Perseverance in God-Centered Missions

Desiring God Community Church | Charlotte


The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Before we go to Isaiah 12:3–5, I want to give you another verse and to make it the banner over the celebration of the tenth anniversary of Desiring God Community Church. This came to me yesterday, and I think that it is fitting given the way that the church started in 2002 and then the way that I heard testimonies being given yesterday.

He who goes out weeping,
   bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
   bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:6)

Farmers get this. It’s springtime, sowing time. You must sow, but you are weeping. The family is about to blow to smithereens. Perhaps marriage is painful. The children are not where you want them to be. The health is not where it needs to be, and if you don’t sow your seeds, you don’t eat. So, you sow.

He who goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing — fall will come. The rains will intervene. God will do his work. And the crops will come up, and you will get them, and the sheaves will be brought home, and you will shout for joy. That’s ministry.

Sow Through Woe

I had plenty of reasons to weep in 2002 when I preached “Planting a Passion for God.” It was not the highest season for me, for my family, for the four boys we were raising. The church was full, and we didn’t know what to do. That’s another aspect of ministry: you don’t know what to do. You don’t know how to manage God’s blessing or manage the seeming lack of blessing. You just try to do the next thing.

“One of the greatest dangers for missionaries, pastors, and Christians is drying up and dying.”

Not everyone sees the weeping, and the seeds still have to be sown, so there the sermon went. I had no expectation that anything would happen in Charlotte because of that sermon. I was shooting for Minneapolis, as far as my bow would reach.

And lo and behold, some young women heard it and got a few ideas, because they knew that Billy Graham was sending some folks down to Charlotte from Minneapolis. And Cody, who was far away in Cameroon, heard it later. Here we are ten years later, bringing our sheaves home in joy.

Wherever you are in your sowing and tears — it’s okay. Just know that the farmer must not stay in bed. He cannot yield. Whether you’re a pastor-farmer, a farmer-farmer, a lawyer-farmer, a homemaker-farmer — you cannot yield to the temptation just to quit. You have seeds in your pockets. You know the next thing to do. Just do the next thing.

Remaining Steadfast

The aim of this message is to help you persevere or survive and thrive in missions. I have several layers of intention for this message. I want to address missionary perseverance and missionary speaking, and then I want to address all of us, senders or goers, speakers where we are, persevering in what we do in this city and beyond. Here is the text that we’ll look at.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
      call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
      proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
      let this be made known in all the earth.” (Isaiah 12:3–5)

At one level, I think this text is about the perseverance and the preaching of missionaries. At another level, it’s about the perseverance and the speaking of all of you — to any representative of the true God, the Father of Jesus Christ. This text has something amazing to say to you about your thriving and surviving and your ministry — about your life.

How does a missionary or a mission-driven church or a missions-loving saint last? How do you get from one day to the next, from age sixty and seventy and eighty, until you’re home? How do you keep giving and giving and giving? Because if you’re a Christian, you’re going to bleed.

Some will take advantage of you and some will just need you. And if you’re a need-meeter, which is what Christians are — we love to meet real needs — how do you do that? How do you have the resources to just keep on giving and giving and giving until you’re at home?

Perseverance for All

Why am I talking to a group of people, most of whom will not be missionaries, about a mission text? There are three reasons.

  1. When you hold up a vision of how God helps missionaries, along with what missionaries are called to do, and say, “That’s how God calls people to do it,” something happens to people. They’re drawn to missions, and they can’t stop it. That’s the way that God calls people, and I want that to happen to a few of you.

  2. The way that missionaries persevere and the way that all people persevere are the same. We are all strengthened in the same way. And we all speak the same truth.

  3. You live in Charlotte and are tested with the same kind of demonic and carnal temptations that missionaries face. It is not any easier to be a Christian in America than it is to be a Christian living among unreached people group. It, in fact, might be harder in some ways for you.

So even though this text first struck me as a wonderfully missionary text, it is for all of us. So let’s talk first about the persevering part, then the preaching part, or the thriving and surviving part, and then the speaking part.

We Own the Old Testament

Every time I preach from the Old Testament, I feel like I need a sermon just to account for why I’m preaching the Old Testament. You might be thinking, “Isn’t that written for Israel? We’re not Israel. How do you know that you can apply a promise like this to us? I mean, you’re reading this text like it was just written yesterday for us. Goodness gracious, it was written almost three thousand years ago to the Jews. So, how can you do that?” That needs a sermon, but I’ll give it to you in a minute.

“I have been saved. I am being saved. I will be saved at the last day.”

Look at 2 Corinthians 1:20: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” Think of all the things that God said to his people in the Old Testament. If you’re in the Messiah, whose name is Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the line of the Old Testament promises — if you’re in him by faith, then you inherit all the things that God promised to Jews in the Old Testament.

