How to Be a Refreshing River of Life to Others
By Bill White, Crosswalk.com
One of the highlights of any trip to Israel is visiting the Dead Sea. It’s the lowest elevation on earth at 1,412 feet below sea level. It’s also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water—nine times saltier than the ocean. Why is it called a “Dead” Sea? Two reasons. First, it’s so low that whatever flows in can’t get out, so it’s a dead-end for the flow of water. And second, it’s so salty that nothing can live in it.
In some ways, the Dead Sea is a clear symbol of people living with no acknowledgment of God. In fact, “dead” is exactly the word Scripture uses to describe our lives before we are born again and are made new by receiving His life in Christ. Look around. Do you see a lot of people living abundant spiritual lives? Or do you see a Dead-Sea planet populated by people with Dead-Sea lives, Dead-Sea relationships, Dead-Sea stagnant marriages, and Dead-Sea dead-end legalistic or moralistic religion?
Spiritual death is a pandemic much more prevalent and devastating than COVID-19. Our world is in desperate need of God’s life-giving water. If you want to keep growing into your full, God-given potential in Christ, you'll let the refreshing water of God’s Spirit flow from you to others in a way that enables them to experience life!
Refreshing the Dead Sea
If the Dead Sea is a symbol of life apart from God, what’s the opposite? What symbol captures and communicates life immersed in and flowing full of God’s life? There’s a fantastic vision found in Ezekiel 47 that paints the picture for us.
During his lifetime, the prophet Ezekiel had several powerful visions. In this one, he was accompanied by a heavenly guide with a measuring rod. The angel had been measuring the temple, and when he led Ezekiel outside, the prophet saw a great flow of water pouring out from under the temple to create a river. The angel used his measuring rod to mark off 1000 long cubits (1750 feet) and walked into the river with Ezekiel to that point, where the water was ankle-deep. Another thousand cubits in, the water was knee-deep. After another thousand, it was up to Ezekiel’s waist. After yet another thousand (putting him 7000 feet—well over a mile—out into the river), the water was not only deep enough to swim in, but it had also become a river no one could cross.
The angelic guide asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, do you see this?” Ezekiel noticed groves of fruit trees growing on both sides of the river. The angel explained that the water from the sanctuary enabled the trees to bear fruit of all kinds throughout the year, and the trees would provide both food and healing. In addition, “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).
This grand vision wasn’t just for Israel thousands of years ago. It’s for you, for me, and for all of us. Your Dead-Sea life is so complicated, so deadened by sin, that everything seems lifeless and hopeless. But it’s not. There’s another river from a very different source: the presence of a loving, forgiving God. The river of the water of life from God is flowing, making everything new and fresh, overwhelming death and sin and their influence on you. It makes you vibrantly alive to bear life and share life!
Maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but God now wants to help you grow in giving His life to others. The first call that Jesus gave His disciples was, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). The last call He gave them was, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
In both statements, Jesus was encouraging His followers to look beyond their own concerns and spiritual growth, and in doing so, He promised to show them how to live a life larger than themselves. He wanted them to see that they could become a life-giving channel of salvation to others. Two thousand years later, this is still God’s plan for our Dead-Sea world.
However, He’s not going to instantaneously bring the life-giving water of His Spirit to everyone in our Dead-Sea world with one sweep of His mighty hand. He doesn’t do it through secular education, government, elections, demonstrations, or even social media posts. God’s plan is to build personal relationships that allow His life to flow to the people around us.
Let’s consider Ezekiel’s vision again. He shows us an amazing, miraculous rush of water flowing from the temple of God, and wherever it flows, it gives life. That river is still flowing—but rather than water, the river is now the Holy Spirit. And rather than a physical building, the temple from which the Holy Spirit flows is you. Your life now is that channel where the river flows.
The recent global pandemic has made this an opportune time to initiate some life-giving, refreshing conversations. We’ve seen our culture’s lifeless, Dead-Sea idols fail to provide the freshwater, life-giving, spiritual solutions that we need. People’s idols are crumbling around them, and they’re crying out, “Where is the life?” Only God can provide that answer for them.
Called to Be Refreshers
In Ezekiel’s vision, he saw the lowest place on the planet, with water so salty that nothing can live, where the Lord was going to infuse a river of fresh water until it was teeming with life. What’s the message? Nobody’s too far from God if we are willing to channel His life there. Just as God can make the Dead Sea spring to life, He can resurrect spiritually dead people who haven’t yet received His wonderful life.
We can’t be refreshers until we let the Lord into our lives and allow Him to change and mature us. Pray in the Spirit and ask God to lead you, then trust Him with the results. May God’s life-giving water flow in and through you today. May you feel the smile of God as you become a spillway of His life into our world.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/FCerez
Bill White is the Senior Pastor of Christ Journey Church in Miami, Florida. He is carried by the driving hope of Christ’s powerful love to transform brokenness into new life and opportunity. Pastor White is the author of Mature-ish: Your Mission from God, Should You Choose to Accept It.” To learn more, visit https://pastorbillwhite.com/books/matureish/.