“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
I flipped to the National Geographic Channel the other night, thankfully interrupting the Good Luck Charlie marathon that was happening in our house, and I saw a segment on this curious little fish called the mudskipper.
The mudskipper is an amphibious fish that has adapted to its environment in order to move on land and breathe by holding water in its gill sacks. Now this odd looking creature, like other gobies (the family of fish in which the mudskipper is a part) was made to live in water. However, over time, it has evolved so that now it lives most of its life out of water. And though this is impressive, it is fatally dangerous too, because if the mudskipper strays too far from the water it will eventually die. So here is my point: I am a mudskipper, and I suspect you are too.
Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). But I don’t believe it—too often I don’t live like I believe it. I try to fill my gills with just enough Jesus to get through the day, week, and month. I try not to stray too far from the Living Water—you know, just in case. But this is not how man was designed to live.
We were made to live dependently on God. God uses all kinds of metaphors to impress our dependence on Him. He says we are to “abide in the vine” (John 15:5), “eat of the bread of life” (John 6:35), and here to drink from springs of living water so that we “will never be thirsty again.” God made man to be completely dependent on Him for everything.
His intention, His design, His command is that we would rely on Him moment by moment for the life-giving sap that only comes from Him; that we would feast on Him for our daily nourishment and drink deeply of His grace and be satisfied.
But like the mudskipper (and all mankind), I try to adapt from my original design. Instead of drinking deeply from the Spring of Living Water to sustain me, I try to get just enough to hold me over until my next sip. I like to stray from the place I am meant to be. “I’ve been a Christian a long time; I already know the Bible. I don’t have time to pray today; I run an important ministry. I’ve been to seminary; I don’t need to go to Bible study. I am saved by grace; spiritual disciplines are just ‘works.’”
Sometimes I start drinking from other wells hoping they will give me life. I drink from the well of performance, desperately wanting people to be impressed with me. I drink from the well of materialism, thinking that somehow something will make me happy. I drink from the well of self-pity when I don’t get what I think I deserve. I drink hoping these wells will give me life, but they never do. In fact, when I drink from any source but Christ, I find myself frustrated, empty, depressed, and even thirstier.
I’m guilty of the same sin for which God charged Israel: “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13).
Another danger for the mudskipper is that it is slow-moving on land—so slow that it becomes easy prey for its predators.
As I stray from the living water and the life-giving power of the Spirit, I too become easy prey for my enemies—the flesh, the devil, and the world. The false promises they offer seem more real, tastier, and more pleasurable than the promises of Scripture. “Maybe a different career, one not spent trying to help others, would be better,” I sometimes surmise. “Earning more money would surely make me happier,” I think. “Beautiful surroundings would certainly satisfy my soul,” I daydream. But they won’t, because they can’t. At 45 years old, and as the founder of an inner-city ministry, one would think that I would have learned this by now. But I haven’t. I’m still learning, I guess.
If you are like me—a slow learner—and find yourself thirsty today; Jesus bids you to come to Him, the Fountain of Living Water, and dive in until you lose yourself in blissful, self-forgetfulness, overwhelmed by the immensity of His love for you to the point that, “If His grace were an ocean, we’re all sinking” (David Crowder, How He Loves Us). Finally, unlike the water from which the mudskipper came, the ocean of God’s grace is where we are meant to be and where we breathe most fully.