Do you remember a time, perhaps years
ago, or maybe just yesterday, when you were so in love all you
could think about was your girlfriend or boyfriend? A time in
your life when you didn't eat, drink, walk, drive, or even
breathe without thinking about the other person. Well in short
the author of Psalm 42 is telling us this is how we should
Now our psalmist doesn't use the
imagery I just offered, but rather offers the image of a deer
panting for water. And in many ways this is a much better
image of how we ought to feel about God, because the image of
a deer panting for water conjures up an image of life or
death, not just an image of love. And folks, when it comes to
making God the most important part of our life, it is a life
or death decision.
Now when you think of panting for
water I often times think of a desert. And to many a desert
seems like a vast wasteland or a place of death. After all
it's dry, hot, seemingly lifeless, and when in the midst of
it, it seems like it never ends. As a matter of fact often
times we use the image of a desert when we describe a dry
spiritual life, or a physical life without meaning or purpose.
But in reality a desert is full of
life, some might say a different kind of life. You may have to
look carefully for it, but a desert has flowers, plants,
birds, rodents, and all kinds of creepy crawly things in the
Now in life we can sometimes find
ourselves in a desert. Our spiritual life is dry and seems
lifeless. We lack a sense of purpose; we're confused about the
meaning of life, or where to turn for help. Have you ever been
to a place like this?
Now in a spiritual desert we too find
life, a different kind of life; we find those creepy crawly
things, I call them temptations. Doubt is also present,
crawling around our hearts and minds, as we muddle through the
sand of uncertainty. And if you've ever been through a time of
spiritual dryness you know it's not a fun place to be,
particularly if you're not prepared.
One of the most prized possessions one
can have in a dessert is water. Imagine you've been walking in
the desert heat for hours you hot and sweaty, you would give
anything for a cold glass of water. Your thirst has become
unbearable, your lips chapped and cracked from lack of
moisture. You're to the point of literally panting; all of
your attention and energy is focused on seeking water.
Well your not unlike the deer the
psalmist mentions in the first verse of Psalm 42, because like
the deer you know if you don't get any water you will die. As
the life of a deer depends upon water, so our spiritual lives
depend upon the water of our soul, God.
God is the living water that is
required to sustain our life, without God we will die, plain
and simple. Those who pant for God and long to understand him
find everlasting life.
Now I like the word "pant" rather than
"seek," because pant conjures up an image of immediate need,
and something that is required to sustain life. Seek is also
an appropriate word but for me it doesn't connote the same
sense of urgency that pant does, and when it comes to wanting
God and wanting to know and be like God, we need to have a
sense of urgency about ourselves.
And as we live in our world today the
need for God in our lives is extremely important. Last night
we remembered the attacks of September 11, 2001, last week we
heard about the terrorists attack in Russia killing many
innocent school children, a few days ago people were killed in
Jakarta by terrorists, we continue to be ravaged by
hurricanes, and in some places just walking down the street
has become extremely risking.
All of this is to say we need God and
we prove this time and time again. Now I don't want you to get
the idea that God isn't with us all the time, because he is.
The issue is, are we aware of his presence and do we
acknowledge his presence.
We need to seek God and place him as
the priority in our life, as a thirsty deer makes finding
water its priority. If we don't, like a deer without water, we
will perish. Our lives will have no meaning, we give up, doubt
takes over and sin becomes our way to cope, and before you
know it, God is the furthest thing from our hearts and minds.
Without God in our lives we are
nothing. Have you ever noticed that folks who claim to have no
faith in God seem to wonder aimlessly, looking for purpose and
meaning. They try to define themselves by what they do and by
what others think about them, so they spend there time looking
to impress and be known.
I don't know about you but that kind
of life seems superficial and unfulfilling to me. I find it
refreshing to know God, and to understand his purpose for me,
both as a child of God, and as the individual that I was
created to be. As I've shared with you before, when I began to
understand God's purpose for me and I placed God first in my
life, I became happy, content, and empowered.
