John 7:37-39 – Come and Ask for What You Need

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (New International Version)

Anyone Can Come

Let’s take Christ’s words at the end of the Jewish Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles) at face value. Jesus said that if anyone is thirsty, they could come to him and drink. This is an unconditional statement with no caveats, qualifications, or fine print to it. Jesus did not say if anyone is spiritual enough or strong enough or committed enough that then they could come to him.

The only qualifications one must have in coming to Jesus is to be needy. To be thirsty and want a drink is it, period. No interviews. No jumping through any hoops. No red tape. No having to go through one of the disciples to get to Jesus. No obstacles whatsoever. Sheer need and want gets anybody an audience with Jesus.

“Thirsty” is Christ’s simple metaphor for need. Whenever we long to have our needs met, there is always the opportunity and possibility of going to Jesus. And we know that all of us are thirsty because every single person has needs that aren’t getting met. These important and vital words of Jesus to us encourages us to admit and say to him, “I need you, Lord.”

And what is the Lord’s response to such a humble expression of need? “Please come here to me and drink till you are full.” No judgment. No condemnation. No big sighs. No snarky comments. No disappointed looks. Our confession of need accesses divine compassion and help. Who will help?

Anyone Can Receive Help through the Helper

The Holy Spirit will help. Christ ascended and gave us the Spirit. On this day before the Christian celebration of Pentecost, we are reminded that Jesus delivered on his promise to give help. There is no better assistance in all the world than having a permanent live-in guide, helper, and advocate who is continually alongside us, even in us.

Ask. Seek. Knock. That’s it. We have a popular commercial figure in my city, a lawyer, whose one-liner is, “One call. That’s all!” And help will come. All we need do is express our needs and wants. And yet, that is so awfully hard for so many people. It seems weak or selfish to come right out and say what we need and what we want. Yet, if we are to embrace any sort of Christian discipleship, straight forward asking will be involved.

Believers simply can state their needs to be breathed on by the Spirit and have their thirst satiated. If we make it more complicated than that, we lose the incredible simplicity of the gospel – that it is good news for needy people. Yet, we sometimes make it complicated by not coming out and saying what we need. Why do we do that?

Why Don’t We Come?

For many people, they have never been given permission to do so. They were never encouraged to express their needs and wants. However, it is perfectly acceptable to state what you want, and what you really need. Ask for what you want, and you may be surprised at how often you get it.

The lack of asking goes much deeper than this. Our fear of vulnerability and being judged by God (and others) prohibits us from asking for what we really want. We must come to the point of seeing that vulnerability is crucial to having our needs met. Only through being open enough to share what you need will relational connection happen. A relationship with Jesus is based on such humility and vulnerability. Without it, there is no relationship.

We also might be afraid of not getting what we ask for, so we don’t ask, at all. Or, conversely, we may be afraid of receiving our asking! On some level, it’s more comfortable to stay in a familiar situation. We think we want something different, but we’re worried about the downside of getting it. We fret and wonder about it, not trusting ourselves. So, we become paralyzed, unable to say what we really want or need.

All of this comes down to our own image of self. It’s as if we don’t believe we deserve to be treated well. But the reality is: This isn’t about whether you deserve to have something; it’s about your needing or wanting it. Plain and simple. There’s no shame being in want or need.

Some people are so used to putting others first and meeting another’s need that they become stymied by their own inability to state what they need. So, they try and feel better by meeting everyone else’s need. And when they become bitter about being emotionally depleted, when they are thirsty for someone to meet their needs, they don’t ask for help. Because they feel they can’t.

Anyone Can Ask, Seek, Knock

You can and you must. Jesus says so. We don’t always get what we want in life. But we won’t get it if we don’t ask. It’s good to focus on what you want or need in life, instead of questioning whether you’re worthy to receive it. Jesus said:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NLT)

So, what are you waiting for!?

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 – Specially Crafted by the Divine

Psalm 139 stained glass by Dutch artist Ted Felen (1931-2016)

Lord, you have examined me.
    You know me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
    Even from far away, you comprehend my plans.
You study my traveling and resting.
    You are thoroughly familiar with all my ways.
There isn’t a word on my tongue, Lord,
    that you don’t already know completely.
You surround me—front and back.
    You put your hand on me.
That kind of knowledge is too much for me;
    it’s so high above me that I can’t reach it….

You are the one who created my innermost parts;
    you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb.
I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart.
    Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.
My bones weren’t hidden from you
    when I was being put together in a secret place,
    when I was being woven together in the deep parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my embryo,
    and on your scroll every day was written that was being formed for me,
    before any one of them had yet happened.
God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!
    Their total number is countless!
If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand!
    If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you. (CEB)

It is no wonder so many people struggle with their self-image. Beautiful people reign in television and movies; the rich and powerful are highlighted in the media; and people with perfect teeth and immaculate attire are splashed in front of us in the daily barrage of advertisements. Meanwhile, the rest of us 99% of the population quickly notice we do not measure up to such a standard. You don’t have to be a people watcher to know that less than perfect bodies are the norm and that most folks do not have a budget to live like the other 1% humanity.

If we make comparisons with others too much and for too long, it gets downright depressing. Yet, into this dark abyss of one’s self-image enters the biblical truth that each one of us, no matter our station in life, was personally hand-crafted by a heavenly Being who loves us dearly. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made.

