Have you ever felt like something’s just not clicking? Or thought “Why is this not working?” Maybe you’ve followed all the steps, all the rules, and still nothing’s changing.
“You didn’t try God. You tried church.”Over the years, we’ve had so many conversations that basically follow along this track: “What am I doing wrong? I’ve been trying God. I come to church every week! But it’s just not working for me. My life is still falling apart.” In one of these conversations specifically, I simply responded: “You didn’t try God. You tried church.” (Before you suggest I was jumping to arrogant assumptions, understand I had a personal relationship with this individual and knew the deeper details of the situation.)
We’ve met many people inside the church walls that still feel empty or are still seeking to experience God in their lives. On the flip side, many people don’t even expect to really experience God beyond singing some songs or reading their Bible. Why is it that a number of God’s children don’t know that a relationship with Him is so much more than church plays and self-help messages?
Why are so many Christians still thirsty?
And why don’t non-believers want what we’re serving? (I know, that’s a loaded question for another day.) One reason might be that the institutionalized (business-model) church has conditioned us to rely on the weekly service to get our fill of God, similar to an I.V. drip. But, any good hospital does not want you to stay there, rather they want you to become healthy enough to come off the I.V. The problem is, while we’re on that I.V. drip (and/or feeding tube), we can easily become lazy or think it’s not necessary for us to get up on our own feet. Similarly, attending church is no substitute for having Jesus.
This is exactly what Jesus was trying to convey to the woman at the well (see John 4). Jesus said He is the Living Water. Those who drink of Him will thirst no more. Anything besides the Living Water, and you’ll continue to be thirsty, looking for something to fill the void, going back again and again (the I.V. drip). To illustrate another way: picture the lost and hurting soul who frequents the bar, and you may not be far off from some church-goers.
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 4:13-15 NIV
(This is the equivalent of Jesus offering you running water in your home so you don’t have to trek to the town well!)
Pastors work arduously to plan and write fresh inspiring sermons week after week. Unfortunately, in many churches, the trend is more and more “self-help” messages or “how to be a better Christian this week” – even though you probably didn’t work on the homework from last week. And attendees are desperately required to come back to the “well” each week, expecting the pastor to deliver and dazzle, meanwhile nothing ever changing at their core. They’re still thirsty. Maybe this is because instead of receiving the Living Water, they’re receiving a watered down version of Jesus.
Think about it this way: There are 12,000(ish) Starbucks and well over 300,000 churches! So Starbucks can saturate the United States with caffeinated drinks, but almost 30 times more churches can’t saturate the United States with the Living Water. Seriously?
The Christian Post (Feb. 2016)
This raises an important question:
Is your church serving the living water or something else?
Your first response may be, “No, my church definitely talks about Jesus!” Good! But, we aren’t questioning whether or not Jesus is mentioned in your church service, rather we must ask if we are misrepresenting Jesus. I honestly don’t believe that many people mean to “water down” Jesus. I believe some think they are making Jesus more accessible. More appealing. I know this is not every church, but we have to be careful of the motives, and we have to consistently test ourselves. Do we truly care about people, or are we just trying to grow a congregation? Are we compromising truth for numbers? The count of hands raised, prayers said, or even baptisms may seem high, and that is exciting! But are we missing that this can actually result in neglecting the long-term spiritual health of those individuals being reeled in?
Jesus is not some celebrity to get an autograph and picture from. He desires a real relationship with you.We live in a consumer culture. We want it easy, we want it right now, and we want it to be noninvasive. So if someone tells us that all we must do is repeat a word-by-word prayer then take an hour or so out of our weekly schedule, sure! Why not? That sounds pretty easy, actually. But this leaves us wondering why nothing is changing, and why our lives are still falling apart. Perhaps there’s more to it. When you dig into scripture, you may start to discover Jesus in a new light and realize that following Him is actually not so easy. Sorry.
Your relationship with Jesus is not meant to be through someone else. It’s not meant to be limited to an hour service on Sunday or to 10-minute quiet times in the morning. As you step into a real, raw relationship with Him, He will fill you with His Spirit (the living water [John 7:37-39]). When you truly grab hold of Jesus, it will turn your life upside-down. If you feel like you’re trying God but nothing is changing, reevaluate what exactly it is you are trying. Remember, Jesus is not some celebrity to get an autograph and picture from. He desires a real relationship with you.
Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”
John 7:37b ESV
If you seek this living water, don’t just say a prayer aimed at the sky and expect your circumstances to change. Instead, it’s time to truly step into relationship with Jesus, and you will begin to change as His Spirit flows through your life. Like a river, it will cut deeper and wider, bringing new life and growth.
Begin talking to Jesus directly, knowing that He is right beside you and He’s listening. As a believer, not only do you have God with you, but you have His Spirit in you. You have complete access anytime you thirst. The living water isn’t exclusively found at the right church or through the right pastor. Jesus says come to Him and drink.