Saturday, March 21, 2015

Take the Plunge!

Photo by Hubert Stoffels 2009


Many years ago I went to a swimming hole in a pristine wooded area with a waterfall plunging into a refreshing stream. Some young people had a Labrador retriever puppy with them, and they took great delight in carrying him to the top of the falls, releasing him into the current, and letting him plunge to the bottom of the falls into the stream, where one of them waited with open arms to catch him.

Labradors love water, and he seemed to enjoy the experience. But even though he could see his master waiting below with open arms, he paddled all four limbs frantically the whole way down and even after he was safely in his master’s embrace.

I was by far the worst swimmer at school and at summer camp, and I know I tried the patience of many instructors who attempted, to no avail, to teach me to dive head first. Even though I could see where I was going and had my body aligned properly as I stood on the diving board, my head inevitably lifted the moment before I entered the water, resulting in a painful “belly flop.” 

One day the swimming instructor had me repeat this so many times that my chest turned beet red, and as a last resort, he picked me up and hurled me into the water head first. But in my stubborn refusal to submerge my head under the water, I belly-flopped yet again.

A popular beverage commercial urged us to “Take the Nestea plunge!” It showed a parched cowboy in the arid desert reaching for a can of tea and experiencing refreshment so profound that it was like falling backward into a cool blue swimming pool.

It was fear that kept me from diving head first even though I could see where I was going, and a survival instinct in the puppy that kept him paddling even though he didn’t need to. I can only imagine what it would be like to abandon all fear and plunge backward into a refreshing spring, not seeing where I would land and surrendering all control.

Yet that is exactly what we should do in our Christian walk. Trusting Christ means total surrender, with His perfect love casting out all fear (1 John 4:18), and His Living Water refreshing us so deeply that we will never thirst (John 4:10-14). Once we are born again by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we are a new creature in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Once we are saved, baptism is a picture of “taking the plunge,” falling back into the water as a symbol of dying to our sin nature, then rising again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Christians should no longer be governed by the desires of our flesh and sin nature, but instead we should yield control of our life to His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) Who enters us at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5.

But so often I am like the puppy, paddling frantically against the current of my Lord’s will instead of trusting His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27) to shelter, protect and lead me. In my own flesh, I can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13). Peter even walked on water when Jesus willed that he do so, but the instant he looked at the turbulent storm instead of his Lord’s steady gaze, he began to flounder and sink (Matthew 14:28-31).

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), so ideally our journey in Christ should be more like the Nestea plunge rather than my painful experience of diving only when I can see where I’m headed. Only if we trust His infinite love (1 John 4:8-10), absolute power (Genesis 17:1, etc.), and complete wisdom (Psalm 139:1-18) can we fully experience the fountain of His blessings (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13), being in His perfect will.

But if we try to do it ourselves, whether “it” is being saved, serving God, or loving others as He loves us, we are doomed to failure. How many people want to put off trusting Christ until they “clean up their act” or “get it all together”? How many new Christians put off witnessing to others until they learn “enough” about the Bible? Yet all that reasoning is futile because none of us is capable of doing anything in our own strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As Bible-believing Christians, we know that we are saved by God’s freely given gift of grace through our faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is nothing we can do to earn our way to Heaven, and any attempt to do that is an insult to God, Who gave His only Son as the perfect Sacrifice to pay for all our sins (John 3:16; Romans 3:23-25; 1 John 2:2). On the cross, He said “it is finished,” (John 19:30) because he paid our debt in full, once and for all, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The tremendous relief many feel at the moment of salvation, far more refreshing than any earthly equivalent of the Nestea plunge, comes from leaving our burdens of sin and guilt behind and releasing them to Him, freeing us to receive His great blessings. In our gratitude, relief, and worship, it is natural to want to serve God by good works (James 2:17-26; Philippians 2:12). But there lurks the trap of feeling we need to work to please God or to figure out on our own how to serve Him.

Praise God that His love is infinite, so He can’t love us any less even when we fail Him, and He can’t love us any more when we work hard to please Him. As a loving Father, He places no pressure on us, yet sometimes we collapse under the self-imposed pressure to try in the flesh to work “for” Him. But paradoxically, the harder we work, the less we trust in Him. Only complete surrender to His will (James 4:7) and faith in His power to accomplish His good work through us (1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 1:6) allows His perfect plan to flow through our life (Ephesians 2:10; Jeremiah 29:11).

