Unblocking the Springs

One of the vivid metaphors the Lord Jesus used to describe the abundant life is that of “rivers of living waters.” As Jesus declared,

“‘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.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

Although the Holy Spirit was “with” the disciples, at Pentecost He would be “in” them, baptizing believers into the Body of Christ (John 14:17).

Back in about 1962, when I was a boy, I went for a ride with my grandfather Young. He drove us up into the Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia. When we reached a certain spot, he shut off the car. We got out and walked over to a spring flowing from the side of a hill. We each had a refreshing drink. What a delight! Then, he filled a jug with of the fresh water for us to take home.

This reminds me of some Old Testament archeology. The people of Judah were being threatened by the invading army of Assyria (which scattered the northern tribes of Israel in 722 B.C.). As a defensive tactic,

[Hezekiah, King of Judah] “consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?’ And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside…” (Chron. 32:3-5).

Because of the arid conditions of the land, water supply was of critical importance to an invading army.

What is not recorded here is that Hezekiah’s workmen accomplished a great engineering feat. They dug a tunnel from the spring of Gihon (that supplied Jerusalem with fresh water) and routed it underground to an upper pool within the walls of the City of David. While enemy soldiers would be without water, the inhabitants of Jerusalem would have plenty to drink!

It so happens that this tunnel was rediscovered in 1880. An inscription inside it testifies of the difficulty of this project:

“It was cut in the following manner… axes, each toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, the voice of one man calling to the other was heard, showing that he was deviating to the right. When the tunnel was driven through, the excavators met man to man, axe to axe, and water flowed for 1,200 cubits [1,800′] from the spring to the reservoir. The height of the rock above the heads of the excavators was 100 cubits [150′]” [1]

Wow! Imagine the effort of these workers that went into ensuring a safe, continual water supply in Jerusalem.

The comparison to the Christian life is significant. God has taken great and successful measures to ensure the believer’s continual supply of “rivers of living water.” The Christian must have sustaining grace to live as he/she is called to live. So our Lord promises us that, “He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble'”(James 4:6).

But, alas, too often the “springs” are blocked up like in the case of the conduits outside the walls of Jerusalem. Although the Holy Spirit seals and empowers us in Christ, He is often hindered in our lives. What causes this “blockage?

1. Our springs can get blocked up by intentional sin.

Because the Spirit of God is a person, He can be grieved: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). For example, if the Christian husband treats his wife unkindly, his prayers will be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7). (It’s safe to assume that the need for consideration applies to the wife also.) Likewise, as the Spirit prompts us to do His will, we are to cooperate with Him, lest He be quenched: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:16-19). Confessing known sin in repentance restores unhindered communion with our Source of grace (1 John 1:9; Rev.2:5). [2]

2. Our springs can get blocked up through unbelief.

How easy it is to view God, others, and ourselves through the lens of circumstances, feelings, and opinions. Instead, we need to renew our minds with God’s Word. Rather than regarding ourselves “according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16), we are to view ourselves as being in Christ. This glorious position has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Him (Eph. 1:3) As a believer you are God’s child, a new creation, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and a saint! (John 1:12; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Cor. 1:2). As we take God’s Word for it and walk by faith, our values, attitudes, words, and actions will tend to reflect our spiritual identity.

Ruth Paxson wrote of the significance of our position in Christ:

“To be ‘in Christ’ is to share what Christ has. All that Christ possesses we possess. Every spiritual blessing in Him–joy, peace, victory, power, holiness–is ours here and now. If we are a child of God, then we are His heir and a joint-heir with Christ, so that all the Father had given His Son, the Son shares with us… Do you believe you are a spiritual millionaire? Are you living like one? … Most of us live like spiritual paupers … To be a Christian is to have Christ the Life of our minds, hearts, and wills so that it is He who thinks through our minds, loves through our hearts, and wills through our wills. It is to have Christ filling our life in ever-increasing measure until we have no life apart from Him. Does He so fill you?” [3]

The indwelling Christ is our spring of spiritual life!

3. Our springs can get blocked up due to prayerlessness.

Since Christ lives in us and He modeled the life of spiritual fullness, we should value His example. Jesus totally depended on the Father to live in and though Him; likewise we are to totally depend on Christ, by the Holy Spirit, to live His life through us (John 5:19; Gal. 2:20).

As the perfect man, the Lord Jesus demonstrated the way prayer expresses complete trust and unhindered communion with the Father. For example, Christ prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21), before choosing the twelve apostles (all night intercession–Luke 6:12), when the crowd tried to force Him to be a political king (John 6:15), the night before Calvary (Matt. 26:36-46; John 17:1-26), and even on the Cross (Luke 23:34,46). If the sinless Son of God needed ongoing verbal communication with the Father, how much more are we in need of being “online” spiritually! As Paul instructed us to, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

When the Lord convicts us of “blockages” to the springs of His grace, we are to take these issues to the Cross, then we will continue to find God’s supply of living waters more than adequate for the difficulties of life.

Ruth Paxson gave this example of trusting Christ as our source of Life:

“For several weeks I lived in a boarding house kept by a little woman who weighed only eighty-five pounds. She was kept from falling into a heap by a brace worn at her back. She had lived on the third floor for two years with no outlook but the blue sky above and a patch of green grass a few feet square below. But her eyes shone like stars. Upon her face was a smile that the affliction and adversity she suffered could not remove, and mirrored in her countenance was a radiance that one never sees on land or sea except where the Light of the world dwells in undimmed brightness. Christ was the Life of her life.” [4]

Of Mt. Zion’s dignity it is written, “Both the singers and the players on instruments say, ‘all my springs are in you'” (Psalm 87:7). How much more can the one indwelt by the Holy Spirit find continual resources of grace.

“He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).

Are “all your springs” in God? Then, live as a vessel of living water by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).


[1] The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Siloam.” (cubit=about 18 inches)

[2] 1 John 1:9 is descriptive of the true believer who acknowledges willful sin as he/she repents. This confession is not a request for pardon; that has been accomplished once for all at salvation, based on the finished work of Christ (Heb. 10:10; Col. 2:13,14). For a more detailed study, see “The Christian’s Confession of Sin” at GraceNotebook.com.

[3] Ruth Paxson, Rivers of Living Water, p. 63-65.

[4] Ibid., p. 69.

Copyright, 2000 by John B. Woodward (2nd edition). Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.


Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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