On the Run and Searching for Water
By Rev. James May
I know that I’ve told this before, but I want to begin this message again by bringing to your mind the story of the lion and the gazelle that dwell on the Serengeti plains of northern Africa.
Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will not live to see another day. Every morning the lion wakes up and knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it may starve to death, and never see the sun rise again.
The moral of this story is that whichever you are; whether you are like the lion, and feel as though you are king of your world and all is well, you better be ready to run with all your might; or if you are more like the gazelle, timid and shy, and feeling nearly defenseless against the predators in life that seem to be ever after you; when the day dawns and sun rises, you better be ready to run for your life!
I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have felt like the lion. I was on top of the mountain and all was well, yet there was always this nagging feeling that I could not stop because the top of the mountain doesn’t go on forever; and that the time was quickly approaching when life would see me going over the side and falling swiftly into the valley once more.
I’ve also discovered that I spend a lot more time going down into, staying in the depths of, or struggling to climb out of the valley, than I have on the mountaintop. I’ve also come to know that it is not on the mountaintop as much as it is in the struggles of the valley that faith in God is built and made stronger.
The bible refers to different animals as representative of the people of God in varying circumstances.
Psalms 44:22 says, "Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter."
Isaiah 40:31 compares us in some ways to an eagle. "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
In our passage for today found in Psalms 42, David compares us to a hart; or a deer.
Psalms 42:1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
First of all we must take note that God has placed within each of us a natural desire for seeking the truth of his existence. Though many men will suppress that desire and even deny its existence because they refuse to give God a place in their lives, yet that emptiness and thirst down deep inside cannot be quenched by anything other than the presence of the Lord. There is a place in the heart that nothing, nor anyone else can fill, but Jesus. So many today search for something to satisfy that longing down inside, but nothing can make them ultimately happy.
You can give a man all the wealth of the world and it won’t satisfy the emptiness of his heart and soul. King Solomon had so many wives and lovers that his palace was becoming crowded but no other person can fill that void that only Jesus can fill, and in the end Solomon could only say that all of life was filled with vanity; things that have no meaning without God. All of the excitement of travel, vacations, sports, or accomplishments in the world of business cannot slake that thirst, and in a moment of time the temporary high disappears. Drugs and alcohol are nothing more than tools that men use to dull the reality of the pain in their hearts because of the emptiness and sinking feeling of the meaningless life that they live without Jesus, a life without purpose or fulfillment.
If only all of mankind would allow Jesus to fill that place in our hearts that only he can fill, what a wonderful world this would be. Sadly though, that will never happen.
Even as Christians who serve God faithfully, we often find ourselves in the same position as David in this verse, “We are dry and thirsty, and in desperate need of that water of life that only Jesus can give.”
As long as we are in this world there is always a battle to fight. Sometimes the battles are with natural enemies, those who seem to be chasing after us all the time to take what we have worked hard to earn, or to steal that which God has blessed us with. Our constitution may guarantee our right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but that guarantee is only as good as the constitution itself and right now that constitution is being trampled underfoot by the powers that be and when the constitution is disregarded then life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are in jeopardy as well.
Sometimes the battle we must fight is more in the realm of the supernatural. We can never let down our guard against the enemy of our souls because Satan and the powers of darkness never sleep and he is a relentless foe, every seeking whom he may devour. Like that lion chasing the gazelle on the Serengeti Plains, Satan is ever roaring, searching for Christians who have strayed from the presence of God and gone searching from greener pastures out in the world. Spiritual warfare never ceases and the closer we stay to the Lord, the safer we will be.
A lone gazelle, grazing away from the herd, is easy prey for the lion. A Christian who strays from the church, tries to feed his heart and soul on the TV or radio, or by making up his own plan of salvation, becomes easy prey for the temptations of the devil. How can anyone expect to stay strong for the Lord if they live in direct disobedience to the Word of the Lord? There is strength in being together, strength in numbers, for we all hold one another accountable in a fashion, and we all are encouraged by one another. You won’t get that by going it on your own. Many have tried, and just as many have fallen into temptation and sin.
Staying close to God doesn’t make us immune to Satan’s attacks, but when we are close to God, then we have only a short distance to “Run” before we can feel his grace keeping us from falling prey to the devil.
We’ve often felt that hot breath of the powers of darkness as they are at our heels. The problem with most of us is that we are often running as fast as we can to get away from the attacks of the devil that we forget that what we should do is simply stand fast in God and resist the devil. As long as we are running, he won’t stop chasing. But the instant we stand upon the Word of God in faith and resist him, Satan has to turn and flee.
