Are You Thirsty for More?
Dr. Brian Allison
It is often out of a sense of desperation and frustration that we more passionately pursue Christ. Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, knew what it was to be utterly desperate and frustrated in his spiritual life. When Chambers was teaching philosophy at Dunoon College, F. B. Meyer visited the college and spoke on the fulness of the Holy Spirit. Chambers realized that there was more to Christian living than what he was presently experiencing. He returned to his room, feeling his own spiritual poverty, and he poured out his heart to the Lord. He realized that there was more to the faith than simply obeying a few commandments, and following a few directives, and attending religious meetings. Chambers said that if there was not more to Christianity then the whole thing was a fraud. As a result of the challenges by Meyer, Chambers wanted all that could be received in knowing Christ. But it cost him dearly. The subsequent four years took their toll on him as he pursued the abundant life and cried to the Lord for more. Though he was used of the Lord during this time to bring converts to Christ, he had "no conscious communion with God." God was distant, and he could not find Him. Chambers desperately wanted the fullness (or baptism) of the Spirit. He says that if it had not been for the "overruling grace of God," as well as for the kindness of his friends, during those four years of struggle, that he would have been admitted to an insane asylum. That is rather ironical and paradoxical, isn't it? Here was a man who wanted more of Christ, and pursued Him passionately, and yet it was driving him mad. Strange things occur in the lives of God's people--strange things that occur by the decree of God. Chambers says that in the last three months of that four year period, matters became extremely desperate. He was beside himself.
At the end of that seemingly interminable period of time, Chambers came across Luke 11:13, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" This verse laid hold on him and he experienced a spiritual transformation in a moment of time. This text was used of the Spirit to instantly catapult him into spiritual fulness. The word brought light and power. As the Psalmist says, "Thy word has revived me" (Ps. 119:50). Oswald Chambers was "baptized with the Spirit," and he was never the same. Are you looking for more of the Spirit, more of the abundant life in Christ? Remember, to experience the fulness of the Spirit typically begins with a gnawing sense that there must be more to the Christian experience. It is usually characterized by a nagging dissatisfaction with your present spiritual condition. There is a growing frustration with mediocre Christianity. Is that where you are at? Do you believe that there has to be more than what you are presently experiencing? Are you looking for more? Are you spiritually thirsty? If you are, then there is good news for you. John 7:37-39 reads, "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If any man [if any woman] is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water"'. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Jesus uttered some astounding, earth-shattering words in His teaching, but none more so than the above. John tells us that it was on the last day of a feast that Jesus blazoned these heart-transforming words. The feast was the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, or Ingathering--one of the three major feasts that Israel observed during the year, occurring five days after the Day of Atonement. This particular feast marked the end of the ecclesiastical year. It marked the completion of the harvest season. Hence, there was an air of joy and thanksgiving. In fact, more sacrifices were offered during this feast than at any of the other. This feast historically commemorated the wilderness wanderings of Israel. They were commanded to build booths, and they were to live in these booths (or tents) in remembrance of what their forefathers had endured when they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.
The Feast of Tabernacles lasted for eight days. It began on the Sabbath and ended eight days later on the Sabbath--"On the last day, the great day of the feast." Now, it was a great day because the eighth day was a day of holy convocation; it was a day of solemn assembly--all Israel gathered to appear before the Lord. Such was the setting of Jesus' astounding words concerning the Spirit of God. A massive crowd had gathered, and before this audience, we read that Jesus stood and cried out. Remember that the practice in Israel at this time, was that a teacher, a rabbi, would sit to teach. Jesus broke custom at this point. His standing would definitely be an attention-getter, and perhaps an occasion for offense. And in this erect position, He bellowed. That would further secure people's attention. Do you feel the sense of force and energy? Do you feel the pathos? What our Lord proceeded to say is perhaps one of the most profound things that He ever taught, and one of the most glorious things that we will ever hear.
