A WALK ALONG THE ZAMBEZI RIVER
Some years ago, my wife and I had occasion to be at a conference in Zimbabwe. On our free afternoon we took a walk along the bank of the seemingly gentle Zambezi River. Charlotte and I grew up on the Mississippi River in Memphis and New Orleans respectively, so although the Zambezi was picturesque and alluring, what with the monkeys overhead in the trees and the gentle African breeze, it seemed not to compare with the huge river of our childhood.
But then — we rounded a bend, and the air seemed to smoke and shake, and we saw with our own eyes the sight which made David Livingstone, the first European to view it, say in awe, “These are scenes so lovely they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight!” For there before us the Zambezi suddenly spread out to a mile in width and dropped 300 feet over a gorge, pouring over at a flow rate of up to 2.8 million gallons a second to become Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders, or as westerners know her, Victoria Falls, the largest sheet of falling water in the world—the ultimate Cataract! So powerful is the force of that water falling to the valley floor below that the water molecules are atomized and a vapor cloud rises up to hover over many acres, creating what amounts to a rain forest in the middle of parched surroundings, enriching and watering and providing homes and food for many living beings and organisms.
Why do I mention this in The THIRSTY Blog?
Because this word Cataract is the same word used in John’s gospel (7:37-39) when Jesus said, “If any[one] is thirsty, let [that one come] and keep on drinking, and out of [the] innermost being will flow ‘cataracts’ of living water!”
Jesus says that the only conditions to experiencing this overflowing life of the Holy Spirit are to thirst and to come to Jesus and drink. And it is the overflowing life from the inside out (not the outside in) which first meets our personal deep spiritual and emotional needs, flowing and filling through and out of us to meet the needs of a desperately thirsty world.
But as the late Howard Hendricks remarked, “You cannot impart what you do not possess.” If we personally are not experiencing this internal overflow, this cataract, how can we give it to others? Our reservoirs will be dry and we will have little substance to offer. We will find our selves simply sharing ‘helpful information’ with others because we really have no water to give them from our own experience.
So the starting point to this flowing of a spiritual Victoria Falls is our becoming thirsty enough so we will come to Him and drink. What will make us thirsty? Here are three thirst stimulants:
- Ask, Ask, Ask to be made thirsty and for Him to ‘show up”. I would urge you to read voraciously the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21. He is praying it here for other Christians, but I have derived huge benefit from praying it everyday for myself and for my personal inner world, in order that I will experience His love firsthand inside. As I have prayed this regularly for me, Jesus has shown up in powerful, existentially verifiable ways internally and externally, which only makes me thirstier for more of Him.
- Pain and difficulty. Physical pain and discomfort tend to make the body respond in such a way as to require a great deal more fluids. Emotional and spiritual pain do much the same to ramp up our longing for the water of life, Christ Himself. C.S Lewis famously said that pain is God’s megaphone. It is also our “thirst intensifier.”
- Exercise. When I work out I need to take in more water. When I get involved in reaching outside my comfort zones in ministering and serving, the same happens spiritually. Spiritual thirst ensues, and I need to take in more of Him. Nothing like taking a faith step to serve to get thirst ramped up.
One time when I was speaking to students at Kansas University, a sophomore who had just returned to school after 17 months in drug rehab gave me one of the greatest compliments of my life. After hearing me speak, he approached me to say,”I am an agnostic, but if there is a God I’d like to know Him. Most people I’ve heard speak, they talk about God. But you seem like you really know God. Can you help me?”
Ramping up our thirst and drinking deeply of Him directly will start the cataract flowing more powerfully in our lives and then to those around us, and more people will say “you seem like you really know God.”
Dan Hayes is originally from New Orleans. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Biology/Pre-Med. He then spent 27-1/2 years with Cru; and in 1996, he left Cru to begin Atlanta Community Ministries (ACM) which mobilizes Christians “out of their seats and in to the streets” to start and do ministries around their own gifts, talents, interests, and abilities. Currently, ACM consists of 25 different outreach initiatives and touches more than 30,000 distinct individuals annually in metro Atlanta.
He and his wife Charlotte, a career counselor, have been married for 44 years and have three adult children, Janie, Danny, and Cindy. You can follow him on Twitter @DanHayes14.