Angel Fork (aka Little Browns Creek) added much flavor to my childhood. We called her “The Creek”, and invested many hours discovering her treasures. Turtles, crawdads, lizards, minnows and the occasional arrowhead were the major prizes. Miraculously none of the gang suffered snakebite or contracted typhoid in those waters, but bug bites, scratches and scrapes became the norm.
In the early spring the creek swelled into a raging torrent which spilled over its banks and covered Cox’s garden. Mr. Cox always fielded an impressive garden. Downstream the brown water swamped all of the bottom land on the way to the confluence with Big Brown’s Creek.
The creek cleared in early summer ushering in prime wading season. We had paths across the shoals built with carefully placed rocks, and with enough speed and reasonable balance one could hop across the water with dry shoes when wearing a pair of new Converse. The previous summer’s shoes became wading shoes as we stomped in the water without fear of broken glass or rusted nails.
By late July the creek barely trickled and water gathered in the deepest pools schooling the fish into one classroom. My brothers loved to sit, swat bugs, and catch bluegills and creek chubs by the dozens, only to release the fish and repeat the chase. Dragonflies hovered over the water, and water skippers darted away from any disturbances to the surface. The creek seemed to be a focal point for much of the life around us as the temperatures soared.
By late August the shrinking pools of water took on a greenish tint. Rocks tossed into the drink at just the right angle released plumes of brown which broke the surface with a smell one had to experience to appreciate. Stagnant water leaves its own impressions on the observer. Suffice it to say that wading was no longer a consideration and any balls (football, baseball or whiffle) knocked into the creek had to be retrieved with a long stick or a garden rake then washed thoroughly. And splashing stagnant water on someone was as serious an offense as switching off the outhouse light at Grandpa’s when someone was visiting the facility at night.
Memories of brackish water bubbled to the surface as I read the words of Zephaniah, one of the Old Testament’s Minor Prophets. The men of Judah had stopped up the fresh flow of God’s Word into their hearts, and God describes them as “stagnant in spirit.”
It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’ Zephaniah 1:12 NASB
Stagnant in spirit? The word means thickened, congealed, or curdled, and describes men who considered God to be irrelevant and impotent. They lived life with no consideration for His rules, His directions, or the instructions He had provided.
The plummet from devoted follower to complacency when it comes to spiritual matters happens in small increments. One usually does not wake up on a Thursday morning and decide to turn back from following God. What are the first steps? Zephaniah left a clue.
And those who have turned back from following the LORD, And those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him. Zephaniah 1:6 NASB
What does it take to convince a believer that seeking the Lord or inquiring of Him is a waste of effort, something that can be stopped with no consequences? Maybe he felt that his prayers went unanswered. Perhaps another believer executed a backstab maneuver and left a wound that won’t heal. A catastrophic loss might have darkened the path, a loss so life-shattering it grew into a faith-quenching wall.
Zephaniah’s readers dabbled in God-worship, perhaps to keep up an appearance, yet they embraced Idol worship (Zephaniah 1:5). The world’s pull is strong and often promises immediate returns for the investment yet the payoff costs more than expected. Someone said that sin will take you further than you want to go and cost you more than you can afford to pay.
The tumble into stagnation is a possibility for all believers. Paul warns that even on the seemingly-safe peak of spiritual maturity, standing tall on a solid track record of walking with God, each believer must take heed and watch his steps.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 NASB
Perhaps our spiritual commitment has taken a hit for whatever reason. The relationship we have with God today is barely a spark of the bonfire that once crackled within us. And we know that the cures the world holds out are at best distractions.
The only cure for the stagnant water in Angel Fork was a fresh supply of runoff from a storm. As the water gathered on the hillsides and tumbled to the valley the creek rose, the current returned, and the filth disappeared downstream. Nothing else could solve the problem.
In Ephesians 5 Paul writes about the marriage relationship and highlights the cleansing power of God’s Word. Nothing cures the stagnant spirit but a return to that Water.
May I suggest a starting point for anyone who is blocked by a faith-quenching wall or prayers that seem to stop at the ceiling or wounds that won’t heal? Start with Psalm 1 and read through that book until you find a psalm that resonates with your heart. Remember that the writers also faced similar circumstances and their honest and open words give the complete with picture blemishes and all.
God waits patiently. He has not changed His mind about loving us.
Let’s toss the stagnant and let the Word of God wash newness into our hearts.