DEEP – Thirsty

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Read: Psalm 42:1-5

Last weekend I spent four days on a fishing charter. So that I would not succumb to sea sickness, I decided to take some motion sickness medication. These things are great, but one of the side effects is that you get an incredibly dry mouth. I found this out when one morning I took a piece of cake for morning tea and I found that I couldn’t taste it and it was very difficult to swallow. That’s what happens when your mouth is dry.

What about when you’re dry on the inside? What happens then? Are you even aware of it when your soul is thirsty?

As the deer pants

Israel, where Psalm 42 is written, is an arid environment. Most of the year there is very little rain, and most streams are nothing but gullies. Stories around water are prominent throughout Israel’s history. One of their formative experiences was 40 years in a wilderness. At one stage people were so dry that Moses prayed to the Lord, and he provided water out of a rock – an event celebrated every year during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Generations earlier, Patriarch Jacob dug a well which is still present today, in the West Bank city of Nablus. Generations later, Jesus’ own teaching reminded his people of how blessed it is to give even a cup of water to the thirsty.

Psalm 42 speaks about thirst. But it’s not physical thirst which is in view. It’s a deeper thirst. A dryness of soul. A withering thirst of one’s entire being.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1–2, NIV)

This man is thirsting for God. How come?

In the OT times, the only place people could meet with God was in the temple in Jerusalem. The problem was that the psalmist was nowhere near Jerusalem. Something has happened, and he’s acutely aware that he’s a long way from God’s presence.

How do you know when you’re dry on the inside?

Apparently, when you’re dying of thirst: you lose your taste, your tongue swells, you become disoriented, you have a terrible headache, you lose strength.

What about spiritual thirst? Sometimes, it seems, we end up in a wilderness of soul. Spiritually dehydrated. God seems remote, far away; there’s no taste for God, no sense of his presence, faith seems weak; no desire to read; no heart for prayer; the things of God seem abstract and foreign; your soul feels dry and withered. Faith, love for Jesus, desire to praise, love for the church just seem to have evaporated in the dry heat of life’s harsh realities.

The interesting thing about spiritual thirst is that it tends to come when conditions are adverse. Trouble, trial, pressure, stress, tension. Spiritual dryness can creep in. Dryness of soul can invade slowly and imperceptibly – and all of a sudden you realise “I am so thirsty inside…” How does this happen?

Part of the problem is our lives are so busy. Diaries are chock full, work demands are high, spouse is doing this, kids are doing that, we’re bombarded by stimuli like email, the internet, iPhone, the iPad, who knows what else. And you know, we don’t sense the dryness of our soul. We are so busy with life’s demands that we scarcely notice how thirsty we are. In relation to the baptism vows we make about our children, we must think carefully about the lifestyle we lead, the sheer busyness we accept, and ask if that is the best way to lead our children to spiritual health.

Me? Thirsty?

So, when was the last time you took stock of your heart? Listened to your soul? Are you thirsty? Thirsty inside? Has your taste for God waned? Jaded with worship? Your spiritual life dull, grey, and you’re wondering where the sweetness of grace has gone?

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.” (Psalm 42:2–4, NIV)

Sometimes these feelings come because we’re living in disobedience to God. Thirst, then, would be hardly surprising. But sometimes we just kind of end up in the wilderness.

Earlier this week I was thinking: maybe we’re all feeling that a bit? After planting Hope Community Church, maybe we’re feeling a bit depleted? A few people move on, home groups change, worship changes, church changes, and we feel a bit down about that.

Isn’t that a kind of thirst? For the way it used to be? Maybe so.

Interestingly, I read this week that the early church fathers, and even John Calvin himself, spoke of a ‘spiritual desertion’. It’s bit of a surprising term. Not that God deserts us, for he doesn’t ever forsake his people. But sometimes he allows us not to feel his presence – like the jaded Footprints writer – who wondered where God was in his toughest and hardest times. Sometimes God allows us to get thirsty. Perhaps at those times he’s changing things to alert us to something: that we haven’t quite been trusting him as we should. Might that be part of our thirst? Worth considering, isn’t it?

