Have you ever been thirsty?
No, I don’t mean, “Hrmmm, I think I’d like to go for a drink”. Not that kind. I mean the kind of thirst where you need water. The kind of thirst where your body threatens you with rebellion and retaliation if you don’t ingest some fluids in the near future. It’s the kind of thirst you feel after running a marathon… in the afternoon. I suppose we’ve all felt thirsty at some time. We reach a state where our only real concern is that WE WANT OUR THIRST QUENCHED!
Have you ever been that thirsty? Has your soul ever been that thirsty?
Do you remember what Sprite’s recent tagline is? Every time you see their green bottle, fizzing with temptation, they remind you to “Obey Your Thirst”. Each of us has probably been at a place in our lives where we have been thirsty. Maybe we’re there now. I know I am. As I write this, I find myself in a season of drought. No, not the physical kind. It’s the spiritual kind. There seems to be a pervasive dryness in my spiritual relationship with Jesus. There is this… thirst. Until it is quenched, prayer seems like talking to the wind, praise and worship seems like singing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and the Bible – our daily Bread – tastes like old, dry toast. We are thirsty, and our soul cries out to us, “Obey your thirst!” We know what to do when we’re physically thirsty – we reach for the nearest source of liquid to try to slake our thirst. But what do we do when our spirit is thirsty?
… Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
John 7:37, New International Version
That’s the key. If anyone is thirsty, come to Jesus and drink. As it is, there are three traits that I have noticed about thirsting people.
Thirsty People look for the Right Drink to Quench their Thirst.
That’s something we need to think about. To quench our thirst, we do not simply reach out for just any source of liquid. What if the nearest source of liquid is that putrid monsoon drain right next to you? Just the same, after a race, an athlete asks for refreshing water or 100 Plus, or any isotonic sports beverage. It will be the furthest thing from his mind to ask for a lovely glass of 1982 Chateaux Red Wine! Why is that? If you have been thirsty, you will realize that the right drink will quench your thirst, while the wrong drink will INCREASE your thirst.
That’s right. Some drinks quench our thirst, while others increase it. There is a spiritual analogy to this. When we are spiritually thirsty, we need to drink the right stuff. Otherwise, we will become more thirsty and not find contentment. Jesus told us that He is the best way to quench our spiritual thirst. He told us to come to Him and drink.
Jesus answered, “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.”
John 4:13-15, New International Version
A lot of Christians talk about some ‘God-shaped’ hole in our hearts – and nothing but God will be able to snugly and completely fill that hole. From what Jesus says, that seems to be true. Our thirst can never be completely quenched until they are quenched by God. If we try to substitute something else for what only God can provide, we will just be end up thirsty again. As St. Augustine, a medieval bishop from South Africa said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”.
Thirsty People Don’t Stop Searching for a Drink Until Their Thirst is Quenched.
Another trait about thirsty people is that they don’t stop searching until they get a drink. Maybe you’ve been in a mall and you’ve just finished watching three hours of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Throughout the movie you were munching on caramel-coated popcorn. Now you exit the cinema and it hits you: You’re thirsty. What do you do? You want a drink. You start looking for a drink kiosk. Of course, you can say to yourself, “I can wait before I get a drink”. But subconsciously, you’re already thinking of what to drink and where to get it. Your eyes are already looking through the crowd to find some place to buy a drink. You look – and if you’re really thirsty, you don’t stop looking.
When you’re really thirsty, you don’t just search for 5 minutes and tell yourself, “Oh well, I’ll just wait for my thirst to go away”. That is not going to happen. What’s worse, biologically speaking, your thirst will eventually affect your body’s health – just as your spiritual thirst will eventually affect your spirit’s health. So what can you do? Keep on seeking.
The word ‘tenacity’ is a rather foreign word for our scientifically advanced world today. Tenacity means, ‘resolution’. It is the ability to stay on one course until it is complete. In a sense, it is a good kind of stubbornness. It seems rather outmoded in our Maggi Mee generation.
