Levi Lusko - Follow The Water
Hey if you have a Bible we're going to start in Genesis, Chapter 2. We kick off a brand new collection this week called The River Wild. We're going to be talking about the grand adventure of following Jesus. The grand adventure of following Jesus. I hope you can, geographic constraints what they are, find some time, prioritize some time during this series, to be on rivers, to be in rivers, to be around rivers this spring. And you can consider it extra credit. You can consider it a part of what we're doing here. But we're talking about rivers. And we're going to do so from a number of different levels. I'm going to put them up on the screen here. We're going to first approach rivers for what they are, as settings where many incredible stories take place.
Now that's true in history. You think about from Julius Caesar and the Rubicon to George Washington and the Delaware to Lewis and Clark and the Missouri to so many of the great stories Mark Twain has written, rivers are settings for powerful stories. And that is true when it comes to the Bible as well. So throughout The River Wild, we're going to be looking at some of the amazing stories in the Bible that are set in, on, near, through, around rivers. We're also going to be approaching rivers as they are in Scripture as symbols. Rivers are symbolic, oftentimes of God. And for that reason, rivers are throughout the Scriptures and throughout history associated with worship, associated with baptism, associated with prayer. Going down to the river is always synonymous with seeking God because of the idea of the river as a symbol of knowing him and gathering as his people. We're also going to treat the river as it is in Scripture as a simile. A simile is a comparison between two different things.
And you always used the word "like". And in the Bible we find that following Jesus is a lot like flowing down a river. Following Jesus is a lot like a river suddenly bursting out, especially in a dry place. I have found, and I want to show you through this series, that as you go on this grand adventure of following Jesus, whether you're new to the journey of following Christ or this is something that you're continuing to participate in, I want you to see that, like a river, there are twists and turns. Like a river, there are rapids. Like a river, there's great joy, there's great beauty, there's great danger. The point is the river is wild. The River Wild. We're also going to approach the river throughout the series, I'm kind of giving you the syllabus just to keep you coming back because we're going to not get to any of these things really today, but we're also going to see that the river provides stimulation. Stimulation.
There's movement. There's oxygen. There's churning. There's ions, there's particles. It's stimulating. It's beautiful to fly over a river in an airplane and watch the river twist and turn avoiding, rivers are like teenagers. They avoid getting up. They avoid going up, so they're always going to find their way around. They're going to find their way around. And to watch a river from the plane you're like, that's amazing. You will do anything to avoid climbing at all. But they don't just stimulate the imagination. They stimulate creativity. If you're ever in a place where you just feel like I'm just a little bit stuck here, you could do no better than just to walk the river, to be near a river, to sit by a river. A great place to ponder, a great place to get excited, a great place to realize that there is so much to be excited about. God is moving. The Bible says He turns the rivers of water. Rivers stimulate worship.
If you listen to what they are saying, they speak to His majesty. And then, fifth and finally, and where we actually are going to come in today, you can indeed trace the story line of the Bible through looking at rivers. The story line of the Bible is moved along. The plot of the Bible can be traced by following the water. So that's what I'm going to take as the title of my message today, Follow the Water.
Come on, if you're watching church with someone today, turn to him and tell him, follow the water. Follow the water. Follow the water because what's true of the last best place is also true of this book. A river runs through it. In fact, I would say that it's a part of our origin story. The river is a part of our origin story. Now origin story is a phrase that is used to describe anything's back story, right? Like what do we need to know about somebody that we're going to be more involved in and care more about them and understand what they're dealing with today because of the origin story the back story? Like, take a teddy bear. If you have a teddy bear in your hand, anywhere in your house, you're like, what's the origin story? Why do we have, I mean everything has an origin story. Teddy bears are no exception. They have an origin story. And you know what the origin story of the teddy bear is? Well, Theodore Roosevelt. One of the most amazing presidents this nation has ever had.
The story is told that he went on a hunting trip in the state of Mississippi. And there they didn't find any bears for him to hunt, and so some of the guides thought, hey, let's go, they found this bear, and they kind of tied it up, and they brought him in like, hey, you can shoot this bear. He was appalled. He was a sportsman, and he considered it the height of unsportsmanlike conduct. He was like a flag on play. I'm not shooting a bear. And he refused to do so. And when news of this spread, a cartoonist depicted the story this way, and this spread all around the country of him refusing to shoot this poor, tied-up bear. And so the whole nation went collectively, Aww, as we all do hearing that. And so they called the bear that he saved the teddy bear. Theodore Roosevelt's bear that he refused to kill, called the teddy bear.
