June / July 2017 - Vol. 92
 waterfaqll in forest
.The Holy Spirit as the Water of Life.

by Steve Clark

The first two chapters of Charismatic Spirituality: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Practice, laid a foundation for understanding what the Holy Spirit does in Christians.

The first chapter looked at the grace of Pentecost, the “new thing” (Isaiah 32) that is the basis of the new covenant. God’s purpose was to bring into being a people in covenant relationship with him, a people in his image and likeness who loved him and loved one another. As a result of the death and resurrection of Christ, he put his Spirit inside those who believed so that they could fulfill his purpose for the human race.

The second chapter looked at what the gift of the Spirit was supposed to do for us — to make us spiritual or spiritualized people. The gift of the Spirit, viewed corporately or individually, has been given to bring us to what God intended us to be.

How the Holy Spirit works inside of us
We are now going to consider how the Holy Spirit works inside of us. There are two main ways he operates. We might call them “life-mode” and “action-mode”. He gives us life, making us able to live a truly spiritual life, and he works through us to accomplish certain kinds of results. In this chapter we will consider the way he gives us life and in the next chapter we will look at the way he works through us.

This third chapter will allow us to look at the interaction between the Holy Spirit working in us and our humanity — our capacities and efforts. Devout or pious people, in their desire to emphasize what God does, often denigrate what we do after the Lord has renewed us in him. This can easily lead to the mistaken approach that some have called “hyper-spiritualism” or “super-spiritualism”. In fact, the Holy Spirit works in and through us. He transforms us and our ability to act. He does not annihilate us or replace (part of) us or bypass us. We are not supposed to be just passive spectators of our own life in the Spirit, but spiritualized people equipped to live for the Lord and serve him by the gift of the Spirit within us.

The Holy Spirit as the Water of Life

The book of Revelation ends with a vision, often referred to as the vision of the New Jerusalem. It is the vision of what the Lord is aiming at in human history, what he is seeking to bring us to. In explaining the vision, the book says,
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)
Central to this vision is the river of the water of life, which flows into and through the new Jerusalem.
The water of life comes from the throne of God and of the Lamb. On the throne we see the glory of God shining from the Lamb who is its lamp (Revelation 21:23). In other words, those who live in the city can see God’s throne in their midst and on that throne is the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, filled with divine glory, sharing in his Father’s reign over all of creation. The water of life, then, flows from the king of the universe who has died for the redemption of the human race.

The water gives life to the city, the holy city Jerusalem (21:10). We get heavenly life by being “built into” (Ephesians 5:22) a city, a community of those redeemed by the Lord. The water makes that city into a paradise, a place where the tree of life grows. The water, in other words, restores the Garden of Eden or, better, makes the new Jerusalem into a new Eden, a place where God’s original purpose for the human race is fully accomplished.

This is a picture of the end, of what will be. But in a certain way the end is already present now. We are living “in the last days”, as the scripture says, and we are already be-ginning to experience the “first installment” (Ephesians 1: 14; 2 Corinthians 5:5) of what is to be given in its fullness after the Lord Jesus comes again. The vision in Revelation, then, reveals to us what will come to pass, but also reveals to us something of what we can experience even now.

But what is the water of life?

We can find out what the water of life is by looking at a passage in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John. It is a description of something that happened at the feast of Tabernacles or Booths in the last year of Jesus’ life. During that feast each year there was a ceremony in which water from the pool of Siloam, at the foot of the mountain spur on which the original Jerusalem was built, was carried in procession to the temple and there poured out to symbolize the redemption that the Lord gives his people. In verses 37-39 we read about what Jesus said, probably right after this ceremony:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me, and let him who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
“His” in this passage probably refers to Christ. If that is so, his heart refers to the heart of Christ. The rivers of living water, then, flow out of the heart of Christ. This passage tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who is the water of life. The Holy Spirit was not given during Jesus’ lifetime, but was given when Jesus was glorified, that is, after he died, rose, and ascended to the throne of God in heaven. In other words, the water of life was poured out at Pentecost after the glorification of Jesus. It was given by him once he sat on the throne of God sharing his reign. The picture we get here corresponds closely to the one in Revelation 22, although the personal connection between the Lord Jesus and the Spirit is presented more strongly. He gives us of the Spirit that flows from him personally.

