If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. John 4:10
Sinclair Lewis tells the story of a young man who leaves his boring life and tries to live it up with his girlfriend. At one point she says to him, “We seem different, you and I, but maybe it’s mostly surface – down deep we’re alike in being desperately unhappy, because we never know what we’re unhappy about.”
In John 4 Jesus engages a woman who is desperately unhappy, and she doesn’t know why. She’s like every one of us. Jesus doesn’t ask her to fix her life. He changes the subject from the mess she has made to the gift he can give. Verse 10: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” What if we knew the gift of God? What if we were not limited to medicating our unhappiness? What if God has something for disappointed people that we’ve never known before?
In this passage we see a well and a spring. The well is in verse 6: “Jacob’s well was there.” The spring is in verse 14: “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.” The well was natural, man-made. The spring is supernatural, God-given. The well satisfies a temporary thirst. It can take us so far. But the spring will flow forever. The well you have to go find. The spring God locates within you and you take it with you wherever you go.
To whom does God give this gift? Who qualifies? Well, to whom did Jesus say this? Look at the situation. Jesus was a man, a Jew, a rabbi. Those were the barriers between him and this woman, a Samaritan, a moral outcast. And Jesus ignored those barriers. Verse 4 says he had to pass through Samaria, which was, for Jewish people, the wrong side of the tracks. But there was a person there he wanted to help. So he leaps over the barriers to talk to her about something everyone needs, whoever they are, wherever they are: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” It doesn’t matter who she is. It only matters who he is. It doesn’t matter what she deserves. It only matters how God gives.
She came to draw water at noon, at the hottest time of day. Even Jesus was tired. But she came then, because the other women came to the well in the cool of the day. She knew they wouldn’t be there. She was the kind of sexually adventurous woman who threatens other women. When she walks into the room, other women start putting her down, because she’s competition. To men, this kind of woman is intriguing. She’s a fantasy. She’s a potential hit. This woman had been ostracized by women and mistreated by men so many times, by now she knew to keep to herself. But she felt a thirst deep inside to be loved and understood and accepted and dignified and safe from cruel female words and selfish male advances. She had been married five times, and now she was living with a guy. She must have wondered, “When does life start working?” She felt a thirst. She had tried to satisfy it at so many wells. But now Jesus tells her about a spring of living water she’s never felt before. It is of God. It satisfies. It is for her and for you and for me.
Let’s allow verse 10 to land on us today: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Do we know the gift of God? Do we realize how God gives? Do we know who it is speaking to us here? Do we grasp who it is we’ve encountered in Jesus? Do we believe in the real Jesus? Or are we still thinking in terms of our own wells that we hope maybe God will bless? Last week he spoke to us about justification and forgiveness from Luke chapter 18. Now he is speaking to us about satisfaction and fullness. We ask him to forgive us and accept us, and he does. But he also fills us! That’s how God gives. We ask, and he gives more than we ask. John chapter 1, verse 16: “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Not just grace, but grace upon grace from his fullness, his massiveness! The Bible speaks of “the immeasurable riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7). He’s not about to run out.
That makes me about a 25% believer. I figure I’m at about 25% capacity faith – on a good day. Why do I say that? Because in Christ there is not only justification but also satisfaction. There is not only forgiveness in Christ but also fullness in Christ. We are not only escorted once for all into the favor of God but also given an endless supply of fresh mercies moment by moment. We need both. In Christ, we have both. But I believe half-heartedly that God even forgives me. That God would not only forgive me but also satisfy me – sometimes I don’t know the gift of God and who it is speaking to me. I’m not even thinking in those categories. I’m thinking in terms of surviving and coping. He’s thinking in terms of filling and refreshing. What looms before me in my habitual thoughts is not God and how he gives but me and my limitations and regrets and anxieties, and so forth. And maybe you’re like me. Maybe way down deep inside us all there’s a thought that goes like this: “God, I really like you. You can’t satisfy my heart, obviously. You can’t do for me what I hope sex and money and success could do for me. You’re no good for that. You’re so small. My needs go so far past you. But you do have the decency to forgive my sins. So, I really like you, God.” Do we know the gift of God and who it is speaking to us? Or are we insulting him? Do we need to repent of the sin of whittling God down to our size?
