Broken Cisterns

“But my people have exchanged their glorious God
    for worthless idols.
 Be appalled at this, you heavens,
    and shudder with great horror,”
declares the Lord.
 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”-Jeremiah 2:11(b)-13

Here lately, I have been in a slump. The workload has been heinous, the stress from FOCUS and relationships, and life in general has been a lot to handle, and I’ve felt lately that I’ve just not been with it. The one thing that is consistently on my mind is this: Is the work and ministry that I am participating in really making an impact? I have become obsessed with results, when I don’t see good things happening, I get scared. When I hear no affirmation, I begin to doubt that I am cut out for the work God has called me to. Even when I do hear affirmation, I pretend its not there so I can play the “humility” card or just wallow in my own sadness. And when I stand far from the situations and look back, I see no cascading valleys of trees bearing rich fruit, I see a desert. A dry, empty wasteland with no evidence of my effectiveness.

And then I realize the flaw in my viewpoint.

I realize that ministry is not a business. It’s not driven by success or failure in the ways the world defines them. It’s not contingent upon my effectiveness. Any results are accomplished by God, which shows me that my experiences this summer have taught me one thing primarily: I am not in control.

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

1 Corinthians 3:5-9

When I believe myself to be better (or worse) than I am, God’s voice reassures me that I am not in control. It is not my effort that brings people to Christ. It is not my effort that saves someone’s life. Restoration is not contingent upon my abilities, but upon my willingness to be used by God.

What I have discovered about myself is that the god I have set up for myself’s name is Control. He has wrapped his fingers around my mind and pulled. Hard. And I have not resisted his pull. Up until this point, I have not shuddered with horror at the idol worship I have committed in my heart. And I fall harder still, opening the door for a host of other sins.

A cistern, as it was used in the context of the book of Jeremiah, is a container for holding water built like a well (or a huge hole) in the ground. It was used to catch and store rainwater. When Jeremiah issues the call from God, accusing His people of digging their own broken cisterns, he is saying that they rejected the God who so adamantly pursued them and tried to do it themselves. God calls himself a “spring of living water,” and says that the people rejected that for a broken cistern that could hold nothing.

So many times I have hoped some water would fall from Heaven and fill up the broken cistern I have made for myself. I reject the spring of living water for my own effort. But I have simply dug an imperfect, broken counterfeit container that I have no hope of filling by myself.

The words of Jesus in John 7:38 haunt me still, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” And when I read that, my heart cries out, “I believe! I believe!” I know that I do, I would stake my entire life on it. I believe that Christ is who he said he is. I do believe that he is the source of my strength. That I don’t need a cistern to keep myself replenished during a dry season, but instead that I have assurance that I, who believe in Christ, have streams of water flowing from within me. So it’s time to start acting like it!

Do not abandon the One who has never abandoned you.

And never believe for one second that you can fix yourself.

Glory to the one who is my beginning and my end, and may I never keep His name from my lips. ΑΩ


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