Now there's a candy shop owner in Brooklyn, New York, who heard about that. And he decided to make stuffed bears to sell because of how popular this cartoon was and the story was in its day. And so he began to sell teddy bears. At this exact same time, Theodore Roosevelt was campaigning to be re-elected as president. Of course, the president before him died in office, and so he became president. Youngest person ever hold the office, and he became this young president. Now had to get re-elected. And the teddy bear actually, believe it or not, was instrumental in his being re-elected as people all around the country were purchasing these. And they would give them out at the speeches that he would give. So now to you, next time, I guarantee you, you're never going to look at a teddy bear the same way again. Even though he actually hated the nickname Teddy. It just drove them crazy if anyone called him Teddy. But he tolerated it because it helped him to get re-elected. But now you care more about teddy bear. You're more invested in it because you know its origin story.
You know its back story. Everything in life has an origin story. Thor one and two might have sucked, Zach, but you know what? You appreciate Ragnarok more because you know where he came from. You know the whole deal. Like, I get it. Captain America, the first one, was awful. The Red Skull was reprehensible, and yet you wouldn't have a frame of reference for Bucky and the whole thing. It makes more sense. You have to endure sometimes a back story to get to the good part. This is true in business. One of my favorite podcasts in the world is "How I Built This". And Guy Raz. It's just amazing. What he does is he takes a company that you and I know, and he just works through, in a long format conversation with the founder, what exactly was it like in the early days. Yeah, you're famous now, but what difficulty did you have to go through to get there. Because you know you and I know about Airbnb today. And we know that they're a company making $30 billion.
This is an amazing empire, but they weren't always a company with offices in 31 cities and listings in 192 countries that you could stay at instead of a hotel. At one point, it was just three starving college students who had no money, were about to be thrown out of their apartment. And so they inflated an air mattress and charged $80 for tourists who were on a shoestring budget to sleep on their air mattress in their apartment. Thus, Airbnb. Air mattress, literally, is how it began. And they racked up $20,000 in credit card debt on this dream of Airbnb. They actually had a binder for the credit cards. They would flip through and, this one's full, this one's full, this one's full. And they were completely full to the brim. They could get no more credit. They had no more money. They didn't know what to do.
And so you know what saved the company? And is the reason it's still a thing today? Cereal. They purchased a bunch of boxes of Captain Crunch and a bunch of boxes of Cheerios, and they painted on them. They printed on them pictures of John McCain and then Barack Obama before he was President Obama in 2008. And they sold them because the presidential election was going on. And if you could believe it they sold enough boxes of, they called them Obama O's and Captain McCain's, to pay off the $20,000 in credit card debt. They made an additional $10,000. They stayed cash solvent until finally they got some angel investors to come around and give them some seed money. And that's the story. Now you're like, that's different. You're going to think about Airbnb a little different. Oh, and by the way, the biggest difference maker in Airbnb. They weren't doing well at all until they realized that the photographs needed to be good. But the people who had the homes didn't necessarily know how to photograph a house, which is an actual skill.
So they worked with local photographers in the cities they had these listings in to come in and take quality photos. The moment the photos were professional, people began to latch onto this concept. So it might not be that your dreams are bad or your business is wrong. It just might be some tiny tweak that you don't have a skill in. And if you collaborate with someone else who has something that you don't have, and you're able to give them something they don't have, it might take off. I don't know who that was for. But that's just for free. But that's Airbnb. That's the back story. Or like Spanx one of my favorite, How I Built This episodes was Spanx. And I just was fascinated. Sara Blakely. This story. Now, of course, billionaire.
Now, of course, she's on Shark Tank, and all the rest. But at one point her company called Spanx was going to be called "Open-toed Delilah's". And I guarantee you, you and I would not be talking about the company if it was "Open-toed Delilah's". She eventually changed the name to Spanx because she was driving in traffic, and she just happened to be thinking about the special documentary she had watched on stand-up comedy. And she heard some stand-up comedian explain why so many comedians use the "F" word in their acts. Because it's a scientifically-proven fact that human beings are more likely to laugh after hearing a word with the hard "K" sound. If you hear a word with a hard "K" sound in the midst of a joke, for some reason, you're more susceptible to laughing. Y'all, this is the tricks of the trade you're just finding out here. Dang it. I've been taken for a ride. It's like contagious yawning. It's just you're more likely to think something is funny if I say buck than if I say dollar. It's just a weird thing.
