As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God;
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
‘As The Deer’ was one of the first worship songs I heard. I remember thinking on these verses, and asking my youths, ‘Do we feel this way about God? Do we desire God?’ And in some ways, that’s how some of us do ministry, whether teaching Bible Study, leading worship, or mentoring. We want to instil that kind of deep, fiery desire; to make them want God.
But last week I saw a tweet that changed my mind a bit. It suggested this – in the physical world, people get dehydrated all the time without knowing it (which is why in the army and at kids’ camps, there are compulsory water parades). Sometimes, they even die from it. Why should we suppose that the spiritual will be any different?
If we follow that train of thought, all of us are already thirsting. Not in the sense of desire, but in the sense of need. The deer pants; it’s gasping, it’s been running for its life, maybe from a predator, and it needs water before it can take its next breath. Like the deer, we are dehydrated. And whether we admit it or not makes the difference between life and death, because Christ says –
… whoever drinks of the water I give him will never be thirsty again. (Jn 4:4)
… whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (Jn 6:35)
The goal of ministry, therefore, is not to make people feel thirst. As if we could implant the right feelings in anyone! The goal is to point to the one true source of living water, to help people see their own thirst, to lead them to behold.
I’m not sure how that will practically change my Bible Study teaching style and methods. But I am so thankful for God who ‘shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6), that we, the painfully blind, may see our thirst, and come to ‘the stream Thy flowing wounds supply’.