My wife, my mother and I were returning from a trip to Dallas a couple of weeks ago, and we began discussing John 4. The question was posed, "Why do we still thirst?" It's clear from the text of John 4 that if we drink of the water provided by Christ, we will not thirst.
John 4:1 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
11 She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?"
13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw."
It has been my experience that most Christians I know try quite to hard drink of the water Jesus claims to provide, yet they still thirst (myself included). Therein lies the problem. We try really, really hard to drink of the right water, but our very effort indicates that we are trying to drink from the wrong well.
John 4 is so rich in symbolism and meaning, it's easy to get lost in it, and it would take a whole series of posts to begin to cover it, but one point is key to the question posed (Why do we thirst?). And that point is this, we need to drink of the water that is freely given, not that we have to go and draw for ourselves.
This story of one Samaritan woman's encounter with the Jewish Messiah is a beautiful portrait of law and grace. Here we have Jesus telling a Samaritan woman that she will never be completely satisfied by drinking from Jacob's well, but only by drinking from the water that He will freely give.
How often do we retreat to drinking from Jacob's well? Probably more often we would like, and certainly more often than is necessary. It is almost incomprehensible, especially to those of us who grew up in America, that we can never satisfy our thirst by our own efforts. We instill in children from a very early age to work hard, make good grades, and do the best that they possibly can, and I will do the same with my children. But, the lesson in our constant return to Jacob's well is that we can never attain through our own efforts what we can attain through God's gift of grace.
This truth is not limited to our efforts to achieve righteousness through obedience to the law, we simply cannot. It is through the gift of grace that we are made righteous and enabled to live righteously. This principle is applicable to every aspect of our lives.
It is no different for the study of God's word. You can spend hours, days, or even years reading the Bible, commentaries, and researching and never comprehend a simple passage better than you will with a tiny drop of God's grace in revelation. I often find myself praying about scripture after several days of struggling with something, only to find that a simple prayer for God's help was all that was required. I wonder how much better my study would be if I intentionally begin by doing what I will most likely end up doing anyway.
If we all apply this principle of receiving freely before we begin doing, the doing part might get a whole lot easier and the receiving a whole lot better.