We Can’t Give What We Don’t Have

In the same sense that these hills cannot make themselves green, you and I — apart from the Living Water — are bone-dry.

Jimmy Phillips

After graduating from Union College, I moved across the country to a place I’d never really heard of: Bakersfield, California. My only prior knowledge of Bakersfield came through a class discussion my senior year with my favorite professor, Chris Blake, who affectionately (or maybe not) referred to Bakersfield as “the worst city in California.”

I love Bakersfield. But having lived here for almost a decade, I can easily see why these conceptions exist. As you pass through the city on Highway 99—likely on the way to world-class entertainment, the beautiful Pacific Ocean, or a majestic mountain range—you’re met with the smell of cows, the repetitive racket of oil derricks, and basically one color: brown. Yep, brown pretty much characterizes the landscape for 11 and a half months a year.

Except for this year.

Pounding rain up and down the Golden State ended California’s historic drought. The vast amount of rain made the rolling hills of Bakersfield look like Northern Ireland.

I work in downtown Bakersfield. To get home, I have to drive about 15 miles east, ascending slightly on Highway 178, then dipping into a valley normally characterized by the aforementioned brownness. But one particular evening, as my eyes took in the lush green scenery, I couldn’t help drawing an instant parallel.

Living Water

In John 4 Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman, at the same well Jacob, the father of the children of Israel, dug hundreds of years before. Although both Jesus and the Samaritan woman were descended from Jacob’s family tree, the mere act of speaking to one another was a cultural no-no.

Yet not only does Jesus interact with her, He offers to quench her thirst forever. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (verses 13, 14).

As I drove through Highway 178, I was reminded of the power of water. The normally dry hills had been transformed into a fertile valley, simply because the heavens had opened and poured life onto the once-barren landscape.

In the same sense that these hills cannot make themselves green, you and I—apart from the Living Water—are bone-dry. No matter how much talent, knowledge, or strength we have, our ability to pour into others comes only as we allow Jesus to pour into us.

Commenting on this story, Ellen White wrote: “Every human resource and dependence will fail. The cisterns will be emptied, the pools become dry; but our Redeemer is an inexhaustible fountain. He in whom Christ dwells has within himself the fountain of blessing.”*

Do we ever find ourselves feeling empty, filled with theoretical knowledge that doesn’t fulfill the desires of our souls or allow us to share anything with others? Drink from the well of Living Water. If mere H2O can turn brown hills green, imagine what heavenly rain can do for us.

* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 187.

Jimmy Phillips is executive director of marketing for Adventist Health Bakersfield.