Monday 7 January 2013


Exploring what Jesus means when He says: “Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Without water, life is not possible. In a vast inhospitable desert, an oasis springs up out of nowhere. With its date palm trees, olive groves, watering holes for camels and dwellings for man, an oasis is the perfect resting place for weary travelers.

A parallel exists in the spiritual realm. As we go through the ‘water theme’ in the early chapters of the book of John, we are reminded of that which refreshes and imparts life.

In John chapter 2, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding. Water baptism by John the Baptist in John chapter 3 marked the beginning of many new lives. Jesus shared about ‘living water’ with the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4. The pool of Bethesda was associated with healing properties in John chapter 5.

Finally, in John chapter 7, Jesus proclaimed:

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).


This invitation to drink was given at the climax of a most auspicious event, the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is free and open to all. The only condition is ‘thirst’.

  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

  • Does our soul long for God, like David, in a parched and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1)?

  • Do we thirst like a deer pants for flowing streams (Psalm 42:1)?

These rivers,  which flow from the heart of believers, refer to the Holy Spirit. The flow is powerful, steady, spontaneous and unceasing.

It is akin to the river which flowed from the temple in Ezekiel 47 and the river which flowed from the throne of God in Revelation 22. Both these eschatological rivers bring life, blessing and healing.

Can we see, with the eyes of faith, the ‘rivers of living water’ flowing out from us?

Can we visualise by faith the great things we can do in the power of the Holy Spirit?

For we merely channel the ‘rivers of living water’ from the source — the ‘fountain of living waters’, God the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 2:13).

Empowered by the Spirit, Peter preached a powerful message at Pentecost which convicted many of their sins. However, the Spirit’s power became manifest only after the disciples waited in prayer in the upper room at Jerusalem.

Of course, not all of us will become powerful preachers and miracle workers of the stature of Peter or Paul. Each believer has been endowed with different spiritual gifts as the Spirit wills. That said, we should also earnestly desire those spiritual gifts that have not yet been imparted to us:

  • “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

  • “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Besides the more dramatic gifts such as working of miracles, some believers may be given the gift of encouraging words:

  • “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4).

  • “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” (Psalm 45:1).

Whenever we feel inadequate for ministry, we need to remind ourselves of these ‘rivers of living water’ issuing from our heart, whose source is God, the Holy Spirit.

Once we are connected to this source, we will experience the empowering of the Spirit and the reality of what Jesus says in John 7:38: “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” *

Whenever we are affected by low self-esteem and a sense of inadequacy, we need to recognise the fact we all have been given a certain measure of faith, a special grace, a specific gift to fulfill the ministry God has called us into:

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching” (Romans 12:3-7).

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity), but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).


It is worth mentioning that in Old Testament times, the power of the Holy Spirit was manifest only in certain individuals such as prophets and judges. In the case of Samson, the Spirit’s power came upon him only on certain occasions. But in the end times that we are living in right now, the Holy Spirit is poured out on all believers, irrespective of social or spiritual standing. Are we not tremendously privileged and blessed?

“And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
(Joel 2:28-29)


*    Barnes' Notes on John 7:38:
Rivers- This word is used to express abundance, or a full supply. It means here that those who are Christians shall diffuse large, and liberal, and constant blessings on their fellow-men; or, as Jesus immediately explains it, that they shall be the instruments by which the Holy Spirit shall be poured down on the world.

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