Cistern or Well?
“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13)
There is a significant difference between a fresh flowing well and a cistern. A cistern is hewed out of stone, or in modern times made from concrete. Its sole purpose is to store water that has been poured into it – water that becomes warm and stale. By contrast, when a well is dug, it is lined with rocks and water flows through it, because it has tapped into an underground stream. The water from the well is fresh, not stale.
The believer who has forsaken the “Well of Living Water” (John 4:10-13) finds himself “hewing out a cistern” of religious activity seeking to quench their spiritual thirst. They are continually looking for the next worship service, message, or meeting, where they can find some “water” to deposit in their cistern. You will find them “hopping” from church to church looking for the “blessing.” Or you might find them these days “surfing” the internet for a preacher that might temporarily quench their thirst. They will store up this “water” for a while and avoid dehydration. But their “cistern” always leaks and soon ends up dry again. So, once again, they go searching for “water.” It is an endless cycle.
The “cistern Christian” is seeking in the wrong place. They are seeking to find life in a Christian leader, a meeting, book, or worship song. Not that any of these things are wrong in themselves. I have been blessed by various leaders, books, and songs. I have been in tremendous meetings where the presence of the Lord filled the room. I have been ministered to by some greatly anointed teachers. I have read books that seriously impacted my life. So do not hear me discounting these things. They can, and often are, used by the Father as a “source” of Living Water to refresh us.
But there is something greater. What the Father has provided for us is an internal “fountain of living water.” Jesus said: ”If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38). (John explains to us that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit in the next verse). Years ago we used to sing a chorus that said: “I have a river of life flowing out of me, makes the lame to walk and the blind to see, opens prison doors, sets the captive free, I have a river of life flowing out of me.”
Therefore, learning to “tap into” this source is all important for us if we want to be continually refreshed, and thus be a source of strength to others and a faithful follower of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that has been given to empower us – He is the member of the Divine Trinity given by the Father, through the Son, to dwell within us (John 14:16).
Here is where I must address the “how to” - in terms of how does one “tap into” this fountain of living water? Here are my practical suggestions:
1) Slow Down – The current pace of life for most of us is not conducive to fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The old hymn says, “Take time to be holy.” That is wise advice. The Bible teaches us the importance of “waiting upon the Lord.” In the book of Isaiah we read, “Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isa. 40:31).
2) Learn to Meditate – The Hebrew word for meditation loosely means “to roll it around in your mind.” We are told not simply to read the Scriptures, but to meditate on them (Joshua 1:8). This means I must actively concentrate and think deeply about God’s revealed truth. In doing so, we receive insight and illumination of that truth.
3) Pray in the Spirit - When I say, “praying in the Spirit,” I am speaking in the broad sense. When I come in prayer it should not merely reciting things, I think God should consider. It should first be a coming into a real relationship with the Holy Spirit where He consciously guides my prayer. This ties into why God desires us to pray. The Bible tells us He knows our need before we even ask (Matt. 6:8). Some have responded to that by asking the question “Why pray then?”. The answer lies in the fact that He wants intimacy with us. He wants us to be leaning into Him in order that we might know His heart, and out of that intimate relationship, pray in the empowerment of His Spirit.
In my own personal experience praying in the Spirit sometimes involves praying in tongues (I Cor. 14:14-15), but not always. I have found myself at times praying in English, with an awesome awareness that it was not “me” praying, but the Spirit through me. At those times there was a boldness to my request and a confidence that God would respond. It was as if I had entered another realm and was praying beyond my intellectual capacity.
Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 that “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings to deep for words.” We need to recognize this need for the Spirit working in us to guide and empower our prayer. Otherwise, we are functioning in our prayer life like a man trying to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Rather than the man in the sailboat, who has the wind of the Spirit filling its sail.