The Creator God took great care to make us and form us just so. The psalmist, David, praised God for the way we were created. The real standard from which we ought to judge ourselves is this: God knows us intimately, inside-and-out, and neither condemns us nor shames us but loves us wholly.

Psalm 139 by Dutch painter Ellen Van Randeraat, 2013

So then, rather than wasting our emotional energy and mental faculties on wishing we looked different or were more like so-and-so who seems to always have it all together, try practicing what David did: Praise God. 

Whenever we have the notion that we do not measure up to our imposed arbitrary standard, keep in mind that the only real measurement is grace. No matter who we are, the entire race of humanity has been created in the image of God, and, on that basis alone, we have inherent value, worth, and majesty. Let us, then, treat ourselves and others with the yardstick of grace.

The inner critic, that is, the inner judgmental dialogue we have with ourselves, needs to be replaced with the truth of Psalm 139. Although we might be rather hard on ourselves and say things in the reclusive parts of our minds and hearts that we would never say to others, nor tolerate others saying about someone else – God speaks to us with tender words of grace. Perhaps you think that only you know the depth of your own sorrows, hurts, fears, insecurities, and worries.  Except….

God. The Lord knows it all intimately – and is not one bit repulsed. You see, God knows that the answer to all the self-doubts is Divine care and protection. You and I have the freedom to plumb the recesses of our hearts and souls – to bring out all that is inside the cluttered closet of our minds and lay it all on the table without fear of God calling you what you call yourself.

Therefore, please do not quickly pass over the inspired words from Holy Scripture contained in today’s psalm. Take the time to carefully digest each phrase slowly so that the message becomes internalized and believed in real-time experience.

One of the theories of human psychology is that people are driven by two primary needs: 

  1. To intimately know another person.
  2. To be intimately known by another person. 

God knows us even better than we know ourselves – and still loves us! There is nothing we learn about ourselves that God does not already know. No human relationship can even come close to the level of knowing that God has for us and about us.

To know God is perhaps the greatest and highest pursuit we could ever enjoy. God is so immense and infinite that we will spend an eternity getting to know the Lord and will never get to the end of it. That is the kind of God we serve. Be encouraged today and always with the reality that you are known and can know God – and even more, loved deeply as a specially fashioned creature.

O God, thank you that I am wonderfully made in your likeness.  I praise you that I am fully accepted, even when I do not accept myself.  In Jesus Christ you have demonstrated the height of your love and mercy.  May this grace be with me every day so that I will conduct myself in a manner worthy of being part of the human family.  Amen.

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 – Known by God

known by God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you….

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (NRSV)

It is no wonder that so many people struggle with self-image today.  Beautiful people dominate the television shows and movies; the rich and powerful are highlighted in the media; and, people with perfect teeth and immaculate attire are splashed in front of us in the daily barrage of advertisements.  Meanwhile, the rest of us 99% of the population quickly notice that we do not measure up to such a standard.  It only takes a few minutes of people-watching at the local grocery store to realize that the vast majority of persons have less than perfect bodies and do not have much of a budget to live like the other less than 1% of the famous.

Into this abyss of feeling depressed about one’s image enters the biblical truth that each one of us, no matter our station in life is known and accepted by God.  The Creator God took great care to make us and form us just the way he wants us.

God knows us intimately, inside-and-out, and he does not condemn us or shame us but loves us wholly.

So, rather than wasting our emotional energy and our mental faculties on wishing we looked different or were more like so-and-so who seems to always have it all together, we can bask in the understanding that God is with us – there is no place we can go where God isn’t. The Lord is with us in our good times and bad; when we are at are best in loving others and when we are at our cranky worst; and, in our joy, as well as our anxiety. God is there for it all – no matter the state of our heart or our geographical location.

No matter who we are, the entire race of humanity has been created in the image of God, and, on that basis alone, we have inherent value, worth, and majesty.  Let us, then, treat ourselves and others with the yardstick of grace.

How do you talk to yourself?  You know what I mean.  The kind of speech that goes on inside your head.  The things which you say inside your heart that no one knows but you.  You will perhaps agree with me that you are rather hard on yourself.  In the reclusive parts of your mind, you speak to yourself in ways that you would never say to others, nor tolerate others saying about someone else.  Only you know the depth of your own sorrows, hurts, fears, insecurities, and worries.  Except….

God.  He knows it all.  He knows it all intimately.  And He is not repulsed.  God knows that the answer to all the doubts about yourself is His loving gaze upon you.

You have the freedom to plumb the recesses of your heart and soul – to bring out all that is inside the cluttered closet of your mind and heart without fear of God calling you what you call yourself.

I encourage you to slowly read, out loud, these verses for today several times.  Allow the presence of God to wash over you with grace and understanding.  One of the theories of human psychology is that people are driven by two primary needs: to intimately know another person; and, to be intimately known by another.  God knows us even better than we know ourselves – and he still loves us!  There is nothing about us that God does not already know.  No human relationship can even come close to the level of knowledge and understanding that God has for us and about us.

To know God is likely the greatest and highest pursuit we could ever enjoy.  God is so big and infinite that we will spend an eternity getting to know him and will never get to the end of knowing him completely. That is the kind of God we serve.  Be encouraged today and always with the reality that you are divinely known and can know God.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen. – Book of Common Prayer