But why water? Where does water as an image of the Holy Spirit come from?

That image goes back to the prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah. We can see it in a prophecy in Isaiah 44. The prophecy concerns a future renewal of the people of Israel, and in verse 3 it says,
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground.
I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants,
and my blessing on your offspring.
Since this is Hebrew poetry, the lines are in parallelism, in this case restating in the second half of each verse what was said in the first half. The Lord is saying that he will pour out water or streams in a desert area. Those streams will be the blessing of his Spirit, which he will give to the people of Israel at a future time of restoration.

The image here is of water in a desert, probably at the time of the spring rains. The prophecy is not speaking about a sand desert like the Sahara — the picture that seems to come to mind for most people who do not live in a desert area. The prophecy is referring to a normal arid desert as is found in Judea on the eastern and southern part of the country.

I had an experience once that allowed me to see vividly what this meant. I was driving in the southern part of Arizona. We were going through normal arid desert sparsely covered with some cactus and other small desert plants, when all of a sudden we drove over a hill and there was a completely different scene. The desert was filled with plants of many kinds all in bloom. It was a glorious sight, even more so because of the contrast with the earlier desert.

We found out later that shortly before we arrived it had rained in the desert, as it does occasionally. In other words, water had been poured on the thirsty ground. The result was that the desert came to life. Seeds had been waiting in the ground for the water and once it came they grew rapidly into plants to take advantage of the moisture. It was the water that brought the dry land to life.

The water, however, did not bring dirt to life. If I had dug in that land before, all I would have seen was dirt and pebbles. But some of those pebbles were seeds. They looked dead and in a certain way they were, because they were inert, without life. But they had the potential to be brought to life by the water, and that is what happened. The water came down, and they came to life.

Equally striking was the variety of life. Had I thought about it before that experience, I would almost certainly have thought that there were only a few plants that might have lived in the desert, but it turned out that there was an abundance of different kinds. Their seeds probably would have looked fairly similar, but the water brought each one to life in accord with the nature it had. If the water touches a hibiscus seed, a hibiscus will grow from that seed, not a cactus.

This is the image we see in Isaiah. The outpouring of the Spirit is like the water that brought that desert to life. The Spirit makes the desert bloom, brings the dead to life. This is one of the prophecies that Jesus was probably referring to when he spoke of the Holy Spirit as the water of life. To say that the Spirit is the water of life is to say that he brings the blessing of life to human beings when poured out upon them.

Now we have to consider what it means to say that the Holy Spirit produces life in us.

The Spirit Gives Life

The last part of the Book of Ephesians (chapters 4–6) is an extended exhortation about how to live the Christian life, based on the truths presented in the first three chapters. The fourth chapter begins with an exhortation to live a life worthy of the Christian call, talks about how the Lord builds up the Christian community, and then talks about the new way of life that should result from redemption in Christ, encouraging the recipients of the letter to live it. In the course of this chapter, we come across the following exhortation in verses 17-20:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
This passage seems to be a simple exhortation to live well. As we read it, however, we come across an exhortation not to get drunk with wine. If we are paying attention, we might ask ourselves why all of a sudden Paul is concerned with the question of drunkenness. Is he planning on signing up the Ephesians for a temperance movement, perhaps?

In fact, he is not especially concerned with drunkenness, but rather he is making a comparison between drinking wine and being filled with the Spirit. Although the words are a little different than the ones we would use, we would speak in a similar way. We talk about people being “tanked”. We also talk about them as “under the influence”. When someone is tanked or “filled with wine”, the wine does not just go into them and sit there, as in a bottle. Rather, it enters into the blood stream and “influences” them. They talk differently, walk differently, act differently. We can tell that they have drunk a great deal by just watching them or listening to them.

Something similar happens when someone is filled with the Spirit. The Biblical word filled commonly is used to speak about a change in behavior. Some who is very angry is “filled with anger”. The anger determines how they act. In a similar way, when we are filled with the Spirit, the Holy Spirit affects our behavior. He does not just go into us and sit there as in a temple so we can worship him. Rather he “enters into our bloodstream”. He influences the way we live and act. People should be able to tell that this has happened to us by looking at us or listening to us.

