“Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” (Ezk. 47:1-5)
The waters that issue out from the Lord’s house serve as a type of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), and we learn that some of God’s people are ankle deep in the water of God’s Spirit, some are knee deep, some are loin deep, and some are swimming.
To swim is to have one’s feet off the ground and rely totally on skill and the mercy of the river. Both are important, and a man won’t do much swimming if either turns against him.
Having the feet off the ground, of course, points to the fact that the Christian ought to be heavenly-minded (Col. 3:2). The swimming has to do with moving and being productive for God.
In the account of Paul’s shipwreck, we read that everyone made it to land safely, but not everyone swam to land. Some just floated to land by hanging on to boards and broken pieces of the ship (Acts 27:43-44). That’s what’s going on in modern Christianity. All born-again believers in Christ will make it to heaven’s shore, but some won’t be swimming. They’ll be floating in on the broken boards of Laodicea: religious emotionalism, political correctness, religious correctness, contemporary worship, the ecumenical movement, campground Christianity, etc. There aren’t many swimmers around these days.
Abraham was a swimmer, but Lot was a floater. Lot was saved, but that’s about all he was, and that’s about all any floater is. If you want to be a floater, suit yourself. You’ll certainly have plenty of company. But you can be a swimmer, if you’d like.
I believe it was Jack Hyles who said there are three kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who don’t know what’s happening. The ones who make things happen are the swimmers. The rest are just floaters.
If you want God to use you to make things happen, you need to learn to swim. Floaters only float and watch. You need to do some swimming, if you plan to make things happen. Regardless of your gender, your size, or your age, you can swim for God, and He wants you to swim. Maybe a few pointers can be helpful . . .
I. GET INTO THE WATER
You can’t learn to swim by watching or listening to others. You can’t learn it in a classroom. You must get into the water and learn swimming first hand.
By the way, that is always a step down, isn’t it? Whether you step down into a pool, down into the water at a beach, or you walk down the river bank or creek bank to the water, it is always a step down.
That pictures salvation in Christ. The sinner must humble himself by stepping down from his pride and self-righteousness and stepping into the kingdom of God by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ.
II Corinthians 2:14 says, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” In Christ: that’s where the victory is, and that’s where you can do some serious swimming.
But some people never do learn to swim for that very reason: they won’t get into the water. Some don’t want to get wet; others don’t like the water temperature, and others are just scared. So they never learn to swim. The fact that others have adjusted and are swimming just fine doesn’t seem to matter to them. They simply refuse to get into the water.
Many sinners are the same way. They can give you a dozen reasons for not getting saved, but it all boils down to one simple fact: they refuse to step down in order to step way up.
II. LEARN TO RELAX
I remember my father trying to teach me to swim. He couldn’t do it because I wouldn’t relax. He’d say, “Now, boy, you’re going to have to relax. I’m not going to let you drown, so relax.” It didn’t help a bit. I was as stiff as a board and would sink every time. I didn’t learn till I was probably in my late teens.
That’s like the Christian who spends his life doubting his salvation. He has a testimony just as solid as can be, yet he still worries about going to hell. You can show him verses on eternal security, but he still doubts his salvation. Did he (or she) pray right? Did he repent right? Did he believe right? His testimony doesn’t match that of someone else, so he thinks maybe he isn’t really saved. What’s wrong with a Christian like that? He refuses to relax and enjoy his salvation. Instead of swimming in the water, he keeps trying to figure out if he’s really in the water. He’ll never swim in Christ until he conquers that fear. II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
III. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP
When you swim, the only part of your body that stays above the water is your head. The arms go in and out of the water, but the head stays up all the time, takes in fresh air continually, and leads the way.
So it is with spiritual swimming. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” A real Christian swimmer sees to it that his “head” stays up, and he regularly takes in the fresh “air” of the Holy Spirit. Christ must be exalted so that He might lead the way and get the preeminence in all things. If Christ is not preeminent, then you are not a swimmer. Like that bunch in Acts 27, you are a floater.
If you cover a candle, the flame can’t breathe, so you smother it. If you put your head under water, you can’t breath. So it is with the Christian who fails to exalt Christ in his life. The waters of this present evil world smother him, and he becomes a floater. Keep your head up.
IV. GRAB ALL THE WATER YOU CAN
You don’t swim because you’re in the water; you swim because you pull yourself through the water. This is done by continually reaching out and grabbing water and not stopping.
Some Christians never learn to swim spiritually because they never reach out and grab anything spiritual. They attend church and tolerate spiritual activity, but they don’t want it enough for themselves to reach out and take it. Consequently, they are nothing more than floaters.
Paul told young Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (I Tim. 6:12) A Christian swimmer must lay hold on eternal life. One can be on a horse and just sit there without holding on to the reins, but he won’t go anywhere like that. One can be in a pool and float around all day, but he won’t do any swimming until he starts grabbing some water. One can be in Christ without laying hold of eternal life, but he cannot be a good Christian swimmer until he starts claiming some promises and taking some spiritual strokes for God.
Proverbs 30:28 says, “The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” The spider may have been in the kingdom already, but she wasn’t in the palace until she took hold with her hands. Friend, in material things, live on the least, but in spiritual things, reach out and grab all you can. Be a first class swimmer for the glory of God.
V. KEEP MOVING
A swimmer’s arms and legs must keep moving. He doesn’t have to move them aggressively, but he does have to keep moving. It’s similar to riding a bike: you don’t have to work fast, but you do have to work steadily. As someone has said, “If you don’t go on, you’ll go off!”
Paul told the Galatians, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7) They had been swimming, but they stopped. Paul went on to tell them in verse 25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” It doesn’t say to run in the Spirit, nor does it say to sit still. The command is to walk. Isaiah 40:31 says much the same thing. There are times for flying and running, but the normal day-to-day thing is walking: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Our Christian duty is to press forward day by day, not to reach a place of satisfaction and then stop. If we are going to be good swimmers for God, we must never yield to any temptation to stop moving forward. If we stop moving, we start sinking. That’s why these emotional-based Christians never amount to anything. When they start feeling good about their service to God, they stop. With them, it isn’t about swimming and getting somewhere for God; it’s about getting enough good feeling to sustain them for another week or two.
God help us to be good and faithful swimmers. Anything less is either floating or drowning, both of which are unacceptable to our Lord.
-James L. Melton