And so she was trying to think of words that had to do, with a hard "K" sound, and "spank-s," Spanx, was what she came up with. And, of course, the rest is history. She had to patent the Spanx. And she couldn't afford the $5,000 an attorney wanted to help her file the patent application. And so she went to Barnes & Noble on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, and literally bought a book called How to Write a Patent Application. And she sat down to do it. The night before she turned it in, she woke up with cold sweats realizing there was a mistake on it because her manufacturer was from the deep, dirty, dirty South and couldn't pronounce "lycra," and so kept saying "lacquer, lacquer, lacquer". And so she very nearly filed a patent for a form of body compression garments made out of lacquer, which would have been very interesting instead of lycra. This is the things that you're like, I did not know that because now I only know of Spanx for the massive behemoth that it is but not what it once was.
Now I think about Peloton. They now have sold 4.4 million plus of these devices that people can run on or work out on but there was a day when there was only six of them. In 2013, not that long ago, Black Friday, six Peloton sat in a mall in New Jersey in a little pop-up shop. They had put everything on the line to get these six bikes then. And all six sold in one day. And that was when they knew they were on to something. They had been told no, no, no, no, no, by so many investors. This is a terrible idea. This is never going to work. And so it goes. The back story of Peloton. The back story of Airbnb. The back story of Spanx. What's the point? I just wanted to take a quick moment and tell you right now that you are right now in your back story. If things feel like they're small right now, things feel tight right now, things like they're constrained right now. Just believe, dare to believe. You're in your back story right now.
One day you're going to be telling these stories with a smile on your face. One day you're going to be telling these stories to say, can you believe God ever did this? Right now, people don't believe. Right now, people mock you. Right now, the dream is being criticized. Right now, it feels like nothing. I just wanted to tell you today, don't despise the days of small things. There's going to come a day when what you're going through today is merely your back story. The river's going to keep moving. Well, the Bible in Genesis Chapter 2 explains the back story, well, of everything, of all the things. Genesis is a word that means beginning so literally what we're living in is the result of this back story. So what's the origin story of all of us?
Well in Genesis, Chapter 2, verse 8. We're going to see that it involves a river. It says, "The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there, too. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates. Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die".
Now, of course, we know how this story goes from there. The one thing they were told not to do, they, in fact, did. And that resulted in them being evicted from the garden, for there was life in the garden, life fostered, life nourished, life supported, by this river, the river of life. And so banished from the garden, they went forth from there to toil in the ground and work until the day when that prophecy came fulfilled, and they died. And this is our back story. And before we move on in the message, let me just quickly, as we read these things, I jotted down just a few important takeaway truths, make of it what you will, from this passage. The first thing I wrote down is that before there was sin, there was gold. Before there was sin, there was gold. That was interesting to me as I was studying, because we are so quick to think of money as a bad thing. But the Bible made a point of saying, that before sin entered, there was gold in the land and then God makes sure we understand how he sees it. The gold in that land was good.
Now that's charged because everything God created he spoke, this is a good thing. I created this, and I said it's good. I created this, and I said it was good. He created fish, He created birds, He created man, and He said, it is good. It is good. And here, clearly, emphatically, the Bible says, there's gold in the world and that gold was good. So money and resource and treasure, these things have God's goodness on them, have God's blessing on. They're not necessarily bad things. They can become bad things, but they started out as good things. And it's only when we have sinned in our hearts, and then take these things in our hands, that these things become bad. So money isn't a bad thing. Gold is good. Gold can accomplish good. Gold can do good. And as Jesus people with him in our hearts and resource in our hands, we can be positioned to do good. This is one of the things we're always talking to our kids about when we tell them at bedtime and in the morning time and before school, you're the head and not the tail.