The passage goes on to speak about what happens when the Holy Spirit fills us. We worship the Lord, praising and thanking him. Worship is, in fact, a special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, as we will see. But the truth has a broader application. The Holy Spirit produces holy living in us, daily life holiness. The teaching here is similar to that in the passage about the fruit of the Spirit. Both make clear that the Holy Spirit produces a new way of “walking” or living, a new kind of behavior. And he does it by working inside of us to make something possible that was not possible before.

Does this mean that when the Holy Spirit fills us we become like drunks or robots or automata? Or that we become like possessed people? Do we lose our ability to think clearly or our capacity to choose what to do? Do we become sub-human, less human? The answer most of us would intuitively and quickly make to these questions is no. The Lord does not make us less human but in a certain way more human. He brings us to life ac-cording to our nature. When we are filled with the Spirit we are made more able to under-stand what is good and to choose it. The Spirit does not make us into automata, deter-mined by God to act in certain ways whether we want to or not, but enables us to act spiritually and so more freely.

We can see something of the way this works by looking at the passage in John chapter 15 where the Lord teaches the parable of the vine. In the first half of that chapter it says,
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned…

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. …This I command you, to love one another.
This passage concerns Christ and the way he dwells in human beings, but it refers to the same reality as the Holy Spirit dwelling or abiding in us. When Christ dwells in us, he dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is here comparing himself to a vine and his disciples to the branches of that vine. Together they make up one plant, similar to the way the various members, arms, legs, etc., make up one body when they are joined with the head.

A vine produces fruit. But we could ask, whose fruit is it, the vine’s or the branch’s? The answer is both. This is not an either/or matter. The fruit is fully the vine’s fruit and fully the branch’s fruit. It makes no sense to say that the fruit is not the branch’s fruit or not the vine’s fruit.

Saying it that way, however, makes it sound like the vine and branches are equal partners. That, however, is not true. The vine does not need the branches. The branches can be cut off and the vine will do fine. It may even do better without a given branch or two. That is why we prune vines. But the branches do need the vine. If they are cut off, they die, be-cause they need to vine to stay alive. The vine is the source of their life and the source of their ability to bear fruit.

It is worth also noting that there are certain conditions for the branches, us, to stay alive and bear fruit. We have to keep his commandments. We also have to love one another, the other branches that are part of the same vine we belong to. We have, in other words, to live in community or communion with one another and obey the Lord. All of this could be summed up by saying that we need to stay connected or joined with the vine and so abide in him. To use the language of the first Pentecost, we need to keep the covenant, because that enables us to be in a living relationship with the Lord.

When God lives in us by joining us to Christ and filling us with his Spirit, he does not make us automata or even simply passive members. We are to be fruit-bearing branches and if we do not bear fruit, we will be pruned. The Spirit does not bypass us, but he enables us to do something we could not do before — to bear the fruit of the Spirit. The two passages in Ephesians 5 and John 15 together make clear — and even clearer when we add the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5 — that when the Holy Spirit produces life in us, he produces a new way of living, one that we could not produce on our own.

Now it is true that sometimes God works for us or at our request without working in and through us. When he does so, he gives us special helps. The main way, however, that he wants to work with us is by enabling us, through the spiritual life within, to live effectively as Christians. We can see the difference between God’s special help and his ordinary help by considering two examples: healing and having patience. These will show us two models of the way God works.

We can begin with prayer for healing. Suppose that we see someone sick. We might decide that we should pray for that person to get healed. Then he or she might get healed right away as the result of our prayer. This is not the same thing as what happens when a doctor heals someone. Doctors go through medical school and internship. They acquire a great deal of knowledge and skill by hard work and training. They then work at getting people healed, examining them, diagnosing their problems, prescribing remedies, possibly operating on them, checking back with them to see how their remedy has worked, and so on. When they heal someone, they make use of an acquired ability to bring about health, and they usually can tell how they did what they did.

When we pray for someone and they get healed, we are not relying on an acquired ability. Rather, we are relying on something outside of ourselves, namely, the Lord. We are asking him to do something we ourselves cannot do, and we are possibly asking him to do something that would not happen if he did not act, or might not happen for a long time. We are not completely irrelevant. If we did not pray, likely the person would not be healed, at least not now. But rather than accomplishing the healing ourselves, we are more acting like a conduit of something outside ourselves — the healing action of God. It would be appropriate and accurate to say God did this, not us.

