Do you ever feel totally “whipped”? I mean tired, exhausted, strung out and empty?
If you’re a pastor or a Christian leader in any capacity, and you haven’t felt that way, you’re unlike any I’ve ever known. It comes with the territory.
Several years ago I was flying into Cairo, Egypt and we made our approach over the vast Sahara Desert. Unlike the Mojave Desert in California, which I saw so often in my younger years, the Sahara is devoid of cactus, tumbleweeds or any other visible signs of life. From the air you could see nothing but white sand for seemingly endless miles.
As we flew closer to Cairo something incredible happened to the landscape below us. It looked like someone had made a line in the sand below us. On one side was the desolate desert, immediately on the other side was lush, green vegetation. Upon some simple investigation I learned a valuable lesson. There is almost no rain in Egypt. All of the vegetation is dependent on the waters of the Nile River. A vast and complicated system of irrigation has been developed resulting in beautiful, green patches of life alongside the arid desert. This system has worked beautifully for thousands of years. Now, what in the world does that have to do with you and me being worn out from family, work and ministry? Glad you asked.
I came across an incredible Biblical principle several years ago that changed my life. I was reading in Deuteronomy when I came across this in chapter 11: “The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven” (vv. 10-11).
God was making a clear contrast between the land of Egypt where God’s people were enslaved and the land of Canaan that He had prepared for them. One of the striking contrasts that God made was the way in which food was provided. In Egypt, long canals were dug running from the Nile out into the fields where seed was planted. All of this was enormous physical labor. Miles of canals were dug, according to scripture, with their “feet.” Their harvest was almost totally dependent on their own labor. Do you ever feel that way? The weight of your responsibilities at your work and/or your church and the spiritual condition of your family and those you serve sits firmly on your own shoulders? Been there, done that! So many times Christians fall, exhausted, under the load of personal responsibility. After all, if you don’t “do it”, who will? All the family issues, stuff at work, daily responsibilities … what happens if we don’t get them done? Well, that was the way of Egypt—the land of slavery.
Please notice what God says about the land promised to His people. The crops were watered not by the work of their feet but by the “rain of heaven”! That truth was almost enough to make this Baptist dance! The future and the fruit of my contribution for the Kingdom are not dependent solely on me and my labor—but the rain of heaven. The needs of my family are not dependent on my fleshly endeavors. Of course I have to be faithful. Of course, God expects me to be diligent—but growth, blessing, power does not come from the work of my “feet” but the “rain of Heaven.” That’s the way it is in Canaan! Add to that Joshua 24:13: “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”
Back in Egypt it was all about you and your labor. In Canaan, it’s all about Him and His work through us.