“…the hardest thing is not to satisfy their thirst but to make them feel thirsty for God.”


John Piper, in a sermon “Rivers From the Heart”

Now perhaps we are ready to hear the words of Jesus as they come to us: “If any one thirst, let him come.” The invitation is universal, and yet it is conditional. There are no ethnic, intellectual, or social qualifications for drinking at Jesus’ fountain. The invitation goes out to all. Everyone in this room has a personal invitation from Jesus to come to him and drink. There is only one condition: you have to be thirsty.

My father has been in evangelism for about forty years, and he told me one time that the hardest work is not getting men saved but getting them lost. To put it another way, the hardest thing is not to satisfy their thirst but to make them feel thirsty for God. All men thirst. But not all thirst for God. We are the only species of God’s creation afflicted and blessed with chronic longing. Dolphins are content to frolic in the sea, dogs are content to lie in the sun, frogs are content to bump their bellies from pond to pond. But man is not content. He is afflicted with chronic restlessness. Everything we set our hand to gets old. We fight without success against an epidemic of boredom. Fad after fad, fashion after fashion, challenge after challenge leave us thirsty in the end. Why? It’s a hidden blessing. George Herbert describes the blessing beautifully in a poem called “The Pulley.”

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by—
Let us (said He) pour on him all we can;
Let the world’s riches which disbursed lie,
Contract into a span.
So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure:
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone, of all His treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.
For if I should (said He)
Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
And rest in nature, not the God of nature:
So both should losers be.
Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to My breast.

We are afflicted and blessed with a chronic restlessness, an insatiable soul-thirst, for this reason: that we might keep looking until we find Christ. And that having found him we might be turned back to him again and again when we taste of other springs and find them bitter. We were made for God. The taste buds of our souls were made to relish fellowship with the Son of God. But we have become sinners, and the fundamental meaning of sin is thirsting for things other than God. Our sinful nature is a condition of diseased spiritual taste buds. Therefore, the prerequisite for coming to Christ and finding joy in him is renewal of our spiritual taste buds. Paul said, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unspiritual man looks at a believer who delights in drawing near to Christ in worship, prayer, study, and witness, and all he can see is a fool or a hypocrite. He cannot imagine that any of those things is a delight. He has no thirst for Christ, and so the invitation of Jesus is a dead issue.

But God is gracious. He frustrates the human race again and again. He causes every wreath to wither, every gold cup to tarnish, every muscle to sag, every face to wrinkle, every sexual exploit to go sour, every sin to sting, until we have put him off too long. He wants us for himself. He wants everything but himself to grow dim in our eyes. He offers to heal our spiritual taste buds. And if you feel the slightest desire for Christ this morning, then you can know that God is doing surgery on the diseased taste buds of your soul so that you will thirst for Jesus. You may only feel a desire to thirst. That, too, is a kind of thirst for God. Do not let it die. Fan it into a flame with earnest pleadings for God’s kindling mercy. Let nothing stand in your way. There is only one condition: earnest desire for what Jesus has to give. The very last chapter of our Bibles leaves this merciful invitation ringing in our ears:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.

You need no money and no moral track record. You only need genuine desire. “Let him who desires take the water of life without price.” May God be gracious to everyone here to heal the tongues of our soul and make us taste the difference between sweet poison and living water.