Now let us consider patience, or courage, both fruits of the Spirit. Suppose that we are at the breakfast table, and our young son spills his milk all over us once again. How do we respond? Do we hit him because we are irritated? Do we spank him to discipline him so that he learns not to do it again? Or do we say he is too young to do better so I should just have patience and overlook it? Suppose the latter is the appropriate response. Then we need to just have patience.

At such a point, it would be nice if God would have patience for us or instead of us. It would be nice if we could “just yield to the Spirit” and relax, or “let go and let God” as the old charismatic motto had it. Of course, if we let go, we would be very likely to hit him whether that would be the best thing to do or not. Instead we need to exercise self-control or patience, sometimes with great effort. And we probably should be grateful if we have acquired the ability to do that over the years rather than constantly relying on praying to God for special emergency help because we never did grow in patience.

A number of years ago, I read a newspaper account of a man who saved a woman from rape in the subway in New York. To understand the incident, you should know that the platforms of the subway stations there are lit up where the passengers stand to board the trains, but they extend a ways into the tunnels and there they are dark. The man described how he was waiting for a train and then heard a muffled scream. He looked over and could see two figures in the shadows, one the woman and the other a very large looking man who seemed like he had a weapon. He looked around, hoping to see a policeman, but there was no one else on the platform.

He decided then that since he was the only one who could help, he had to try, even though it looked to him like he would be getting himself into some very serious trouble and perhaps killed. He looked at the scene and fear filled him. What should he have done? Respond by “letting go and letting God?” If he let go, he probably would have run the other way as quick as he could. He actually said, “I decided I had to run to help the woman, and God helped me.”

Now this is a story with a happy ending. The assailant heard him and ran away — “luckily for me” as the man telling the story said. Despite his fear, he needed to act with courage, and he did. He was apparently a Christian, because he recognized that God was at work in him in the situation. He did not, however, stand back and “let God work” or just pray. He acted with courage — and God also worked.

For many of those involved in the Charismatic Renewal, the sole model for the action of God is something like praying for healing. When we pray or just do nothing and rely on God to act, that is when God really can act. But that is only one model of how God acts, the model that emphasizes human passivity. It leaves out of consideration the fact that God often acts in and through us when we act. Sometimes he does that by strengthening us so that we develop the fruit of the Spirit, as when we patiently handle a child causing trouble. Sometimes we just do what we can, as when the man ran to help the woman, and God uses what we do to get something to happen.

This second model of how God works, his working when we are ourselves doing what we can, is the ordinary one. In God’s plan it is the more common one, because God wants to make us spiritual people, capable of handling the ordinary circumstances of life in a good way. He needs to give us special help at times. He even seems to want to give us special help at times just to show us that he is present or to make things happen that are beyond our power. But the ordinary, normal or basic help God gives to those who belong to his son is to work in them to act in a better way.

The failure to understand the difference between special helps and the basic help that God gives us can cause us to remain spiritually immature. Hebrews 5:14 tells us how spiritual maturity comes about:
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
In this passage the author is explaining why he is not going to give basic instruction (something like a Sunday school or catechism lesson) again, even though it might seem that his audience needs it. In fact his audience is mature and not like babies in their Christian life. Therefore he is saying that he will not give them teaching that is like milk for babies. He will give them the teaching that is like solid food for grown-ups.

To understand the difference between being a baby and a mature person, we can consider the example of the human arm. A newborn child has an arm at birth, and that arm is a gift of God, something the newborn baby could not have acquired by any efforts of its own any more than it could get itself born. However, the newborn child cannot do much with that arm. If we say, for instance, that human beings can use their arms to throw balls, that would be a true statement, but it would not apply to the baby.

The newborn child needs to use his arm over the years before he can throw balls. Even more, he has to train his arm if he is going to become good at throwing balls. For his arm to become the arm of an adult, even more the arm of an athlete, he needs training by practice over years.

