Rivers of Living Waters

By Mike Bickle

A Heart Flowing Like A River - Cultivating The Inner Life Of The Spirit

An Invitation To Experience Everlasting Life

A heart flowing with rivers of living water, as Jesus offered in John 7:37-39, is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that is an invitation to every human being, and the inheritance of every born again believer. How often do we, especially in the Western world, settle for dull, boring, lifeless Christianity? The Lord has said He has much more for us than this. This dynamic promise is not just meant to be a great saying to be used on greeting cards. It is meant to be the living reality of our daily experience. There was a time in my life when I took hold of this promise and said, "Why not me?" My prayer for and exhortation to you is, "Go for this, and don't settle for anything less!"

"Why Not Me?"

When I was around 18 years old, I was reading the testimony of one of my heroes, J. Hudson Taylor, the well-known missionary to China. Taylor was a medical doctor who spent his entire adult life in China, giving himself to the harvest there, around about the 1850's. Taylor was my first hero, and as I was reading his biographies, it struck me that the passage that changed his life was John 7:38, combined with John 4:14. He particularly said that this verse was illuminated in his heart by the Holy Spirit. That intrigued me. I had never thought of this verse being illuminated in my heart by the Holy Spirit. This intrigue grew on me for a couple of days, and I began to say to the Lord, "Why not me, Lord? I'm serious about this." This became a very important passage to me in the early days of my Christian experience, and it has remained so to this day. I began to adopt it soberly as a spiritual inheritance and destiny that I could possess in this life, not just when I die.

I admit that most of the people around me certainly didn't look like they were experiencing it, or even aiming at experiencing it. But I said, "Lord, if the human heart can walk in this why not me, and why not now?" I certainly don't claim to have walked in it in a deep way, but I do claim to have pursued it. My hope is that some of you reading this article would believe for the first time that this verse truly is your inheritance and destiny, rather than just settling for a big ministry, or even a lively, respected and growing ministry. Even if people are being mightily impacted by what you are doing, don't sell out the opportunity to have the inward experience of a flowing heart.

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A Heart That Feels His Presence

This flowing heart can be called several things. We call it a burning heart, a heart on fire. In Ezekiel 36:26, it is called a heart of flesh. We may think, who wants a fleshly heart? But this passage is referring to a tender heart, rather than a hard and stony one. The point is that it is God's desire and His will to give all of us a tender heart that feels the manifest presence of God on it on a regular basis.

Although our anchor is the Word of God, not subjective experience, and we live by faith, we do not want to settle for a life without feeling in the Spirit. We want to feel the presence of God, and I tell you, it is the will of God for the majority of your life to feel His presence. I say the majority, because there are times when He lifts His presence to test us, even though we are walking fully with Him.

However, God has so much more for us, beloved, than we are settling for. The problem with the Church today is that we are so easily satisfied. The Lord says, 'I have a 10 for you, and you took a 1, and you said thanks, but you didn't come back for more. You were too easily satisfied.' Things may be going well to a certain degree. You may feel the assurance of salvation, have a little ministry going, and every now and then feel a little spark of the Holy Spirit's touch. It feels different than it used to. But the Lord doesn't want you to settle for it being different than it used to be. He wants to give you a heart of flesh. He wants you to have a heart of tenderness, that you would feel loved by God, and feel love for Him, as the rule of life, not as the rare exception.

Receptivity to Divine Revelation

Part of this tender heart, this heart flowing like a river, is feeling loved by God and feeling love for God, and part of it is also having receptivity to Holy Spirit information. When the Holy Spirit touches your heart, He begins to give it new capacities to receive divine information. This encompasses dreams, visions, a word for someone else, the Word coming alive, or the Lord speaking to you personally, and we call this information revelation. And beloved, if feeling love and feeling loved is good, oh, the impact of receiving revelation, when God reveals God to the human spirit! This is what we were made for!

