“For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters” (Jeremiah 17:8). Here the secret of living in constant hope is revealed—the secret of being full of joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. It is not found in trying to reform, in making promises to God that you can’t keep.
The person who experiences this promise can no longer be hurt by people because he does not hope in them. His expectations are all in the Lord. He does not care what man says or does; his eyes are on the Lord alone. And the Lord never fails or lets him down!
“For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river” (Jeremiah 17:8). An amazing Hebrew word is used here for “planted”—it actually means “transplanted.” Faith uproots the dry, fruitless desert-shrub that is scorched, lonely and ugly and transplants it by the living stream of the waters flowing from Lebanon.
David said, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city [people] of God. . . . God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalm 46:4-5). And David said of God: “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water . . . thou blessest the springing thereof” (Psalm 65:9-10).
Put your roots down deep in His river and you will not fear when the heat comes. For your “leaf [appearance] shall be green [fresh, alive]” (Jeremiah 17:8). The drought—the dry spells—will not affect you, and you will constantly bear fruit.
You will not be continually tired, weeping, lonely, dry and feeling forsaken. Instead, you can be transplanted simply by giving Him your trust and faith by resting in His Word. And soon you will grow roots down deep into His river of life.
One of the great wonders of America is the incredible New York aqueduct. Made of bricks, it is all underground and runs for miles and miles from upstate, bringing water to this metropolis. What would happen if that aqueduct were cut off and suddenly there was no water supply flowing to the city? New York City would become a “parched place . . . a salt land and not inhabited” (Jeremiah 17:6). We can exist without gas but not without water.
The same thing happens in our lives! When people lose hope, rather than run to the Lord they clam up and run inward. They curl up on the inside and give up hope, and their hearts become a parched place, a salt land.
Today many Christians are experiencing overwhelming despair, much like what I have just described. But God is saying this to His people: “You are in despair because you do not trust in Me. You turn to others—to doctors, to friends, to counselors, to medicine, to finances. You are not uplifted by My promises; you feel dry, empty and lonely because you are not drawing water from My well.”
In Jeremiah 18:13-14 God points out an incredibly horrible sin being committed by His own people. “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? Or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?”
What is this horrible thing God’s people are committing?
Like the cold, refreshing waters that flow down from melting snow, God gives an unceasing supply of power to His people. This water is the water of strength, available and unfailing. Yet God’s people often continue on their way—dry, empty and sad, saying, “We have been left to ourselves. We’ll just go our own forsaken way, unwanted!”
This is a picture of despairing Christians who have forgotten the promises of God, who sit dejected beside a flowing stream of God’s love, thinking, “The Lord is not at work in my life. I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and do the best I can. It’s no use hoping anymore. I have to do what I can to survive!”
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
Jeremiah introduces two immutable laws of spiritual life here: One leads to life and hope and the other to death and hopelessness. These are the keys to understanding why some Christians enjoy constant peace and joy in the Lord, while others grope in despair and hopelessness.
How can you know when you are trusting in man rather than in God? If you fall apart when someone else lets you down, or if the actions of others affect your walk with God, then you know you are leaning on the arm of flesh!
If you put your trust in man, you are guaranteed to get hurt because at some point someone will let you down and deeply disappoint you. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Much of the hurting and hopelessness you experience is a result of being let down by someone you trusted. A wife may argue, “If only my husband would change, I’d be happy! He really has hurt me deeply. He neglects me and doesn’t even try to understand. He is killing my love.”
Your problem is not a husband problem, it is a God problem. Jeremiah says you are like a shrub in the desert—not seeing when the good comes, but rather inhabiting the parched places in the wilderness. This means you are cut off from your true supply of happiness and hope. You have neglected the Lord and are not drawing on His living water. You have become like a dead, dry desert shrub—fruitless and barren!
Do not trust in someone or something other than God to bring you happiness and hope. What you think will solve your problem might only make you feel worse.
The first six chapters of Joshua describe the glorious work God did among His people when they first entered the Promised Land. Israel had been freed after four hundred years in bondage and then they had wandered in the wilderness for forty years. But now they were at the border of Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey that He had promised them years before. So they crossed over—and what happened? Immediately Joshua turned to the younger generation of men and separated them unto God. Scripture uses the word “circumcised” to describe their preparation, but the deeper meaning is, “They were made ready” (see Joshua 5:2-7).
Why did Joshua do this? Now that they had crossed over the Jordan River, they faced the thick, impenetrable walls of Jericho. In the natural, conquering this enemy would have been impossible for the ragtag Israelites. Yet God was telling them, “I have blessed you with My incredible riches these recent years, but your work is not yet finished.”
How did the Israelites prepare for this battle? They didn’t sharpen their swords and shine their armor. Instead, the preparation took place inside their hearts. God commanded them to circle the city singing songs, praying and waiting on Him. Finally, He had them raise up their trumpets and issue a single blast. In an instant, those mighty walls came tumbling down.
Joshua and his men then performed mighty exploits, defeating their enemies, inheriting greater lands and seeing victories as never before. In fact, Joshua did something even Moses did not do: He defeated thirty-one kings. That was a tenfold increase over the kings Moses had defeated. I believe this is a picture of what the Lord wants to do in all our lives. He wants to bring a tenfold increase; He wants to pour out His Spirit in amazing ways! And He wants us to believe He wants to do it all. In short, He wants us to possess a crazy faith.
“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’” (Joshua 3:5, ESV).
Recently, a distraught sister in Christ wrote these words to me: “I am terrified. I think it would be wonderful if a hydrogen bomb fell on us, especially on me and my family. It would all be over for us in such a hurry. We’d be with Jesus! I lost my husband to cancer and one of my two unmarried daughters has health problems and hasn’t worked for two years. I just got out of the hospital and am recovering from a broken back. We have suffered terribly for the past few years. Members of our fellowship are being persecuted, and my friends are all suffering unmercifully. Fear and anxiety are my lot in life. Mr. Wilkerson, we are hurting! Is there no hope for the Bride of Christ?”
This woman is just one among thousands who write us of their despair and hopelessness. We hear from so many who deeply love the Lord but live in situations and conditions that appear hopeless to them. They speak of dead-end marriages and health and family problems, and they use such phrases as: “There is no way out!”
“God doesn't seem to hear me.”
“Nothing ever changes. It just goes from bad to worse!”
“Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. I wish the Lord would come and get me out of this pit!”
It has been said that the only things worse than insanity are despair and hopelessness. But praise the Lord, we serve a God of hope! The Greek word for hope is elpo, which means “to look forward to with pleasurable confidence and expectation.” The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
Paul introduces an incredible idea: “that you may abound in hope.” He means, “that you may have enough to spare; a supply that is overflowing, excessive, beyond measure!” Some may think, “That sounds like a cruel joke. In my present condition all I want is a ray of hope, just a single evidence of answered prayer. Just one little sign of change!”
But, beloved, God’s Word is true! He is a God of hope—a hope that is excessive, overflowing and beyond measure.