Because Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath to the bottom for us, we will never reach the bottom of the well of God’s goodness. He not only gives us life in Christ, but growth, health, stability, and strength. Let’s consider this idea, inspired by helpful notes from Pastor David Mathis at desiringGod.org
Three Promises for Those
Who Thirst at the Well
Isaiah 55:1 New International Version (NIV)
Invitation to the Thirsty
55 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
God’s invitation to his great banquet cuts across ethnic and socioeconomic lines — to “everyone who thirsts” — and appeals to two groups: one has money and one does not.
To those who are thirsty and impoverished (Isaiah 55:1), come to the waters. And to those spending what they have on all the wrong things (Isaiah 55:2), listen to this offer, turn from your folly, and come to the waters. One group is spiritually poor and empty, and acknowledges it. The other is pretending as if human effort and expenditures can secure lasting satisfaction. Maybe even a third group had money, spent it poorly, and now has none.
Whatever the circumstances of the summoned, the good news in this great invitation is that God offers a true banquet to the human soul — and it is provided, remarkably, without a monetary price. But there is a price to pay!
The Gospel given by God and spoken by Jesus to His audience stated you must return to God and keep his commandments. That’s the price. You must turn from your wicked ways and return to God’s Way and for some people, especially rich ones, that’s more price than they can emotionally bear.
The true Gospel was not a story about the life and times of Jesus! It was this message he said he came to deliver. It’s extremely important for you to look through your 4-gospels and search to find this because your future depends upon doing as God commands us to do!
Free of Charge, at Great Cost
God offers his feast free of charge, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Providing such rich fare is costly, and that cost, as Isaiah has foretold, will be borne by God’s Servant (take a look at Isaiah 53:4–6, 12). This banquet, with its promise to truly satisfy, comes to all who are willing to admit their poverty and powerlessness, and come humbly to receive. Some of our world’s high and mighty cannot force themselves to become humble until they see God and by then it will be too late to rewrite their life’s story!
Isaiah 53 New International Version (NIV)
4Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life[d] and be satisfied[e];
by his knowledge[f] my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,[g]
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,[h]
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Three times God beckons all who will hear, “Come.” Three times he entreats, “Listen.” He pours three promises for the thirsty: an everlasting covenant, a benevolent king, and finally himself (verses 3–5). And he compares this true satisfaction of soul he offers to the substance and sweetness of three beverages: water, milk, and wine.
Water for Life
First, God offers water, to quench the thirst of body and soul. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” He appeals to those with the most basic of human needs unmet, those dying from dehydration, to come receive the refreshment for which they pant.
For those wasting away of thirst in the desert, all they can think of is water. And so God’s offer begins with the most essential need: life. His water revives the faint. His water restores the weary. The good shepherd “leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2–3). This implies he restores both the body and the spirit that animates the body. (This is based upon my own opinion of the correct definition of this word “soul” which is certainly debated.)
When God’s long-awaited Servant arrives on the scene, he will announce that the water he gives is “living water.” Not only will he quench our body’s thirst in the moment, but “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again and thus the soul is also satisfied. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). [Women are also included in this form of English usage.]
Milk for Strength
But our Lord and God not only offers life and refreshment. He will provide nourishment and strength to carry on doing His good work. We feed babies an endless diet of milk to help them grow, to give them the nutrients needed to develop and be healthy and stable.
A hungry newborn may try to latch onto anything close enough to its mouth. In Christ, God offers to gratify the appetite for such growth and goodness. 1 Peter 2:2-3 New International Version (NIV)
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
(1 Peter 2:2–3). This Lord not only gives us life but growth, health, stability, and strength.
Wine for Joy
Third, then, is the sparkling offer of wine. Throughout the Scriptures, wine is associated with joy (1 Chronicles 12:40; Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 4:7; Isaiah 16:10; 22:13; 24:11; Jeremiah 48:33; Zechariah 10:7).
God made “wine to gladden the heart of man” (Psalm 104:15). Wine is a powerful image, an exhilarating beverage that is God’s idea — and like others of his best gifts, not without its serious and documented dangers in the hands of sinners. It’s difficult to abuse water. Some abuse milk (and cream). Many abuse wine. And yet God incurs the risk to make his point.
Wine, in all its perils and pleasantness, has something to tell us about the one who offers this feast. God’s offer of water, milk, and wine shows us not just the life he gives but the God he is. John Piper writes,
God is not just for emergencies and mountain peaks. He is teaching how to have a healthy body, a healthy family, a healthy community, a healthy society, a healthy world and finally your own grown-up spiritual life which leads to you becoming Like God!!!
