The Lesson of the River
by Dick Funnell

Very early one morning I was walking by the edge of the Mississippi River. In a gap in the trees that grow in the area between the levee and the river, where there was a small sandy beach that extended down to the very edge of the water, I sat down to pray and just spend time with the Lord.

The sky was just beginning to grow lighter towards the southeast, and the clouds on the horizon were being tinted with the beautiful colors of the dawn. The water of this powerful river flowed slowly and smoothly toward the east, and filled most of my view with its expanse. The river here is over a half a mile wide.

As the sky lit up more and more with dawn's colors, the reflection painted the water of the river with its beauty. I was warmed with a deep admiration for the Lord for such a beautiful creation, and with a profound gratitude that He had given me life, and the senses to be able to appreciate all His doings.

I began to feel the presence of God so real and so close that my heart overflowed with His love. Within me I said, "Lord, your power and love are so great! How tremendous and beautiful is your creation!" Also at the same time I just felt a desire that He caress me with a gentle breeze, and almost immediately there blew a fresh and gentle wind upon me, confirming to my spirit His attention to my heart's stirrings. As he says Matthew 6:8, " ... for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." How beautiful it is that the Maker of the universe is so attentive to his beloved children even in the small details like we as parents also consent to some of the whims of our children when they are small!

For a long while I sat there admiring the growing colors of the dawn, and the tremendous power and force of the river. It was such a clear, strong and tangible demonstration of the deep and eternal love of God for this world that I could not stop my tears as I watched. The great and dissonant contrast that exists between the severe need that there is in the world for the love of God, and the cry of God's heart for every human being that ignores or despises His love, broke my heart, and I wept for both reasons at the same time.

After a long time of this awareness and agonizing intercession, the Lord began to show me another aspect of the life of this river. So clearly the flow of this tremendous current represented the "For God so loved the world... ." But now He brought my attention to the continuous movement and work that is carried out on the river.

Perhaps two hundred feet in front of me lay the prow of a very large freighter, the enormous chains of its anchors hanging in the water. And down river to my left I could see a great number of other ships also anchored and waiting their turn in line. To my right were two huge grain storage and loading facilities, and it's here where these ships tie up to the docks to be loaded with different grains like rice, wheat, corn, soy, etc. Constantly these large granaries, and many more than the two that I could see, are being filled with the produce of this country meanwhile ships from many nations around the world are making their over to be loaded with food. Frequently they have to wait for several days until it's their turn, and they wait patiently. The only sound is the gentle thrumming of their generators, and they seem to waiting in a state of passive activity.

Suddenly the Lord made me see that our function as members of His body should be like that of these ships. We need to come into His presence and wait expectantly for Him to fill us with Himself. In Luke 4:21 Jesus "... began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."

Just as these ships supply the nations with vital grains to sustain life, so also God has chosen us and set us apart that we be filled with the precious burden of His new life, and that we also serve to distribute the abundance of God within our own lives to a world badly in need of truth and hope.

Our role is not just to make it to our meetings to be filled and enjoy ourselves in the presence of God, but in the same way as these ships, it is our duty to be loaded by Him and then leave and to distribute to the needy ones of what we receive from God. Each one of us as believers have this privileged responsibility. Observing this, I began to see to how today's churches are not in a very healthy condition. Many believers congregate to be built up and to charge their spiritual batteries, but only to get through the following week and then come back for the next recharge, ..etc. But that is not the goal! We are called "to go and to make disciples of the nations" and to take an active part in investing us ourselves the work of our Lord and master. This is not an option or suggestion, but is a mandate of God. Whether that means we must get up and go to another part of our country or of the world, or just go back to our homes to reach our neighbors, is our destiny and "...high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Meditating thus on the condition of the church and its great variety of members, the Lord began to show me more details. Now I began to see other kinds of boats, but they were not all large ships like the one in front of me, but much smaller. There were sailboats, rowboats and motor boats. Some were towing people behind on water skiis, racing along in great style. I could see other people swimming, and children with inflatable water toys of a variety of shapes and colors. There were yachts also, some mid-sized and nice, others large and ostentacious. They were of all colors and styles, some simple and other more luxurious. Some they were in very good condition, well painted and maintained, and others appeared old and neglected.

What alarmed me and grieved my heart was that all this activity was purely entertainment. Many seemed to be having a great time, happy in their passtimes, and others seemed more interested looking good to the others of own group. The Lord impressed me with the sad reality that the majority of believers go through their lives this way, looking after their own interests and welfare. It was not that they do it out of wrong motives, but more like they just don't know any better, or they don't really believe the truth that God wants to use them in their daily lives.

