By Femi Aribisala
At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood and cried out, saying: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-39).
However, no one seemed to be interested in what Jesus was offering. No one asked him for a drink of this so-called living water.
“Clarus, which water was he talking about?” “He said living water.” “What kind of water is that?” “Frankly, Gringory, I don’t know.” “Is it as good as Coca-cola?” “Actually, I think he was talking about spiritual water.” “What do you do with spiritual water? Can you serve it to your friends at a party?” “I doubt it.” “I don’t think Jerusalem is ready for that kind of water. Of what consequence is living water when what you want is Coca-Cola?”
God says: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns- broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13).
According to Jesus, there are two types of water: natural water and living water. Of the two, the prescribed choice is living water. Jesus says: “Everyone who drinks of (natural) water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). What precisely is Jesus’ living water? It is the Holy Spirit.
Christians suppose all Christians have the Holy Spirit. We presume that we receive the Holy Spirit at the point of our conversion. We declare we are born again once we answer an altar call. However, most of us fail Jesus’ litmus test because we continue to thirst. If we truly have the Holy Spirit, we would not thirst again.
But what kind of life would we have if we never thirst again? How then would we be entertained? Surely a person who does not thirst must be dead. Such a person would no longer be able to enjoy life. We want to be able to thirst but to have a constant supply of delectable drinks whenever we want them to satisfy our thirst. We want to be able to hunger but to be able to satisfy our hunger readily with lavish plates of food. Therefore, we reconfigure a more palatable construct to Jesus’ statement. We insist we have the Holy Spirit, in spite of the contradiction whereby we continue to thirst for the vainglories of this world.
We really need to sort out these contradictions with the Lord beforehand. Otherwise, he might mistakenly send us to the wrong heaven. Who wants to get to heaven and find out that it does not have the good things of life? Who wants to get to heaven only to discover he cannot enjoy sex there? Who wants to go to a Promised Land that does not have the leeks and cucumbers of Egypt? Who wants to trundle through life having to eat manna every day instead of Kentucky fried chicken? Surely, the heaven that is truly heavenly is the one where we can have our cake and eat it too.
Let no man deceive you: the life Jesus offers is the spiritual life. He came that we might have a full and enriching personal relationship with God. That is why he gives us God’s Holy Spirit as a down-payment. “But Lord Jesus, we don’t want spiritual life. We want physical and material life. We want the life of eating the best foods and drinking the best drinks. We want the life of living in the best houses, driving the best cars, and having the best jobs. We don’t want the life of carrying our cross and denying our self.”
For the children of Israel, the route to a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey turned out to be a wilderness. There was no pipe-borne water, no television, and no edikaikong soup. Therefore, they mumbled and grumbled and wanted to go back to Egypt.
Alas, many Christians are caught in similar conundrums. We have been seduced by the “prosperity gospel.” Nevertheless, we are out of pocket; unemployed, without accommodation or unmarried. Therefore, we are also mumbling and grumbling through this wilderness of life; just as the Israelites did to disastrous effect.
Esau did not value spiritual life. What is the value of spiritual life when a man is hungry? What is the value when he is horny? Esau did not value his birthright. But someone else did. Esau traded eternal life for a plate of rice. He traded eternal life for a night of passion. It was just one sexual fling, but he caught AIDS. It was just one night of illicit sex, but Bathsheba became pregnant. But much later, Esau came to appreciate his birthright. On his father’s deathbed, he sought it carefully with tears. But, alas, it was too late.
We die in sin not because we cannot obtain eternal life, but because we reject it. We don’t want it. It is costly and we don’t want to pay the price. Jesus says: “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).
One day, the Lord said to me: “Femi, I want you to stop drinking Coke and Fanta!” I have never fought the Lord with as much ferocity as I did on that one. Coke and Fanta were my favourite drinks in the world. They were non-alcoholic, non-intoxicating and relatively cheap. Why then should I have to give them up?
“Show me,” I insisted, “show me in the bible where it says a man should not drink Coke. How is it a sin to drink Coke? Why are you so determined to take everything away from me?” “What if I told you to give it up for me?” asked the Lord. “But why would you even ask such a thing of me? I thought you were my friend,” I pleaded. “I also thought you were my friend,” the Lord replied. “Okay, I will reduce the number of bottles I drink in a day.” “No, I want you to give them up completely.”
Jesus says: “My Father loves me, because I lay down my life.” (John 10:17). I am ashamed to admit it took me no less than two years to lay down this aspect of my miserable life.
One day, the Lord told me to go and pray for a boy who was paraplegic. When I got there, the mother asked me if I would like to have a drink. I asked for Fanta Chapman and when I took a sip of it, the drink bit me on the lip. (Proverbs 23:32). I know that might sound strange to you, but there is no other way of describing what happened. I knew immediately that the Holy Spirit was behind this.
I have not taken any Coke and Fanta in the last 20 years, and I will never take Coke and Fanta again as long as I live.