When the world is finally at peace and God’s wisdom is heard and known to all the world’s people, we all will have peace, prosperity, and happy, healthy lives!
But that is not all we need in life. No matter how stoic, unemotional, phlegmatic, or casual and silly we may seem to be to others, there is a child inside of every one of us that God made for exhilaration — for shouting and singing and dancing and playing and skipping and running and jumping and laughing. . . .
God’s “living water will give us endless and ever-fresh exhilaration.
Alive, Strong, Exhilarated
When the poor and powerless incline their ear to this humbling and wonderful invitation and come, they find God is lavishly generous. He offers abundance, and his abundance demonstrates the largeness of his heart. And as he invites us to enjoy his bounty, he woos us to delight in his person.
Even now, in these difficult final years, he offers to refresh your soul. He offers to strengthen your heart in his Son. He offers to thrill your spirit in his Spirit.
Come to the only True and Living God and his Living Word to meet your physical and spiritual needs, quench your thirst, satisfy your longing and hunger, set your feet on a successful life path and make your future bright. But, understand right now, you must give yourself, your life to God. You can’t say you will and then continue attempting to control everything.
Can you imagine a marriage and the couple say, “I do” and then they don’t? She still wants to live her life apart and her way, and he still wants to be the playboy. It’s a disaster before the beginning! So, in the same way, you cannot say to God that you’ll accept His offer and then continue in your sinful ways. You must change to follow God’s Way! When you do, you’ll see that doors of better opportunity in the physical open to you, and new spiritual understandings come to you. Then, you’ll realize His promises are not empty. They are being fulfilled for you when the timing is right, and when you are ready to receive them.
“In that day
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and the hills shall flow with milk,
and all the streambeds of Judah
shall flow with water.” (Joel 3:18)
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
Children Need a Crisis of Faith
Seven Lessons from Parenting Through Doubt
Staff writer, desiringGod.org
My wife and I have five children. Our oldest two have exited childhood and are adventuring into the uncharted territory of their young adulthood. Our younger three are navigating the tricky waters of adolescence. As parents, we have the sacred, marvelous, daunting, and sometimes painful privilege of sharing in all these unique life-journeys.
As a rule, I am slow to offer parenting advice. We are still too much in the thick of it to be qualified experts. Most of the time we’re looking to receive, not dispense, counsel.
And one wonderful new source of counsel we’ve discovered is our (now) adult children. Their experiences of childhood and adolescence, and the good and not-so-good ways we parented them, are still fresh. But there’s sufficient distance for them to maturely reflect on their experiences and enough trust between us (thank you, God!) for them to share with us honestly. It’s precious and humbling when your child matures into your counselor.
Where It All Begins for Children
Recently, my wife was sharing with one of our adult children some of the spiritual wrestlings and questions of their younger siblings. Our adult child replied, “That’s where it all begins.”
This was the wise reply of one whose wisdom was hard won. They spoke from experience, having endured difficult and sometimes dark seasons of profound spiritual struggles during their own adolescence. And they discovered in these seasons what nearly all saints discover sooner or later: the Light of the world shines brightest in the darkness — in our own darkness (John 1:5). Coming to really see, savor, treasure, and trust Jesus Christ almost always begins in a crisis.
“Coming to really see, savor, treasure, and trust Jesus Christ almost always begins in a crisis.”
And this has unnerving implications for Christian parents: if our children are going to see the Light, they very likely must endure darkness. Which means we will endure it with them, and experience a powerlessness over the outcome we find hard to bear.
As parents, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to protect our children from the forces of evil and sin in the world, which we should. And we try hard to point them to the gospel so they escape the horrible slavery of their own sin, which we should. We comfort, reassure, and counsel; we admonish, reprove, and rebuke, which we should.
But all the efforts we pour into protecting and teaching our children can make us susceptible to the deception, even if we know better, that if we do our job right, our children will sail from young childhood into adulthood on untroubled seas, arriving with a robust faith in Christ. We forget that this wasn’t even Christ’s own experience in “parenting” his disciples. It was on the troubled sea, not on tranquil waters, where the disciples began to grasp what faith really means (Luke 8:22–25).