God intends for you and I to be in a position of being able to say yes to the dreams that he puts in our hearts. And those dreams require resources. Those dreams require money. And that is out there in the world for us to earn and to acquire and to figure out and to be good stewards of so that we can come to a place of being able to say, yes, to those things when he calls us to do them. We had a vivid reminder of what's possible when there's gold in your hand and that gold is good. Not too long ago, my wife and I and our family, our whole family, was in the car. And we were driving, and we filled up gas, and my wife, she just noticed this woman, this woman who was putting air in her tires. It was early in the morning, about 7:30 AM. And we had filled the car up, and this woman was just trying to get air in all the tires of this car. And Jennie just said, stop. She said, we'd already driven away. She said, stop. You got to go back. She said, do you see that woman filling up air in her tires? And I said I did notice her.
She said, I think God wants us to bless her, Levi. Do you have any money on you? And I opened up my wallet, and she opened up hers. And between the two of us, we had about $60. Not much, but Jennie grabs it. And she has me pull back around, and she just gets out of the car. And we all see her walking up, and she says, excuse me. We see her introduce herself to the woman and just take a quick moment. And we see her say something through the window. And she handed this woman the money. I couldn't tell what they had said to each other, but it was unmistakable to watch the tears begin to stream down this woman's face. And then she rushed and embraced Jennie. And they both just held each other for a moment or two before Jennie got back in the car. We were just in awe of that moment. In awe of what clearly God had been planning for my wife to participate in as she there, in the moment, was able to be the head and not the tail. To be able to say, yes, to what God had put into her heart.
And I asked her, what did what did you say to her, Jennie? And she said, that's none of your business. No, she said, I just told her, I don't know you. I just saw you when we were pumping gas, and I just felt like God wanted me just to encourage you in some way that he sees you, and that you're doing better than you think you are. And she said that was when the woman just began to weep. And that she said it's so hard sometimes when you feel like you're all alone in this world. And that was, for her, a chance for God to say through Jennie to her through this good gold in Jenny's hand to her, you're not alone, and I see you. And I just wonder how long that bright moment in that girl's heart will just encourage her in her darkness, encourage her, and, Church, I want you to have a different vision about resource, a different vision about money.
If you work hard and are able to grow your company and scale your company and branch out and get bonuses, to think of that as the opportunity then to be positioned to say yes to what God's put in your heart. To say yes to the call that he's put upon your church house, upon Fresh Life Church, to say yes to the initiative. To say yes to the millions of dollars that we want to continue to give as we already have given millions. To give millions and millions more. To build buildings where people will sit and hear the gospel. To send the message out on television airwaves. To send the message out on podcasts. To send the message out into prisons. To put more tablets into the hands of inmates who will hear the gold of that land is good if we do good with what God has put into our hearts. You see, when you're the tail not the head and when you racked up credit card debt, when you don't have resources, and God put something in your heart, what can you do? All you are is the tail of life. You're not positioned and able to say yes to what God has called you to.
And so there's nothing wrong with gold, if it's in the hands of someone who's worshipping Jesus. And don't be afraid of it. The gold of that land is good. That's just a thought. It's not my message. The second thing I notice is that before there was sin, there was work. Before there was sin, there was work. The gold of the land was good, and God put man in the garden He had made that was powered and fueled and energized and nourished by this wild river branched into four different rivers. So God then put the man in that garden and said, I want you to tend it and keep it. Adam had a job before he was a sinner. That is to say when life was perfect, that is to say when things were glorious and clicking along, when he was living in heaven on Earth, living in paradise, his response wasn't to live like he was in a Corona commercial and just sit 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a beach, and then interrupt it briefly to play golf. He had a job to do and it gave him a great satisfaction. It gave him great pride. It gave him great strength. And it gave him great purpose and joy to work hard and to keep the garden and tend the garden and take care of the garden and work the garden. And then to enjoy the result of his labor.
Following in the footsteps of God who worked six days and then got to enjoy that day off, and the day of joy, the day of worship, the day of rest was all the more meaningful because it wasn't prototypical. It wasn't what he did every single day. God works. We are to work. So just have a different vision of your careers. Your career isn't, the objective isn't to hasten the day to retirement. The purpose isn't to just endure enough to where you can finally just do as you please and lounge around. God has put it in our hearts to work. And whether or not we are able to financially retire or to be so good with the gold that we get to a place where we aren't reliant on an income, well, then, we can work in different ways. The goal should be that until we go to see Jesus face-to-face in heaven that we have a cause, that we have something that our hands are being put to, that we're tending, we're blessing, we're helping, we're healing. We're finding ways to bring light into this world. Before there was sin, there was work.
