The Christian Challenge: How to not Die of Thirst With a Canteen of Water On Your Belt
I was surprised to learn that desert hikers have sometimes been found dead from dehydration, even though they had canteens of water with them. These hikers knew the importance of having access to water, but they did not fully understand that they needed to drink that water, too.
I started to understand how a hiker could die of thirst while carrying water when I realized that something similar happens to many Christians. Just as you can have a full bottle of water and not drink from it, it’s possible to have the living water of God’s love available to you and not experience it. After all, knowing the water is available is not enough; you have to drink. If you don’t actually drink of the waters of love that God makes available for you, you can die of spiritual thirst with a full canteen on your belt.
Let’s find out a bit more about that water.
You Can Never Step Into the Same River Twice
There’s a saying that you can never step into the same river twice: A river is constantly renewed, because the water is always moving. Every time you step into a river, you have a brand-new experience of it. The water you stepped into before is long gone, and new flowing waters have taken its place.
That kind of flowing, always-new, ever-changing experience may be what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of the “water” that he provides:
- “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)
- “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.” (John 4:14)
The gift of God, then, is “living water”: an ever-abundant source that we can step into and drink from at any time. And because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and Christ gives us living water, that tells us something about a core Christian mercy: God’s love is a living, flowing experience.
If we want to drink of God’s love, we have to understand that God’s love flows, and the experience of that love is never exactly the same twice. His love is always a new river, a different experience, every time you connect with it. Like a river of living water, like an ever-flowing spring, God’s love is not static. It’s not just an idea. God’s love lives and flows, and must be experienced. And if you don’t do the work to learn how to experience it daily, you’re can die of spiritual thirst with a canteen of water on your belt.
The Challenge of Christianity
Christianity is not easy. Christianity constantly requires that we step away from our self-reliance and from the innate mercilessness we have with ourselves. Christianity doesn’t say “experience God’s love once you finally get your act together and deserve it.” That’s the approach that comes naturally to us. Christianity says “experience God’s love for you, even in your brokenness and undeservingness.” That’s hard.
In fact, that’s one of the core challenges of Christianity: To drink deeply of the living, flowing waters of God’s love.
It’s not enough to make lists of the qualities you would have if you drank that water, and to try to act as if you had them. It’s not even enough to acknowledge those waters are available.
You actually have to drink.
The Christian Challenge is Hard
God is infinite, and we are very small. And because of His infinite nature, God’s love can show up differently for you every time you drink of it. In fact, He could give you a completely new experience of His love in every instant of existence from now through all of eternity. He’s that big.
That means you have to constantly be alert for how God’s love is showing up for you right now. Simply trying to replay the way His love appeared for you previously won’t work, because your experience of God’s love keeps changing.
You’ve got to wake up and be fully aware if you want to drink the waters of love that God has for you. You can’t say, “I’ll just do a replay of what He gave me yesterday.” You can’t act “as if” you are drinking of that love when you are not. Every time you open to the love God is giving you, you have to be fully alert for a fresh and new experience. It’s a whole new river. You can’t step into the same one twice.
And that’s difficult. Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us prefer our lives to be familiar. Many of us would prefer to keep traveling the well-worn ruts of our routines, acting the way we think good Christians should act, but not really feeling it from the inside out.
On the other hand, continuously rediscovering the living, flowing experience of God’s love is much more fulfilling than living that routine, “looking good” existence. It’s a daily, moment-by-moment drinking of delight in God’s love.
But don’t kid yourself. It is challenging.
– By Dmitri Bilgere
Get your free “How to Feel God’s Love” mini-course at http://GatewaysToGod.com. Dmitri Bilgere, author of “Gateways to God: Remove your Roadblocks and Live His Love,” is a Crucible leader who has been running workshops since 1989. Through his live seminars and coaching programs, he helps men really live a life of feeling God’s love for them, in every part of themselves.
Photo Credit: Pierre Gazzola