You are hiking along. The day is warm, the sun is shining,
the wind is rustling through the leaves. You lose yourself in nature, and
before you know it minutes turn to hours. You have been gone much longer than
you planned to be. Your water bottle is empty and your mouth is dry. It’s the
hottest part of the day; you haven’t had a drink of water in about two hours.
You’re beginning to feel weak and light-headed.

Suddenly you come across two sources of water. To the right
of the trail you see an ankle-deep puddle of water, a remnant of the heavy
rains two days back. The water seems clear, all the mud and sediment has
settled on the bottom. The water appears clear and undisturbed.

To the left of the trail you hear what sounds like the
trickling of a spring. Sure enough you spot a small spring of cool, clear water
emerging a crack in the rocks just off the trail.

Where do you fill your water bottle?

To me, the answer is simple: the spring. Even the bottled
water you buy at a convenient store cannot compare to the taste and the
refreshing qualities of the water straight from a cool fresh water spring.

The difference? Dead water verses living water.

In John 4 Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman.
It’s high noon in the heat of the day, and here she comes to draw her day’s
water from the town well. There she finds Jesus resting his feet and asking for
a drink.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but 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.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:9-15)

Jesus promised her living
water. As opposed to…dead water?

Living water or dead water. The cool freshwater spring or
the stagnant two-day-old puddle. A river or a well.

Living Water       vs.          Dead Water
Stream, spring                    Well,
Pure                                     Potentially
Always changing                 Stagnant,
Fresh                                   Stale
Cannot be contained           Easily

“Living Water”

“Dead” Water

The woman thought Jesus was trying to tell her about a
spring located somewhere nearby that she didn’t know about. But Jesus, as he is
wont to do, is communicating on a whole other plane of understanding. So if
Jesus is not talking about an actual spring or stream of water, what else might
he be talking about – something pure, always changing, fresh, life-giving, and uncontainable?
I think that sounds like a great description of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promises us his Spirit. In fact he promises to
“immerse” us in his Spirit (Acts 1:5). He just got done telling Nicodemus that
kingdom membership requires birth by “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The
Spirit is wind, blowing and moving about as he chooses (3:8). But the Spirit
also has characteristics of water, specifically living water.

The Spirit is pure, undefiled, free from blemish, fault, or
foreign bodies.

The Spirit is always changing. There is an old Greek
proverb, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” Once the water flows past
you it is no longer the same river. The old has gone, the new has come. If you
really pay attention to the way God’s Spirit works throughout Scripture, from
Genesis to Revelation and specifically in Acts, you will begin to notice that
he never does the same thing twice. Joshua, Gideon, and David were all given
different battle plans. Cornelius, Lydia, and the Ethiopian Eunuch were all
brought to Christ differently. The Spirit’s nature and character do not change,
but the way he works in each person’s life never repeats.

The Spirit is fresh. He is never out of date or out of
style. He never gets old and you will never tire of having him in your life. He
never grows stale or stagnant. He is always current, always in the moment,
always relevant.

The Spirit cannot be contained. No matter how hard we might
try, humans have no say over where the Spirit goes or how he works. He does not
bow to our whim, he does not grant our every wish, he is not bound by our laws
and doctrines. Trying to contain the Spirit is like trying to keep the Amazon
river from flowing into the Atlantic ocean.

Too often the church is content to simply go to the well
week after week, Sunday after Sunday, and painstakingly draw water from the
deep well. It’s just enough to tide us over until the next Sunday, but it
doesn’t taste good, it’s old and stagnant, and it takes a lot of human effort
to even access it. Yet here we are again on Sunday, breaking our backs for the
little bit of dead water we can manage to draw so that we can simply survive the

All the while Jesus is offering us access to a stream of
living water. We don’t have to toil for it. We don’t have to skimp on portions.
We can drink and drink deeply until we’ve had our fill and then drink again
before we ever get thirsty. The living water can take us from surviving to
thriving. It’s not a pain, it’s a joy. And it will begin to well up so much
that it overflows into the world around us.

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for
a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Let’s ask for that living water before it’s too late. Let’s ask for that living
water and see what happens.