May 9, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
The beginning of Revelation 22 reminds me of an experience I had last summer. With some friends, I went fly fishing in Montana. In addition to lake fishing, we tried our luck on the picturesque Madison River. On the first day, we fished from boats floating downstream. The second day, we donned our waders and fished while standing thigh-deep in the fairly fast moving water. As a first timer, I found it a bit tricky to keep my balance as I waded. But what kept me from swimming the Madison rather than wading was the unusual clarity of the water. Unlike most rivers I have seen elsewhere, the Madison is exceptionally clear. You can see the rocks on the bottom without straining. And, if you’re lucky, you can also see some fish worth catching. (The photo to the right shows our guide wading in the Madison River. Even from this angle, you can see how clear the water is if you look at the bottom of the picture.)
Whether you’re a teacher or a banker, a lawyer or an artist, a carpenter or a pastor, God’s life in you will strengthen and sustain you for your daily work.
No, the first verses of Revelation 22 don’t mention fly-fishing, but they do describe the “river of the water of life, as clear as crystal” (22:1). The crystalline clarity of the river suggests its extraordinary freshness and vitality. It invites us to enjoy its distinctive beauty, even to drink from its pure water. We are reminded of Revelation 21:6, in which God says, “To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Similarly, we remember the words of Jesus, “[W]hoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
In both of these verses, God offers water that gives us life. Without physical water we will not be able to remain alive for long. Similarly, without the salvation, nurture, and refreshment of God, we will not experience eternal life, that is, the life of the age to come. Yet, the good news of Revelation 22 is that such eternal-life-giving water does indeed flow from the throne of God. It is readily available and in superabundance.
Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with the main themes of these Life for Leaders devotions. Isn’t the water of life from God about spiritual provision? What does it have to do with things like work and leadership? Well, if you’ve ever known how it feels to be spiritually depleted because of your work, I expect you can make this connection without my help. In seasons of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion, in times of discouragement or depression, we realize that we need God’s life more than ever. Thanks be to God, we don’t have to wait for the New Jerusalem to drink his living water. As we put our trust in Jesus, as we turn to him for sustenance, as we allow his life to be alive in us, we will be refreshed; not only for so-called “spiritual” work, but for the truly spiritual work that occupies most of our days. Whether you’re a teacher or a banker, a lawyer or an artist, a carpenter or a pastor, God’s life in you will strengthen and sustain you for your daily work.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you read John’s description of the river in the New Jerusalem, what comes to mind for you? Do you picture an actual river you have seen? Do you think of some work of art? What image or experience suggests itself to you?
Would you say that the living water offered by Jesus has refreshed you? If so, when? How have you experienced this living water?
Can you think of a time in your life when you were utterly depleted and needed God’s living water just to get through the workday?
Gracious God, what an inspiring image in Revelation 22! It gladdens and comforts our hearts to picture the river, clear as crystal, flowing from your throne. It also stirs in us a longing for your living water. How wonderful that we don’t have to wait for the New Jerusalem to begin to drink from this water! Thank you for the living water you give us through Christ. Thank you for how your water gives us true life, eternal life both now and in the future.
O Lord, when I am weary and exhausted, help me to drink from your living water. Keep me from trying to stir up life in myself through effort or ingenuity. Help me, rather, to seek the life that really is life, the life you provide through Christ. Amen.
Image Credit: Photo courtesy of Mark D. Roberts. All rights reserved.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.