When we start our journey toward a life of living in the overflow of God, it’s encouraging to start with what Jesus has already promised! John 7 lets us know that when we allow Jesus into our lives, by His Holy Spirit, rivers of living water will flow out. And not just a trickle for a moment, but enough for an ongoing, fruitful river. What a fantastic illustration of ‘overflow’!
This wasn’t a new idea for Jesus, or His Jewish hearers. The Prophet Ezekiel had prophesied centuries earlier about a river of water that would flow from the dwelling place of God’s presence and would bring life wherever it flowed: it was living water. That was always God’s plan: where His presence is, living water will flow. We see it in Genesis in the Garden of Eden, with four waters flowing from one headwater; we see Ezekiel’s river and God performs water miracles in the desert with Moses to preserve the lives of Israel during the wilderness. In the final picture of the renewed creation, the River of Life is still flowing from the dwelling place of God. Rivers of living water are a picture of God’s life flowing from His presence. And where the river flows, there’s always an abundance of life. God blesses the places it runs; they overflow with abundance, fruitfulness and divine evidence of God’s presence poured into human life.
What a powerful theme we find. We can read this, and even desire this for ourselves and our families, but our reality can often be a long way from that. For many of us, when we take stock of our lives, the presence of God can sometimes look more like that little trickle. Or even worse, ‘overflow’ becomes ‘leftovers’, and the little bit of God’s presence that flows out from us is more like the little bit extra we had, and it’s a limited supply. Far from abundance, we find turmoil, stress, conflict and confusion. It doesn’t sound like the living water that Jesus prophesied.
We get another clue from Jesus in the John 7 passage, “Now this He said about the Spirit.” It’s the life of Jesus as given to us by the Holy Spirit of God, the One who Jesus promised would come and make His home with us. That’s the reason living water flows from our heart! The Holy Spirit lets the life of Jesus flow from the place where His presence dwells. Paul got it, calling us each and altogether the temple of the Holy Spirit.
All of that is fine, but how do we step into a life of overflow, where the water gushes out, instead of a muddy trickle? Jesus said “come to me and drink.” That’s our first step: come to Jesus and drink. It all begins with Jesus and His invitation to life. Maybe you’re reading this, and you responded to Jesus years ago, or maybe you’re new in your faith. Maybe you haven’t yet responded to Him. But the invitation of Jesus is to all people always, and not just for one moment of salvation. It starts with salvation but continues in a life of surrender and intimacy. Jesus is jealous for our affections, and desires us to come to Him daily, moment by moment, drinking in the reality of His invitation and gift of life.
The other thing Jesus says, before the invitation to drink, is: “If anyone is thirsty…” That’s the real question. If we are Christian, we know (even if we don’t actually practice) we should come to Jesus all the time. But thirst implies a whole lot more. Thirst implies need and a recognition of that need. When we have no idea of our need, we don’t go looking for what is required. In the natural, we’re supposed to drink two or more liters of water every day, regardless of how thirsty we feel. That’s because we are always getting thirstier as we go through our day, regardless of if we recognise it or not. But how much do we recognise our need for Jesus? We can go about our daily tasks but forget that life is only found in Him. And that’s one of the unusual things about the kingdom of God: we need to drink (and eat) of God to grow in our thirst and hunger. It’s counterintuitive to the ways of the world. If we want to get more thirsty for God, we need to desire Him more. And as we drink, we get more thirsty.
We need to drink of Jesus. That’s a beautiful metaphor, but what does that mean practically? I can’t buy bottled ‘Jesus-water’. Here’s what we mean practically: begin with a decision in your heart and mind to recognise your need. That means surrender. It means acknowledging that you can’t give yourself living water. That means re-prioritising your day and your time to seek Jesus. On average, practicing Christians come to church every three or four weeks. So, at a generous estimate, average believers are spending almost three hours a month at church, around other believers being instructed from the word and corporately worshipping God. People are busy, and family commitments are enormous in our culture. But if time is too tight to come together more than that, how much time are we able to make for Jesus in our daily rhythms? Even if we were super-devout and had a daily quiet time of 15 minutes every day, that still takes our total Jesus time to approximately ten to eleven hours a month. I suspect that if I gave my partner, kids, or close friends, let alone my workplace, so little time a month, there would be some intimacy issues arising!
That’s not to say that we should be all pharisaical and count up our ‘Jesus-time’ and make a strict rule of it. But even in a simple sweep of a given week, there’s not much space to get thirsty for God. What that means is, overflow erupting out of our lives will require some change on what we prioritise. We can’t hope for intimacy within it’s only a casual commitment.
But here’s the blessing: Jesus promises that when we make room for Him and prioritise and seek Him when we allow the Holy Spirit to have space in our lives to let the reality of Jesus create a thirst in our hearts (that is, drink from Him), He is faithful to unleash unending streams, that will bring life! Abundant, joyous life!
Maybe you already prioritise Him. You’re reading this article, so perhaps I’m preaching to the choir so far. Here’s one last way to step further into a life of overflow for you who have persevered to the end: give it away! Start to pour your life into someone else. Jesus told us that what we’ve received for free, we should freely give away! (See Matthew 10:7-8) I have found that as I have practised the spiritual discipline of giving – be it time, resource, ministering to others or just being generous with my life – God pours more in, so I can pour more out.
If you’ve read this far, then take a moment now to pray: Jesus, I surrender myself to you. I am making a choice today to make more room for You, to thirst for You. And Jesus, bring me people today that I can pour my living water into. Thank you that it’s never going to run out or run dry when it’s coming from you! Amen.