There is only one way to cheer up your heart and stay in gladness. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. . . . My tears have been my meat day and night. . . . I pour out my soul in me. . . . Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance” (Psalm 42:2-5). This is God’s message to all who are “cast down”—all those who are sad, defeated, low, blue, discouraged and joyless.
Why am I depressed? Why am I gloomy and sad? Why am I overwhelmed? Why do I mourn? David does not even try to answer these questions in this psalm. All he can say is, “Hope in God! He is the help of my countenance.”
To those who patiently, expectantly wait on God, “the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me” (42:8).
God has given clear warning that it is a most serious matter to Him when we do not serve Him with gladness. In Deuteronomy 28, we learn of all the curses and diseases that overtake the unbelieving: “All these curses shall come upon thee. . . . Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (28:45-47).
God says, “You have focused on some little hurt, some wrongful thing, and in doing so you have forgotten all the blessings and wonderful things I have done for you!”
Christ will turn your hopelessness into rejoicing and clothe you with gladness—if you will release your faith to Him. “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11). Saints, rejoice in the God of hope—and live!
“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalms 46:4-5).
Yes, the river is Jesus—His very presence. The moment you cast down all doubt and fear, and cry out, “Lord, I believe, and in You I have hope, abounding hope,” you will be transplanted to the banks of this river by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The reason it is so important to get your roots down deep in God is because the worst is yet to come!
“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”(Jeremiah 12:5).
These are supposed to be good times. We live in a mild shower compared to the coming storm. This is child’s play compared to the troubles ahead. You may think you are going through something pretty awful, but it is peaceful in light of the distress that is soon coming upon the earth!
We are going to have to get our roots down deep! If you are not drawing strength from Him today, you will not endure when gross darkness covers the earth. You and I are now being tested by “light afflictions” (2 Corinthians 4:17) to drive us to the Lord, to make us dig deep to get into the secret reservoir of life.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. . . . He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, ESV).
The Lord warned Israel against taking any spoils from the enemies they defeated. Why this prohibition? It was so they would not trust in the power of man or try to conquer their enemies for material gain. God wanted their eyes fixed on things above, not on things “devoted to destruction” (material goods that would fade like the grass—see Joshua 6:18).
But one man, Achan, decided to take some things for himself. “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them” (Joshua 7:21, esv). It wasn’t much, really—just a pretty coat and a handful of silver and gold. Yet it’s always just one little thing that God puts His finger on. Why? Because He knows that one thing can hinder the fulfillment of His whole destiny for us.
Do you have something you’ve been negligent about—one thing that could hold back God’s best for you? For many of us, these could be reasonable things. Perhaps a desire to hold on to savings that the Lord wants us to give away, or clinging to a demanding career that takes us away from our family. Like Achan, we can hold on to something “insignificant” without considering what it does to our hearts. God says to us, “Yes! Take out that thing that doesn’t belong. Get at it because just one small hidden thing can hinder the unparalleled victory that I want to give you.”
Our God wants to do mighty things through us. He wants to express His love to the world through us. So if we’re clinging to one thing that gets in the way of His accomplishing that—some willfulness, some refusal to trust Him for everything—He points it out to us.
What is the Lord putting His finger on in your life? Is it to take away one small thing? Or to add something you’ve neglected? Don’t delay in your response to the Spirit’s faithful voice.
“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:14-15).
These are the words of Paul, a man whose heart and life were an embodiment of Jesus Christ. Paul’s life was given for the people of God, as is the case with every true servant of God. He was willing to travel through storm, flood and fire; to endure personal longing and want; to be pressed above measure to the point where he even despaired of living—all in order that he might come to the people of God with a message of His love. However, Paul found that the more love he would express, the more certain people would pull away. Why would that be the case?
I believe we find the answer in the next chapter: “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare” (2 Corinthians 13:1-2).
Remember, the Corinthian church was coming out of what could be considered an immoral abyss. In the middle of their city stood a major temple with more than a thousand prostitutes—prostitution was actually considered an act of worship in that society. Clearly, wrong had become right, and right had become wrong.
Paul was an apostle and pastor, so he was aware of the deadliness of sin. He understood the peril of those who fall into the trap of continually justifying wrong. That is the dilemma of the human condition—the longer we do something the Word of God defines as sin, the more our fallen nature rises to the fore and begins to determine what is wrong and what is right. Paul knew that if the people continued to willfully do wrong, making peace with those things from which Christ died to set them free, the victory of the cross could not be rightfully claimed as their own.
After all, those who do so would be left with only an illusion; in other words, they would have knowledge with no power behind it. And so, as a true spiritual father to the Corinthian church, Paul was attempting to bring them into a right way of thinking and living. That is why he said, “I will not spare.” Sadly, that is the point where many chose to draw back.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.
Why are some believers full of peace and joy, radiating the glow of spiritual life and health to all they meet? Is it because they don’t have my problems? No! The truth is, they may have more than you—in fact, more than most people!
But these saints learned the secret of having roots in God’s river. If you are rooted in the river, you don’t need a revival; you don’t need showers of blessings; you don’t need a special outpouring; you don’t need a flood of sudden victory. And because you enjoy a constant hour-by-hour flow of life-giving water, you are not constantly moving from dry spell to blessing, from lows to highs, from revival to coldness. Spiritual famine doesn’t touch you; the scorching heat of apostasy doesn’t faze you because you are drawing water from the river of life!
If I had to choose between revival and roots, I’d take roots any day. For long after revival is gone, I would still thrive because of my roots, which would supply me daily with all I need.
Ezekiel saw a river of life issuing from the sanctuary. “By the river upon the bank thereof . . . shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit . . . because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:12).
God showed this prophet a river coming out of His holy temple. As time went by, it swelled from a trickle to a river in which he could swim. Ezekiel saw a man measuring the growing stream of life, until it became “a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in” (Ezekiel 47:5). You see, the early Church experienced water that reached the ankles; the Reformation had water reaching the loins. And in this day and age, the water has risen so much that we now have water to swim in!
On the bank of this river are many trees, all green and bearing fruit. And who are these trees? All those with roots of trust in Him. “And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:9).