One October a year or so ago, I found myself standing by the banks of Raccoon Creek, watching leaf after leaf slip from the overhanging branches into the slowly moving, blue-green waters below. As I stood there, I recalled having once read that waters seeping from the mines riddling southeastern Ohio had washed into the little river (Raccoon Creek, in case you weren’t aware of it, is actually a river). One effect is the water color that now characterizes it – very unusual for this area. Another effect was in the rendering of it nearly uninhabitable to most fish life.
But I remembered reading that careful redress of past negligence had improved conditions for Raccoon Creek, and that more conscientious habits among southern Ohioans had since improved the situation somewhat. As I gazed at the quiet waters below me, I was glad for such improvements and yet hope for the ongoing healing, so to speak, of the river’s waters.
In considering Raccoon Creek’s plight, however, I was reminded very strongly of the purpose and mission of the church. The Church is very much a “river of life”, made up of the wellsprings of souls that are in communion with the Savior.
“Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37b-38 ESV).
Through the obedient walk of individual Christians come the sweet waters of fellowship with God as He irrigates their lives with His elixirs of peace, joy, courage, and love.
“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 ESV).
But poisons can seep into our own springs of eternal life and discolor even our waters of spiritual fruitfulness just as surely as coal mine backwash can change the look of Raccoon Creek. Not only that, but as such poisons accumulate and float out into the waters around us, our “rivers” can also become inhospitable to life – spiritual life, that is.
Contaminants such as dissensions, for example, make our rivers ugly and smelly – not only in the nostrils of our God, but also stifle the sweet fragrance of Christ’s presence within us. Resentments, jealousies, hard-heartedness, and little commitment to the giving of ourselves in holy devotion to our Heavenly Father all raise the acid levels of Christian community so that we neither attract new life but rather hinder the Holy Spirit of God in His work of raising the spiritually dead to life in Christ Jesus.
As selfishness, gossip, greed, and tolerance of “little” compromises in our character leech out into the waters that our God so longs to flood through us, His loving mercies are very nearly cut off and the people of God become parched, thirsty for something. And it may well be that they are not sure for what they thirst because they thought they HAD the living waters. And then people begin to leave… wanting and hungering for more, but looking to all the wrong things.
The challenge then for the Church is to reexamine itself and see if its “waters” are truly the fresh and clean waters flowing from the throne of God, or if it has become polluted and incapable of supporting life. We may very well find that God needs to “flush out” our hearts and restore us to a right and proper relationship with Himself. But then, that’s what He does… He cleanses hearts and lives, expunging the sin in the past, purifying our hearts in the present, and appointing His purposes for our future.
If the Lord is dealing with your life about the waters He wishes to have flow through you, you may find that there are bubbling up from the depths of your heart things that are unclean and tend to poison His loving activity in you. If so, then honestly confess these things to God and release them to His control. Let His healing and cleansing touch wash you and set your feet on ground that does not rely on your power for “personal reformation” but upon His power for “eternal transformation.”
There are whole worlds of lost people dying of spiritual thirst all around you. Some of these lost people may be in your family, or perhaps your neighbors next door, close friends, or people with whom you work. Don’t be content with playing spiritual games or with waters that look “pretty” on the surface but are ladened with the poisonous toxins of selfishness and sin.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).