by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

November, 2007

Water is essential to our existence. In fact, “life as we know it” is based on water. This is not surprising, since more than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with the stuff. But for people—and most animals—the majority of the Earth’s water is unusable. That’s because it’s salt water. Most living things—except for fish and some other sea creatures—need fresh water. And fresh water is far less plentiful than salt water. Only 3% of the Earth’s water is fresh water. And of that 3%, 2/3 is frozen in icecaps and glaciers.

As I write this, water shortages caused by lack of rainfall across the country are in the news. The Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to millions in southern California, has warned of cuts in supplies in the near term and rate increases beginning in 2009. The San Diego County Water Authority has already increased rates and warned of possible future mandatory restrictions. Rainfall in Los Angeles has been the lowest in the 130 years records have been kept. In Rome, Georgia, the Floyd County Water Department has imposed “Level IV Restrictions” since May, and the level in the Oostanaula River has reached a record low. And Raleigh, North Carolina’s mayor, Charles Meeker, has proposed restrictions on water use in the face of a drought.

Around the world, Jordan is one of the ten countries that is most strongly affected by water shortages. Scotland also faces potential shortages. In many states in India, water use exceeds the supply of available ground water. And in Australia, University of Adelaide Professor Mike Young has warned, “We are now borrowing from the future and it is prudent to assume that we will have to live with much less water.”

In the New Testament, water symbolizes may things. Baptism is a sign of cleansing. John the Baptist said, “‘I baptize you with water for repentance, . . .’” (Matt. 3:11a ESV). Water is also a symbol of hospitality. Jesus said, “‘And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.’” (Matt. 10:41 ESV). But it is primarily a source of life. Jesus told Nicodemus, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:5b ESV).

In Jesus’ time, there was no plumbing, either indoor or outdoor. If you wanted water, you went to a stream, river, lake, or well. One day, Jesus was sitting beside Jacob’s well when he met a Samaritan woman (John 4:5-30). He offered her “‘living water’” (John 4:10). He told her, “‘. . . whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:14 ESV). She was so compelled by Jesus’ words that she went into the nearby town of Sychar and told everyone about him (John 4:28).

John echoes this thought in Revelation:
“‘They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Rev. 7:16-17 ESV).

We live in a world of thirsty people, people who desperately need the word of God, who live in a desert of sin. These people are crying out for “good news.” They need a shepherd, who will “guide them to springs of living water,” who will wipe away their tears. We already have that shepherd. We already know the source of “living water.” If any of us saw someone who was thirsty for physical water and we had some, we’d share it with them. Like “the woman at the well,” we need to tell everyone we know about the source of “living water” and of life.

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘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.”’” (John 7:37-38 ESV.)

Copyright © 2007 by David Phelps