Hebrews 5:14 gives us a criterion for what it is to be mature as a Christian. The result of Christian maturity is the ability to distinguish good from bad. In other words, those who are mature can differentiate (judge) between what is good to do and what is bad to do. We can see from the context that the passage is not just speaking about the ability to know the difference between good and bad theoretically, that is, the ability to know that patience is good and impatience bad, or perhaps the ability to give a definition of patience. Rather, he is speaking about the ability to know how to act in a good way rather than a bad way in the various situations in life that we confront (like the one his audience is confronting), an ability that we might describe as good judgment. Someone who is mature as a parent should be able to tell when to discipline a child and when to let something go and be patient because the child cannot do any better — for the most part at least.

We gain this ability by practice. Maturity in Christian living, mature Christian character, develops through practice, and “practiced” character allows us to respond to each situation in such a way that we know the difference, more or less instinctively, between what is good and bad. As a result of experience and practice, we are trained in responding well, developing good judgment as well as skill in acting well. The word trained here comes from athletics. We need to train like an athlete through much practice to have Christian maturity, not just learn about it in a book. Growth in maturity, then, involves hard work based upon a capacity God gives but that needs development.

Christian discipleship training, then, needs to follow on spiritual birth if we are going to become mature Christians, Christians who can handle the various situations in life the way they should. Failure to understand this leads to Christian immaturity. Sometimes that failure is rooted in having only one model of how God acts, the way he acts when he gives us special help, and consequently failing to acquire a formation that allows us to develop in the fruit of the Spirit, which works on a different model.

We sometimes use the word “hyperspiritualism” or “superspiritualism”. Hyperspiritualism is the problem of looking to God to bypass the human rather than transform it, and so to expect things to happen by power of the Spirit without human cooperation more often than is good. People who are suffering from hyperspiritualism miss the fact that we are supposed to be transformed by the presence of the Spirit in us and so live in a spiritualized way. We are supposed to live like human beings — think, decide, act, work and persevere — but to have our human faculties or actions formed so that they express the character of God. We should be able to handle more and more situations “like the Lord would” rather than constantly looking to God to bypass us, to handle difficult situations without us or instead of us.

Hyperspiritualism is not just a matter of overemphasis. It is a depreciation, sometimes conscious, sometimes de facto, of an aspect of the way the Spirit works. We can, in principle, maximize both the spiritual and the good human at the same time. It is not true that if something is spiritual, it does not come from human effort, anymore than it is true that if the fruit comes from the vine, it does not come from the branches. Both can work together. It is the unredeemed human, not everything human, that is incompatible with the spiritual.

There are limits to this, of course. When we want to see someone healed, we can pray and God may act without human effort. Sometimes that is the only way, or the best way, to get something to happen. Nonetheless, if that is our only model for the way God acts and we want to be spiritual people who rely upon God, we will fall into hyperspiritualism and likely become less effective as Christians. The main way God wants to work is by spiritualizing us, transforming us, so that we become the kind of people who can live and act in a spiritual way.

“Bucket Faith” and “Spring Faith”

The gospel of John gives us a picture of the kind of faith that is a response to the new life the Holy Spirit gives us — spring faith. We can read about it in the fourth chapter, verses 1-14, where Jesus has a discussion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in the land of Samaria:

Interchange 1
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her,
Give me a drink.

For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him,

How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?

For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered her,

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

Interchange 2
The woman said to him,
Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?

Jesus said to her,

Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

The passage itself gives us background. It tells us that Jesus’ disciples had gone into the nearby city to buy food, and while he was waiting for them at the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. The passage also tells us that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. That, however, is not the best translation, as we can see from the fact that the disciples had gone into the nearby Samaritan city to buy food, certainly some kind of a “dealing” with Samaritans. A better translation is Jews do not use vessels with Samaritans. Jews thought the Samaritans did not observe purity laws properly, and as a result a drinking vessel handled by a Samaritan woman was likely to be unclean and so should be avoided.

The issue, then, concerned maintaining ceremonial purity and was not a matter of simply avoiding Samaritans completely. Nor was it a matter of not speaking to women, as some authors assert to try to make the point that Jesus was more liberal than other Jews were in terms of dealing with women. It was a matter of not using a vessel that could have been made ritually impure by a Samaritan woman. Nonetheless, Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink from her bucket.

