I am excited about our study of the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, especially in these early chapters as we examine the importance of the Holy Spirit in the early church’s living out their mission. I was looking for an illustration this week, and came across one of my favorite stories. It is supposedly true, and it certainly illustrates a simple, yet profound truth.
The story is about one of the great heroes of World War I, a British army lieutenant named T.E. Lawrence. You may have heard of him–Lawrence of Arabia–since his life story was depicted in the 1962 epic film by the same name.
After the war, Lawrence was in Paris with some of his Arab friends. He showed them the sights of the city: the Arch of Triumph, the Louvre, Napoleon’s tomb, and the Champs Elysees, but none of those impressed them. The one thing that did interest them the most was the faucet in the bathtub at their hotel room.
They spent much of their time in the room, turning the water on and off. They found it amazing that one could simply turn a handle and get all the water he wanted. Later, when they were ready to leave Paris and return to the Middle East, Lawrence found them in the bathroom with wrenches trying to disconnect the faucet.
“It is very dry in Arabia,” they reminded Lawrence. “What we need are faucets. If we have them, we will have all the water we want.” He had to explain to them that the effectiveness of the faucets did not lie in themselves but in the vast reservoirs of water to which they were attached. And even beyond that it was the rain and snowfalls of the Alps that produced the water for the reservoirs.
It’s a funny story, and a century later it sounds downright silly in our enlightened world. But I wonder how often we settle for the faucet, spiritually speaking, when it’s the “living water” we really need. It is the human condition that makes us prone to substitute the instrument for the water that Jesus promised would quench our thirst. And so, we focus more on externals than internals, on form instead of substance.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink,” Jesus once said. “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” Then John added this commentary about what Jesus said: “By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
My prayer for you is that you would know the living water of His Spirit that would flow from within, and that you would never settle for the forms of empty religion instead. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.