Wellspring of Life

We all have times when we feel down. Depression hits without warning apparently, and we can be left feeling drained and hollow by the circumstances we find ourselves enveloped by.

The real issue, however, is where we draw our strength fom on a daily basis. What do we treasure most?

The Bible teaches us “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”(Proverbs 4:23) This is a particularly true statement. We give our hearts over to all kind of things during the time we have. As young men and women, it is often to a partner. Our whole being becomes wrapped up in that individual, and if the relationship breaks down we are left feeling desolate. Many teen suicides are attributed to this.

As adults we are not exempt from this folly. We put our hearts into getting the corner office or the house with the pool or the Ferrari, then Bob, the 29 year-old newbie gets the promotion, the pool is cracked or the car is stolen and we are left feeling cheated and forgotten. Our hearts get crushed, bruised and beaten.

Sometimes we build our hearts on the hopes we have made for ourselves, hopes and dreams like children or continued health. Then the news comes: “I’m sorry but it looks like you’ll never have kids” or “It’s cancer”, and we are devastated because that’s where our hearts are.

We also find irrelevant issues all consuming because of where our hearts lie. I know people who can tell you the names of every player who has put on a Manchester United shirt and kicked a ball in the last 40 years, but can’t tell you what their children’s favourite food is. The focus of our heart is what will determine the kind of men and women we become. If we focus on the irrelevant then we can never be relevant ourselves to the people who matter.

One of my personal favourite teachers, Andrew Wommack, can quote hundreds, even thousands of scriptures from memory. His heart is focussed on what matters, and this is demonstrated by his expression of his faith, the way he talks of his family and the way he relates to others. I had the priviledge many years ago of meeting him a few times and chatting to him. He struck me then as a man who has a simple faith, uncluttered by caring about people’s opinions. “Only Christ matters” was the message I got from the conversations I had with him over a few days in 1997 at a bible week in England. He, Dave Duell and a few others were real and present. They had hearts which radiated love. A wellspring of life which was clearly not their own but was fuelled by something far greater than a mere man could hope to have in his own strength.

This may seem like a shameless advert for these teachers, but it is intended to be an example. I hope that one day people will see that same love and commitment in me, and in you. There is something powerful in a guarded heart. The life in it is not our own, rather it is given to us by a God who sees what we are in ourselves and loves us anyway. He places His own Spirit in us to guide us and speaks to us through our hearts daily if we will only listen.

“Today, if you will hear His voice, Harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7b-8a) If we will hear His voice. If we are going to hear God speaking to us, we must keep our hearts fixed on Him. King David understood this and kept his heart inclined towards God so that even after he had tried to hide his sin with Bathsheba he was sensitive enough to God that when the Prophet came to him he immediately repented and humbled himself before God.

We must guard our heart today. There is so much in this world that seeks to depress and destroy our life, but the Good News is “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God is for us, and with that as the food for our heart we can live with a wellspring of life in our core being at all times, anduring the light afflictions of this world and moving beyond them by keeping an eternal perspective.

Changes

As we walk life’s path we are forever changed by the experiences we ecounter. Sometimes these are easy and incremental, sometimes they are massive and painful.

Change is a constant, which is not a contradiction. The only thing we can be certain of is that we do not leave this day the same person we were when we entered it.

In the last few days I have seen friends experience joy and sorrow. I have seen myself experience much life changing as well as a result of their experience. Every life we touch is changed. One friend has a new love in his life. Another has suffered the breakdown of a relationship where a child is involved. Still another has begun a new life in a foreign country.

These are actually minor pieces of information to me that represent major upheaval to them, both for the good and the bad as they experience it.

Business may be good, health may deteriorate. We cannot know what the world will throw at us this day. There is no constant but change…

…and God.

To give us hope and an anchor in the storm of this life we have a God who is an absolute constant. His love for us is the same yesterday as it will be tomorrow. His desire for us is constant. For God, everything is now.

I believe Einstein surmised that at the speed of light there is no passage of time. Everything is now. Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the World. “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” declares 1 John 1:5. It makes sense. Everything is now.

There is no change outside time. Time exists within God, rather than the other way around. We tend to forget this. It’s easy to do that. We get caught up in what’s happening in our lives and we forget that God is outside it all. He’s bigger than our problems. He knows the beginning from the end. He is the beginning and the end!

