May 20, 2014

"Like the spring rain"

Part of a series of articles, entitled 20 years a Christian, recalling some of the important lessons I have learned in nearly two decades as a believer in Jesus.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my nearly two decades as a Christian is the great need for (and hope of!) revival.  Not revival meetings ... but genuine, Holy Spirit-sent refreshing from on high. Because there are drought seasons in the Christian life. There are times – in the life of the individual believer, in the life of the local church, and sometimes in the broader Christian world – when the showers of the Holy Spirit seem few and far between, and when the fruit seems scarce and unripe, and when the ground all around seems hard to the gospel. Both history and experience tell us these times will come. Perhaps you are in the midst of one of them even now – maybe by means of your own sin and neglect; maybe because of Satan’s attack; or maybe for reasons you can’t quite pinpoint. But you know that you are dry. Or perhaps the ground around you seems hard, and dusty, and inhospitable to the words about Jesus that you have been trying to share. And maybe you’ve begun to simply punch the clock a little bit. You’ve lost your zeal, or your hope, or your dreams. And spiritually speaking, you are just going through the motions. And why not, really? No matter how often you read the Bible, or share Jesus, or come to Sunday meeting … very little seems to change. Maybe this is all there is. Just trust Jesus so that your sins are forgiven, and then muddle through life as best as you can.

I understand these feelings completely – the sighs, the resignation, the aridity of soul. I understand the desire to just stop caring so much, to stop trying so hard, and to just hunker down.  But such feelings also make me think of one of my favorite passages of Scripture: Hosea 6.1-3. The people of Israel and Judah had grieved the Lord, and brought down His discipline upon themselves because of their sin. And, as a result, they were “torn” and “wounded” (v.1), and in the midst of spiritual drought. And it may have seemed like hope was gone. They may have been tempted to just roll over and die. But Hosea exhorts them – even in the midst of their sin and drought – to “return to the LORD” and to believe in Him for healing and revival (vv.1-2). And then he makes this remarkable statement about the Lord’s faithfulness and refreshing (v.3):

“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

What a promise! If His people would but seek Him, God would come “like the spring rain” to water their dry, cracked souls. He would water the ground again! He would cause the blossoms and the fruit to grow once more – if His people would “press on to know the LORD.”

And if He is willing to do so for those whose drought has been brought about by their own sin and idolatry (as in Hosea) … then surely He will also do so for those who are oppressed by the devil; or who are just spiritually exhausted; or who have been dried out by the hot winds of difficult circumstances. “He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (emphasis mine). If we will press on; if we will not roll over or quit; if we will not lose hope … but continue praying, continue fellowshipping with the people of God, and continue sowing the seed of the word (both on our own hearts, and on those of others), then we can be sure that the rain will eventually begin to fall (and the fruit begin to blossom) once more!

Sometimes the showers we were praying for may not fall on the land until after we have left it in the hands of others. Sometimes it may not be until eternity that we see how God did indeed come “like the spring rain” to revive His people and His cause. But He will not fail to come. He will not fail to satisfy your soul if you will “press on to know” Him. He will not allow the seed of His word to lie dormant on the ground forever.

A few years ago our family watched a film about one of the great deserts of our planet – a vast stretch of ground which can go for months and months on end without seeing any significant rain. And, of course, the ground is barren, cracked, and almost completely devoid of plant life. Until one day the skies darken, and the heavens open, and the rain comes down in buckets, drenching the ground with a torrent of water. And soon the desert floor is covered, garden-like, with the lushest green plants!

But how can that be? Where did the seed come from, in such a barren place, to produce all that life? It came from the last downpour, and the last flourishing of plant life on the dessert floor! Those plants grew, and blossomed, and eventually wilted back to the earth … leaving their seeds lying dormant on the desert floor. And they laid there, and laid there, and laid there – seemingly pointlessly. Had they been planted by a farmer, he may have long since given up and moved on. But when God sends the great rains, everything is different! “He changes a wilderness into a pool of water and a dry land into springs” (Psalm 107.35).

And so it is in the Christian life. Often because of our own neglect; and sometimes because of factors beyond our control, the spiritual ground (inside and outside of the church) can seem almost like the floor of a dessert. Sometimes our own hearts may seem like a wilderness. But in my nearly twenty years of following Jesus, I have come to a place of hope that God will not leave the seeds lying dormant forever; that God delights in reviving His work "in the midst of the years" (Habakkuk 3.2).  If we will “press on” with our God, the rain will eventually come. God Himself “will come like the spring rain watering the earth.” The Holy Spirit will come in revival.  So “let us press on to know the LORD.”

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