A Well of Water
F. Nickels, Cardiff
If Jacob's well is still in Samaria, it is now no doubt built up as a showpiece for tourists. It was on the side of this well that our Lord sat and rested, being wearied with His journey, John 4. 6. To this well came a woman of the nearby town who was surprised when she found a Jew resting there who asked her for a drink of water. Her immediate reaction was to remind Him of the barrier that existed between Jews and Samaritans. About this our Lord had nothing to say. Instead He told her that, if she only knew who He was, she would be asking for living water. Such a remark caused the woman to sense that this stranger was different from ordinary men, and that she could talk to this Jew who seemed willing to ignore the Jew-Samaritan enmity. Her questions tumbled out. How would He draw the water He spoke of? Did He consider Himself greater than the patriarch Jacob who had given them the well ? These questions were neither followed up nor answered.
Instead our Lord would rather that the woman knew the difference between the water in Jacob's well, and the living water that He said He could give her. "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst", vv. 13-14. Believers would know that Christ was here talking about the wells of salvation : "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink", 7. 37. But He went further: "the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life", 4.1 4. This is symbolical language, of course, and a reference to the activity of the Holy Spirit indwelling all who trust Christ for salvation. These words no doubt mystified the woman, but they should not mystify us who know New Testament truth. We should easily see that a well of water constantly springing up within us means that the Holy Spirit should be a constant source of satisfaction in our Christian lives. He should keep us fresh and bright spiritually, and should make us independent of the world's "broken cisterns, that can hold no water", Jer. 2. 13.
It is to former days that we may look to see what happens when the well of water flows freely. During the second half of the last century and up to the first world war was the period when the Spirit's activity in believers' lives made the truths of God's Word very real to them. Many churches date their buildings from somewhere around the turn of the present century. Their meetings on Lord's Days and weekdays were vibrant with spiritual life. Today some of these same buildings are being knocked down or turned into warehouses, factories or business premises. It was in this same period that many Missionary Societies, Bible Societies, etc., came into being. At that time there was no shortage of Spirit-energized men and women who went out to foreign lands as missionaries. The man-in-the-street was very Bible and church conscious, and full-time evangelists were very much in demand to hold Gospel campaigns in local assemblies.
If all Gospel preachers knew the Spirit's activity like this today, more souls would again be saved. The Spirit would give them to speak with authority as our Lord did, "he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes", Matt. 7. 29. We would not then have sometimes to suffer unprofitable addresses when we come together for the ministry of the Word. How different was Paul's Spirit-inspired preaching! He could say: "our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost", 1 Thess. 1. 5. Much preaching today seems to be in word only. It may be only on some occasions when we sit under ministry, that we sense the speaker to be a Spirit-filled man. His ministry has an indefinable freshness, and it is obvious that he is enjoying the truth he is giving out. This is as it should be, since a well, especially in Eastern lands, refreshes and sustains life. Our life in Christ will be refreshed and sustained if the Word is ministered by one who knows the well of the Spirit flowing freely in his life.
As we look at our lives we have to confess that we seem to know little of this "internal well" experience of which our Lord spoke. Is it because the water has dried up? In other words, has the Holy Spirit been withdrawn? Most certainly not! Then why is there such a gap between what our Lord promised and our present-day lives? Perhaps if we knew the cause of our lack we might be willing to put right that which is hindering us from enjoying the refreshing activity of the Spirit that is promised us in Christ.
Most of us want to know more of the Holy Spirit's activity in our lives. We will not do so until we face up to the simple, yet often overlooked, fact that the well in our lives is choked. We need to clear away the debris which we have allowed to accumulate. Our lives as believers may be so full of lawful but inexpedient things, I Cor. 6. 12; 10. 23, which take up our time and attention, that the things of God and the Spirit are pushed well into the background. This tendency to let even good and proper things choke God's work in our lives is referred to by Paul when he likens the Christian life to a race, "let us run with patience the race that is set before us", Heb. 12. 1. He tells us that it is not only sin that we must put away in order to run the race successfully, but he also warns us against "weights", "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin . . .". These weights to which he alludes can be very pleasant things that we enjoy doing. Such things as hobbies, pastimes, sport, music, reading, etc., can become weights when they come between us and the things of God, dulling our appetite for spiritual things. It was this danger that our Lord warned against when He spoke of things cluttering up lives and choking spiritual growth in the well-known parable of the sower, Luke 13. 14. He interpreted the seed sown amongst the thorns as being choked by too many other things being allowed in our lives. So then, if we would know the Spirit's activity in our lives as a well of water constantly springing up to our refreshment and satisfaction, we will have to be willing to simplify or streamline them. It is not so much a question of sin in our lives that is stopping the well, but such things as a love of pleasure, ease, good living, etc., and wanting to have all that the world enjoys.
In Genesis 26. 17, 18, we read of how Isaac had to unstop wells that the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. When he did this, the water flowed again. If we do what Isaac did in those far-off days, we can know the Holy Spirit not only as a neglected Resident, but He will become the rightful President of our lives.