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Learning from Ponce de León's Mistake

According to a popular legend, sixteenth-century Spanish explorer Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth. Many people are still looking for the Fountain of Youth in Florida today, but that’s not the subject of this blog.

Many explanations have been offered for what motivated this wild-goose chase. One historian speculated that the adventurous conquistador mistook the natives’ word “vid” (vine) for “vida” (life), which transformed their “fountain vine” into an imagined “fountain of life.”

In some ways, we probably should give Ponce de León kudos rather than ridicule. If you thought you could experience a Fountain of Youth, wouldn’t you do just about anything to find it?

But the folly of his pursuit was in thinking there’s some kind of external substance that can ensure never-ending youth and vitality. In contrast, Jesus told the woman at the well in Sychar, “The water that I shall give…will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Do you see the difference here? Instead of providing us with a life-giving fountain to swim in, Jesus says the living water will be IN us, springing up into eternal life.

The beauty of the gospel is that it transforms us from the inside out. There’s no need to find an external fountain, whether in Florida or somewhere else. Instead, we can find this fountain anywhere you are. And rather than just being a Fountain of Youth, the fountain Jesus offers is a fountain of eternal life.

However, despite the availability of this amazing eternal transformation, many people today are still making the same mistake as Ponce de León. They’re trying to preserve their youthfulness through external remedies—things like money…sex…power…friends…fitness…and fun. But while the Lord may indeed give us such things, at best they provide only a very limited Fountain of Youth.

Meanwhile, God offers us something much better than outside-in solutions. The Bible describes how we can go from weakness to strength and weariness to renewal through the transforming power of the Spirit:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah 40:28-31).

Youthfulness, like just about any other issue of life, is primarily a matter of your heart, not your skin. As King David discovered, one of the benefits of worshiping the Lord from your heart is that “your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).

So the choice is yours. Will you follow in the footsteps of Ponce de León and focus your attention on outward appearances? Or will you become radiantly renewed in the presence of the Lord, giving priority to the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4)?

In Revelation 21:6 we’re given a glimpse of those who will drink of “the fountain of the water of life” at the end of time. Thirst is their key trait, which is good news if you’re thirsty today. You don’t have to search the world for something to make you happy and keep you young. You just need to come into God’s presence and drink.

 

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