Empowered With Godly Desires

It is a supernatural work of God, this tenderness and receptivity, and there is another dimension of a flowing heart. This heart is empowered with godly desires, so that we actually begin to love the things that were distasteful to us, and hate the things that we used to love. When I was new in the Lord, in my late teens and early twenties, I was committed to be a man of prayer and fasting and the Word, and I wanted to bring Jesus to other people. I read the biographies of men who changed the world in their generation, like J. Hudson Taylor, Charles Finney, Whitefield, Wesley, Lake, and Studd, and I wanted to be like them. But I was really in a jam, because I realized the only way to be great in God was through things like prayer, fasting, Bible study, and witnessing. I didn't like Bible study or prayer at all. I hated fasting, and I was terrible at witnessing. I liked God, and I liked meetings! I had a tremendous appetite, but when it was just raw me and the Bible, it was horrible! My prayer life at that age was basically telling God how unreasonable it was to run His kingdom through prayer. I could never have imagined that I would love the things I love now. My heart yearns, and there is a groan and an ache to get back into the place of prayer. What happened to this heart? It is a supernatural work of God, and it is meant for every single believer, with no exceptions and regardless of their situation.

Initial Thirst Vs. Cultivated Thirst

Anyone who thirsts for this can have it. To thirst is to have an awakened desire. God awakens this desire, and there are two levels of thirst. God gives you the first, initial spark, called salvation, and it is a free gift. However, there is a deeper thirst that is cultivated by conscious cooperation. Because God is so desirous of intimacy with us, He gives us free downloads of initial awakened thirst quite often, and we get these little moments of inspiration, these initial jump-starts as we are going about our lives, business as usual. What the Church mostly lacks is the understanding that God is giving us awakened desire so that we will feed it, and turn it into a raging thirst for Him, a bonfire in the inner man. When we receive a little flame of inspiration from the Lord, He is saying, 'Feed it and guard it with all your heart.' Instead, what we normally do is walk away from it, and the winds blow it right out. By this I mean we live a lifestyle that puts out the flame rather than one that nurtures it. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon says to guard your heart with all diligence because it is the very issue of life itself (paraphrased). When there is a flame of awakened desire in your heart, it is the most treasured possession that you have.

In Mark 4:19, Jesus talks about how the seed of the Word of God is growing, but is choked by desires for other things. The seed being choked, and the flame going out in the heart are synonymous. We in the Western world have appetites for so many things that we don't have ravishing hunger for anything. We nibble at so many things in life, we don't have anything that is burning like a fire inside us. We are like the person who nibbles all day on junk food, and has no appetite, but is dying of malnutrition.

"Come to Me"

It's critical to note here that Jesus says we must come to Him and drink. In John 5:49, He tells the Pharisees that they were searching the Scriptures, but not coming to Him. They were not actually doing anything with the Bible that brought them into contact with the living Christ. They had a stony heart, no 'eternal life', which includes experiencing the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and so they read the Bible, spoke about the Messiah, and then murdered Jesus. They did not come to Jesus, so the Bible did not bring them into the anointing of the Holy Spirit or the purpose of God. We also must come to Jesus, and we must drink. Drinking in this passage does not imply once, but a continual action, to sustain the soaring heart, or keep the bonfire blazing. It is a strange paradox, but the more you experience of God, and the more satisfied you are by touching Him, the more thirsty you are for God.

Believe As The Scripture Has Said

Lastly, Jesus says to believe in Him as the Scripture has said as a condition for having a flowing heart. In other words, we have to believe in Him the way the Word says to believe in Him. This is the condition that trips up so many of us. Many believe in Jesus the way their church taught them, or their parents, etc. But there are four ways that I believe Jesus is emphasizing when He says to believe in Him as the Scripture has said. The first is a spirit of obedience or dedication. If there is even one area in which you refuse to obey Him, it will short-circuit your ability to experience the flowing heart. I am not speaking about a weakness you are warring against; I am speaking about an area of compromise to which you have chosen to acclimate and no longer war against. I am speaking of the areas the Lord has put His finger on, and asked for a change.

The second is a spirit of faith, or confidence in the love of God. Most people are not confident that when they come up short God's forgiveness and love restores them. Another area is the spirit of devotion. We need to have an 'I love You' in our hearts when we study the Bible. As I study a passage, I bring that very passage to God in such a way that it expands my heart in love. Finally, there is a spirit of giving, or servanthood. This is seen in Isaiah 58:10, where the Lord says if you extend your soul to others, your light will shine.

Beloved, we want to be burning and shining lamps for our generation, and even more than that, we have an offer from the living God to experience Him in such a way that rivers of living water will flow in our inner man. What are we doing with our time? What are we doing with our passions? May we all press in past the initial awakened heart, to experience the raging thirst and intense satisfaction of drinking these living waters.

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