Saul of Tarsus learned that the hard way. As a religious zealot, he thought he was pleasing God by persecuting and killing Christians, for he did not accept Jesus as the Son of God. Finally, when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he recognized that He was God and surrendered completely to Jesus Christ as Lord of his life. The glorious light of Christ blinded him, perhaps in part so that he would have to rely on faith and not on his own vision (Acts 9:1-18).

Jesus gave Saul the new name of Paul, and more importantly, He gave Him new life, just as He does to everyone who asks Him (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Except for Jesus Himself, Paul is the best Biblical example of what God can do through a fully surrendered life. Yet even Paul had the daily battle with his own desires and his own flesh (Romans 7:12-25) and had to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) to die daily to self (1 Corinthians 15:31).

May He empty us of self, leaving us as a conduit through which His Living Water can flow to others. May we remember that it’s not about what we can do, but about Who He is and what He does through us! May we not be afraid to take the plunge headlong into the rushing current of His will, for the reward of a surrendered life is blissfully exhilarating!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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34 comments:

  1. Hi there, I stopped by for a visit--thanks for the invite! Loved your post, Cecilia

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    1. Hi Cecilia! Thanks so much for your visit & kind comment! May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  2. The plunging current of His will...I like that! I remember the first time I dove off the high dive. It took me hours to work up the courage. I don't know how many times I got up there and jumped. When I finally did, I was so scared on the way down, but exhilerated at the same time! It really hurt my head, by the way! I never thought about plunging head first into the current of His will, but I suppose that's the best way! I loved your references to swimming and diving, etc. Interestingly, it's the second blog today that I've read about this...the other one was about learning to swim and about going deeper into the deep water.

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    1. Hi Mary! I love how God often puts it on the heart of several bloggers to write on similar topics -- that way, it is more of a confirmation of His Word to us. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, and I'm so glad you liked the post!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  3. Dear Laurie,
    Seeing the Labrador puppy using all four legs to avoid going over the waterfall is a good illustration of trying to avoid Hell by our own works. Conversely, relaxing in the current and allowing the flow of the stream to take the pup into the arms of its owner can be seen as an illustration of surrendering to the grace of God, and allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to bring us to the arms of Jesus Christ.
    A bit like what I have heard in the past - depending on our works to enter Heaven is very much like a man trying to come out of a deep well by clutching at his own hair.
    A lovely photo of the waterfall. God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      I like your illustration of the waterfall symbolizing trying to avoid hell by our good works and the stream symbolizing surrender to grace. And I also appreciate your analogy of a man pulling himself out of a well by using his own hair.
      Thanks as always for your insightful comment, & God bless,
      Laurie

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  4. I remember times I have paddled against God's will. It is only with full surrender that we see the blessings of His will. His way is perfect and without needed "works" from us.

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    1. Amen, Pamela! May we surrender completely to His perfect will and way. Thanks so much for sharing your insights.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  5. Hello Laurie, I love this. Amen! to the prayer. May our lives be a source of Blessing that flows and pours out into the life of others.
    God Bless

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    1. Hi Ifeoma! I so appreciate your comments! Amen -- may His Living Water flow through us to others. Our former pastor used to say "Let us be a channel through whom blessings flow.
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  6. While we talk about surrendering to God's will, many times our whole efforts are as you described, devoted to fighting god's current. Sadly, much of the teaching today in churches is devoted to trying to do it ourselves rather than learning how to stay properly aligned, as you needed to to enjoy the dive. Great post and illustration.

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    1. Thanks, Donald, for your insights and encouragement! So true, that the trend in many churches seems to be a focus on self-help rather than on alignment with God's will. "Church" then becomes more of a social network and worldly counsel rather than of worship and spiritual growth.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  7. Love this picture of baptism, Laurie: "Once we are saved, baptism is a picture of “taking the plunge,”

    May we all empty ourselves of us and then take the plunge into His grace and plans for us!