Thirsting for more
I want to suggest to you that the following words uttered by Jesus, though they primarily refer to the conversion experience, are equally relevant to the sanctification experience. These words apply to us as believers. Hear Jesus speaking to you, my Christian friend, and not simply inviting people to embrace Him as Saviour and to enter into salvation. Rather, He also invites His people to go spiritually higher, and to enter more deeply into His fullness. We read, "Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink'" (7:37). This is powerful, graphic imagery. Are you thirsty? If you are not thirsty, then, of course, you require no satisfying. If you are not thirsty, then what you read here will not resonate in your heart, nor will it lead you to find the living water. If you are not thirsty, then I invite you right now, in the privacy of your heart, to ask the Lord to give you a thirst. Every Christian ought to be spiritually thirsty for more. Even those who are being filled with the Spirit, ought to continue to be thirsty, because there is so much more of God to experience, so much more of Christ to drink, so much more of the Spirit to partake of. Here is the paradox: we can thirst and be satisfied, and yet still have a thirst for more, simply because there is no end to the reservoir of the life of God Who is infinite and eternal Spirit, and there is no end to the capacity He gives us to drink. That is exciting! Are you thirsty? Are you spiritually barren, spiritually empty, spiritually dry? Is your soul like a wilderness?
When we think of this imagery of thirsting, there are at least two concepts that immediately come to mind. First, there is the concept of need. The thirsty person lacks something very vital. Do you have a need for more spiritual reality? Do you have a need for spiritual revival? Jesus delights in providing for the needy, not for those who are self-satisfied. The self-satisfied have all that they are going to receive, namely, their own self-induced, self-motivated experience. But when we come in our need and cry out as a 'poor man' or as a 'poor woman', then God responds in mercy. God delights in seeing His people in need because He delights in seeing His people come in absolute dependency on Him. Do you have a pressing spiritual need?
Second, there is the concept of desire. The desire for something more naturally flows out of the need for more--the desire for a greater fulness, the desire for greater power, the desire for more of His presence, the desire for greater freedom, etc. Desire is motivating. It is the essence of passion. Desire can control us. If you have, for instance, a deep desire for love, it will control you. You will think about it all the time. It will inform and guide your thinking. You will interpret and sift all of your daily experiences through the grid of that desire. Or, if you have a desire for money or for wealth, you will interpret and sift your various experiences of the day through the grid of that particular desire. Desire is powerful; it drives the heart. Accordingly, if you have a desire for God, it will control and motivate you. Do you have a desire for God, or would you have to say that you are indifferent and complacent, and that you are happy and content just where you are.
Again, the experience of spiritual fulness begins with frustration and dissatisfaction. Maybe you are feeling this way now. Maybe you are even wondering whether Christianity is real, whether God is real, and whether He really does hear your prayers. Do not despair and feel defeated while in that condition. It may be the Spirit moving; it may be the stirrings of the Spirit, because God wants to bring you to Himself, and to give you His fulness. God first creates a deep, nagging desire in your heart so that you will seek your satisfaction in Him. The Spirit may be working, but you must let the Spirit work, and simply respond. Do not throw up your arms in utter despair, and say, "This is hopeless," and allow discouragement and depression to overcome and crush you. No, but discern that it is the Spirit wooing and calling you. It is God implanting the desire; and if He implants the desire, He will certainly satisfy it. So, when it seems that you are on the brink of going over the edge, when it seems that you are going under and that you are going to 'lose it' and crack because you cannot take the darkness and the confusion any more, remember that this is the time to seek God even more. Do not let Him go until He blesses you. Are you dissatisfied? Are you frustrated? That is good news.
Christ satisfies the thirst
With the spiritual thirst, Christ gives a gracious invitation--"If any man is thirsty, let him [or her] come to Me and drink." Do you 'hear' these healing words? These words underscore the love of the Saviour; this is the mercy of God. God has the answer, He has the solution, to our spiritual poverty, our spiritual burden, our spiritual barrenness, our spiritual emptiness. Jesus Himself is the source of our spiritual satisfaction. Now, this fact is not profound, but it is something that we need to continually think about. Jesus Himself is the giver of spiritual renewal and revival. If you are thirsty, then Jesus says to come to Him, not to self-help books, not to a psychiatrist; but to the living God. It is when we come to Him, and behold Him in all His glory and beauty; it is when we gaze upon Him as the Spirit removes the scales from our spiritual eyes--in a moment of illumination, and in that moment of faith--that we are radically transformed. Adoniram Judson Gordon was a Baptist pastor of the last century. He was a leading fundamentalist. He wrote the hymn, 'My Jesus, I Love Thee'. He founded the Boston Missions Training School which came to be called the present-day Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Gordon records that there was a time in his life when he felt utter desperation in his spiritual walk. He was teaching and ministering, but he knew that there had to be more to his faith experience. He went to the Northfield Conference, and was there for ten days. At the close of that conference, his life was changed. Apparently, on that occasion, he did more praying than he did preaching. He went to a friend's room, and they were praying together, just after midnight. He turned to the Word of God, John 17, and read it; and the Spirit began to move. In that hour, Gordon was filled with the Spirit.