David refers to the deer as a hart and gives us the example of how the deer behaves. The deer is one of the most timid creatures in the forest. Whether is the hunter with his weapons, or wolves, or wild cats, or some imaginary enemy, the deer is easily spooked and will run for a long time to get away. After a time running creates a terrible thirst and that deer will begin seeking for water.
Whatever the reason, that deer has to find that water, and whatever the reason that we as Christian find ourselves in a dry and thirsty condition, we must do like that deer and search for that water of life that only God and his Word can give.
Psalms 42:2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
How are you going to fill that emptiness and thirst within your heart and soul? It can only be filled by coming before the Lord and appearing before the courts of Heaven in prayer and supplication. When we seek him we will find him; when we ask of him we will receive and when we knock on the doors of Heaven; they will be opened to us. But notice this – we have to make the first move! We have to ask, seek and knock first! There are too many Christians who just sit around expecting God to answer their prayer that they never pray to begin with; to open doors of blessing without ever knocking on the door, and who also expect God to reveal himself to them in a greater measure every day while they never seek to know him more!
Why do Christians have so much trouble? Why does God allow us to become tempted and tried? Why are we always running from the devil, and walking in dry, thirsty places in the spiritual realms? The answer is that God has to allow something or someone to chase us, so ultimately make us run to him, which is where we should have been in the first place!
David said in Psalms 42:3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
That sounds like so many people I know; and I’ve been there myself from time to time. The only thing that we feed on are the doubts and fears that come upon us because we failed God. When we run far enough and long enough from the presence of God, there’s nothing left but to cry out for mercy and run back to God seeking forgiveness. How far and fast do we run only to finally realize how far we are from where we should be in God?
There comes a time in our running that we finally ask, Where is God? Where is that relationship that I once had with the Lord? Where is my love for the Word of God, for working for the Lord, for being in the House of the Lord, for being around God’s people? Where is that Love that I once had and that sensing of the anointing and power of God upon my heart? How far have I run?
You can see that pattern every time it begins to happen. People are excited about church and about the things of God, then other things begin to draw them away. Then they are saying things like, “I just feel led to get away from the ministry that I have for a while and take a rest.” Yes, there is a rest for the people of God, but that rest is not found in abandoning your post in the Lord’s army. It’s found by staying faithful and leaning upon Jesus rather than running from him.
There are those who say, “I just feel like I’m not getting fed what I need, so I’m going to try something else, whether it’s a new church, a new preacher or a new position.” Understand this – you will only get out of it what you put into it. No one gets fed when they are not committed to serving the Lord with all their heart. If you want to get fed, then learn how to give to others first, and give to God what is expected of you. God’s working in your life still operates on the laws of sowing and reaping. You will get back after you’ve put in. Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over! Don’t give first; and you’ll get nothing in return because that’s what you have sown.
Sow prayer and reap the answer! Sow praise and reap the presence of the Lord! Sow working in the Kingdom of God and reap satisfaction and joy in knowing that you’ve obeyed the Lord! Sow teaching others; and you’ll learn so much more in the process! Sow ministering into the lives of other people; and you’ll reap the blessings of receiving their thanks and kind words of appreciation. Sow work in God’s house; and reap the satisfaction of feeling like you belong and that you are a part of what God is doing! Sow the seed first; then the reaping and harvest will come!
Those who begin to draw back, soon fall into temptation and become caught up in sin, whether it’s sin of doing things that are contrary to the Word of God or sin of not doing that which God requires of his people. Either way it is a dangerous path that leads to destruction. We can’t live in rebellion against God’s plan for our lives and expect God to continue to bless our lives. God’s blessings are dependent upon our obedience to his call and the work that he has set before us!
The point is that the further we run, the drier we will get in the spirit. The farther we get from where we should be in God; the thirstier our souls will become, until one day we will see that there is no more water and that we have a choice to make, either get back to the water of God’s Word or die where we stand!
Psalms 42:4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
Do you see what David is saying here? He had come to this dry and thirsty place in his life, in spite of the fact that he had continually gone to the house of God to worship, in spite of lifting up his voice in praise; and in spite of being around the multitude of God’s people who were there with him.
The problem is that we can all go through the motions, seeming to do what we should, but if our heart and soul isn’t into it, then it does little good. God won’t accept half-hearted efforts. He expects us to be on fire for him, desiring him above all else. Anything less than full committed is completely unacceptable. We can appear to be faithfully serving God, and still be on the run from him. We might fool everyone around us. We might even convince ourselves that we are okay. But you can’t fool God. He knows your heart and your motives!
