sense of fulfillment. It’s like filling up on soda pop when the body needs pure water. The more cola a believer drinks, the less thirst he will feel for the real thing. I made this same point in an article I once wrote regarding the place of pleasure in the life of the believer:
Making pleasure the most important aspect of one’s life could be compared to a teenager who thinks he can live on candy bars and soda pop. True, he won’t drop dead within a few days of such an unhealthy diet, but his quality of life will be seriously impaired. The constant intake of sugar will gradually rot his teeth, deplete his overall energy level, and could even lead to something serious such as diabetes. Worse than that, by substituting healthy food with sweets, his body will not receive the nutrition that is required to ward off sickness and to sustain life.
Undoubtedly, over a long period of time the results of such a lifestyle would be a sickly life and an untimely death.
In the same way, pleasurable experiences are meant to be the dessert of life. Kept in its proper perspective, it is balanced by the staples of the healthy spiritual diet of prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, deeds of kindness, giving of tithes and offerings, and so on. However, when gratification becomes the main focal point of one’s daily existence, it not only rots a person’s spiritual life, but it eventually chokes out everything that is wholesome.
I can remember a time in my life when I sorely lacked the presence of God. This deficiency was not from indulging myself in the pleasures of life. By the time I had been in ministry for five years, I had given up watching television and going to worldly places and I even maintained a daily two-hour devotional time. And yet, something was terribly missing. In my autobiography, Out of the Depths of Sexual Sin, I wrote about the struggle I was going through:
I wasn’t the only one who felt this lack. Kathy and Lance were aware of it in their lives as well. “Where is the bubbling fountain of life? Where is the abundant life promised to all believers in Christ? Where is the all-consuming love for God and others? Where is the joy of the Lord?” We couldn’t understand why our spiritual lives seemed so dry and lifeless. Over a period of months, we continually cried out to God for Him to do something for us.
The second half of that book describes how the Lord was faithful to answer those cries. Over a period of time, He began coming to us in a very powerful way. He gave us a marvelous sight of Himself that forever changed our lives. The following story provides a glimpse into the way the Lord has filled our thirsty souls.
On one occasion the staff decided to spend an entire day seeking the Lord for a deeper infilling of the Holy Spirit. Anticipation built up during the days leading up to it. We didn’t know what to expect. On the one hand, I wanted to encourage everybody to believe God to do something marvelous in our midst. However, I was also concerned that we would get our hopes too high and set ourselves up for a real disappointment.
We culminated a three-day fast during the day of prayer. That morning was spent worshipping the Lord, meditating on Scripture, and praying both silently and corporately. I started getting a little concerned when no “tongues of fire” had settled on the chapel roof by mid-afternoon... I frankly didn’t know what to do. As we were sitting there, I walked up to the platform to grab some cough drops. As I passed Jeff on the way back to my seat, a surge of love for him rose up in my heart. I hugged him and told him that I loved him. Then I noticed Rose sitting there and I felt love for her; so I did the same with her. Suddenly the entire chapel was filled with an atmosphere of overflowing love. Everybody stood up spontaneously and began hugging each other. This was not the gushing sentimentalism of emotional people but a real outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When it was all over, we could testify along with the apostle Paul who said, “...the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)...
Ten years prior to this—back in 1992—Kathy, Lance and I had pleaded with God for the abundant life evident in the Scriptures. God has marvelously answered our prayers! Pure Life Ministries has become a well for other thirsty souls to drink from the living waters of Jesus Christ!1
The believer who thirsts for God – like a deer pants for streams of water – limits his time in this world. He rises early and cries out, “O God, Thou art my God!” There is a thirst for God and the things of God that cannot be quenched. He longs for “the Fountain of Living Waters,” and refuses to drink from the “broken cisterns” of this world.
To the Old Testament saints, the Lord cried out, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:1-2) This should be a loud message to believers today who tend to look to the unsatisfying trinkets this world offers.
To New Testament believers Jesus exclaimed, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38) Those living waters are available for every believer.
Let us forsake the stale, dirty water offered by the world’s broken cisterns. They may temporarily wet the throat, but they can never quench the thirsting of our souls. Instead, let us keep going to the Fountain of Life—again and again and again—until we thirst no more!
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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