Are you willing to swim upstream for God?

Posted by Travis Threats on


In the video featured in this blog, it highlights the journey of one specific Pacific Salmon back to its home birthing grounds, in this case a fish hatchery.  The first video in this pair provides the scientific findings and explanation of how these fish use their fine olfactory senses to journey from the Pacific Ocean back to the freshwater lakes and rivers where they spent the first few months of their lives.  This one is the second in the pair and tells the story of one particularly determined fish.

As many of you already know, the Pacific Salmon travels upstream, against the current, for many miles.  This seems counterintuitive.  Why do the thing that is the hardest? It is to get home to its own individual creation.

So, to the topic at hand and the name of this blog.  We were created by God; He is our beginning.  Thus, there is an innate desire to connect to that of which we came. Now this desire makes the basis for the wide variety of belief systems around the world, we all want to return to that which created us. Many in Western nations are becoming increasingly non-religious or some even anti-religion.  Yet look at how many of them are still trying to reach something, some “higher” state whether through music, or meditation, physical exercise, or for some even science.  Some are even proposing drugs to reach such a state, saying that it releases one’s inner genius, creativity, or some such rot.  Some think the “beginning” is getting to our “original state” such as living in the wild.  Some worship themselves and say that the way to reach the higher level is to be one’s “best self.”  There is a sense that we need to be “someplace else” heading toward “something.”

God is not making it difficult for us to reach Him. He is in fact constantly reaching out.  He gave his Son to live among us and even die for us. He provided the Holy Spirit to all of us after the Resurrection to guide us and be with us.  He has provided angels to help us with life’s daily struggles and big ones.  He provided us with family, friends, medical professionals, teachers, and kind strangers.  What is making the journal difficult for many of us are all the human made obstacles and false gods of our day.  There is a lot of “noise” in our society that makes it difficult to “hear” God speaking to us. Some of these barriers are societal, especially in our very secular world in the United States. But, alas, many of them are barriers we erect ourselves.  We are drawn to sin, that which separates us from God.  And, of course, let us not forget that there is evil, and evil does not want us reaching out to each other or connecting with God.

But are we willing to look through all these distractions, to hear in all the noise?  This is the hard part.  It is hard to live a true Christian life in the world we live in.  Satan is not a concept.  He is real.  Our sinful nature is also real. Put a bunch of sinners together and you get quite a force for evil.  Give a group of dedicated unrepentant sinners some power and they have ability to inflict additional hardship and misery on the world, including pitting us against each other.  A dedicated group can also have great influence over the thoughts and actions of many, working to convince them to follow or believe in them and not God.

Now, it is relatively easy to link to a particular place or set of ideas calling themselves “Christian.”  These organizations come to us where we are, the ideas we already have and practice in our lives, our customs, our fears, our prejudices, our judgements of others, our anxieties, and “our people.” These organizations are easy to access because they come to you as you are.  No demands for a higher level of behavior, no sacrifice, no self-reflection, no demand to have love for our fellow humans. Just pick “a cause” with lots of like-minded people and you are set. This does not involve any swimming upstream.  It is the path of the group, not the path of God.

Can we keep our focus on God like these fish keep their focus on reaching their original home?  As with all things, our role model is Jesus. 

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4: 1-13 NIV)

It is important to note that the temptations come after 40 days of fasting.  It comes when He is at His maximum physical weakness.  However, He is helped by the Holy Spirit.  He, as a man in flesh cannot do it alone, and neither can we. I think perhaps the most crucial often not discussed line is the last one in the verse “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time”  The devil only gives up for now, seeing that he is getting nowhere.  BUT he will return, again and again, and at the most “opportune time” for him; The time when we will be vulnerable again.

This account of the temptation is also in Mark and Matthew and thus a critical lesson. We all will have times when we are tempted to lose focus on God, our goal, our reason for being.  Jesus rebukes the devil with scripture, the word of God.  Not by His own will but by evoking the Father.  The then devil decides to take scripture to tempt God concerning the angels not letting anyone fall but Jesus counters that misinterpretation of the scripture.  Jesus stays on the path that He is destined to fulfill.  It was not easy for Him in the wilderness and not easy later.  It is also not easy for us.

Now, most of our temptations are not directly from Satan himself.  For one he has some demon companions.  But mostly because humanity is so corrupted in many places that it is not necessary to be there to offer every temptation. Again, we need to stay focused as without it we are easily led astray and when lead astray we are not walking in the path of God.

But we cannot blame our lack of keeping our focus on God on only Satan or even others.  We must start with ourselves.  We are the prime reason we stray. Everything out there is not necessarily evil. There is nothing inherently evil in a candy store, but it can be deadly for a person with diabetes to overindulge.   It is not “the world” that controls us, although it does greatly influence us.  Thus, while it is better to not associate with those who would lead you astray, just staying away from “bad people” will not be your salvation because YOU are so not so pure yourself.

Our paths, like the Pacific salmon returning to their birthplaces, are not easy.  It is hard to stay on a path.  Now, you might say, well salmon do not have much on its mind, so it is easy for them to stay focused on only one thing.   Is it easy to ignore predators ready to kill and eat you when you leap from the water or move slower because swimming upstream?  Do they ever get hungry and keep going? Do they ever get tired?  What they have is an unwavering sense and drive to follow their paths, knowing it is more important than anything else.

The Bible uses the word “path” many times. In these fish, it is a physical path.  For us, it is a spiritual path.  What both paths have in common is that they are life affirming necessary destinations.  As I have given story from the New Testament, these are all from the Old Testament.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105, NIV)

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. (Proverbs 2:9, NIV)

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. (Proverbs 4:26, NIV)

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11. NIV)

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9, NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. (Psalm 1:1, NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. (Psalm 25:4, NIV)

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12, NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. (Isaiah 35:8, NIV)

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. (Job 23:10-1, NIV)

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’’ (Jeremiah 6:16, NIV)

My son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths. (Proverbs 1:15, NIV)

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18, NIV)

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. (Proverbs 12:28, NIV)

The Pacific salmon in this video worked diligently and with great effort to get to its home.  There are many manmade obstacles in its path.  The fish has already swum upstream, even waterfalls, to get there and the journey is long.  Yet stayed determined.  Can you show such dedication to get to your home, God???



← Older Post