March 7, 2012
As humans progress through life, the outer “shell” of a person decays and weakens. Christians, however, have the opportunity to renew and strengthen their inner selves by reinforcing their personal relationships with God. One sign that a person is in need of inner renewal comes through a “thirsty soul,” Dr. Don Whitney said during a chapel message at OBU.
Whitney brought greetings to students and faculty from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he serves as senior associate dean of the School of Theology. His chapel message, “Seekers After Truth,” follows OBU’s current chapel theme, “The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship,” based on the book by Christian author A.W. Tozer.
Everyone should be thirsty because God did not make people to be content in our natural condition, Whitney told students. He explained that in one way or another, each person wants more than he or she has at the moment. The differences between people emerge through the types of thirst they experience. The three kinds of thirst Whitney described were the thirst of an empty soul, the thirst of a dry soul and the thirst of a satisfied soul.
A person with the thirst of an empty soul is a person with a soul devoid of God, Whitney said. This person is consistently in the pursuit of something to fill the “God-shaped vacuum” within their life, whether it is money, sex, hobbies, sports, education or significance. He used King Solomon in the Bible as an example, reminding students of Solomon’s inability to find anything to completely fulfill him, although he had the opportunity to obtain whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it.
“No matter how exhilarating something appears at first, no matter how satisfying it seems for a time, no matter how exciting a person appears for a time, ultimately … nothing fully and lastingly satisfies,” Whitney said.
The second kind of thirst Whitney defined is the thirst of a dry soul. Whitney clarified the difference between an empty soul and a dry soul. He said people with empty souls have never experienced the “Living Water” of God, quoting from John 4, but those with dry souls have experienced the “Living Water.” However, they are not experiencing abundant life, and, as a result, they know what they are missing.
Whitney explained that people with dry souls are not lacking the presence of God, since God is always with His people. Souls become dry for a few reasons: people “drink” too much of the world and too little of God; they experience prolonged mental or physical fatigue; or they experience a perceived “distance” between self and God. Whitney explained that although God never leaves His people, at times Christians may feel far away from Him. These moments serve to draw people closer to God.
“When you drink My water, your thirst is not destroyed forever,” Whitney quoted from John Piper’s description of God’s perception. “If it did that, would you feel any need of My water afterward? That is not My goal. I do not want self-sufficient saints. When you drink My water, it makes a spring in you. A spring satisfies thirst, not by removing the need you have for water, but by being there to give you water whenever you get thirsty.”
Whitney reassured students not to worry when they recognize they have a dry soul in need of God, because such a realization is good. A revelation of a dry soul can lead to the thirst of a satisfied soul, the third type of thirst Whitney discussed.
A satisfied soul has “tasted and seen that the Lord is good,” Whitney said. A satisfied soul is satisfied with what God provides, but constantly experiences a divine desire for more. Whitney described the circular process by quoting the founder of Harvard University, Thomas Shepard: “There is, in true grace, an infinite circle: a man by thirsting receives, and receiving, thirsts for more.”
Spiritual thirst is a blessing, Whitney concluded, because God initiated that thirst. Christians are given the privilege of enjoying God, and the thirst for Him initiates that enjoyment because God creates spiritual thirst to satisfy it with the only thing that truly satisfies –- Himself.