    Blessings to you and yours!
    ~Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

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    1. Amen, Heather -- may we empty ourselves and plunge into His grace! Baptism doesn't save us, but it can be the first step of obedience to His will. So glad you enjoyed the post!
      Blessings,
      Laurie

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  8. We often wear ourselves out struggling (Paddling) to "work for Jesus," when He wants to do the work, "Through us." I can swim, but diving was another story for me too. I hated those high boards, and can still not see any purpose other than being a show off. In Our work for God, may we just keep on keeping on without trying to impress others. It is Jesus who we desire to please. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Great insights, Hazel! If we let go of our own works, we can let God work through us as He sees fit, without worrying what others think. Thanks for your comment & for hosting!
      May you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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  9. Hi Laurie,
    trusting in the Lord can sometimes be hard when we allow our carnal mind to cause fear, and what we see to interfere (interFEAR) with the Holy Spirit's guidance. I love the way the Lord is so gentle and yet firm in teaching us to trust in His Word to us that we do not feel we are harmed by His correction as we grow in Him. When I read your account of the little dog I could see it as 'keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord (our Master)' as we 'work out our salvation', (as in doing what He instructs us to do, instead of just being hearers, in order to grow in Him as we learn from Him.)
    I have to admit that I felt really sorry for you (even though it made me laugh a little), at your swimming instructor's' throwing you in'. I think the Lord is more longsuffering with us eh?
    I enjoyed reading your post and loved the photograph, God bless.

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    1. Hi Brenda,
      Praise God that His perfect love casts out all fear! May we yield to His Holy Spirit to allow that to happen and to fulfill His plan for our lives. Thankfully, as you say, He is the most gentle, kind Teacher, and never loses His patience. I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post & photo!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  10. I have such trust issues. This is a very relevant post for me. I love that you describe baptism as "taking the plunge." I've never looked at it that way but it is so true!

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    1. Hi Candace! I really appreciate you comment & taking the time to visit, and I'm so glad the post was helpful to you! May you have a blessed week!
      Laurie

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  11. We are so blessed to have a Gracious Lord that accepts us regardless how many times we fail Him. I'm so thankful for new mercies. To have the faith to "let go" is the freedom to follow Him without hindrance. I may fail Him time and time again but I refuse to stop trying. ♥

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    1. Amen! Praise God for His forgiveness and faithfulness even when we fail Him. May we abandon our self to His grace!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  12. Oh to get ourselves, our fears, guilt out of the way for that complete trust that is so powerful and fulfilling. Love the prayer and I can't help but think of those on my prayer list so steeped in religion they can't help but not strive. May they know this trust for the Lord soon!

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    1. So true, that religion can oppress us, whereas faith, surrender, and a heart relationship with Jesus liberates us! Praying with you for all of us to trust Him and Him alone.
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  13. This reminds me of my own struggles of learning to dive. It wasn't the water I was afraid of it was about losing control. I wouldn't be able to control how things happened once I let myself fly through the air. Such a good reminder to just let go and let God have control. His ways are better anyway! #LiveFreeThursday

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    1. Hi Stephanie,
      Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. My struggles with diving ended in high school and I no longer subjected myself to that experience, but since being saved, I find that the type of dance ministry I do with my husband helps me with trust issues. We do overhead lifts, and while I must do my part, I must also trust in his care and ability to keep me safe.
      May you have a blessed weekend!
      Laurie

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  14. "May He empty us of self, leaving us as a conduit through which His Living Water can flow to others." --> LOVE this line. I'm constantly learning lessons about letting go. Thanks for linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday.

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    1. Thanks so much. Kristin, for hosting and for your sweet comment!
      May we let go and let God!
      Many blessings to you and your ministry,
      Laurie

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  15. Yeah, I've been guilty of a belly flop or dog paddle here and there... Okay more than that. Thinking of completely resting in dependence upon God should be more appealing than depending upon ourselves!

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    1. Amen! In our own "strength" we often make things worse. Only by trusting in Him completely can we have faith that He will bring forth the best possible outcome.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  16. Laurie, thank you for linking up with us for the Best of the Blogosphere this week. Have a lovely week and hope to see you back again!

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  17. Thank you so much for hosting and for your sweet comment!
    May you have a blessed week in Him,
    Laurie

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  18. What a vivid picture you've given of true surrender! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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    1. Thanks, Tina -- I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for hosting and may you have a Happy Easter!
      Laurie

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