A few years ago, I was working at a location near a great running trail. It wrapped around a local high school then went on into some scenic fields. On one side of the raised trail was a creek and on the other side was a large pond. I ran there during my lunch break for several years. During the winter I watched the pond freeze over to where I could walk on the ice. In the spring rains, I saw the lake reach well above its banks. And in the late summer I watched as the pond receded in the summer heat.
One particular summer it had been very dry and the pond all but dried up. It had evaporated in the hot summer sun until it became one fairly large mud puddle. As I passed by it on my run, I could see quite a few fish had made it into that little puddle. The water was so low that it was easy to see all the action just under the surface of the water. Big fish and little fish were thrashing about, bumping into one another, no doubt trying to find deeper water. They were trying to find a place of survival.
I could not help but think about what those fish might be saying (please pardon my cartoon imagination): One fish says to another, “Hey, this is my spot. You find your own.” Another fish whispers to himself, “This whole situation would be a lot better if certain fish were out of our puddle.” One fish hurriedly announces to the others “I have found a solution; it’s a little bit deeper over here.” One fish peeks his head above the water, looks across the muddy pond and says “I’ll bet there is a deeper puddle just over the hill there.” (Yeah I know I have a pretty vivid imagination but stay with me.)
As I thought about this, I pitied those fish because I saw the inevitable end to their situation. Elsewhere in that lake bottom, all the other little mud puddles that had existed just days before had dried up, leaving behind a very still and quite orderly group of smelly dead fish. If something didn’t happen soon, this last puddle would no longer be a puddle, but a muddy bowl of dead fish.
These fish in that last slowly shrinking puddle completely had the wrong mindset. Looking for a deeper spot, booting out other fish, and trying to reach another puddle were only putting off the inevitable. They needed to realize that their survival was totally outside of their control. These fish needed to stop looking to what they could do for themselves and look for what they cannot do for themselves. They didn’t need a bigger puddle. They needed rain from heaven. The truth is they needed to call on the God of heaven rend then the skies in a mighty deluge of rain.
The more I thought about this the more I realized that I needed to understand the same thing for my life as a believer. Thriving in the Christian life is not found in rolling up your sleeves and making greater attempts at spiritual exercise (going to church more, being more involved, reading the Bible more, praying more, witnessing more). As good, necessary, and obedient as those things are, inherent in them is the idea that we improve our Christian life. Yet when we do this we immediately know that something is wrong. Abiding in Jesus like a branch abides in a vine, should not be this hard. And you would be right.
Here are three ways to keep from being a dead fish at the bottom of a muddy puddle.
- Remember you can only pull your Christianity so far!
I am sure a very strong person can pull a 747 some distance down a runway by straining and sweating and pulling as hard as he can. But he can’t make it fly. A 747 was meant to fly. Yes, you can pull your Christianity and by hook and crook and make progress. But like Ravi Zacharias said, “if…you are carrying your faith — you are trying to make your faith work for you apart from your source of power — and trying to carry the infinite is very exhausting.” I don’t want to carry my Christianity; I want it to carry me!
- Realize you must have something outside of yourself!
Those fish in that puddle needed something that was completely out of their control. We live in a “control freak” society. We want to micromanage everything. But you and I have to surrender to the fact that we have no other option than to call on God, to do only what he can. Only God can open the heavens with torrential rains. Only God can flood my life and carry me down a river of progress, strength, joy, and fulfillment. Isaiah 64:1 Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence…
- Know that God is absolutely willing and able to give you what you need.
He is not one to stand idly by and watch your puddle dry up and you cry out to Him. Luke 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? He will give that wind from heaven, that Holy Spirit power to soar instead of strain. Isaiah 44:3 …I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground…
You and I need something outside of ourselves and our only hope is for God to rain living waters down upon our flailing and floundering hearts and lives!