Here’s a geography question.
What unusual characteristic do these eleven rivers have in common? Sunswick Creek (New York City), Tibbetts Brook (New York City), Sawmill River (Yonkers, NY), Park River (Hartford, CT), Neglinnaya River (Moscow), Wein River (Vienna), Bradford Beck River (Bradford, England), River Sheaf (Sheffield, England), River Fleet (London), River Westbourne (London), and River Walbrook (London).
Is it that all these rivers are located in metropolitan areas? Yes, that’s one thing they have in common. But since most cities are built on or near rivers, that’s hardly unusual. The unusual characteristic which binds all these rivers together is that they are all, at some point and for some length, forced underground.
That’s right. Some of them are forced underground, usually into sewer-like corridors, to keep them from getting in the way of traffic or to make way for building projects. Some are forced underground as a way to keep the city sewage flowing downstream. It seems like a cruel thing to do to free-flowing river—to suppress it and force it out of sight.
But there is one thing these cities have never been able to do to these rivers. They’ve forced them underground but they could never keep them from flowing. Case in point—the City of Los Angeles once simply bulldozed thousands of tons of rock and dirt over one small river in order to build a road over it. They tried to bury it into oblivion. Bad idea. During a downpour the road was scoured away, taking many cars and motorists with it. Yes, you can force a river underground, but you cannot keep it from flowing.
Any student of church history—or of the contemporary persecuted church in Islamic or Communist countries—knows that the same thing is true of God’s Spirit within His church. You can force the church underground by suppression and persecution, but you cannot keep the Spirit of God from flowing through it. You cannot obstruct God’s efforts sustain His people who are under fire.
God is pouring out His Spirit as never before.
After the fall of China to the Communist forces of Mao Zedong the church and its many pastors seemed to vanish from the earth. Where did they go? Were they all killed? Was the church annihilated? No, the communists forced the church underground but the church did not die. In fact, after a long period of complete obscurity the church eventually emerged strong and vibrant.
The Movement of the Holy Spirit
You see, friend, no hostile government can obstruct the life-giving flow of the Holy Spirit. And when God’s people go underground or become second class citizens, the Holy Spirit goes underground with them. Jesus gave us this promise: “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). God’s people can be marginalized, reviled, persecuted, and put to death. But the greater the persecution, the greater God channels His secret supply of power and grace to them. Psalm 1:3 tells us that God’s people are like trees planted by canals of water. In other words, God channels His life-giving Holy Spirit to sustain them. Jeremiah 17:7–8 says that the ones who trust in the LORD are like trees planted by a flow of water which sustains them in times of drought and scorching heat.
I say this because it’s widely acknowledged today that the Church of Jesus Christ is enduring greater persecution now than at any other time in history. Yet, at the same time, God is pouring out His Spirit as never before. Whatever pressure Satan imposes on God’s people, God counters it by giving them even more grace and power to flourish.
So do not fear the oppression and persecution of the wicked. Fear God and keep His commandments—namely to believe in His Son Jesus Christ and to love one another (John 6:29; 1 John 3:23). For the kingdoms of this world are soon to become the Kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ. And He will reign forever and will judge the world in righteousness (Rev. 11:15; 19:11–20:15).
Almighty and merciful Father, to You and to Your Kingdom I pledge my allegiance and love. Please remind me that the wickedness of this world will not be conquered by political action or by physical force—but by Your Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:6). Amen.
Information from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/photos/underground-rivers/
In article photo: 1st BSTB Helps Break Ground at Local School by DVIDSHUB licensed under CC BY 2.0