Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ – John 7:38
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. – John 15:8 (ESV)
An old boy down in the Dallas area runs a foundation, and, as best I can tell, he makes his living pursuing those airwave pirates of the Biblebelt: the televangelist and the prosperity preacher. This man has a -- I am so tempted to use a vulgar term here because it is so appropriate – has a grudge, or something, toward rich preachers. What he likes to do is find some relative or heir of a person who has given money to one of the big ministries. He then finds a sympathetic newsreader and arranges to expose the ministry’s efforts to dupe and deceive the gullible. A person paid millions to read half-truths and deceptions off a teleprompter, in between elaborate advertisements designed to convince people to buy products they don’t need, casts the first stone when it comes to separating fools from their money. I also suspect that our crusader is mostly a self-aggrandizing huckster -- a sort of pale religious version of Al Sharpton.
I don’t lose much sleep over the trials of televangelists. God knows those who are His. The same is true of the supporters of ministries. In a nation where we pay half our income to various levels of government to fund bureaucratic boondoggles and pay the salaries of the otherwise unemployable, a few billion to line the pockets and fuel the jets of religious showmen seems like a pretty good deal. Too, many of these ministries actually do good work and put resources on the ground where they are needed. Without layers of public sponges to absorb the money, Christian charity efforts are generally more efficient and efficacious than government and quasi-government efforts. Christian ministers, being at least formally human, come in many varieties – from those who will give you their last nickel to those with whom the buck stops -- and finds a lasting rest.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (2 Timothy 4:3), so said Paul. And many people want to follow Christ for the bread (John 6:26), for the blessings and the good feelings, the love and the relationships. A good church has a strong social fabric. Christian fellowship can impart a sense of purpose and belonging and be a comfort and shelter against the harshness of the world system.
When Jesus spoke as recorded in John 7, He does not say, though, that whoever believes in Him will experience a continual flow of blessings. He said that living water would flow from believers. His life would flow into us and out of us. Once again I see that Christianity, for all the good that it does me, is not about me.
There is a type of Christian that I know well and that has hamstrung me for the better part of my attempt to walk with Christ. I know the type so well because I am one, and my own chief hinderer. This type says that Christianity is about being a better person – a good thing. It is about letting the Holy Spirit fix our flaws and faults and make us holy – unquestionably true.
Let’s say that we want to irrigate a patch of ground. We’ve planted corn, and, up the hill a ways, we have a reservoir – a vast lake of crystal, clean water, beautiful and perfect. To get the water to the field, we need a channel, a ditch. We have plenty of water, an endless supply, really, so we don’t need to worry about what evaporates. We can just create a sluice gate and ditch right up to it. If some soaks in the ground along the way, it’s no big deal because there is plenty more and to spare. In fact, it wouldn’t be bad if we had maybe some fruit trees or something along the edge of the channel that could benefit from the water that is absorbed along the way. But even if we have weeds, we only suffer a loss of what could be a benefit. It is not going to stop the water from getting to the corn.
We have our ditch dug and our corn planted and starting to grow. We open the gate. Clean, clear water begins to flow into our channel. But soon it is no longer so clean. It picks up sediment from the ditch and carries it along. It is murky. We also realize the ditch isn’t quite as straight as we would have liked. We didn’t get the pitch exactly the way it should have been. Sometimes the water flows a little too fast, sometimes maybe a little too slow.
Now we have a choice. We can close the gate, stop the flow and work some more on our ditch – and sometimes that may be a necessary thing. Maybe we need to throw some rocks in to line parts of it. You know what, though, water is getting to the corn, which is, after all, the purpose of the ditch. Consider carefully. If the water is flowing too fast , stirring up and carrying away too much of the ditch itself, we probably need to close the flow and fix the problem. If not enough water is getting carried into the field, we might need to dig the ditch a little deeper. But, otherwise, it is probably a good idea just to let it flow and get the field what it desperately needs to grow and prosper.
Now about the banks of our ditch, we could just ignore them and let them grow up in ragweed, buckbrush, briars, and sassafras. The corn’s getting water. Still, why not take the time to do a little clearing, cultivating and planting? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few apple trees or pear trees, peach or cherry trees growing along the course?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.