Rivers or Streams

January 26, 2021

Have you ever stood on the banks of a river, with whitewater foaming and the water rushing by?  We don’t see many of those in Southern California.  Typically, our “rivers” look more like concrete canyons that contain a small stream of water from irrigation run-off or car washes.  They flow down a cut-out channel before finally making their way to the ocean.  Growing up in Pennsylvania, the rivers looked very different.  I would occasionally go kayaking on the Lehigh River.  On certain spring weekends, they would do a ‘release,’ allowing thousands of gallons of frigid water to pour down this beautiful wooded river canyon.  Water levels would rise and hundreds of people would be carried downriver for miles in rafts and kayaks.  

What always impressed me about these release days was the power.  Small rocks and obstructions would be covered immediately and car-sized boulders would transform into standing waves as the water rushed over them.  If you stood on the bank, you could hear rocks and boulders being carried by the water, shifting and tumbling downstream with thunks and grinding noises.  Before I ever got in my boat, I reminded myself to respect the river!


In John 7:37-39, Jesus was in Jerusalem on the last day of the Festival of Tabernacles.  Then, “…Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

When I think about this verse and about Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would be like “rivers of living water flowing from our hearts,” I feel a little conflicted.  Sometimes, it does feel just that way!  I sense God moving like a deep, powerful river in my soul revealing Jesus to me in new ways.  Other days – most days in fact – my experience of the Spirit is more like a stream.  What is your experience?  How does your heart feel today?  Is it a rushing river or a trickling stream?


If you feel like the Spirit is flowing in a trickle, then how do we open the flood gates?  We can’t command our hearts to flow.  We don’t control God, but the Word does give us some interesting context in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.  Paul urges us to not quench the Spirit.  This admonishment is surrounded by some very practical things.  There might not be a direct cause-effect relationship here, but they certainly appear to be associated with one another.  So what does Paul encourage us to do?

·       Admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone!    

·       Do not respond to evil with evil.  Instead, seek what is good for one another.  Abstain from every form of evil.

·       Rejoice, pray, be grateful, examine everything and hold firm to that which is good.  

These verses (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22) contains a mixed bag of encouragements and cautions.  You might say that there’s a general call to do good:  admonish, encourage, help, be patient!  There’s another call to avoid evil:  don’t respond in kind, abstain from evil!  Finally, there’s a call to worship:  rejoice, pray, be grateful, discern!  

Which of these areas might you invest some time in today?  Is there some good work that God has laid on your heart?  Is there something that He has set before you and asked you to engage in?  Make the phone call.  Dedicate the time.  Move forward.  Is there some sin that has been burdening you?  Is there a heaviness that needs to be resolved?  Confess it to a trusted friend or seek forgiveness from the one you have hurt.  Perhaps God is inviting you to set aside some time to worship.  Put on a song of praise, meditate on a verse that is meaningful to you or find a place of solitude that allows you to enjoy the presence of the Lord!  

As Jesus completed his earthly mission, he went to the Father who sent the Holy Spirit for all who would believe in him.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper (John 16:7) who reveals truth to us (John 16:13) ultimately causing us to glorify Jesus (John 16:14).  We don’t want to quench the Spirit!  We want more of Jesus!  So regardless of whether your journey with Jesus feels like a rushing river or a steady stream, may you continue to cultivate your life in such a way that you can enjoy Jesus in the day ahead.


What is the condition of your heart today?  Are you experiencing the work of the Spirit as a flowing river, a trickling stream, or are you in a desert place?

How is God preparing you to move in the day ahead so that you might experience more of the abundant life that Jesus makes available to us?  Is it through good works that glorify God, through confession of sin that restores intimacy with Him, or praise that reminds us of who He is?  Is He leading you in another way?

Pray 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 over yourself:  “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.”

About The Author

Dan Wendell

Dan joined the Cornerstone team in November 2018 as the Pastor of Missions. His focus is on empowering the church family to step beyond the boundaries of CCLB to declare the Good News, so that the Body of Christ might be established where it would not otherwise occur. In addition, Dan provides oversight for Cornerstone’s Care ministries.