And then, thirdly, I noticed that before there was sin, there was a river. This river was an intrinsically important part of all the workings of the garden. And the garden couldn't be sustained if there wasn't this river. So a part of the plan for the garden to be the Garden of Eden, for it to be this place for the presence of God was enjoyed, and gold was to be discovered, and work was to be done, was to be a part of and enjoy this river. We don't often think about Adam and Eve enjoying life on a river, but that was a part of the original plan for creation. So that is this world's origin story. That's the back story. And every time you and I see a river, it a part of what it has to say is to remind us what's lost. To remind us what's been lost. Rivers, every time you and I are on a river, a part of the story the river is saying is this is not as it should be. There is a fall in this, too. There's a brokenness to it. And the hard, grim reality and reminder of that is every single one of us have no doubt been touched in some way by a death that has taken place on or near or around or in a river.
Rivers are dangerous thing. And they claim many people's lives, and it's so easy even experienced people who are experienced at being on the water can have it sneak up on them and claim their lives, and not wearing a life jacket and just a quick swim and this happened and that happened and so rivers are dangerous. And the deadliness of rivers now point us to what was lost and the fact that this world is not our home. That as it presently is it can't fill the hole inside of our hearts. So that's the origin story. Secondly, jot this down. The river also points us to the end game. Not only does the Bible open with a river, but it also closes with one. We talked about Teddy's back story. But we can also talk about end game. Talk about the end of Teddy Roosevelt's life. We learned about the teddy bears beginning, but let's learn about the actual Bull Moose's final phase of life because it, too, involves a river. And it was a river, out of all the things that Teddy Roosevelt ever did that were dangerous, it's interesting that the river was the thing that finally almost certainly hastened the end of his life. Because when we talk about Teddy Roosevelt, we're talking with someone who was nearly assassinated, shot in the chest while giving a speech.
We're talking about someone who fought in the Spanish-American War. We're talking about someone who was attacked by a cougar, the animal. As distinct from any other cougars that could be that we would be talking about. And there were lots of rivers involved in Teddy's life. In fact, interestingly enough, and this is just a little fun trivia for you, Teddy Roosevelt was one of two American presidents who liked to enjoy skinny-dipping in the Potomac River while in the White House. The other being John Quincy Adams. But Roosevelt also fought river pirates at one point in North Dakota. Spent eight days tracking them in the middle of a storm so severe that cows were falling over dead on the spot. Cowsickles. And when he finally did catch these pirates, which took days of tracking, he couldn't put them in handcuffs because their arms would have fallen off due to frostbite in the overnight hours. And so he had to keep them untied to keep them alive because he was a merciful bounty hunter.
Anyhow, his life's amazing. A merciful bounty hunter. That's what I want my biography to be called one day. But the most dangerous, the river that proved the most dangerous of all the rivers that Roosevelt ever interacted with was no doubt a river called the Rio de Duvida or in English, the River of Doubt. The River of Doubt was the river that Roosevelt turned to in 1913 at the age of 55, when he had just unsuccessfully campaigned for a third term as president. It would have been his second election, which is how he's able to do that. The death caused him to be president the first time. The teddy bear helped him get into office the second time. And he now as the Bull Moose Party was trying to get this third term. He lost. He was very depressed because of this. And it perked up his spirits to think about going to the Amazon and exploring a river. His son Kermit, 23 years old, was living in Brazil, living in the rainforest area.
And so Teddy's like, I'm going to come down. I'm going to link up with the scientific society. I'm going to explore a river. So they arranged this river thing for him to explore. Only when he got down there, it was like a really safe one. It had already been discovered. It already had been explored. And so he was like, well, heck no. We're going to go, and he's like, tell me the most dangerous river that no one's ever explored, that human eyes have never, that Western eyes have never laid eyes on. And they said, well, there's this River of Doubt. He's like, the River of Doubt? That's exactly the kind of river I'm talking about here. Let's go explore the River of Doubt. And Colonel Rondon, who had put this together, was like, no, no, that's, you literally cannot go explore the River of Doubt. You will die. Everyone he goes with you will die. There are savages there. There are, the cannibals still. Like you can't do this.
