Swimming Upstream

Saturday, November 19, 2022
Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Saviour Teach Me Day By Day"1 (Lyrics)

One beautiful fall day, as I peered over the railing of a small bridge, an interesting sight met my eyes — bright red fish with green heads: spawning salmon. By an inborn instinct, they were all heading the same way — upstream. If you have ever tried to swim upstream, you know how hard it is to fight against the current. These were mature salmon who had developed their muscles by constant movement, and they were now making the long journey back to the spot where they themselves hatched. Such fish fight their way up the stream, overcome obstacles, and even jump up waterfalls in order to lay their eggs in calmer water where they can be fertilized. Soon after, the adult salmon die, but the hatching eggs ensure that life goes on in the next generation.

Romans 12:2 – Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)

As Christians, we also go against the current, swimming upstream in a world that goes downstream, that just goes with the flow and does whatever it wants. We develop our spiritual muscles by fighting our way against the prevailing values of this world. As a result, we behave differently from most people. We don't go with the flow or take the easy way through life, but struggle to develop characteristics of God's eternal life, as we head toward our heavenly home.

Here is just one example of behaviour that goes against the world's norm. One November, in the school where my husband and I both worked, we got to accompany the senior class to Montreal, Canada, on its annual mission trip. As one of our tasks, we found ourselves raking huge quantities of maple leaves in a vast churchyard. After seeing the pictures on Facebook, one of our friends exclaimed in disbelief, "You went to Montreal to rake leaves?!" He didn't get it. He didn't realize that our role was one of servanthood. The point of our trip was not sightseeing, or even the tidied-up lawn at the church, but an object lesson for the students, to teach them the value of encouraging others by serving them. The pastor exclaimed over and over again how overwhelmingly we had blessed the congregation by our willingness to do this menial job for them.

1 John 3:16 – We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. (NLT)

Serving others, a "swimming upstream" lifestyle, is giving up our lives for others. The salmon gives up its life and dies, once its purpose is fulfilled by laying its eggs. We can give up our lives once we decide to live for the benefit of others and not just living to do our own thing. We may not die physically, but we can die to our own self-centred desires. We can die to our own inclinations to go with the flow, and live instead to serve others. Will you consider swimming upstream?

Prayer: Lord, help us to swim against the current by giving up our lives for others. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

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About the author:

Alice Burnett <terrencera.burnett@gmail.com>
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good one Alice.

    A wonderful story and application, Alice.

    Thank you. God bless you!
    (N. S.)

    I truly enjoyed your devotion this morning. Thank you!

    Thank you for sharing this encouraging devotional with us. Blessings.

    Thanks, once more, Alice. You and Terry lead impressive servant lives.

    Swimming upstream doesn’t mean ignoring the needs of others. Serve the Lord and serve our neighbor.

    Great message, it will really make one think the next time they say, “l’ll just go with the flow.”
    Thanks and blessings, Alice!

    HI Alice,
    Thank you for the beautiful image, scripture references, and concrete example of servanthood/swimming upstream.
    Your devotion was well written and timely.

    Thank you, Alice, for another of your very good devotional writings and for sharing the experience you had in going on that venture to Montreal. Yes, our lives are much better when we follow the leadership and path of our Lord Jesus rather than just trail along with the common flow. Blessings for these special writings you contribute.

    Alice, I just read your devotional, “Swimming Upstream”. And then followed up that with reading another devotional that I receive. I was struck by the song that second devotional began with, for it, in my mind, went well with your words. It was “Crown Him with Many Crowns”.
    Thank you for your writings. I appreciate them.

    Thank you, Alice, this fits perfectly with some thoughts I’ve been having in the last few days.

    I really enjoy your lessons. Thank you.

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