Again my attention was directed toward the large cargo ships. These were pure working ships. They didn't show evidence of much concern for their appearance, but their operability was important. Some were very rusty in places, and their thick steel plating dented and bent by the work that they did. Some they were obviously in process of being painted, but just for protection from the salt water's corrosion. They were majestic in size and aspect, but not all fancy like large cruise vessels with their modern design and colorful strings of flags. These huge freighters portrayed a seriousness and dedication to their slow and arduous job. Their job was not just doing a trip and stopping to rest somewhere, but a constant cycle of loading up and then delivering their enormous contents somewhere, and then to be loaded and to deliver again elsewhere.

Then I began to see how these ships carried their holds full of grain across the oceans to the vital ports of the world, and how that corn or beans or rice would find its way into warehouses around the world, and then into towns and local markets and into the homes of so many different people. How many millions of lives must literally depend on this whole process.

As I looked on in wonder at this, I grew intensely aware of the yearning in the heart of God to see His people working in the harvest fields that surround us, carrying the good seed of His word, not ink on paper, but written in the heart and easy to be read by every man. I saw His plan for the work of the church in the same way these tons of food are distributed around the world. The intention and design of God is that the Gospel be carried to the nations and towns and the churches and then to each home and heart of this world. The size of this task is so great that there just is not time for simple entertainment. And the truth is that no greater joy exists than that of to being used as an instrument of the Most High in bearing blessing, healing, hope and love to a needy heart.

As I took in all these things, I implored God to equip and motivate His church and so fulfill His design for the functioning of each member. When I asked Him what we could do to achieve this, He impressed on me many attitudes of the leadership of the churches that need to be changed. Again He showed me the diversity of the boats, and focused me on the sportscraft.

***I saw some boats having races, with their crew attent to the competition and their place among the others, and doing every the possible thing to gain some advantage over them. Also I saw some riding on Jet-skis", doing great leaps into the air and other impressive maneuvers, and winning the applause and admiration of the spectators and their companions of the sport. The Lord showed me that in this same way many leaders among His body, pastors of churches, leaders of church groups and heads of other ministries have grown more concerned about their position the the "race" than the purpose of being in the water in the first place. Sadly, some have come to the extreme that Jesus spoke about to the pharisees in John 5:42-44, "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust."

I understood that the majority of these men of God did not began with any notion of competition, but that somehow they had steered off the main road.

>From bible study leaders to Sunday school teachers, there begins a tendency for one to be conscious of his position or function as well as or instead of his attention to his relationship with God. The tangible thing subtly and easily substitutes the intangible.

I also could see how the influence and scope of a person's "ministry" or "gift" could grow for different reasons. In some cases, the simple fact of God's grace operating in someone's life would open doors spontaneously, while in others, years of sincere dedication to the Lord's work bore inevitable fruit. However in some cases men promoted themselves to "better" their stature among the body of Christ. The more people a minister was able to "raise up" under his leadership, the higher he resulted in his own hierarchy and thus also he improved his condition or position in the "race when compared with other leaders.

Upon perceiving these things, I wept more intensly and there was an agonizing pain in my chest. I felt the burden of sorrow so strongly that the only thing I could do was to cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness - forgiveness by my own faults and those of all His servants that in one way or another way have failed and continue failing the One that has called us with such geat love to His harvest. Looking at again the large ships, I saw the enormity of the task that awaits us, and yet at the same time I could see the greatness and sovereignty of God over all these things, and it filled me with an ecstatic joy to know that He is Lord over the work, and is the one that is going to carry it out to perfection.

I looked out over the great plains of this country producing their fruit, and the whole process by which it all arrives at its destinations, and again saw with great satisfaction that God is faithful to complete what He began since the start.

How beautiful is the love with which He has called us into His presence and decided to fill us with Himself and send us out as "The leaves of the tree that are for the healing of the nations" as is says in the Revelation of John.

And what grace and peace there is when we understand that the only thing that we can do is to come into His presence in humility and patience, waiting for His to fill us with His precious cargo.

And there is no greater joy than knowing that He has annointed us for what the prophet Isaiah says: "6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall    spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. (Isaiah 58:6-8).

We wait on you Lord Jesus. Without you we can do nothing. With you, nothing will be impossible to us . Help us Lord!

Dick Funnell
November, 1998