And you know Teddy Roosevelt. Three hours later is like, OK, we're all going down the River of Doubt now. And let me just give you a little bit of a picture of what we're talking about here. There are that we know of 165 major rivers in the world. Major rivers. 76 of them are over 1,000 miles long. By far the mightiest river on Earth, and it's not even close, is the Amazon River. It's been estimated that one-fifth of all flowing water in the world flows through the Amazon River into the ocean. It is the largest drainage system on planet Earth. On its way, it doesn't just go through Brazil. It goes through nine different South American countries. The Amazon River is so massive that at its widest, during the rainy season, it reaches 30 miles wide, 4,000 miles long and all, up to 30 miles wide at its widest. It is just shy of being the longest river in the world, an honor and distinction that goes to the Nile River, which is hotly contested by the way.
There are some who argue that the standards of measurement are different between the two. And some say the Amazon is actually the longest in the world. But get this. The Amazon is so massive that it has 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are over 1,000 miles long themselves. One of which is the Rio da Duvida. The River of Doubt is a tributary branching off the Amazon River that is itself over 1,000 miles long as well. And this is what Teddy said, we should go explore 1,000 mile long stretch of an unexplored tributary of the mightiest river in the world, one so big that, like I said, no civilized man had ever gone up or down this river. And it cuts through the rainforest. And, again, if you haven't pictured the rainforest, it's a canopy so thick, so dark, that it is pitch black on the ground below it. That it takes water, when rain hits it, it takes a full 10 minutes for the rain to hit the actual ground, to actually make its way through the canopy. And so off they go.
Now I want to show you a map of Brazil so you just get a sense of the area we're talking about. The actual dark blue one is the major Amazon River and all the tributaries there are the ones we're talking about. And the Madeira, which goes through the middle if you can see, off of that is the Rio da Duvida. Now, just so you have a picture in your mind, Brazil is the fifth largest country on planet Earth. It is 250,000 square miles larger than the United States of America. So Brazil is massive. And off goes this 55-year-old president just full of piss and vinegar. He has a crew of 22 guys with him. And it takes two months on land just to get to the start of this river. And so they're making their way over land for two months just to get there. Roosevelt wrote in his journal, everything became moldy except what became rusty on the overland part. Several men were struck down by tropical illness. Half the group's pack animals died from exhaustion just trying to get to the start of the river.
Once they finally made their way to the river, they were dealing with insects, piranhas, snakes, including the anaconda, caimans, which is the apex predator of the Amazon, rapids, whirlpools. Repeatedly, their wooden canoes would be destroyed going down rapids. And they would have to pause the expedition, cut down trees, and make new canoes because that's just a quick endeavor. The whole time, they were being stalked they knew by hostile native Indians. At one point, the team's dog they brought with them on the expedition was shot. And they found poison arrows sticking out of the dog. Many members of the team came down with malaria and dysentery. They ran out of supplies. And, by the end, were nearly starving to death, surviving, subsisting on any fish they could get that weren't piranhas, as well as the hearts of palm plant they would pull from the ground. Three of them died during the eight-week long journey.
Roosevelt had a nasty gash in his leg from jumping from one boat to another to try and stop one from crashing. That caused a massive infection to come in. Soon malaria and a fever accompanied. He wasn't able to walk, wasn't able to move. Everybody assumed he was going to die. He became delirious towards the end and begged for everyone to leave him. But Kermit, his 20-year-old son, had promised his mother, or Theodore's wife, that he would bring him home alive. And so he kept on and kept him up. And starving and in rags, tattered, they emerged from the rainforest eight weeks later, came home to major fanfare, was asked to write in periodicals and journals and did a massive speaking tour across the country. But continued to deal with the problem in his leg, the infection, and the result of malaria in his system. He was told by doctors that he would probably be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
He paused, and then replied, quote all right. I can work that way, too. But he never fully recovered. And five years later, at the age of 60, he died, many people think in large part because of his experience on the River da Duvida, which the Brazilians by that point had lovingly renamed to the Roosevelt River, which is its name today in Brazil. Well, that's the end of Theodore Roosevelt's life. And we learned a little bit about the teddy and its beginning. Let's now look at the end of life for us as Jesus people. Where does this story end? It starts with a river. Well, Revelation, Chapter 22, shows us the very end of all things. We're at the final part of the Bible here when it says, John writing, "And he showed me a pure river, a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every single month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations".
