You remember the time during Jesus' ministry that he came across the Samaritan woman at the well? It's in John 4: 1-42 if you want to read the whole account. It's a rich encounter and there are thousands of sermons seeded within it. But there's just one verse I want to think about right now, and I'm really hopeful that you'll think about it with me and maybe discuss your experiences also.
Jesus asks the woman to get him a drink of water, and in the conversation that follows, Jesus makes it clear that he actually has superior water for her to drink if she will. He contrasts actual natural water with spiritual, regenerating water by telling her,
“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.” (John 4:13).
I don't know about you, but I read that verse and, like the woman at the well, that kind of water sounds ridiculously good to me. LET ME AT IT! According to Jesus, the water HE gives will grant us the ultimate "ever-quench." We will never thirst. Never again.
But what if we do thirst again?
What does that mean?
The best place to start seems to be what Jesus meant by never thirsting again. Jesus doesn't lie. So whatever He meant by never thirsting again, MUST be true. Jesus contrasts the two kinds of water, so the kind of thirst Jesus speaks of cannot be physical thirst. The woman at the well probably got physically thirsty the very next day. No, Jesus must have been talking about some sort of metaphorical or symbolic thirst. What is this thirst a symbol of, then?
Jesus says the water He gives will become, in the person, a spring of water, welling up to eternal life. It's inside the person, that much is sure. It's active and increasing in measure--like a spring that flows and fountains. And apparently, the flow fills up to a point of being eternal life. The thirst then, must be for this kind of thing. It's easy to jump to an understanding like this: the thirst is mankind's need for salvation, need for connection to the creator, need for unconditional love. We might even extend the thirst to mean an inner satisfaction and fulfillment, and ultimate meeting of our innermost needs. Is that all true about the thirst? If it is, then Christians should never be troubled by a lacking of any of that. Do you see where this is going? Or, rather, do you "feel" where this is going?
If the water Jesus gives is really all of that as stated above, and the thirst is the unsaved person's need of all that above, then, once we drink Jesus' water, once we believe and are saved, then…we should never thirst in any of those ways again. I feel kind of guilty right about now. You?
I'm a Christian. Not by my own merit. Not by anything I've done or said, but only by the grace of God. He saved me. His word tells me so. But here's the thing, I still feel thirsty. There's still a deep, deep longing for something that is just out of reach, but seemingly impossible still to reach.
And I'm not talking about the physical thirsts. There are tons of physical/earthly things--real hunger, thirst, bank accounts, jobs, family, relationships, etc. etc. that are not completely satisfied. Jesus wasn't talking to the woman about physical thirsts. We should all expect to still have those thirsts, right?
But I still have deeper thirsts. There's a gut-wrenching need for a touch from God, a need for a deeper sense of His presence in my life, a need for eternal safety, eternal love, and eternal companionship. I'm just being honest. I still thirst like that. Do you?
What does it mean if we still have the deep thirst? Does it mean we aren't really Christians? Can you feel the loose soil crumbling away beneath your feet? Can you feel yourself beginning to slide down that slope into a black chasm? If so, grab Jesus' hand.
"For God so love the world that He gave His only Son that ANYONE who would believe would not perish but have eternal life."
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
If you believe that Jesus died for you, that He is the provider of eternal life and your salvation, be at rest. You are saved. Jesus paid the price. He saved you. Why? For God SO LOVED THE WORLD. It is God's love for you. Not -your- love for God. When we were still enemies, HE DIED FOR US. It's not the quality of your faith; it's the quality of HIS GIFT. It's not that you didn't say the salvation prayer correctly. It's not that you didn't go up front during the altar call. It's not that you had and still have some doubts. It's none of that. All that stuff is you and me stuff--and don't we already know that our stuff is lacking?
The floor is not crumbling. You can stand. The foundation--thank God--is Jesus and His word, not our response to it. There is no stronger place to stand.
Go back to the thirst Jesus was talking about. Go back to the water Jesus was talking about. Go back to the qualities of it all. It is water that wells up to eternal life. The thirst, I think, is the soul's parched condition prior to salvation. When we come to Jesus, the scorched soul is flooded with eternal life. That thirst is eternally quenched.
So then, what is the thirst that we Christians still feel? I think it could be a number of things:
1) Thirst One: confusion between physical and eternal thirsts
This is a broken, sin-sick world. People get hungry, sick, worried, depressed. Relationships with spouses, family members, friends can grow strained. We can lose jobs. We can have people write nasty reviews of our books (ahem). lol The washer machine can break down. You can take your car in for an oil change and end up with a $1,600 bill for repairs you didn't even know were there. It can rain on your picnic. If we start to look at our circumstances and measuring God's goodness by those screwed up circumstances, then, we are going to be thirsty. Jesus never promised the woman at the well that her physical thirsts would all be met. Jesus never promised us that all our physical thirsts would be met. In fact, Jesus promised us: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I (Jesus) have overcome the world.
2) Thirst Two: Impossible Expectations
What are you expecting out of people? What are you expecting out of this world? Do you, husband, expect your wife to meet your every need? Do you, friend, expect your friends to always be available for you? Do you expect every day to be full of fun? When you start expect all kinds of fulfillment from people--even people who are supposed to meet your needs, you place them (and yourself) in an awkward position. And even worse, if you expect people to meet needs only God can meet, you are being ridiculous. No can do. I love my wife. She's a great woman. But she's not Jesus.
3) Thirst Three: Something amiss in our lives
Look, I'm not telling you something you don't already know here. Sin destroys. Sin separates. Sin makes us uncomfortable. If you have sinned, or worse, have a repetitive sin in your life, you are handing satan a big old baseball bat with which he will beat you senseless. He likes to pull the "Bully Technique" on you. You know what bullies do, right? They torment the weakling and make it clear that to tell on the bully makes you even weaker, a "tattler" or some such. So the victim is in a no win situation. I get beat up, and I can't tell. Satan will beat you up with your sin, and then he'll tell you about all the trouble you'll get in if you own up to your sin, confess it, etc. Enough of that crap. Go to the Lord, confess your sin. If there's someone (a person) you need to reveal the sin to, even if it's painful--don't delay another minute. Bring the sin to life. Accept the consequences--and then let God rebuild you.
4) Thirst Four: Longing for our REAL home
C.S. Lewis said, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." The Bible tells us we are indeed strangers and pilgrims in this foreign land. Our real home is heaven. And there is a very real sense in which, we Christians will NEVER be totally satisfied until we are in heaven, physically with our Lord Jesus. In heaven, all the chains will FINALLY fall away. All the fears will vanish. And there will be a kind of love that we cannot begin to guess at here on this giant spinning mudball. It will be eternity with God.