Throughout the Bible the writers use
the image of water in speaking of one thirsting after God as
one thirst's after water. God is called the fountain of life
(Psalm 36:9) and spring of living water (Jeremiah 17:13) God
sent Jesus to be our living water, that cleansing water that
gives life to the spiritual thirsty, the water that would
quench thirst forever and give eternal life.
The living water is always there, but
we have to commit ourselves to receiving it. God doesn't hide
himself from us, we ignore him. So to receive the blessing of
the fountain of life we need to seek God, like a deer pants
To help us on our quest we need to be
part of community that will help keep us focused on God, while
at the same time keep us from being distracted by the creepy
crawly things of life. And the best place for this to happen
is church. God has given us his church to be our guide in
finding the life saving water of Jesus Christ.
Now regrettably the church today is
coming under some fire. One of the major challenges facing the
church today is relevance. Is the church relevant in our
Many prominent authors have written
books on how the church can and should be more relevant in the
lives of people today. And I agree the church needs to respond
to the needs of our world in a more relevant way, while caring
out its Biblical mandate to make disciples for Christ.
People today need to clearly
understand how the Gospel of Jesus Christ will make a
difference in their lives, how following a faith that seems
counter to today's society can actually bring peace and joy to
their lives, and how placing our trust in God is more wise
then trusting ourselves.
The church in general needs to do a
better job of communicating the Gospel and its relevance,
however, and this is a big "however," communication is a
In our what-can-you-do-for-me-now
society, the onus has been placed on the church to convince
society that following Christ is the preferred path for
living, and that attending church and getting involved in
ministry beyond worship is what we are called to do as
children of God. And to an extent the church has this
responsibility. But those who hear the Good News also have a
responsibility to receive the news, respond to what they hear,
and to follow where the Holy Spirit leads. Too often people
complain about church because they feel there suppose to get
something from church.
But in reality to receive we must be
willing to give, and I'm not talking about giving money; I am
talking about giving of ones self to wanting to know about God
and wanting to truly experience Christ, and wanting to worship
and give thanks for all that God does in our life.
If we want to receive the peace, joy,
encouragement, and healing offered through Christ we must be
willing to seek the living water, not just sit in the pew
complaining that church is boring, or that the service is too
predictable, and that nothing said or sung applies to my life
anyway. We can't grow in faith or grow in Christ by simply
being pew potatoes, or by avoiding church all together.
If church is to be relevant than we
must be willing to do our part to make it relevant. I
encourage you to ask yourself these questions: " How often do
I attend a worship service? " How often do I read the Bible,
study its contents, or pray? " Do I participate in the
ministry of the church beyond one hour of worship per week? "
Am I involved with other Christians in fellowship and service?
" Am I helping those in church leadership better define what
the church ought to be in our community? " Do you expect to
encounter God when you worship?
One of the problems we have as
Christians is that we expect the church to awaken us, to get
us excited about Jesus, and to motivate us to a new way of
life, to bring the water to us. Well the truth is our faith
doesn't work that way.
Following Jesus requires us to be
active participants in our spiritual growth by taking part in
the activities of faith I posed in the questions I just asked,
and by expecting God to be present and active. When we are
active participants in our faith, we begin to see and hear
things in a different light, and we grow in grace and
knowledge of Jesus. Words we hear on Sunday morning, and
receiving the sacraments, begin to take on new meaning, and
before you know it we are excited and see the relevance of
Jesus in our life. We thirst for more and we go panting after
God with our whole selves.
In a few minutes when you come to the
Lord's Table, come expecting something to happen. Now stars
may not go off in your mind, and some big visible miracle may
not happen, but if you come expecting God to do something, I
promise something will happen.
If you come anxious, maybe you'll
leave the table more at peace. If you come by yourself, maybe
you'll leave knowing Christ is with you. Or perhaps, you won't
experience anything until you return home. If you come with a
heavy burden on your heart, maybe your burden will be
You see our big problem is we come to
church, we even serve God the best we can, but we don't come
with expectant hearts. If we expect to see God we will. If we
expect to hear God we will. If we expect our spiritual thirst
to be quenched it will be.
As we become more aware of God's
presence in our lives, as we begin to pant for God with our
whole self, our thirst will be quenched with the living water
of Jesus Christ.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade