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Friday, March 8, 2013

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
The Water that Satisfies the Deepest Thirst

By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- Several years ago I started doing research on water and learned that there are those in the academic world who devote themselves to research and the study of various aspects of water. There are even institutes, organizations and associations involved in research and the study of water. An area I became interested in was the history of water.

Clean water, an answer to prayer

There is much speculation and there are many theories about the origin and history of water on earth. However, for those of us who believe in the authority and accuracy of the Scriptures, we can accept the fact that God created water, as He is the Creator of all things. It is fascinating to learn of the various theories of how water got here on earth. It actually takes a lot more faith to believe many of those theories about the origin and history of water, than to simply take God at His Word and accept the account of Scripture.

Water is referred to several hundred times throughout the Bible, from the first chapter of the book of Genesis through the last chapter of the book of the Revelation. There are many references in Scripture to rivers, streams and flowing or living water, as opposed to still water, which is often stagnant.

In most of the countries where Living Water International ( has worked over the years, we have often asked government officials, health professionals and community and church leaders about their greatest needs. Interestingly, if water is not the number one need mentioned, it is among the top three. The more we learn about the importance of water, the more we realize the power and the necessity of it.

Consider the earliest written record of the power of the Word of God. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters, according to Genesis 1:1-2. Then the Scriptures tell us that God spoke and said, “Let there be light.” In John 1:1, it is recorded that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Celebrating a new well at a school

In contemporary culture, when people think of the Word of God, they often think of the Bible. And, it is a fact that the Bible is God’s Word written. However, the Word of God existed in spoken form long before anything was ever written down. It is wonderful to have the Word of God in written form and to be able to read it with comprehension. However, most of the people of the world, even today, need to have the Word of God in a form which they can hear, understand, respond to and reproduce, other than in written instruction or print-based media.

The Word of God has power to transform lives, whether in written or oral form. In reality, most people throughout history who have come to Christ, have done so through a personal witness or some oral method. The Good News of Jesus was spread throughout the entire populated world in the first century, mostly by word of mouth or oral methods. Orality-based methods were the ways that the early church processed their faith and how the message spread so rapidly throughout the entire world.

While it is a great blessing to have the Scriptures available in written form and the ability to read it in our heart language, it’s always been only a minority who have had access to it, and the ability to read and comprehend it, and reproduce its message.

The water stories throughout the Bible are a great picture of God’s redemptive activity throughout history. Just as it is necessary to have physical water in order to have physical life, it is necessary to have the Living Water of Jesus in order to have spiritual and eternal life.

Clean water brings joy to many

It is encouraging and inspiring what we can learn from the traditional, relational, oral cultures of the world. Actually, the cultures in those regions of the world have more in common with the first century, biblical cultures than what is known as the more developed Western cultures of the world. The better we understand the ancient methods that people have learned and communicated for thousands of years, the more effective we can be in reaching and making disciples around the world. This is especially the case with the unreached and unengaged people groups of the world.

There are many beautiful symbols in Jesus’ teachings about water, which we see in His conversations with Nicodemus and with the Samaritan woman at the well. These two stories are filled with important truths and lessons that apply to our lives. In addition to using these stories to share the Good News of Jesus, they contain many lessons about the character of God, worship, the human condition, redemption, new life and dealing with ethnic, cultural or tribal conflict or differences. And, with the appropriate pre- and post-story reflection and discussion, we can bring out truths about salvation, transformed lives, witnessing and sharing our faith, and many other lessons and applications.

Clean water changes everything

One of my mentors explained that if one tries to understand the written Word, apart from the Living Word, you will have a book that doesn’t make sense. Furthermore, he explained that if you try to understand Jesus, apart from truths revealed in the written Word, you will have a person who doesn’t make sense. It is the Living Word of God, the Living Water, Jesus Himself who satisfies our deepest thirst. He gives us new life and restores us to true humanity. Knowing and experiencing that reality enables us to be vessels (containers) of the very life of God and channels of rivers of Living Water that can satisfy the deepest thirst of others as His life flows through us.

There are many healthy conversations taking place today among followers of Jesus about the Great Commission and disciple making. As I have interacted with Christ followers in various parts of the world over the years, I have come to realize how much our thinking is influenced by our culture and our various church traditions.

It helps and simplifies our lives when we’re able to see past our Western cultural and church traditions to the essence of our relationship with God, our life in union with Christ and the truth of the Scriptures. It seems that over the past few hundred years, church traditions have made the gospel of Jesus, and what it means to follow Him, more complicated than it needs to be.

From the story of the “Woman at the Well,” in John 4, we know that the water that Jesus gives will become within us a spring or fountain of water, springing up to eternal life. In relation to our response to the commands and promises of the Word of God, the Apostle Paul tells us that some sow, some water and some reap the harvest, but it is God who gives the increase.

The joy of a new well

What a privilege each of us has to be a part of the transformation of lives everywhere when we share the Living Water and the Living Word of the Lord Jesus with others.

It is important to keep in mind that we don’t have to depend upon our own human resources, our speaking ability or persuasive skills, but being instruments of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to be great storytellers, because we have great stories to tell. It is the Holy Spirit at work as we share the stories of Jesus and the Word of God who touches hearts and transforms lives.

God is an equal opportunity employer. He is willing to use all of us who make ourselves available to Him. He has equipped us by His indwelling life and desires to work in and through each of us to reveal Christ and advance His Kingdom. We often remind people in our Orality Training Workshops of the value of learning a little, practicing a lot, implementing immediately and telling the stories often. We also want to make sure that our message and methods are biblical, understandable and reproducible. There is power in the stories, the Word of God, so we can trust that the Holy Spirit will touch hearts and change lives as we tell the stories of Jesus.

It is exciting to have a part in bringing new life to people by helping communities acquire access to clean water. What is even more exciting, however, is seeing people come to the Lord and become followers of Jesus. A woman I had the opportunity of leading to Christ a few years ago said, “Why didn’t you come sooner? I wish I had done this many years ago.” And, when people in a community get a new water well and clean water for the first time, they often say, “This is an answer to prayer.”

In some countries, people who are identified as Christians are denied access to the community water source. LWI partners with churches in those regions to drill water wells and help with sanitation services and health and hygiene education. Then the believers freely share their clean, safe water with those who had previously denied them access to the community water supply. As a result, the people often ask, “Why are you doing this?” The generosity of the congregation removes the barriers and builds bridges for the message of Jesus.

Significant inroads are being made to unreached people groups because water opens doors and builds bridges to people who need to hear and know about Jesus. When the thirsty come to Jesus and believe in Him, He said that out of our hearts will flow rivers of Living Water, according to John, chapter 7. It is the reproducing life of the Lord Jesus, in and through each of His followers, that is bringing transformation and expanding the Kingdom of God. And, at some time in the future the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, according to Habakkuk 2:14.

Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International ( Living Water is one of the world’s leading faith-based water solutions organizations with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Having gotten involved in orality-based evangelism and disciple making strategies in the 1980s, he has been a paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and presently serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Wiles has more than 35 years experience in ministry and international mission work. He can be contacted at

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