Maybe God is allowing us to feel that emptiness, to sense that thirst, so we realise we can’t put our hope in people, or things, or experience, and that we can only trust him. Only when we are with God, when we trust God alone, the living God, will our thirst be quenched with his living water.

Living water

So, how do we do that? The Psalmist knew if he pulled more away from God his deep thirst would only get worse. Even if he didn’t know how God would help him, even if he didn’t know all the answers, or he couldn’t resolve his problems, he knew it was good to be near God:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5, NIV)

Centuries later, at Jacobs Well, a woman came along, and she was thirsty. Sure, she was thirsty for water, but she was more thirsty for God – though like most, she didn’t know it. She wanted water from the well. Jesus said what she really needed was living water, water that was like life itself. Life. which like water, would become part of her and enliven her entire being. Jesus said he would give this life, so freely, so abundantly, that not only would her inner thirst be slaked, but his grace and life and love would overflow from her into others, powerfully, satisfyingly, eternally.

You: Thirsty? Dried out?

Jesus is calling you to drink deep from his life. You don’t have to go to some Temple, like the psalmist, or to Jacobs Well, like the woman from Samaria. Jesus, the Son of God has come to us, and he has come full of grace and truth! His death on the cross and his rising again is the cure for your inner thirst. Through his death, Jesus forgives all your wrongs. Jesus cleanses all your sins. Jesus has borne all your guilt and punishment. His death and rising has conquered your inner darkness so comprehensively, so powerfully that his living water will flow into you, and you will never be the same.

“… “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”” (John 7:37–38, NIV)

Jesus is your water of life. Don’t push back. Don’t walk away. You have to drink. Step up, and drink deep.

Here’s a few things to do to drink deep his water of life:

  • Acknowledge your thirst: Lord, I am so thirsty: I don’t know how I got here, but I am so dry, and I am asking you to pour your water of life into me. Jesus, I trust you. I know you can do this. I know my failing and acknowledge my sin and my need. I don’t deserve your grace: but I know your water of life is what I need. Please, Jesus, quench the thirst of my soul!
  • Drink! That is, accept and believe in Jesus! If you’ve already done this, or you’re already there, just do it again, say it again! I believe you, Jesus! My water! My life! Pour your water into me, break my spiritual drought, moisten my withered heart with your loving grace
  • Trust! Follow the Psalmist’s example! Despite all his thirst, despite his agony and the taunting of his foes (Ps 42:10), he still said, “I will yet trust you! I put my hope in you, my Saviour and my God!” So you can say: Don’t let me trust in your things or your people – no matter how good! Lord, I need you! You, in me; you, one with me; you, like water in my soul’s belly. I trust your life, your grace, your forgiveness through Jesus, your faithfulness
  • Finally (and related to the above): Reconnect. Don’t wait to feel great to start praying. Don’t wait to feel healthy to get into worship with God’s people. Don’t wait to feel better to read your bible. Think about it: how will God speak to you and pour his life into you if you’re not listening? If you’re dehydrated, you don’t wait till you’re no longer thirsty to drink, right? You start drinking before you feel better. So, if you’re spiritually dry, turn around, repent, reconnect with God! Don’t wait until you feel spiritually healthy: do it now!

There’s a wonderful section in the letter to the Hebrews. We don’t really know who wrote this book, but we can see easily enough that the people addressed in the book were going soft on their faith in Jesus. They were in danger of given up. They were thirsty. Look at the advice they receive:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19–25, NIV)

The confidence to reconnect is grounded squarely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He has opened the way. He is our great priest. He has cleansed us and purified us. On that basis, because of him, we can hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.

Are you thirsty? Then acknowledge, drink, trust, and reconnect.

  • Just open his word and ask him to speak you, to quench your thirst, to pour his Spirit water into you, to refresh you.
  • Go deeper into prayer, into worship, into community – your Home Group.
  • Let others pray for you. Let them be a channel of God’s grace, let them share God’s love.

God wants you deep in his living water. Come to Jesus, drink deep, and have him pour his living water into your life.

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