This week we looked at John chapter 4 and the famous interaction between Jesus and a certain scandalous Samaritan Woman. The conversation all started over water, but Jesus puts a different spin on it as he guides the conversation:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
- 1 John 4:13-15
Everyone knows what it’s like to be thirsty. A few weeks ago in church we talked about what it felt like to be hungry. And I asked for anyone who knew what hunger pains felt like to raise their hands, and there were just a few hands that went up in the crowd. With obesity as the new American epidemic, the vast majority of us don’t really know what hunger feels like. We can go days and even weeks without eating. It isn’t pleasant but we can do it. But if we go a day without anything to drink, we put ourselves in great danger. One study even says if we lose 2.5% of our body weight in water loss we lose 25% of our efficiency. You cannot live without water.
Thirst and Hunger. Water and Food. These metaphors have long been used to accurately describe our relationship with God. As surely as we all hunger for food, as surely as we all thirst for water, our souls hunger and thirst for God.
“As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after thee...”
Ps. 42:1 (KJV)
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Over and over in the Psalms, in both the Old and New Testaments, the writers describe our souls as thirsting for the Lord just as our bodies thirst for the most basic and critical element for our survival.We were made to worship and commune with the Everlasting God. Our hearts cry out for it, our spirits yearn for it. We need need that connection if we are to really live. Many of us, even if we are unbelievers, can connect with the idea that there is some unnameable something inside that needs some sort of connection. Perhaps the best way to describe that desire is thirst.
Thirst we know. Quenching thirst is a whole different matter.
We are born with this natural desire to worship, it is our purpose (1 Peter 2:9), but a our core without God, the ability to guide that desire into love and service of the Heavenly Father is tainted. We have a natural bent toward sin, and it takes us off path every single time. Sin is when we miss God’s best for us, it is when we knowingly choose something against God’s will for our lives. It is a term from archery that means to miss the mark, one writer says that our sinful nature not only causes us to miss the mark, but to not even look at the target!
We often look to satisfy that thirst in relationship with our fellow man. Some of the greatest blessings in life come from our relationships with spouses, family, and friends, but while relationships are good, they aren't meant to fill the void inside, they can’t. Your spouse cannot be your everything, they were never intended to. They can be a lot of things but you weren’t made to revel in your relationship, you were made to worship the Lord.
We also look to the accumulation of wealth or things to satiate the urge, somehow in error believing that if we can just acquire that next thing then somehow we will be satisfied. At a time when he was perhaps the richest man in the world John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough money?” His answer said it all, “Just a little bit more.” It can never be enough, accumulation of things and wealth can provide security for a time and can buy some of the pleasures in life, but it cannot satisfy!
Some have come heartbreakingly close but have still fallen short when they have embraced moralistic religion as a pseudo-god, thinking that because they hold a certain doctrine, set of beliefs or practices, then they are saved. But if the Pharisees, with all their pomp and circumstance couldn't please the Lord with all their efforts, how could any one else?
We often look to these things, these appetites, these hungers, these thirsts, rather than seeking our satisfaction in Jesus Christ. And when we do it all comes up short, we only find ourselves desiring more. It isn’t enough to find love and approval from a few, EVERYONE has to like you. It isn’t enough to have what you need, you need to have more than the next guy. It isn’t enough to love and follow your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself, you have to create within your mind a righteousness that others around can not fail to see.
We place so much stock in these man driven attempts at meeting our thirst, when God has an entirely different plan. The Samaritan Woman came looking for stale and stagnant water, Jesus offered her “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
We vainly miss the boat so much of the time. We have these standards, but God’s ways are so much higher than our own. Jesus wants to give us this Living Water. But is that what we are thirsty for? I think it’s safe to say that most of us are thirsty for God to bless us in accordance to our desires. But what are we thirsty for? Is God’s blessing upon us only when we have all our needs met? Is God’s blessing truly on us even in the face of great trial? Do troubles or unmet expectations lead us, like the Israelites, to grumbling and complaining? What are we thirsty over? Is that a desire that comes from the Lord?
The Apostle Paul found himself in the most dire and desperate of circumstances. As far as bad things go, you name it and it happened to Paul. As far as having the things people desire in this life apart from God, you name it and he had once had it in life. But when he faced the end, he found himself in captivity chained to the wall, writing letters of encouragement to others! He pens these words to the church in Philippi:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I read this and get the distinct impression that Paul thirsted most greatly for something even greater than freedom from captivity, even greater than his own personal comfort, even greater than approval from those around him. He thirsted for the Lord, and his strength and satisfaction was found only in Him.
I ran across a video, last week and shared it with my congregation. As I watched it spoke to me, and I struggled to keep my eyes dry, take a look:
The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.
These people, are dancing, shouting, and singing. Grown men are crying. Young women are making proclamations about generational transformation, the whole Kimyal tribe comes out to wait on the plane to land and they are jumping for joy! Why? Because they got a chance to see a rock star? Because someone won a ball game? No, they were so excited because they got, for the very first time, a copy of God’s word in their own native language. They didn’t even get the whole thing, just the New Testament! I have 15 different versions of the Bible just on my phone and I didn’t jump up and down to download any of them.
As I watched that video I had to ask myself the question, as a pastor, as a Christian man, what do I really thirst after? And what am I feeding that thirst? What about you? What do you thirst after?
We are heading into the middle of this season of Lent. Many have chosen to voluntarily give something up. If you have made this choice, this is the time where that sacrifice begins to get real. The first few days were uncomfortable, that thing that you want that you have chosen to deny yourself, that thing you hunger for, has had it’s chance to roar. But you have remained steadfast, resolute, and have began to learn that you do have more self control than you thought. Not that it’s easy, but it’s easier. This middle spot is dangerous because we have just enough confidence in ourselves to be delusional, and just enough weakness left to justify excuse... to permit a little cheating...
What do you thirst for? Every time you feel yourself wanting to eat that thing, watch that show, whatever it is ask yourself the question, Do I thirst for God this much? This time of fasting isn’t meant to be a time to lost a few pounds or even conquer a bad habit. It gets right down to the nitty gritty of your spiritual life, what do you thirst for? You get the sense watching that video that those people were so thirsty for the Word, and they felt so blessed to finally have it! One man even says, “Finally, we have all of God’s words!” Are we that thirsty? The young woman who talked about how she and her mother and grandmother would pass on this faith that would lead them and their families to righteousness, had such a joy in her statement. Are we really that thirsty? What do you thirst for today?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus goes so far as to state:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
That is a great promise. Now the question for us to chew on, do you feel filled? What are you thirsty for?
Grace and Peace,