If you want to read more about the River of Doubt, that's the name of a fantastic book by Candice Millard. But this is a book written by John that gives us information about where we're heading. It's great to know origin story. It's great to know a back story. But it's even better to know what's in front of you. And the Bible says, that, yes, the rivers point to us and tell us what has been lost. But they also tell us what has been gained. They also tell us what is to come for the Bible says we will end our final day when heaven and earth are once again fused together, when once again God's dwelling place, his presence, is with us. And we can, like Adam and Eve, walk with God in the garden city called heaven, in the cool of the day. There will be a river flowing. There will be a river nourishing. There will be a river that energizes a tree that causes there to be fruits and leaves that can heal. Our capital city, like so many capital cities around the world, is built on a river.
I was in Budapest, Hungary, a long time ago as a 15-year-old. I was there on a mission trip. And I'll never forget walking the Danube. And the tour guide that was showing us around Budapest told us that the Danube has the distinction, and here's a photograph of it, of being the only river on planet Earth to run through four nations' capitals, Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, and Hungary all have their capital cities straddling the mighty Danube River. But many nations have cities that have been built. Almost every nation has so many, St. Louis and New Orleans. So many of the great cities are built alongside rivers. I think about Missoula, Montana. I think about how dwelling places and civilizations are almost always connected to a river. Our own nation's capital, of course, Washington DC right there on the Potomac. And God has the same personality. Both eat in his garden city He built originally for us to live in. His garden that He built for us to enjoy. It's followed by the New Jerusalem where we will once again get to live in a city connected to a river with water and life.
Think about being in heaven. You don't think about sitting on a cloud. Think about standing next to a river. Think about being in a city. Think about enjoying fruit from a tree. So what do we have when we are considering, today, assignment was the story line of scripture. We see it beginning with a river. We see it ending with the river. And in between, ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you that there is a flow that allows the two to be joined. And that is a river of blood. That's the way these rivers are joined because what was lost, we couldn't just have it back without it being purchased. The Bible we read said, the day you eat of it, you shall surely die. There's death that keeps us from enjoying heaven. There's death that keeps us from enjoying what our hearts long for. And so death was the price, and death was what was needed. And death was what Jesus was willing to pay. Luke's gospel.
We find this statement about Jesus. We find that he at that point began to sweat, great drops of blood as he prayed. He was in great agony. And his blood fell down to the ground. There in Gethsemane, a third garden, a garden between the gardens. You have the new heavens, and you have also the Garden of Eden. What connects and fuses these two is the river in between that ran crimson, that ran red, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus accepted the mission and was able to connect heaven back to Earth again so you and I can live, not just looking at what was lost, and not just enjoying what is here now, but also looking forward to all that God has in store for us. And the great mistake that we could make, and the third and final point, is to make the wrong choice. The choice is yours. The choice of being stuck only at this world's rivers. Looking at, I came across a blog about why rivers are so great, and someone said they're spiritual. And they said, I don't know why anybody would ever go to church when there are such a thing as a river.
When you could just stand by the river, why would you ever need any kind of religious service or any kind of religious experience? And that's a temptation. And many people looking at this world find in it what they hope will fill the hole inside of them, and they forget about all that's promised. They forget about all that Jesus paid for us to have. And they forget about the promise of heaven. And they settle for the sadness of this world that can claim lives. The sadness of this world, which is still beautiful, but there's an emptiness to it. There's a futility to, there's a pain to it. And that choice is so easily made. We see a picture of what this looks like in Genesis, Chapter 13, when Abraham and Lot, his nephew, were both getting really successful. And so they realized they couldn't stay together because they didn't have banks. All their money showed up in how big their herds were.
And so Abraham said, hey, we can go separate ways. And he was really magnanimous about it. He said, you look anywhere you want. Let there be no strife between us and your herdsmen and my herdsmen. We're brethren. "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, I'll choose the right. If you go to the right, I'll choose the left" Which he never should have, he should have not been deferring to Lot. Lot should have been deferring to him. But Abraham was just that way. He's, I'm the head not the tail. I'm not worried about it. And so he gave him first choice and look what happened. Verse 10, "And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice what he says next, like the garden of the Lord".
