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Living Water for Your Exhausted Soul

By Rick Lawrence
Vibrant Faith Executive Director

I read these self-referential words from Paul to his beloved “sheep” in Corinth today, and thought of you…

“In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us” (2 Corinthians 6:4-6).

Our Vibrant Faith Team is perpetually in conversation with ministry leaders around the country—serving in churches that are big and small, diverse and homogenous, old and new. And one word marks a universal narrative thread in their stories—EXHAUSTION. The pandemic drained us, straining the limits of our capacity to endure…

And so, a Friday encouragement for your tired, worn out, courageous, exhausted soul…

I sometimes go to a class at our health club called CXWORX, where the trainer focuses on “core strength”—there’s a great deal of planking involved, which is like asking your abs to tread water for 30 minutes. The goal is to build our core strength by introducing a resistance that we must persevere through. Likewise, Jesus is always working to strengthen our core identity so that the challenges we face in life—what Paul ironically calls our “momentary, light afflictions”—will “produce for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…”

The outcome we experience from a life spent following Jesus, who is always intent on growing our grit, is greater and greater impact in the world. That impact is the “permanent mark” Paul’s referencing with “eternal weight of glory.” This is what God created us to be in the first place—intimate allies bringing the hope and values of the Kingdom of God to every dark corner of the world, advancing His cause against all odds (even worldwide pandemics and widespread division in the culture).

Is it possible for normal, broken, messy people like you and me to change the world? To the extent that we passionately pursue Jesus in our life, and submit to the Spiritual CXWORX He has allowed us to experience, the answer is an undeniable yes…

In Hebrews 11, the writer spends an entire chapter cataloguing the courageous determination of the normal, broken, messy people of God through history, and the impact these ordinary people made as a result…

  • Noah builds a boat the size of three football fields, because God asks him to…
  • Abraham leaves his home to establish the first “one nation under God,” bringing with him his whole family, “without knowing where he was going,” because God asks him to…
  • Sarah, who is certainly infertile and too old to have a child anyway, believes she is going to have a baby, because God asks her to believe…
  • Abraham offers up Isaac as a sacrifice, submitting to the greatest test of his life, because God asks him to…
  • Joseph, on his deathbed, asks his family to take his bones with them when they return to Israel out of Egypt, even though it seems impossible they will ever see their homeland again, because God asks him to believe…
  • Moses refuses to use his status as the “adopted” son of Pharoah’s daughter and, instead, lives under oppressive circumstances with the people of God, because God asks him to…
  • The people of Israel, led by Moses and pursued by the Egyptian army, march right through the Red Sea, because God asks them to…
  • The Israelites besiege the walled city of Jericho, marching around it for seven days, blowing their horns until the walls crash down, because God asks them to…
  • Rahab the prostitute gives refuge to the Israelite spies, saving their lives and her own, because God asks her to…
  • Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all of the prophets “overthrow kingdoms, rule with justice, and receive what God has promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quench the flames of fire, and escape death by the edge of the sword” because they do what God asks them to do…
  • Others are tortured, jeered at, brutalized by whips, chained in prisons, die by stoning, are sawed in half, killed with the sword, and live destitute and oppressed and mistreated, because they trust God to give them the courage they need to do what he asks them to do…

And here’s the kicker thrown in by the writer of Hebrews—the scrappy reality for those whose hearts have been captured by God and are, therefore, unshakable in their pursuit of Him… “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us… [This] is why God is not ashamed to be called their God…” (Hebrews 11: 16, 39).

Here is the astonishing truth: Our under-the-radar courage makes God proud. When we respond with scrappy perseverance to the hardships and challenges life throws at us, God sees Himself in us. Metaphorically, he’s a parent (like me) standing at the finish line of a high school cross-country race, watching his daughter fight through pain and doubt and exhaustion and fear to shave a few seconds off her personal best, as the tears stream down his face.

The God with the heart of a lion not only respects our courage, He responds with passion when he tastes it in us…

Rick Lawrence is Executive Director of Vibrant Faith. He’s the general editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible, and author of 40 books, including The Jesus-Centered Life and the new daily devotional Jesus-Centered Daily. Coming in September, The Suicide Solution.

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