There are many different pictures in the Bible for the New Life that is ours when we become Christians. I think that the easiest pictures to identify with, come from the mouth of Jesus when He likens that New Life to water. The first one that comes to mind is from the time when He was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus has this mysterious conversation with her, when, after getting her attention by asking her for a drink against all the norms and conventions of the time, He says to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and he would have given you living water”, and then later He adds “Indeed the water that I give will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. John 4:10-13.
The second notable reference to the ‘New Life’ being like water, came on the last day of the great feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. We read that Jesus shouted out to everybody, “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”. Lest we should be in any doubt, John explains that He is talking about the Holy Spirit, ‘who those who believed in Him were later to receive’. John 7:37-39.
So there we have it from the mouth of our Saviour. His life within us, by the presence of the Holy Spirit, is to be a life giving flow. It’s not a static pond, a certain amount given, and then that’s it! Jesus describes this ‘Life’ that is going to be ours in terms of flowing water, springs of water, streams or rivers of water, implying a never ending supply from the throne of God Himself. The symbolism compares well with Ezekiel’s vision, Chapter 47, and the River of Life described in Revelation Chapter 22.
Water is the main essential requirement to sustain our earthly lives, so what better illustration could God give us than ‘Living’, ‘Lifegiving Water’, to sustain our spiritual lives. It’s a wonderful, parallel and one that we can easily understand and to which we can connect. It also helps us to understand how we will, without fail, bear fruit, if His life within is flowing freely. However, as we were saying yesterday, ‘we have this treasure in jars of clay’, 2 Corinthians 4:7, so the life of God can flow freely through us but we still can, at times (and we probably do this more than we would like to admit), live from our old life.
It seems to me that we are a little like hybrid cars that run on electricity, but have to resort to petrol when that electricity runs out. I think we can all identify with the ‘flow of life’ that we sense after we have had a good Bible study, listened to a good sermon, or been able to join in a wonderful time of worship. We feel energised spiritually recharged, and we find ourselves bearing fruit, in many different ways, quite effortlessly.
As we move through our days, that ‘charge’ can seem to be running low. It can be quenched by all sorts of things that happen throughout the day, those things that knock our faith or deplete us. Then we find ourselves working harder to do and say the right things. ‘Bearing fruit’ or ‘living as Jesus would’ does not flow so easily, and the fruit of the spirit Galatians 5:22 can be in short supply. This then is where our thanksgiving comes in. Thanksgiving is our ‘on board’ recharge facility, so that we don’t have to wait for the next big spiritual moment to see that Living Water flowing freely again.
The illustration I have in mind comes from my childhood, and my Dad cleaning out a rather large fish tank. A grotty job at the best of times, but having removed the fish to safety, he would empty out the dirty water, in order to clean the tank and then refill it. The tank plus water was too heavy to lift, so in order to remove the water he would use a tube and siphon the water out of the tank. In order to start the water flowing through the tube he would have to suck up enough water to start the flow into a bucket positioned on the floor lower than the tank. That initial suck was always a risky one because the water was murky and he would not want it to reach his mouth, but once started the water, drawn by gravity and pressed down by air pressure, would keep flowing.
Thanksgiving for me is like that initial ‘suck’ that sets off the siphon procedure. It can start the life giving spiritual water flowing, drawing it up from deep within my spirit. Thanksgiving can cause my spiritual life to ‘flow’ again when I am in those situations where it seems that there is none. Like with the attempts to get the water flowing from the fish tank, sometimes that first attempt at thanksgiving will not be easy, there is sometimes some ‘debris’ in our lives that needs to be discarded, some negative attitude that makes us resist giving thanks, but if we can press through and choose to look at Jesus, choose to start giving Him thanks in our situation, His life giving Spirit will bubble up from within and keep flowing.
Our overall aim is, I believe, to be like the hybrid cars that recharge themselves as they travel. Keeping ourselves in thankfulness throughout each day recharges us as we go. I believe that the Lord, even through this pandemic, is teaching us, His people, that we have ‘everything we need’ within us ‘for life and godliness’, 2 Peter 1:3. He wants us to keep His life flowing throughout the whole day, so that we don’t dry up, and so that we don’t ‘need’, in a desperate way, the big meeting. Instead He would want us to have plenty of ‘life’ overflowing from us, those ‘rivers of living water’ with which to bless and build each other up when we meet.