Experts say, linguists say, that that phrase is not meant to be interpreted as a statement made by the narrator. But it's sort of an eruption of what Lot felt in his heart when he saw the well-watered plain. We're being told that what he saw when he looked at the well-watered plain of Jordan was his heart said, that's like the Garden of Eden. If I can live there, then I would have what humanity lost when we were sent out of the garden. He was basically saying if I could just have a place with rivers running through it, if I could just have that green light, I know I'll make more money. I know I'll be successful. I know I'll be able to make so much that I'll be at ease, and I can just enjoy the good life. And I could see myself retiring. If I could just have that, I'll be whole. He was saying that the shalom and peace that man lost when we were evicted from the first river would be his if he could just live in this place with this beautiful view of a river on Earth. That is what Jesus said we most often do when we reject him. We reject him most often not for just atheism and just no God. We replace him with something else that we treat as God.
Jeremiah 2 puts it this way, "my people have committed two evils, They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water". That's exactly what happened to Lot. He thought, if I could just live there and have that I would be whole. And it only led to more and more emptiness in his life. And more and more brokenness in his life. And where Abraham lived by faith and was willing to do whatever God told him to do and had his heart set on the coming city, the coming kingdom. He had his heart set on what was to come. And he was whole and at peace. Lot was just always striving, always conniving, always difficult, always compromising. And his life ended, his story ends in ruin.
And so the choice is yours. What do you want to make your all? What do you want to make your God in this life? Jesus offers you living water. He put it this way, whoever comes to me and drinks, I will give him living water. He told the woman at the well, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, give me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would give you living water". So that's what we're really confronted with in life is the choice of what we look to to hydrate us. The choice of what we look to define us. In God's presence, there is a fullness in his house. And he promises to give us drink from the river of his pleasures. If we're satisfied with the water of this world, we'll miss out on all that he has for us. And my prayer is that you and I would always keep our hearts set on the coming river, even as we enjoy and are able to be blessed by the present one.
Now every river has to end somewhere. Every river goes somewhere, which is why they say, one of the greatest things you can do if you ever find yourself lost is to follow the water. You end up in the woods, and you're lost. And you can find any stream, if you can find any water, if you follow it downstream eventually you're going to find some civilization. Eventually you're going to find a settlement. Eventually you're going to find some people. So one of the greatest things we can do is to follow the water. To do what we've done here, today, to follow the water, to follow the living water. Jesus offers living water. His rivers lead to pleasure. His rivers lead to wholeness. And so that's what I hope today you would do to follow Jesus to the water. And God as we pray, we consider for all of us what like Lot we're looking to that's green, that's nourished, and we are tempted to make the ultimate thing in our lives. And as you're praying, perhaps all of us can consider what that is for us today. And it changes from season to season. Changes from life to life. Could be at this one point, popularity. It could be at another, security. It could be over here yet, success.
So I want to give you just a moment in time, of space and time, to tell God all my fountains are in you. I'm not going to settle for the rivers of this world that can't satisfy me. The only thing that can is Jesus, the only thing that can quench my thirst is that living water. If you would be honest enough to admit today, there's areas of compromise, areas in your heart where you just need to put your passion back into God. Could I ask that every single person, just shoot a hand up in the air just to let God know, I want that living water to be my source of hydration, my source of nourishment. Thank you, Jesus. You can put your hands down. And I want to give a space and time for anybody today who has never made that decision to give your life to Jesus.
Every river goes somewhere. Ends up in a lake, ends up in an ocean, ends up turning to nothing in the middle of Africa in the desert. Every river goes somewhere. Where is the path that you're going down going to take you? Jesus said that every story ends in heaven and hell. And God so loved you and so wanted you to end up in heaven that he was willing to allow Jesus to die on the cross for you. And if today you trusted him as your Savior, as your Lord, you give him your heart, you give him your life, he will come in and redirect you. Change the course of your life. Change where you're heading. He's able to forgive you.
And like my friend, Andy Stanley, likes to say, he won't just make your life better. He will make you better at life. So if while we're praying with heads bowed and eyes closed, you would say, I want to give my life to Christ, watching on YouTube, sitting in one of our churches, listening online after the fact on a podcast, and you would say, I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me, knocking on the door of my heart. I want to surrender my life to Christ. I want you to pray this prayer with me. Say this. Mean it in your heart. It's been prayed by millions of people around the world, but today it's your prayer. This is your moment with God. He sees and loves you.
Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. Please come into my heart and make me new. I give myself to you. Help me to follow you. Help me to keep my heart set on heaven. In Jesus' name, amen.