What do you long for? What would give you a sense of satisfaction right now? Jesus promises that fulfillment.
But we have to believe Him and follow His instructions to receive it.
Look at it this way.
Maybe you’ve earned academic degrees or started a company or discovered the cure to something. Maybe you’ve raised a phenomenal family or overcome health setbacks. Whatever it is you’ve accomplished, it’s taken an amazing amount of intensity and passion and willingness to do whatever it takes to reach your goals.
Yet, very few of us Christians apply that focus and discipline to knowing God.
I believe most Christians really don’t know how to open the written Word in order to experience the living Word, where the Living God begins to speak very personally and clearly to give you the wisdom to not just address big problems but to be on a path that you were made to be on — to bring the greatest joy and the greatest peace in your life.
Maybe we carry a study Bible and read a few verses during week and pray an occasional prayer — and think that will get us the streams of living water we thirst for. It doesn’t work that way.
To tap the river of life, we need to regularly dig deep in the Word. Three tools can help us.
CONTEXT, CONTENT, CLIMAX
The first tool is understanding a passage’s context. What background knowledge can explain what’s going on, historically, socially, culturally?
For example, in John 7 Jesus goes to Jerusalem. It’s during the Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrates the delivery of the Israelites from Egypt and their spending 40 years in the desert during which God sustained them with manna for their bread and other miracles. They didn’t enter the Promised Land, though, because they lacked faith despite the miracles.
During the last day of the feast, a priest parades around the altar with water and then pours it out, to commemorate the water God miraculously gave them from a rock. That’s when Jesus cries out,
“‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-39).
Do you see how knowing the context makes this passage so much more impactful? Jesus knows His hearers will understand He is drawing a parallel between Himself and God’s miraculous provision of bread and water in the desert.
The second tool is grasping the passage’s content. What’s the basic outline and flow of the text?
A quick reading of John 7 shows us an overview like this: Jesus goes to the feast, He teaches at the Temple, He is the center of controversy, and the Jewish leaders reject Him. Boom.
The third tool is recognizing the climax of the passage. What is the most important truth or event or action taken?
What do you think is the take-away from John 7? I think it’s John 7:37-39. Reread it again:
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
CHOOSING TO DO HIS WILL
If you immerse yourself in a passage with these tools, you’re going to find treasure. Not only that, you’re going to learn to hear God speaking to you through His Word.
But no amount of God’s teachings is worth much unless we’re willing to obey it. If you have the context and the content and the climatic truth but you’re unwilling to be obedient and let God teach you through it, then you’re dead in the water.
“Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own’” (John 7:17).
So today the question is not do you want to feel fulfilled. It’s how much do you want to know God?
For more on this and related topics, see Chip’s series “The Real God.“
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip