The High Water Mark

High Water Mark
High Water Mark

For those of us who love water, have been associated with or lived on it, you know exactly what “High Water Mark” represents.  I was born and raised in Michigan where water abounds and boats are plentiful—at least in summer anyway.

For those who haven’t been around lakes, streams, creeks, reservoirs or oceans, you may not be familiar with the term.  I’ll explain it.  The “High Water Mark” is the highest level water has reached on the land which it borders or contains.  It most often leaves a mark on the terrain that’s visually evident.

However, the HWM is also used as nomenclature as another way to say or state the highest level of achievement attained in a specific endeavor. In such cases, it’s the high bar, the benchmark, or the goal.  It’s what we strive to attain and or to surpass. It’s the best of the best. The greatest level of accomplishment ever attained in a specific task.

Reaching this so called pinnacle as it relates to performance-based activity is often never enough for the success-minded person–at least for those whose self-perceived identity is grounded in such routine and accomplishment.  Such people base their entire self-worth and value on levels of achievement.  For when such people hit or attain the “Mark”—they always, without fail, want more.  And when such people fail, a numbing sense of shock, despair, regret and failure hits them at the core.  Worse yet, some may fail to take responsibility and place blame on others or circumstances for the results and shift responsibility accordingly.  This is all too common in the politic of large organizations.

The pursuit of such man-made lofty goals and expectations has done more to drown the souls of countless achievers, high performers, competitive professionals and church staff personnel than any body of water ever has.  It’s an illusion of what “Can Be” based on the successes of others that eventually leads down a road to regret, despair, doubt and unbelief.  And in the end, such people reflect on the “haves”: would have, could have, and should have. It’s a vicious circle of thought stuck in the past which steals the present and kills the future.

Such drive for success and accomplishment can be erroneously founded by comparing ourselves to others:  people we look up too; individuals we imitate and strive to be like. They are folks of renown, who have big businesses, large churches, influential ministries, boats, cars, and tons of influence.  So many people do this at the expense of their own identity and neglect of their own God-given talents and gifts.

Sure, surround yourself with successful people. Understand what works and what doesn’t and apply in your own life. That’s wisdom.  Just make sure your definition of success is based on God’s description—not the world’s and embrace your God-given talent, gifting and individual unique identity.

Furthermore, so often we establish a “high water mark” or expectation of others. This lofty expectancy is based on how some treat us, what they do for us, and/or respond to us in relationship.  When the water (their efforts and responses toward us) recede, some people get judgmental or even worse—fearful.  Having our identities based and founded in the value of what others think, believe and act toward us can be a major problem.  It’s called the fear of man and it’s a snare (Proverbs  29:25).

For others, the pursuit may be that of man-made religion in an attempt to be “right” in the eyes of God.  This is founded in the belief that good deeds and works keep us in good standing with the Almighty. That my friend is self-righteousness and it’s trying to attain the “Highest of Water Marks” by our own efforts. It won’t work. Worst yet—self-centered religious efforts will not stand the test of time or into eternity.

Jesus spoke about this self-righteousness as noted in the book of Matthew.  “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:20  NKJV.  

Basically the religious establishment of Jesus’ day based their righteousness on observance of the Law, ordinances and customary traditions. Unfortunately, not much has changed. What Jesus is saying here is that our righteousness has moved from the customary works and offerings to righteousness by faith.  No wonder John the Baptist was baptizing a baptism of repentance: it was a declaration to the change that was coming as it pertains to righteousness by faith—not by works.

So—do you want to attain the “Highest of Watermarks?” Are you tired of earning righteousness and favor from God by good deeds and self-effort?  Then I suggest you believe and receive the Gospel—the full Gospel; the Good News.

Through Jesus Christ, we have already attained the “high water mark” by faith if we have believed and received.  We don’t need to strive to get there.  True, authentic Godly righteousness is by faith and not by works.  It’s based on what Jesus has already done—not what we’ve done or are planning on doing.  Want proof?  Look at what Paul says about this in the book of Romans:

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”  Romans 3:21-24  NKJV

So if you’re chasing the religious carrot by self-serving performance and man-made tradition to attain right standing with God–Stop It!  If you’re attempting to reach the high water mark by your self-efforts–quit!  If this is what you really want, do it the right way…do it “The Way”—by faith.  Good works are the by-product of our righteousness by faith and relationship with God.  We do good works not to get something but to give something—His Love to others.

You see, God has already planned for you to rule and reign on this earth and to do good works in Righteousness.  It’s something He’s already planned and provided for, and wants you to believe and receive for. Not to work for.

Good Works?  Yes, we are called to them.  But with the right heart, right focus, and with a faith that is motivated by love and compassion.

Trust me on this one.  Far better yet—trust Him on this.  This water level will most surely “float your boat.”

Fred Snyder