“Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation”. Isaiah 12:3
As I sit here and write it is literally pouring outside. It has been a summer of weird weather – either too hot and dry or sloppy and wet. Not an unfair analogy of my faith walk of late – I confess, I have lost my joy.
I stumbled into church with half a mind to leave; distracted and not really glad to be there. The regular pastor being on summer break, a guest missionary was to speak. Ugh.
At the pulpit, I saw a man impassioned and exuberant in the midst of hardship – and joyful in the working of this ministry, The Last Well. He told stories of people whose very lives exist because their physical need for clean water is being met; but more importantly their spiritual need for Living Water is being quenched. Liberia is a nation of extreme poverty, severe corruption and where thousands of children die yearly from diseases like cholera, typhoid and parasites in their filthy water. The Last Well is an organization whose mission is to provide access to clean water across the entire nation of Liberia and in the process share the gospel to every person they serve by 2020.
Per the website, “Liberia, West Africa is a beautiful coastal country that was known for decades as the Paris of West Africa. In 1990 that all changed with the start of what became a fourteen-year civil war that ended in 2003. As a result of nearly a decade and a half of conflict, 250,000 Liberians died and the infrastructure of the entire country was decimated. Year after year, Liberia is consistently in the bottom five poorest countries and one of the top five most miserable countries in the world, according to statistics kept by organizations like the UN, the CIA, and USAID.”
The pastor shared a short video about The Last Well ministry. There was much applause and appreciation… and my own response? Cold, dry, unmoved, joyless… What, I thought, is wrong with me? Have I lost my heart for Jesus? Do I even have a heart anymore? Good God – where are you?
“Please,” I whispered under my breathe, “God restore to me my heart – return to me the joy of my salvation…”
The presentation ended and a different guest pastor came out to deliver the main service.
So…you know that moment when you know that you know that God is convicting you? Guess what the subject of the sermon was? Joy. NOT the high low, temporary feeling, but the fact…that in Jesus Christ alone we find Joy. Jesus God wrapped in flesh, emptying himself of deity – taking on all the ugliness and depravities of our world – coming to His creation, to that tomb, to our lives to offer the JOY of Salvation through belief in Him.
In John 15:11, Jesus said “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Read that again – MY JOY MAY BE IN YOU.
What? How could that be? Jesus says my joy can be like His – complete. Tell that to my Monday mornings. But wait – Jesus also said this:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Have I remained in Him this summer or have I let the exhaustion and the meanness of our world tear down my spirit?
Sadly I know the answer to that…and no wonder my joy is missing – apart from Him, apart from daily gulps of the Living Water – I CAN do NOTHING…nothing for God, nothing for others and nothing that blesses.
Jesus continues, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
To be honest, I have indeed been a “dried up branch” of late too. Though even here there is blessing in the warning- “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:1-11
His Joy – not of me – only the JOY that a life in Jesus, a life given by Jesus, a life spent at the well of the Living Water. That is a life that I could enJOY.
I sat through the sermon and silently chewed and mulled and burned in my heart… I knew I had not been abiding in Jesus. I left the service, heart heavy and a little muddled in my mind. As I entered the church foyer I saw a vaguely familiar face. She smiled her acknowledgement. That is when I knew again God was prodding me.
“Give it to her,” He whispered into my heart.
“What God? Give what to her?”
“Give her what is in your wallet,” He said.
“I don’t have anything in my wallet – just my emergency cash”.
“Then give it to her. Now. Just trust me.”
So I walked up to her and smiled. “Do you remember me,” I asked? I think I met you when you were working for the women’s ministry.”
“Yes, I think so, she said. I am not working here anymore – I am associated with The Last Well mission. So how are you?” she queried.
“I am well,” – I responded – and then laughed awkwardly at my own pun. She didn’t get it.
“So,” I said to her. “I think I am supposed to give this to you”.
She looked down at the cash in my hand and said, “We are not prepared to take donations today – if you want to sign up here on this card and….”
I said “No, I need to give this to you now,” and pushed it into her palm.
She looked down with surprise. With joy in her eyes she said, “THIS will provide a whole well for a family!” She then said to me, “I should give you a receipt or something.”
“Nope, thanks I don’t need one.”I leaned forward and gave her a quick hug.
“After all, it’s only water,” I said with a wink.
As I walked away from her, my eyes filled with tears. I felt light hearted, slightly dizzy but bursting with joy..His JOY given to me…and God recalled this verse to my heart:
“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:1
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