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Reversing the Flow

February 24, 2017

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. . . . Streams of living water will flow from within him” John 7:37-38

Chicago is a world-class city. It’s known for its great pizza, architecture, symphony, sports teams, and lakefront setting. I love Chicago! If you were to visit Chicago, you’d see the beautiful Chicago River winding its way through the towering skyscrapers. The river adds a calming dynamic to the noisy rush of the city. But if you lived in Chicago in the late 1800s, you wouldn’t have been happy to have this river in your town. The people were plagued by it—literally.

A poorly-designed sewage system dumped the raw sewage from the city into the river. The river in turn carried the sewage into Lake Michigan. Since the city drew its water from the lake, the pollution from the river contaminated the city’s drinking water, which resulted in deadly outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever, and dysentery. So, in desperate need of a remedy, someone had the brilliant idea to reverse the flow of the river. If they could pull the project off, the power of the water from the deep blue lake would wash the sewage away from the city and the lake would be purified to provide safe drinking water. After great effort and expense, engineers succeeded in their plan to reverse the flow of the Chicago River. Reversing the flow of the river made Chicago a better city to live in and blessed it with the presence of a clean, beautiful river.

The river problem in Chicago reminds me that I need to be careful about where I get my drinking water. Not literal drinking water, but the water that offers to satisfy the thirst of my passions and needs. Satan shamelessly dumps his sewage into the river of our desires and then welcomes us to drink. And when we drink, the damage begins to do its work in terms of guilt, regret, shame, and brokenness. But God has a better idea! Instead of the downward cycle of taking in the contaminated pseudo-thirst-quenching offerings of our world, He offers us the water of His pure, satisfying presence and wisdom every day in limitless supply.

For too long we have lived with the water of our own desires and passions flowing the wrong way. When everything flows toward self, our own happiness, the satisfaction of lusts, and personal pleasure, we dump a lot of contaminants into our churches, families, and friendships. God paid a high price to reverse the flow when Jesus died to change the direction of our lives.

Reversing the flow begins when we open the floodgates of our hearts and surrender to the flow of God’s wisdom and will into every area of our existence. We’ll know it’s flowing the right way when the water quality of our lives matches the pure quality of the source.

And, it’s not just about us. Getting the flow right means that the massive energy and supply of God’s love for others, His selfless acts of forgiveness and mercy, His care for the needy and poor, His willingness to go the extra mile, and His willingness to surrender Himself for the good of others will flow through us and bless all who live downstream.

Letting God do His work to reverse the flow of your life will give you a healthier existence and bless everyone around you with the beauty and strength of His presence flowing through you.


  • What is the primary source of satisfaction in your life? Could you honestly say that it is the flow of God’s wisdom and will into your heart and life?
  • Is there pollution muddying the waters of your life? If so, what can you do to reverse the flow to bring purity into your life?
  • Read Isaiah 43:1-28, and note all of God’s promises to His people. How has He fulfilled those promises through Jesus, and how have you personally reaped the benefits?
  • What is it about your life that brings the flow of God’s blessings to those who live “downstream” from you?
  • Read Psalm 42:1-2 and pray it back to God as an expression of your desire to have your life satisfied with the water of His presence and power.