More than twenty years ago a young man entered college. It wasn?t just any college?it was one of the most sterling examples of Christian education in the nation. Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. The young man was deeply in love with God and he wanted his life to matter for the Kingdom of God. He became well versed in God?s Word, excited about sharing all that he was learning, and overwhelmed by what God was doing in his life and the lives of others. The young man was so gripped by God that he decided to go to seminary and further his Christian education preparing for the ministry.
The young man enrolled in seminary in Enid, Oklahoma and began his theological studies. He and another young seminary student named Larry Jones, who heads up Feed The Children here in Oklahoma City, were convinced that all people needed to hear the Word of God. They truly believed that people needed Jesus more than anything in life. Phillips Theological School was known as a more liberal seminary and the two men became known as the ?God Squad? because of their evangelical outlook on life. They would teach Bible studies to undergraduate students, hold weekend revivals in little towns around Enid, and pray continuously for an outpouring of God?s power and salvation upon the lives of people.
The young man finished his first three years of seminary and was preparing for his final year of classes before entering the ministry full-time. When his last year of seminary began to unfold the young man encountered some difficulties in his life that slowly took their toll upon his faith. The well of the man?s soul began to dry up until finally he lost his faith. He walked away from his aspirations of being a minister all together.
With the loss of his faith he began to try and do other things that possibly could bring meaning and purpose to his life. He created a social service agency that grew and became very successful in meeting the needs of those who were hurting in his community. Even with such great success he still felt empty. The well was dry. Eventually the man found himself sitting in his living room floor all alone, wondering why he was even alive?
It was at that point that the man cried out to the God that he had tried to not believe in, but whom he knew he desperately needed. The man said, ?God, I?ve tried not to believe in You, but if You are there I desperately need You.? Suddenly, the living room was flooded by the presence of Jesus in a way that the man had never experienced before. He began to weep tears of joy and his soul was flooded by the living waters of the Savior. The once dried up well of the man?s soul was now overflowing with the presence of the Savior.
The man that I have been telling you about is not some fictional character concocted in the mind of a preacher. The man is a friend of mine who I have come to respect and appreciate. He is a man who has experienced the dryness of the desert, but who is now experiencing the presence of the Savior in a very real and powerful way.
I do not think that my friend?s story is that much different than ours. Oh, maybe you haven?t walked away from your faith, maybe you haven?t lost your faith, but each of us has experienced those desert times when our soul is dry and our eyes are wet with the tears of sorrow and emptiness.
What do you do when you find yourself dragging through the desert? Is there any hope of having your soul restored? Is there any hope of experiencing living waters nurturing you and invigorating every fiber of your being? Maybe you?ve come here today and you are in a desert right now. You don?t even know why you are here. You are uncertain if God even exists, and even if He does, then why does He seem so distant, so removed?
I?ve got good news for you today if you find that your well has run dry. There is hope for you as I know from experience that God can bring forth streams in the desert that will cause new life to begin to form in our hearts and soul.
Before we try and understand how we can experience living waters flowing into our dry and dusty souls, I want us to understand some of the reasons why our well runs dry. There are many reasons that precipitate the dryness that we sometimes experience, and I can?t give you an exhaustive list, but we can look at several of the reasons in the next few minutes.
First, depression can drain our soul and leave us dry. The great prophet Elijah can speak clearly and passionately to us about the draining effects of depression. Elijah became so depressed that he sat down and said, ?I?ve had enough, Lord. Take my life.? You need to know that it wasn?t as if Elijah?s entire life had been characterized by bouts with depression. As a matter of fact, Elijah had just hit a home run as he had been used by God to show the people that the false idols they had been serving were no gods at all. After a great demonstration of God?s power exhibited through Elijah, the people joined in the chorus and shouted, ?The Lord?he is God!? Shortly after that Elijah went into a deep depression. Let?s look at 1 Kings 19:1-5 to get a closer look.
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ?May the gods deal with me , be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.? 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day?s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ?I have had enough, LORD,? he said. ?Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.? 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ?Get up and eat.? (1 Kings 19:1-5 NIV)
Depression can come in an instant or it can grow over the course of months and years, but either way depression will dry up the well of our soul and leave us despondent. Depression can be brought about by many and various experiences or feelings in life, death of a loved one, divorce, disease, disappointment?all of these and more can bring on depression. Each of them will drain us and leave us feeling dry and hollow.
Secondly, sin will cause our well to run dry. It is not hard for us to make the connection between depression and the weariness we feel when our souls runs dry, but sin? How could sin cause our well to run dry? Especially in our society where we do not believe in sin any longer? I had a person tell me just a few weeks ago that they do not believe in sin. Oh really? What do you call the degradation and despicable, devilish deeds that rob people of life, joy, and fulfilling the potential that God has given them at birth?
David can tell us about the reality of sin?s draining power on the human soul. After David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband killed to try and cover things up, and then went about his business like nothing had happened?he couldn?t. He couldn?t explain it, but his energy was sapped. He didn?t know what was happening to him?he had ?handled? everything so that nobody would find out. David couldn?t figure it out, but he knew that when he lay down at night feelings of guilt and shame were his bed partners. He couldn?t get the image of Bathsheba?s husband out of his mind. His strength was being drained, his spirit was running dry, and his mind would not, could not, find rest.