What would life be like if, just for a moment, we could perceive it through God’s eyes? How would we change things? Would we change things?

Should we change things? What we should perhaps rather do is to understand.

Paul had an eternal perspective, and his life gradually became a constant movement towards God as a result. The world threw everything it had at him and he just kept his heart guarded and followed his path.

“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you. Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you. Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright.” (Proverbs 4:23-26 Amplified)

I love that “consider”. We move in response to circumstance. Paul considered his path. We are tossed about by the changes in our external conditions. Paul fixed his heart and moved towards Jesus with an unswerving course.

I would love to be like Paul, keep my eyes fixed on the prize and not be swayed by the troubles of this life. But I’m not. I have my moments, we all do, but generally I’m thrown about by the troubles of this world. Changes overpower me and I wrestle with decisions I need to make and those I already made. Only where I have actually cut off the possibility of change do I have peace about staying the course – my Faith in Jesus and my marriage. These areas are the strongest in my life. They are also suffering the greatest attack. I am challenged to change what I believe about both by circumstances daily.

My Faith is based on a secure and unchanging foundation – the person of Jesus. My marriage is built on this same foundation – the person of Jesus.

Change in our external circumstances is inevitable. This life brings troubles and sorrow with it much of the time, especially if you choose following Jesus as a life to live. But we must guard our hearts against being undermined by circumstances.

We must be single minded and focussed if we are to survive the constant onslaught of the changes in the world.
 

Blindsided

Even as Christians we are susceptible to attack. Our health and finances are the enemy’s favourite targets. We lose sight of what Christ bought for us through the atonement and when we do we are open to assault in any area.

We stop watching our backs and we become complacent because of modern medicine and credit agreements. We get sucked into darker places easily once we start relying on our own strength and “street-smarts” to move on in the world. Then once the circle is big enough to trap us, the enemy moves in ans snaps shut, then suddenly we are serving two masters. The trap catches us unaware and our life changes.

We are not aware in this modern world of the battle we are caught up in. John Eldridge likens this world to the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. From a Spiritual perspective we are storming the beaches of Normandy and taking heavy fire all the time. Many of us are walking around broken and bleeding from life-threatening wounds that left untended will eventually kill us.

We leave ourselves open to heartache, sickness and death both physical and spiritual when we lose sight of the battle we are in.

Paul writes to the Ephesians about the Armour of God and lists the items – breastplate, shield, sword, helmet, foot-guards and belt. The list is based around the armour of the Roman empire. Roman legionaries were famous in antiquity for not retreating or turning their back on the enemy. There’s no protection for the back. It’s a blind side.

If we keep facing the enemy we are fully protected. The Belt of Truth holds all the rest of the armour in place. The Helmet of Salvation protects our minds. The Sword of the Word is an offensive weapon which Paul says is mighty to tear down strongholds. The armour of preparedness on the feet lets us move forward to spread the Gospel.

All of this is great, but the most essential part that gets forgotten so often is the shield. Faith is our shield. It protects our blind side. The “fiery darts” Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6 are a likening to the flaming arrows fired in ancient warfare. The shield in Roman armour was thick and heavy. The wood it was backed with would absorb the arrow deeply enough to extinguish the arrows fired. It had to be hooked onto the belt because of the weight. It was not enough to have the shield alone. Truth supports the shield.

What much of the trap of the 21st Century has delivered to us is a false truth. Medicine, although useful – it must be added that right now I myself take several medicines daily for unresolved chronic medical conditions – is not God’s first choice. We are comfortable with it because we can live with the issues that just 50 years ago were almost always fatal unless God intervened. When we need finances we turn straight to a bank or “micro-finance” lender. The concept of turning to God to meet financial needs, despite being a central theme through Jesus’s own teaching, is virtually condemned by most churches (note the lower case “c” there). Christ’s teaching of reliance on God for our daily needs has almost been completely lost. We need to get back to basics, and it protects our blind side.

The enemy will sometimes get a shot past us. We may get wounded or even killed by those shots, but if we keep our mind set on the Truth and build our Faith on that Truth, then we can overcome even potentially fatal wounds.