Our children may have to ride on a violent sea, one we fear will swallow them, before they really learn to fear and trust Christ. As parents, then, we must prayerfully prepare for when those sea billows roll, because it will be a scary ride for us too.
While I’m reluctant to give parenting advice, my wife and I have ridden enough waves with our children to share some lessons, not as an expert on parenting through a child’s faith crisis, but as a fellow sojourner sharing from my experience — my own faith crises, as well as my children’s.
1. Expect your child to experience a faith crisis.
Actually, do more than expect it; pray for it. By “faith crisis,” I don’t mean the loss of faith — a period of apostasy — though for some that may be what a crisis looks like. What I mean is whatever event(s) God knows is needed to call forth real faith in our child — a season or set of circumstances when they are faced with a crisis that forces them to exercise their own faith and experience for themselves that God exists and is the rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Praying for our child’s faith crisis sounds strange, I know. But if we want our child’s deepest joy, we will pray for the testing of their faith (James 1:2–4).
2. Expect your child’s crisis will be different from yours.
God has taught you to walk by faith, and not by sight, in particular ways. But it’s likely that he will deal differently with your child. They may struggle in ways and over issues and questions you haven’t. The unfamiliar may seem frightening. But it’s not unfamiliar to God.
3. Expect to feel somewhat helpless.
There comes a point when God decides to use means quite apart from us to teach our children to trust him. He doesn’t typically inform us in advance when he begins. We just rather suddenly find ourselves on the periphery of our child’s struggles, not allowed the same access or influence we used to have (or thought we had). We’re unsure where this car is going, and it’s not in our power to steer it. We must resist panicking or the urge to try to seize the wheel, both of which only tend to make things worse. Such a moment often becomes a faith crisis for us too, where we must learn to trust God with our children in whole new ways.
4. Seek to be a safe place in a crisis.
During one point of crisis, one of my children confided that they didn’t feel safe discussing with me certain theological questions they were wrestling through. Their dad was a ministry co-founder and bi-vocational pastor at our church. It felt like there was only one acceptable place to land.
“It was on the troubled sea, not on the tranquil sea, where the disciples began to grasp what faith really means.”
Since then, I have tried to share with all my children more of my own faith journey, crises and all, that brought me to where I now am. And I’m seeking to be more explicit with my children that, while I hold my theological convictions sincerely, I do not expect them to uncritically adopt them from me, or necessarily arrive quickly in adolescence where it’s taken me years, and plenty of testing, to reach.
We can’t always control whether we are perceived as a safe place to our children, but as much as possible, we must seek to be a safe place for them to discuss hard questions and to be in process without judgment. It’s not easy for an invested parent. But we must strive to be (especially) quick to hear and slow to speak.
5. Do not mistake a chapter for the story.
We must try to keep our child’s faith crisis in perspective — no matter how long. We are not God. We do not have foreknowledge. We must not assume we know how the story will end. Most biblical characters had life chapters that looked like their train was going off the rails at some point.
6. Aim for faithfulness.
We are not the authors of our children’s story. Neither are they. God is the Author. God does not call us to determine the outcome of our children’s faith. He calls us to “dwell in the land [of parenting] and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3). Our aim is to follow Jesus faithfully, speak what he gives us to say faithfully, and to love the children God gives us as well as we can, come what may.
7. Pray without ceasing.
Part of faithfulness is not to cease praying for our children to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3) and filled with the knowledge of God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and insight (Colossians 1:9).
8. Trust God.
This is the beginning and the end of parenting our children, whether on stormy waves or still waters. We want our children to reach maturity in Christ. “For this [we] toil, struggling with all [God’s] energy that he powerfully works within [us]” (Colossians 1:29). But we do not trust ultimately in our toil; we trust ultimately in God’s power. And when our children endure various crises of faith, we “wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
Where It All Begins
“Expect your child to experience a faith crisis. And expect your child’s crisis will be different from yours.”
So much more can and should be said. I’m very aware that our children’s faith crises, and what has precipitated them, and how long they last, are as varied as people and experiences vary. I know as parents these can be frightening moments because, for some, a crisis results in the rejection rather than the realization of faith. But even then, it’s not the end of the story.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the heart of faith, the one for whom God is the strength of their heart (Psalm 73:26). He is the author and perfecter of our faith — and our children’s faith (Hebrews 12:2). As the great cloud of biblical and historical witnesses remind us (Hebrews 12:1), often, when a crisis hits, that’s where it all begins.
Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight, Things Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
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