“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).
“For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters” (Jeremiah 17:8). Here the secret of living in constant hope is revealed—the secret of being full of joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. It is not found in trying to reform, in making promises to God that you can’t keep.
The person who experiences this promise can no longer be hurt by people because he does not hope in them. His expectations are all in the Lord. He does not care what man says or does; his eyes are on the Lord alone. And the Lord never fails or lets him down!
“For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river” (Jeremiah 17:8). An amazing Hebrew word is used here for “planted”—it actually means “transplanted.” Faith uproots the dry, fruitless desert-shrub that is scorched, lonely and ugly and transplants it by the living stream of the waters flowing from Lebanon.
David said, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city [people] of God. . . . God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalm 46:4-5). And David said of God: “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water . . . thou blessest the springing thereof” (Psalm 65:9-10).
Put your roots down deep in His river and you will not fear when the heat comes. For your “leaf [appearance] shall be green [fresh, alive]” (Jeremiah 17:8). The drought—the dry spells—will not affect you, and you will constantly bear fruit.
You will not be continually tired, weeping, lonely, dry and feeling forsaken. Instead, you can be transplanted simply by giving Him your trust and faith by resting in His Word. And soon you will grow roots down deep into His river of life.
One of the great wonders of America is the incredible New York aqueduct. Made of bricks, it is all underground and runs for miles and miles from upstate, bringing water to this metropolis. What would happen if that aqueduct were cut off and suddenly there was no water supply flowing to the city? New York City would become a “parched place . . . a salt land and not inhabited” (Jeremiah 17:6). We can exist without gas but not without water.
The same thing happens in our lives! When people lose hope, rather than run to the Lord they clam up and run inward. They curl up on the inside and give up hope, and their hearts become a parched place, a salt land.
Today many Christians are experiencing overwhelming despair, much like what I have just described. But God is saying this to His people: “You are in despair because you do not trust in Me. You turn to others—to doctors, to friends, to counselors, to medicine, to finances. You are not uplifted by My promises; you feel dry, empty and lonely because you are not drawing water from My well.”
In Jeremiah 18:13-14 God points out an incredibly horrible sin being committed by His own people. “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? Or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?”
What is this horrible thing God’s people are committing?
Like the cold, refreshing waters that flow down from melting snow, God gives an unceasing supply of power to His people. This water is the water of strength, available and unfailing. Yet God’s people often continue on their way—dry, empty and sad, saying, “We have been left to ourselves. We’ll just go our own forsaken way, unwanted!”
This is a picture of despairing Christians who have forgotten the promises of God, who sit dejected beside a flowing stream of God’s love, thinking, “The Lord is not at work in my life. I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and do the best I can. It’s no use hoping anymore. I have to do what I can to survive!”
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
Jeremiah introduces two immutable laws of spiritual life here: One leads to life and hope and the other to death and hopelessness. These are the keys to understanding why some Christians enjoy constant peace and joy in the Lord, while others grope in despair and hopelessness.
How can you know when you are trusting in man rather than in God? If you fall apart when someone else lets you down, or if the actions of others affect your walk with God, then you know you are leaning on the arm of flesh!
If you put your trust in man, you are guaranteed to get hurt because at some point someone will let you down and deeply disappoint you. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Much of the hurting and hopelessness you experience is a result of being let down by someone you trusted. A wife may argue, “If only my husband would change, I’d be happy! He really has hurt me deeply. He neglects me and doesn’t even try to understand. He is killing my love.”
Your problem is not a husband problem, it is a God problem. Jeremiah says you are like a shrub in the desert—not seeing when the good comes, but rather inhabiting the parched places in the wilderness. This means you are cut off from your true supply of happiness and hope. You have neglected the Lord and are not drawing on His living water. You have become like a dead, dry desert shrub—fruitless and barren!
Do not trust in someone or something other than God to bring you happiness and hope. What you think will solve your problem might only make you feel worse.