Psalms 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
Why is David feeling so cast down? Why is he unsettled and disturbed in his spirit? The reason is that he was in a dry and thirsty condition spiritually. Yet he knew there is hope and that hope is found in the mercy, grace and forgiveness of God. He knew that his answer was found only in returning to praise and worship from a pure heart; and if he would do that, then God would lift him up again!
Psalms 42:6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
When David began to think of his dry and thirsty soul, and of his great desire for the water of life that God can give; he remembered how God had blessed him and the nation of Israel in the past. He had been in this condition before and so had the entire nation of the Jews. How often had they fallen! How often had they failed God! How often had they been left dry and thirsty; not having the blessings of God upon them because of their spiritual condition!
God had brought them back so many times. He had dried up the Jordan River that barred them from the Land of Promise. He had defeated their enemies, caused water to come out of the rock in the wilderness; given them the Law on Mt. Sinai, and then led them all the way. God had brought David back from the wilderness when Saul was after him to kill him. God had blessed David’s reign as king and given him a throne that would be forever remembered. God had blessed him after he repented of the affair with Bathsheba. David remembered that no matter how far Israel had run, or how far he had fallen from God’s presence; that somehow, there was always hope, because God is faithful!
Psalms 42:7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Though we might be like David, so deep in despair, so deep in the dry places and so far from God that we can’t feel his presence anymore; yet there is hope. The depth of God’s love and grace are reaching into the depths of David’s dry and thirsty soul. Though the storms of life, represented in the waterspouts, and the depths of sin, represented in the billows over him, were so great, God was still calling him home.
I don’t care what you’ve done; or how far you have run from God. It doesn’t matter how far down into the depths of sin you have plunged! God will hear your voice if you call upon him for deliverance!
Psalms 42:8 Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
Like the light of the sun in the daytime, the love of God will lead us home and show us the way. His Word will be the lamp to your feet and the light to your path, all the way back to Jesus and the foot of the cross of Christ where we can find rest once again. In the darkness of our sin and despair, God will give us a song; a new hope and a renewed spirit if we will only pray to him and seek his face!
Psalms 42:9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
You can see hope arising in David’s heart once again! He now sees that God is his Rock; his foundation; and his answer to the dry and thirsty condition of his soul. Why should he cry and be in such despair because of his enemy? Why sit in self pity and bewail his spiritual weakness when God is still God and able to deliver him?
I say to you this morning that whatever you face; and whatever your spiritual condition; whether you’re on fire for God and on the mountaintop with Jesus; or whether you’re down in the valley, depressed and downtrodden; God is still God and he is still your answer! Run to him!
Psalms 42:10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
Here’s the picture that I see in this verse! As soon as you make up your mind to turn back to God in faith and begin sowing the right seed; as soon as you decide that you’ve been dry and thirsty long enough and that you have a new-found hunger and thirst for the things of God; you can just get ready for the spiritual battle to get a lot hotter.
Satan doesn’t want you to get back to God and he’ll throw everything in your path to stop you. You’ll begin to wonder if God will even accept you back. You’ll start to wonder what other people might think about you. You’ll begin to doubt whether the feeling you have inside to get back to God is even real. These are all tricks of the devil!
It’s his job to discourage you; but you have to resist him and come to Christ anyway. Satan can’t stop you if you really want God more in your life, but you can let him stop you if you yield to his discouragements.
Who cares what other people think; it only matters what God thinks! God is always willing for us to get closer to him. He never refuses a repentant heart! He is willing that all should come to repentance and inherit the blessings of God. And yes, it is God who is dealing with your heart if you feel that desire to come back to him. Only Satan would ever tell you that the tugging in your heart isn’t real! That’s the Holy Spirit drawing you, so yield to it and come on home to Jesus!
Psalms 42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
David’s final words in this chapter are meant to encourage anyone who truly thirsts after God, or is hungry for something to fill that emptiness inside, to run to the Lord! There’s no reason to stay in that state of want when God is so willing and able to feed you and fill you with everything you need.
Your hope is in Jesus! Your answer is found in Christ! Your joy can only be found in knowing God and serving him with all your heart! Your victory over everything that keeps you depressed and discouraged is only found in obeying the Word of the Lord and giving God that sacrifice of praise even when you don’t feel like it.
David determined to praise the Lord; to place his faith in God’s power to deliver him; and to believe God for a breakthrough in the spirit that would satisfy his longing soul.
Jesus is your answer and He is still God! Come to him today and watch those clouds of doubt and despair go away. The Son of God will rise in your heart and there will be a brand new day! God will satisfy your thirsting soul and he will fill your hungry heart!
If you’re on the run, searching for water; longing for an answer; seeking after something that will satisfy and bring peace into your lift, Jesus is your answer. Just come to him now!