Later, after David had been found out, he wrote of his experience in Psalm 51. Let?s take a look.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Psalms 51:1-4 NIV)
?My sin is always before me.? If you have ever done something, failed to do something, said something, failed to say something, or even thought something that you knew in your spirit was totally contradictory to God?s will then you know the power of David?s words??My sin is always before me.? We can try to get it out of our mind. We can work to work it out of our system. We can excuse our actions all we want, but our sin is always with us?draining us, drying up our soul.
Thirdly, unmet expectations can take their toll on us and drain our soul. Have you ever prepared yourself for a new venture that held great promise, or so you thought? Maybe it was getting ready for your first date. Showing up for your first day of work at a new job. Welcoming a new child into your home. Entering a new school for the first time. Beginning a new ministry that excited you. All of these and more can cause us to become so excited and enthused about the prospects of our finally finding something, someone, who will bring us the happiness and fulfillment that we?ve longed for in life. Without a doubt, every single time we get ourselves geared up for something new it is always less than we expected once we get in on the action. It doesn?t matter what ?it? is, if you place too high of an expectation on ?it,? then ?it? will never meet your expectations.
Sometimes, even in our relationship with God we have unmet expectations and we find our well run dry. The Bible teaches us that God is unchangeable?He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet, our understanding of God, our expectations of Him, and our relationship with Him can change like the shifting winds. If, when I become a follower of Jesus, I expect God to make everything in my life perfect, then I am in for a long run on disappointment. If I expect God to fix all of my foul-ups, then I am in for a long run on disappointment. If I expect God to twitch His nose like Samantha Stevens on Bewitched and give me charmed life, then I am in for a long run on disappointment.
We who have been disappointed with God are in good company. The great prophet Jeremiah was very disappointed with God. God called Jeremiah to be His man, to speak His Word, and to walk with Him every day. Jeremiah and God must have been on two different wavelengths. We can?t really be sure what Jeremiah expected out of the deal when God called him, but we do know that there came a time in their relationship when Jeremiah?s unmet expectations caused him to explode at God. Take a look at Jeremiah 20:7-9.
7 LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. 9 But if I say, ?I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,? his word is on my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:7-9 NIV)
Jeremiah had gotten a raw deal, according to him, when he signed on with God?s crew. Jeremiah was stuck between a rock and a hard place because God?s Word burned in his bones, yet his soul was dry. He had lost his passion to share the Word that had gripped him because of the ridicule and mockery that it consistently brought upon him. Maybe you?ve felt the same way. You know God, you?ve tasted of His power and mercy, and yet at this point in your life, you feel like God has given you a raw deal. Your feelings are draining your well and you know it.
Thirdly, familiarity and complacency can drain the well of your soul. Jesus spoke to the church in Ephesus and He said,
1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:1-6 NIV)
The problem of the believers in Ephesus is the problem of many of us who think that doing things ?for? God is equivalent to loving God. We become so busy doing the things of God that we forget about God. We can continue running on empty, but sooner or later our activity will result in our lives being brought to a grinding halt.
You can attend church every time the doors open, do Bible study every day, sing in the choir, pray at the Lord?s Table, and lead a youth group, and still suffer from an empty soul. Nobody else may have a clue what is going on with you, but you know deep inside that you are as dry as the Sahara. Busyness can rob us of the life giving waters of Jesus that continually replenish our souls if we are not careful.
It is much like the relationship we share with someone we love. Those of you who are married run a very real risk of becoming too familiar with your spouse. I remember when Connie and I first started dating. There was nothing I wanted more than to be with her. When I wasn?t with her I was talking about her. We talked on the phone. We went out on dates. Sometimes we would go somewhere and just sit and talk?just being with one another was enough.
Connie and I have been married for twenty-two years now and we have to battle becoming too familiar with one another. I hope you understand what I mean by ?too familiar.? If I assume that Connie will always be there, if I take her love for granted, and approach our conversations to casually then we can easily lose touch with one another.
The risk that Connie and I run is the same risk that all of us face in our relationship with God. The Ephesians were so busy doing for God that they forgot to take time to enjoy God and being in His presence. Sooner or later this approach will drain us dry.
We could go on discussing and examining the many draining experiences of life, but it would serve us better to refocus our attention on some ways that we can experience the fresh flowing, life-giving waters of Jesus rejuvenating us, replenishing us, and renewing us day-to-day.
When we find ourselves running on empty and our souls dry and weary then the first and last thing we need to do is cry out to God. When I say, ?Cry out to God? I mean exactly that my friends. When the well runs dry and we feel like our soul is empty, our hands hang limp, and our whole life is downcast then we need to cry out to God for help.
When David realized the depth of the dryness of his soul he cried out in need to God and God heard his cry. David wrote in Psalm 51.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:10-17 NIV)
In Psalm 88, the Psalmist cries out to God in the midst of his weariness when he says,
1 O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. 2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. 3 For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. 5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, who you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. 6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. 7 You wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah. 8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; 9 my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you. (Psalms 88:1-9 NIV)
It is not just those in biblical days who have confessed the dryness of their souls and cried out to God. The great musician and singer wrote a song more than twenty years ago called, ?My Eyes Are Dry.? Keith Green wrote,
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me
But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your blood.
A man sitting on his living room floor acknowledged that his well had run dry and cried out to God. God heard his cry and answered with His grace. Today I want to give you an opportunity to cry out to God. You know that your well has run dry and that life has escaped you. You would like to do something about it and you can?cry out to God and He will answer.
If you have never asked Jesus to come into your heart and be your Savior then I would invite you to cry out to Him and ask Him to come into your heart at this time. Won?t you allow the Living Waters of His love to fill your well to overflowing?