A Walk By The River

by Karen Houston

Author’s note: As God’s places messages on my heart, some could possibly be more suitable as sermons than Bible Studies.

IMG_9224I have lived in different places, but especially love the forest of East Texas. Tall Pine, Sycamore, Ash, Holly, Hickory, the list is almost endless. There is a path from my back yard that meanders two miles through the woods down to a river at the point it meets a large lake. It’s a peaceful place; cool in the summer as there’s always a breeze blowing across the lake waters. I was there recently enjoying that breeze in the Texas heat and drought, watching the river with its constant movement of water.

As dark clouds approached, a smell of rain was present on the breeze. Being in a drought, it’s easy to see how rain is the lifeblood for plants and animals that depend on it. As rain falls, it gets caught up in ditches and streams and eventually makes its way down to the river and lake. I began to see how this lifeblood of water is like the lifeblood of Jesus… His Holy Spirit!

Psalm 46:4 (New King James Version)
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

One of the benefits of worshipping in a Charismatic church is experiencing the presence of God’s Spirit as believers gather. We enjoy soaking in the “river” of God; it feels so good to find rest in God’s Spirit, to relax, taking it all in. Churches are becoming more “experience oriented” with good feelings or warm fuzzies.

But we need to ask ourselves why we are in the river. What is its purpose, and what is our purpose. Is the river there just for warm fuzzy feelings each week?

Standing along the bank looking at the current of the river, I could see things drifting along. A log, an abandoned Styrofoam ice chest, another unidentifiable object, and something that looked like a turtle were floating by. None of them needed to exert any effort to travel downstream because they were in the current. Along the way, that current may have been slow or fast, or encountered obstacles, but eventually it would take them to a destination downstream.

In the same way, it’s easy for us to want to drift in God’s river. We can stay in the main current or get separated into a stagnant pool on the side where the water becomes still. Although it might be peaceful just sitting in a pool, we aren’t going anywhere in stagnant water. If we want to get with God’s program, we should be in the main current. As a barometer, we must look at our spiritual life, is it blossoming with fruit, or is it more stagnant?

In a severe drought, when the lake is very low, water evaporates and seeps from the lake faster than the river can flow in. The lake is receiving water but not passing it on, becoming stagnant; the lake receives and receives but never gives back.

We too can get caught up enjoying the river of God in a selfish manner. If all we do is receive, receive, and receive God’s spiritual water (His anointing) and never give it back out, that water will become as a stagnant pool in us too.

Wide RiverJames 3:16 (New King James Version)
16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

God does not intend for us to be selfish, but rather to share our anointing with others. That’s ministry!

Just as a child holds on to a parent when faced with uncertainty, often we are afraid to let ourselves get swept away by the current of His Holy Spirit. We are eager for the anointing but afraid of where it might take us. Many will put one foot in while holding on to non-godly things that anchor their lives.

Where has the river of God taken you in the past?
Are you ready to let go of ungodly things and follow Him?
Where might the river take you next?

How many people are disillusioned with their spiritual journey because they experience joy in an anointing on Sunday just to see it disappear on Monday? Is it because they don’t walk in God’s Word each day, or is it because they don’t realize that the anointing isn’t for us to keep, it’s there to minister to others? We can’t continue in the anointing unless we give it away.

Mark 16:15-20 (New King James Version)
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

In verse 15, Jesus commands us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” There are four things to notice here:

First, we are commanded to share the gospel with others, He gives us an anointing when we proclaim the gospel; it’s for a purpose, not for us to feel good about ourselves.

Second, He doesn’t say to preach tithing, repentance, obedience of the law, or feel-good sermons; Jesus says to preach the gospel. There’s power in the gospel and anointing over those that preach the gospel; to walk in that anointing we need to preach the gospel. Other Bible-based messages are fine but the power is in the gospel.

Third, He tells us to “Go” preach, which means get out to the people who need to hear about Christ. How many of us sit in a pew and expect the lost to miraculously show up?

Fourth, we are to preach the gospel to every creature. We cannot see into a person’s heart to know if Jesus is missing, or whether they will reject Christ, only God knows that. Each person must make their own decision to accept or reject the gospel message, for that to happen we need to present the gospel.

Verse 20 confirmed this anointing was present as they preached the gospel: ”And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.”

In these verses we see not only the command to minister to others, but we see the key behind the anointing, sharing the gospel message.

Many regard Paul as the most anointed apostle. We clearly see that his heart was also focused on the gospel message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (New King James Version)
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Likewise Peter’s heart was focused on the gospel and it is likely he preached it at every opportunity, including Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40), in Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:11-26), and to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5-12). It was there Peter and John refused to cease preaching the gospel “for we cannot stop speaking about that we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20 NASB) Many miracles are recorded testifying to the anointing these men carried.

Success on our river depends on our ability to stay in the current, where God is leading us. As we flow with His anointing, we could be led to evangelize at convenience stores, or in a jail ministry, or to help the poor, the hurting or the lost around us, all in Jesus’ name. We might see God’s healing anointing along our river, bringing physical, emotional, or spiritual healing to our community.

Why do we think it takes someone special to do this? Each and every believer can walk in the anointing of the Lord. God can use any of us if we only let Him!