The woman responded in an unfriendly manner. She wanted to know why he was doing something he is not supposed to do. Rather than give her an answer that she could under-stand as a response to her question, Jesus said, if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

Living water is the literal translation of the phrase used. Flowing water is an alternate translation, since, in contrast to the water in a well or cistern, flowing water was described as living water because it moved. Probably the Samaritan woman understood Jesus to be speaking about flowing water, because she replied that the only water in the area was well water, water from Jacob’s well. Moreover, he could not even get that water, because he had nothing to draw with, no bucket, and the well was deep.

In using the phrase living water, of course, Jesus was making a play on words. The water Jesus had to give was flowing but also alive. It was, moreover, be the gift of God.

The woman’s reply to Jesus’ claim to have flowing (living) water to give was even more sarcastic than her first response. She was in effect saying, “How come you talk so big, when you cannot get yourself a drink of water”. She also recognized that he was implicitly making a claim that he had better water than Jacob’s well contained, and added, “The well was good enough for Jacob, how come it is not good enough for you. Are you such an important person?”

Jesus then responded to her, “I do not just give drinks of water. I give water that stays inside and will be a spring of water inside of people. Moreover that spring will make it possible for them to have eternal life.” As we can see from what he said later on in his discussion with the Samaritan woman, this spring of water refers to the presence of the Holy Spirit in those who receive him from the Lord. He is speaking about the gift of God, the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). This presence of the Holy Spirit is intended by God to be an ongoing presence in us giving us spiritual life until it brings us to where we should be — to heaven, to eternal life.

Using the image in this passage, we can distinguish between “bucket faith” and “spring faith”. Bucket faith is the kind that looks for divine faith outside of us. At times we need to look for help from God we do not have, to “get a bucket” and go after it. Spring faith relies on something we do have. It relies on the gift inside that does not go away.

To be sure, the life the Lord gives us needs to be fed at times. We need “word and sacrament” or “liturgy of the word and liturgy of the Eucharist” to use the theological phrases. We also need to have the channel cleaned out at time. We need to repent and seek forgiveness. Nonetheless, the life and strength that comes to us when we are joined to Christ is already inside of us and remains there unless something goes radically wrong.

This is where spring faith comes in. Spring faith relies on the spring of living water inside. It lives and acts in the confidence that the Holy Spirit is inside of us and is there to enlighten us and strengthen us so that we can handle the various circumstances of our life in a good Christian way.

If we are, for instance, raising a family, there are many times when we will want to get out our bucket and go for help. We may have been financially responsible, but we now need more money than we did. We may have acquired much good Christian teaching and help so that we mainly know what we need to do, but now we do not have a clue how to handle something that happened to one of our children, or cannot explain a sudden turn for the worse in their life that they will not talk about. Going to the Lord for special help may be needed.

But our family life will go much better (and probably will have less special needs) if we learn to rely upon the fact that the Lord is in us. We can handle difficulties and learn how to be a parent, if we have confidence that we can rely on the Lord at work inside of us. We are his sons and daughters, filled with his Spirit, holding a privileged position. If we live and act with that confidence, with spring faith in the gift of the Lord in us, we will see a better life and better results. Spring faith does not guarantee that everything will go well, but it makes a significant difference.

Spring faith does not always work best by “claiming God’s help in faith” whenever we need it. We do not need to claim something we already have. We need to do that when we use bucket faith to get special help. Spring faith is rather an ongoing confidence in the Lord, one that is nourished day in and day out by remembering who we are, who God is, and what our relationship with God is like — what he has already given us. Sometimes it works best when it is instinctive, when we simply act with the confidence of who we are in the Lord.

This gives us our third conclusion. Our charismatic spirituality is based upon confidence that the Holy Spirit is in us and transforms, enlightens, and strengthens us so that we can be spiritual(ized) people.

> See other articles by Steve Clark in Living Bulwark archives

This article is adapted from the book Charismatic Spirituality: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Practice, copyright © 2004 by Stephen B. Clark and published by Servant Books, a division of Saint Anthony Messenger Press. Used with permission.

Steve Clark is past president of the Sword of the Spirit and founder of The Servants of the Word.
Top image credit: photo (c) Volrab Vaclav at Bigstock.com.Waterfall in the National Park Tercino valley in the mountains Novohradske-Czech Republic
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