Image: A schoolgirl in Ghana enjoys clean water from a borehole in her village.
Jesus wants us to thirst for God just as we thirst for water, and He offers us “living water”—His Spirit who will satisfy our deepest thirst.
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:37-39).
How would your life change if, tomorrow morning, your community no longer had water? After your panic subsided, the urgent search for water would immediately become your number-one priority, pushing aside everything else—work, school, family, relationships, recreation, even your need for food.
In Bible times, centuries before the advent of indoor plumbing, every family’s top priority was to seek out and secure their water. This task required hours of work and backbreaking labor, but without water a family and their animals would perish. So when Jesus invited people to come and drink from “streams of living water,” every one of His first-century listeners understood the incredible offer He was making. After all, they understood thirst at a visceral, life-or-death level.
In Africa there is a saying: “Water is life.” Water is not important for life; it literally is life. Whenever a new well is drilled, hundreds of people turn out to see the rig strike water. When that first gusher comes out of the ground, there is great rejoicing: people dance, sing, and offer prayers of thanksgiving. When I visited a village in Ghana a few years back, the people regaled me with stories of how a new well of living water in their village had changed their lives. Child mortality had plummeted, school attendance had increased tenfold, women now had time for more productive work, sickness had declined, and productivity had risen. I spoke to one woman who said through her tears that now, for the first time in her thirty-five years of life, she and her children did not have to make the seven-mile round trip twice each day to fetch water. Her all-consuming quest for water was now over.
Jesus’ offer of living water means that our quest can be over too. He wants us to thirst for God in that same life-and-death way we thirst for water, yet He promised that when we put our faith in Him, we will never thirst again. Never again will we have to wander in a spiritual desert searching for that which can sustain our human souls. Jesus quenches our spiritual thirst by filling us with His Holy Spirit, who is like a stream of living water flowing within us. Jesus was offering indoor plumbing to those who had never had it: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst (John 4:13–14).
This is a remarkable gift. As Christians, baptized in the Holy Spirit, we now have God literally dwelling within us. This “spring of living water” (Jeremiah 17:13) perpetually satisfies us as we take our hurts and our needs, our hopes and our dreams, and our spiritual hunger and thirst directly to God. We have new and complete access to God’s truth, to His comfort, and to His power. Our quest is over.
Excerpted from He Walks Among Us, a devotional book by Rich and Reneé Stearns, with photos by Jon Warren.