'To come to Jesus' simply means to believe in Him. 'To drink' is the language of sharing and enjoying. These two ideas are intimately related. Now, you can believe in Jesus, and yet not drink of Him. There are many Christians who have believed in the claims of Christ, but they have not yet partaken of the fulness of Christ. Christ offers spiritual water--full satisfaction. Christ Himself is the spiritual rock from which endless, refreshing water flows. 1 Corinthians 10:4 reads, "And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ." He wants us to come and to drink from Him as the rock, as the foundation, as the stability, of our souls.
Notice that the language of Jesus is a condition--"If any man thirst...." Such language implies personal responsibility. We are responsible to come to Christ. We who believe in the sovereignty of God often entertain an unbalanced understanding, and say, for instance, "Well, God is sovereign, and if He wants to do it, then He will do it--'Whatever will be, will be'." We can misunderstand the sovereignty of God and confuse it with our own indifference and complacency. We can blame God for not moving, when really the problem is the sin in our own hearts. So, we have this responsibility to come to Christ. We have the responsibility to drink of Christ; and if we do not come and drink, God will not take us by the scruff of the neck and force us down to the water. Come freely; drink willingly.
Christ satisfies the thirst by His Spirit
When anyone comes to Christ and drinks, he or she will be satisfied--"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his [or her] innermost being shall flow rivers of living water'" (7:38). Of course, as you read on in verse 39, we realize that Jesus is speaking about the Holy Spirit; but what vivid, graphic imagery. Jesus says, in effect, "If you embrace Me by real faith, and share in My life, then the ensuing reality will be the manifestation of the presence, power, and life of the Spirit." Wow! Doesn't that sound great? It is almost too good to be true. The thought is overwhelming. Isn't it staggering? Christ offers floods of living water--not a stream, not a rivulet, but rivers of spiritual life--a ceaseless, constant, and continual supply and manifestation of the Spirit. Are you 'beside the still waters' which are, paradoxically, at the same time, a torrential flow?
Old Testament Scripture promised this spiritual reality--"as the Scripture said, 'From his [or her] innermost being shall flow rivers of living water"--though the very words of verse 38 are not found in the Old Testament as here written. But the tenor and sense of these words are amply found. Isaiah 12:3 reads, "Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation;" and Isaiah 43:19, "Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. The beasts of the field will glorify Me; the jackals and the ostriches; because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people. The people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise;" and Isaiah 44:3, "For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants;" and Isaiah 55:1, "Ho! [pay attention] Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." Christ promises and offers rivers of living water. The rivers of God's power, the rivers of God's grace, the rivers of God's love flowing over our soul, and gushing forth from them. That is the experience of one who is filled with the Spirit.
Charles Grandison Finney, the American revivalist of the nineteenth century, was a man mightily used by God (even though you might criticize his evangelistic methods). Reportedly, over half a million people were converted through his ministry; that is about one fifth the size of the city of metropolitan Toronto. One morning, during a period in which he felt spiritually dry and empty, he was so distraught, and in great desperation, that he went to a park and tried to pray. The Lord finally gave him grace and he lost all awareness of time. He eventually returned to his room, and he continued to pray and seek the Lord. As Finney was praying to the Lord, and seeking the Spirit's fulness, the winds of the Spirit began to blow; and the living water was undammed, and it swept him away. Listen to his words:
No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushing of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, "I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me." I said, "Lord, I cannot bear it any more;" yet I had no fear of death.
I soon fell asleep, but almost as soon awoke again on account of the great flow of the love of God that was in my heart. I was so filled with love that I could not sleep. Soon I fell asleep again, and awoke in the same manner. When I awoke, this temptation would return upon me, and the love that seemed to be in my heart would abate; but as soon as I was asleep, it was so warm within me that I would immediately awake. Thus I continued till, late at night, I received some sound repose.