Listen to what he says: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1). God says, “I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground” (Isaiah 4:3). God says, “I am the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). God says, “They shall neither hunger nor thirst” (Isaiah 49:10). God says, “You shall be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Jesus cried out, “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). This is the gift of God the Father through the Holy Spirit. The one speaking to us about this is the real Jesus. All that God is is for us both at the level of acceptance and at the level of fullness. We don’t need to go dig our own wells to relieve our unhappiness. We don’t need another Savior. We don’t need another supply. We can’t add to him, and we can’t deplete him. He is no stagnant pond, like everything else in this world. He is the endless fountain of freshness from beyond all this world. He is the fullness we long for! The living God says to tired and bored sinners, “Come to me, and let me satisfy you.”
Never look at your life in terms of what you supply. Never go into your marriage or to work drawing upon what you supply. Always approach life in terms of the fullness of God for you. He wants to express his fullness through you. That’s why he gave you your raging thirst, to draw you to his heart. You feel that thirst not because God isn’t there for you but because he is there for you. Always look at your life, moment by moment, in terms of what God can do. Always begin with the plenty of God. Never face life with all the problems and all the sins and all the barriers as your primary thought. Always begin with the gift of God and who Christ is. Face your life with this primary thought: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Not Mickey Mouse in you, the possibility of a moment’s passing entertainment. Christ in you. That is how God gives. Does the conversion of our city to the real Jesus start with our own conversion to the real Jesus? Have we insulted him by our small thoughts of him?
I believe God is speaking to me personally about this. Here is what I wrote in my Bible on January 5th at 11:09 AM up in Illinois:
What happens to me, including what people do, does not finally matter. All that finally matters, all that matters now and moment by moment, is that I would be filled with the blessed Holy Spirit of God. The external does not matter. All that matters is internal – that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit. And adversities and losses without only strip me down to care about this internal fullness more clearly and freely.
Two days before, on January 3rd, at 4:30 PM, as the Lord was pursuing me, I also wrote this in my Bible:
I ask the Lord for the fullness of his wonderful Holy Spirit as the prayer for the rest of my days. May he glorify himself with his miracle-working power in me.
So I’m learning to notice when I’m getting uptight or stressed out or tempted or whatever, and I say, “Wait a minute. Is this the fullness of the Holy Spirit I’m feeling? Is this negative emotion of God? No. Lord, I turn back to you now. I open up to you.” And he is abundant.
That’s where Jesus goes with this: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” If we know the gift of God, and if we know who Jesus is in his fullness of grace, what do we do then? We ask him for it. What does he do then? He gives it. When was the last time you asked God for the fullness of his Spirit for yourself in your need and your sin and your failure and your emptiness? God wants you to ask. And he will give. When we open our eyes to how God gives and who the real Jesus is, it changes how we pray. And it changes what we receive, because God loves to give. When we ask him, he gives living water. But what a terrible thing it would be to come to the end of your life and hear God say, “If only you had asked, I would have given it”!
Here’s how it worked for this woman. She said to the people back in her village: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29). She didn’t say, “Well, I admitted a few sins, some little ones, to see how he’d react.” No, he told her everything she’d ever done, and he still loved her. So she wasn’t afraid of those people any more. She felt loved and confident and free. That was the living water flowing out of her heart.
Will you ask God today? Here we are, thirsty people, quickly depleted, quickly discouraged, with many regrets over the past and fears over the future. Deep down, we are all the same. Isn’t it time to stop running off to this well and that well that leave us so disappointed? Isn’t it time to come to God and ask him for what he can do? Your life can be messy. But he already knows that. He knows everything you’ve ever done. That’s no barrier to him. Jesus Christ is offering you a spring of life and hope within that will never run dry.
Will you ask him right now? He will answer with grace upon grace.