Remember how Maggi used to advertise that it could be cooked in 2 minutes (after the water has been boiled, that is)? Well, since the invention of the microwave, we now microwave our instant noodles. Do see the irony in that? What’s worse, we now multitask – while our microwave is cooking our noodles, we try to fill that minute by doing something else. Or else, we just pace in front of the microwave.
In life, some things take a little bit longer than 2 minutes to quench. Our spiritual thirst is one of these. Going to one revival service and not ‘feel’ anything doesn’t mean that you should give up on God. We need to hang on tenaciously. Keep searching hard, keep coming to church, keep reading the Bible and keep hanging around the people of God. You don’t stop searching for drink until your thirst is quenched. Don’t give up searching for God – because He has not stopped seeking after you. Tenacity takes a little longer than 2 minutes.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14, New International Version
Thirsty People Go To Where the Water Is.
Another thing about thirsty people is this. They are not deceived. They don’t wait for their thirst to go away and they are also not under the false impression that a drink will magically materialize in front of them. They seek out sources of water. They go to where the water is.
Why doesn’t this analogy carry into our spiritual lives? When we are spiritually thirsty, why is it that some of us choose to wait on the sidelines, hoping that our thirst will be magically zapped away? Jesus called out to the thirsty and said, “Come to Me and drink”. Our spiritual thirst will be quenched when we take an active, conscious step towards Jesus. But how is this done? What does it mean to ‘come to Jesus’?
There are three fundamental steps that Christians throughout the ages have continued to do to help them get closer to God. Each of these steps warrants a sermon or even a Bible Study series of its own. However, due to time and space constraints, I can only briefly touch on them.
The first step (in order of presentation, not importance) towards Jesus is worship and prayer. Worship, as we know, is a lifestyle and not just singing songs in church. Worship is also an expression of our love-relationship with God. This might be singing praise and devotion to Him, our giving, and even as we pray. It seems difficult to worship and pray in times of dryness. But we need to go to where Jesus is… or at least, take the first step in the right direction. The point is we need to communicate with God, because communication is necessary for the health of any relationship.
Another step to take is in the area of Bible reading or devotion and Bible Study. This is where we find God communicating with us. There are many resources available to us today. We can subscribe to internet newsletters and devotionals, we can read books, listen to sermon tapes and the like. Romans 10:17 tells us, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” It’s difficult, but we must remember to be tenacious – then we will satisfy ourselves Living Bread, and not old, dry toast.
The third step in the direction of Jesus is simple fellowship with Believers. We need to hang around God’s people. I remember how my mom took an active interest in my friends because she wanted to be sure that I didn’t mix with the wrong crowd. Why? Simply because we become like those we surround ourselves with. It just happens – no matter how old we get. So, coming to a good church that ministers to you and where you can also minister to others and to God, having good Christian friends to trust and to be held accountable and finding a good Christian mentor – someone mature who has been on the Christian journey a little longer – are steps that we can take to have fellowship with other Believers.
There are thirsty people everywhere. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They are from all manner of backgrounds, cultures and social status. But despite these things, they have one thing in common. They are all thirsty and want to quench their thirst. To all who are thirsty, obey your thirst! Come to Jesus and drink. Then,
“Whoever believes in [Jesus], as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”
John 7:38, New International Version
If you are currently swimming in the streams of living water – Praise God! This message then serves you as a reminder – something to remember before you find yourself in a season of dryness, something to encourage other people who are experiencing spiritual dryness. Don’t abandon to the dark what you have learned in the light.
For those of you who are experiencing spiritual dryness like me – well, here’s the message. Obey your thirst. The hard part comes in the ‘obey’. There is a sense that we need to be obedient. God desires to touch us, renew us and refresh us. But we will have to honestly ask ourselves whether we are ready to be obedient to God. The desert doesn’t go on forever. Eventually, it has to end. But we’ve got to be obedient – to obey and walk in the right direction… to Jesus.
I hope this message finds you well. I am not there yet, but so far, this is what I’ve found in my journey with Jesus. As a fellow pilgrim on the same journey, let us continue to hold each other up. I look forward to journeying with you.
(c) Wong Giok Leigh, 1 March 2002.