Unstopping the Wells of Revival: Spiritual Thirst
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them 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.”
This fall our theme is unstopping the wells of revival. Last week, we discussed how in Genesis 26, Isaac and his family found themselves in an existential crisis. They were in the desert without access to water. And obviously without water, life is impossible. Isaac’s solution to this crisis was to go back to the wells his father Abraham had dug, and to clear out the rubbish and the dirt that the Philistines had thrown in these wells and thereby, to stay alive.
The church today finds herself in a similar situation – after a very long decline we are in desperate need of the most basic thing: life itself. We have become spiritually dehydrated. And if we want to see the church survive, let alone thrive and flourish as a blessing to our declining culture, we must find a way to access the same source of spiritual water that has renewed and revived the church in past generations. We need to go back to those wells and dig them out again.
This fall we are identifying and praying through the barriers to revival…the “rubbish,” as it were, that has been thrown in the wells of revival and that is preventing the people of God from accessing the life and power of God.
One of the first and foremost barriers to revival is our own lack of awareness of our thirst.
In John 4, Jesus sits down at a well in Samaria in the heat of the noonday sun. A woman approaches to draw water at this odd hour. She is there at that time because she is an outcast. She is not welcome at the well with the other women of the town, who come in the cool of the morning. She must come in the heat of the day. The reason, we later find out, is that this woman has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. This is why she is an outcast. We don’t know exactly why she has had five husbands – or is living with a man who isn’t interested in marrying her. But we watch in awe as Jesus engages with her.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” he says to her.
This woman, like all of us, is thirsty for God. But for years she has been masking her thirst with other things. In the same way that she has come day after day to draw water…she has gone from relationship to relationship to try to fill the void in her life and soul. But it clearly is not working. Her trips to the well are a metaphor for her spiritual life. She is so thirsty…but the “water” she is drinking (one relationship after another) is not actually hydrating her.
It is a bit like when someone feels thirsty, and reaches for an alcoholic beverage. The beverage is a liquid, and on the surface seems to satisfy or mask the sensation of thirst. And yet paradoxically, the more alcohol a person drinks, the more dehydrated they become. This is how it is for the woman at the well. The more men this woman lives with, the emptier she feels inside. And this is how it is for the church today. We are unaware of our thirst, because we are masking it with other things. Things that make us more and more spiritually dehydrated and empty. And this pattern will continue until, as the woman did, and recognize that only Jesus can satisfy us.
Thirst is a gift from God to point us to him and our need for him. But in order to feel our spiritual thirst, we have to stop masking our thirst with other things that are not spiritually hydrating us.
What are the substitutes for God you have used to mask your hunger and thirst for him? Is it food or alcohol? Is it social media? Is it entertainment? Is it things you shop for or buy? Is it work or school or career? Relationships? Money? Activity? What are the things you look to for life that are not Jesus? “Whoever drinks this water will thirst again,” Jesus says. “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”
Consider fasting with the leadership community of Sanctuary on Tuesdays. You could skip a meal, or two, or all three. (obviously, if you have food issues, use your discretion on this) One of the best ways to become aware of the spiritual thirst for God in our soul is through fasting. Fasting often unmasks the deeper state and thirst of our souls for God. It helps us get in touch with our hunger and thirst for him…which is what we need if we are to dig out the wells of revival through our prayers and repentance in the next season.
As the Spirit brings things to mind, ask God to break your/our attachment to these spiritual substitutes. Ask God to deepen our awareness of our thirst for him. Ask God to make us so keenly aware of our thirst that we begin seeking him with greater intensity in the coming months and years.