GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
Trinity 19 (10 October 2021)
A PEOPLE WHO DIG WELLS IN DRY PLACES
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.” (Ps 84: 5-6)
There is something special about the redeemed people of God. It has nothing to do with their natural qualities. It derives from the strength that they receive from God through their faith in Him. Their strength in God enables them “to dig out springs of water in the midst of a dry and parched terrain.”
This is what Psalm 84 in the verses above is celebrating. The Psalmist pictures the pilgrim people of God in the Old Testament making their way through the arid wilderness to the Temple in Jerusalem. They need water as they pass through the wilderness, and they have to dig for it. It is a wonderful picture of God’s people digging wells of blessing out of hardship. It cannot be done humanly. It is a reality that happens when persons like you & me draw from the strength of God and the reservoir of His promises.
Digging Blessings out of Hardships
Life has its moments when you and I find that we are having to pass through a dry and parched terrain. Such a season can arise out of bereavement, loss of financial security, sudden illness, mental exhaustion, breakdown of a cherished relationship, and a host of other precipitating factors. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about such a time of hardship upon the whole world. Though the severity varies from country to country and from time to time, no nation is spared.
Sometimes the reality of the hardship and pain that COVID can bring is remote until you yourself or someone close to you suffers. That is what happened to me when my cousin sister in Malaysia died of Covid on 11 Sep this year. She was nearing her eighties in age and had gone for a lung operation last year. She succumbed to COVID in the space of just two days when her oxygen level began to drop sharply. The family is shaken and walking through the valley of tears at this time. We are comforted because my cousin sister died on the crest of faith, praising Jesus till her final breath. We are also stirred by my cousin sister’s example in life – she had suffered considerably throughout life’s journey but she always found strength in God to dig blessings for others. She was handicapped in her left arm owing to a car accident but that did not stop her from cooking and providing warm hospitality to so many in her home.
There is an inner strength that only the inward Christ can give for the tough stretches in life.
Drawing Strength in Tough Times
My late cousin drew from the Lord’s ‘well of living water’ (John 4: 14) through her disciplined practice of daily devotions, her times of praying with and for others, and the ‘koinonia’ (i.e., deep fellowship) she experienced in the body of Christ. She fed her mind constantly with the Word of God and she would share the truths she had learnt with others – often by text or phone call. Her favourite verse was: “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 2: 21). It was a truth she both digested and exemplified. Truly, she had set her heart on serving the Lord on this side of eternity but deeper still in her soul were the highways to ‘heavenly Zion’ (Hebrews 12: 22 ). Like the pilgrims of old, she has left the wells of water she had dug out from the hardships of her own life for other pilgrims coming after her.
What do we do when we do not have the strength to dig these wells when times are difficult, depressing and sometimes overwhelming? Psalm 84 hints at an amazing provision when it says that “the early (autumn) rain also covers it with pools.” (v 6c). That is to say, we can count on God to send strength and spiritual refreshment from above to bring life and growth to our souls in such times. This is God’s sheer grace towards us. As was the experience of Elijah when he was burnt out (1 Kings 19 ), it is the Lord who takes the initiative to encounter us and to restore us.
Beloved, the Lord is with us through all the changing scenes of life. One might add that His closeness, His faithfulness and His steadfast love are never more keenly known than in times of hardship.
Fulfilling our Calling Together
The whole world is going through a hard time, Christians included. But Christ by His death and resurrection has opened springs of ‘truth and grace’ (John 1: 16-17 ) for all people and for all times. Those who follow Jesus need to dig out these wells of the Lord’s living water especially as the world goes through a prolonged time of dislocation, pain and distress brought on by COVID-19. Not only are we to drink ourselves from these ‘wells of salvation” but we are to lead a dry and exhausted world to these wells.
This is the week (14th - 17th Oct 2021) that the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) meet online for their 8th Global South Conference. Primates and about a hundred delegates from some 16 Provinces from all across the world meet around Worship and Word to (a) strengthen each other to remain steadfast to the faith once delivered, (b) renew our proclamation of the Gospel in the world through word and good works, and (c) move towards a Covenantal Structure where member Provinces can grow in koinonia based on God’s truth and expressed in the way we join hands to bring buckets of living water to the people and communities around us.
Pray for the GSFA gathering and join us in digging wells for the subterranean river of life flowing from God’s throne (Ezekiel 47 ) to flow into people’s lives. Pray for strength to persevere in our calling and for an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit from above!
God is far from finished with the world and with His Church. Indeed, He is far from finished with you & me. He is able to make us a people who dig wells out of the hardships of our lives and in the dry terrain that the world is presently passing though. In God we trust, from God we drink and to God we give all the glory!
The Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat
Hon Fellow, St Peter’s Hall (Diocese of Singapore)