When I awoke in the morning the sun had risen, and was pouring a clear light into my room. Words cannot express the impression that this sunlight made upon me. Instantly the baptism [please do not get hung up on this language. We are talking about fullness. Call it what you will. In one sense it does not matter. The question is: Do you have it?] that I had received the night before returned upon me in the same manner. I arose upon my knees in the bed and wept aloud with joy, and remained for some time too much overwhelmed with the baptism of the Spirit to do anything but pour out my soul to God. It seemed as if this morning's baptism was accompanied with a gentle reproof, and the Spirit seemed to say to me, "Will you doubt?" I cried, "No! I will not doubt; I cannot doubt." He then cleared the subject up so much to my mind that it was in fact impossible for me to doubt that the Spirit of God had taken possession of my soul" (They Found the Secret, pp.65,66)
That is powerful folks; and I would suggest to you that the experience should not be rare among Christians.
Endless rivers of spiritual life
The rivers of living water that the believer experiences extend beyond him--"From his [or her] innermost being shall flow rivers of living water" (v. 38b). Not only will the seeker himself be spiritually satisfied, refreshed, and revived, but the fulness of the Spirit will flow out from him or her and satisfy the parched souls of others. The language clearly indicates the idea of gushing forth and moving outward. Those who are filled with the Spirit and revived are used by the Lord to revive others. When you are filled with the Spirit, and know the presence and power of God, you will touch the lives of others; you will be used to transform the lives of others. Your life will be a cup of cold water that slakes their thirst, that removes the inner emptiness and outer barrenness. Read the stories of those who were filled with the Spirit--like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Andrew Murray, etc.--and you will see that when they were filled with the Spirit their lives became a blessing to hundreds and thousands. That always happens when you are filled with the Spirit. You then speak a word and it is not a dead, empty word, but it becomes a word of life; it enters into someone's heart with power, and he or she is changed. So, you not only drink yourself, but you have infinitely enough to spare so as to quench the thirst of others. Christ delights in freely and abundantly giving us His Spirit
Indeed, the fulness, as well as the seal and pledge, of the Spirit is a gift to believers--"But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (v. 39). Jesus was glorified with His death and resurrection--having been buried after the crucifixion, our Lord rose again after three days; and after forty days, He ascended on high, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. Upon entering into God's presence, Christ poured out the Holy Spirit--the throne gift (Acts 2). The Spirit came in fulness, and the Church was baptized on the day of Pentecost.
If you are reading this message, and you know that you are a non-Christian, and you know that you have been 'doing your own thing' and going your own way; and you know that, in your pride and self-sufficiency, you have been trying to give the appearance that you are a Christian, but deep down inside, you know that you are not--if that is true of you--then Christ invites you to believe in Him and to share in His life. My non-Christian friend, you have a need in your life. And Christ has come to give you life more abundantly, if you will take it. The world offers you wealth, status, money, prestige, position, pleasure, etc.; but you know that these things do not ultimately satisfy. When you go home, and in your moments of quiet reflection, you know that there is a gnawing emptiness deep down inside. That career does not satisfy, that relationship does not satisfy. You may have a desire for peace, a desire for happiness, or a desire for security. But Jesus says to you, "Come to Me and drink. I am your purpose, I am your meaning, I am your life, I am your peace, I am your happiness, I am your security. Believe and receive, and you will never thirst again." Won't you come my non-Christian friend? He waits for you.
My struggling (frustrated, desperate) Christian friend, you know that there is much more spiritual life than what you have now. You know that there is a need for more fellowship with God, a need for more power to serve God, a need for more grace to love God and others. You know that there is a desire to draw closer to Christ, a desire for greater intimacy with Him, a desire for unshakeable rest. Well, there is more than enough to receive. We cannot exhaust the eternal wells of salvation. God says, "Come and prove Me, and see whether or not I will pour out a blessing on you that you cannot contain." But you must come in faith. The reason why most Christians fail to enter in, and fail to experience this fulness, is because of a lack of faith--a faith which flows out of the soil of absolute and unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ. The Spirit is given to those who believe. But these ones must receive. God gives the Spirit, but the issue for us is whether we receive Him--that is the human emphasis. As we received Jesus Christ, by faith, for salvation, we must also receive the Holy Spirit, by faith, for sanctification. We have received the person of Christ as Saviour; we must also receive the person of the Spirit as Sanctifier. We must receive the Spirit by a faith that springs from a heart of selfless humility. Are you thirsty? Then you come and drink...and be fully satisfied.
© Brian Allison, 2000