It’s okay to have the Old Testament in your Bible. The Old Testament is our book. It is also the Jewish book, the Tanakh, but Christians are right to put the New Testament onto the back of it. Christians are right to put it all under one cover and to own it for ourselves. I have zero hesitation proclaiming, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” to you — Christian or Jew. Gentiles, the Old Testament is yours. Okay? That’s the end of the sermon on why I’m preaching from Isaiah 12.

Peering Leads to Perseverance

Now to Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” I think this is the key to perseverance in the missionary life or in any life. One of the greatest dangers for missionaries, pastors, and Christians is drying up and dying. Losing all interest, losing all hope. Not having any care, any desire, and any joy in God or Christ or salvation or the church or the word anymore. It’s just all blank. That’s dangerous and scary when that starts to happen in a saint’s life.

And here we are told to drink water from the wells of salvation. Electric cords that are meant to keep lights on should stay plugged in. Hose pipes that are meant to water the lawn and to give life to the grass should stay screwed into the faucet. Trees that are meant to bear fruit should stay planted in nourishing soil by streams of water. That’s what makes them work.

And Christians should drink water from the wells of salvation. Ponder the wells with me for a little while.

We Need Salvation Every Day

Sometimes we are prone to think of salvation as a point in the past when we repented of our sins, turned to Jesus Christ, embraced him as our savior, and experienced the forgiveness of our sins and the removal of our guilt and the gift of eternal life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That was and still is salvation. That’s absolutely right.

It’s just not the whole picture, is it? It’s true that the Bible uses the word saved for what happened to you in the past: “By grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5). You have. It’s over. Done. Fixed. Sure. Never be taken away.

But now look at 1 Corinthians 1:18: “To us who are being saved it is the power of God.” It was past, but even now I am still being saved. Romans 13:11 confirms as much: “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” I don’t have salvation yet — at least, in full.

Step back from those three passages and say, “I was saved. I have been saved. I am being saved. I will be saved at the last day. It will be completed. There’s so much about me right now that’s not saved. I’m a sinner still. I’m a lousy husband and father and imperfect pastor. Everything about me needs saving.”

Therefore, God has made provision to get us home and to finish his work. We have enemies in our lives, and they are on our case. The devil is on our case; my own flesh is on my case. I have enemies on every side trying to undo me and to destroy me, and I must keep on being rescued, being saved. I call upon God for help every day with every kind of temptation. Every kind of drifting, every kind of backsliding. I‘m asking, “Save me, save me, save me.“

And I don’t mean, “Justify me.” That’s finished. That’s appointed. He already forgave my sins (Colossians 1:13–14). Everything has been paid for on the cross, but the daily application of salvation is still so needed.

Why So Many Wells?

That’s why I think the word wells is plural in Isaiah 12:3. Would you have expected him to say “wells”? When I read it, I thought, “Is there not just a well of salvation? Isn’t there just one place to be saved?”

Surely the answer is something like this: If you’ve got to get from Egypt to the Promised Land, you need more than one well. A well in Egypt and a well in Canaan won’t get you there. You’re going to die in the wilderness. There have to be wells in your life.

The reason that it is plural is because you need to drink there a lot, in a lot of different places, at a lot of different times. The wells are as frequent and as widespread as your willingness to meet with God. Any time and any place that you lift up your heart to God to drink from him — there’s a well there.

His Rivers Rush to Delight

Remember, Isaiah 12:3 says that these are wells of salvation. Now I’m adding that God is your salvation. Why do I say that? I say it because of Isaiah 12:2:

Behold, God is my salvation;
   I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
   and he has become my salvation.

So what happens when you drink at a well of salvation? It means that you turn to God and you drink from the river of his strength, the river of his delights, the river of his hope, the river of his promises. You drink, and you can do that anywhere. There are as many wells in your life as there are points of willingness to turn to God and to drink. He will be found by you. He is not far from any of us.

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel:
   “Seek me and live.” (Amos 5:4)

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:12–14)

He’s never far from his people. You may feel distant; that’s only because you haven’t yet turned to cry out, “Help me now! I am very thirsty. If I don’t get a drink from you, God, I may not make it through this day — let alone to Canaan, the Promised Land with the milk and the honey. I’m going to die right here in the wilderness with all these scorpions if there’s no oasis today.”

The reason that wells is plural in Isaiah 12:3 is that they’re everywhere. And you need them. They are as near as your willingness to turn to him for help.

His Water Falls to Guide

Here’s another implication. How do you experience God’s guidance throughout your life? You’re starting in Egypt, and you have just had that decisive deliverance at the Red Sea. Let’s just say that’s your first experience of God, in rescuing you from sin and forgiving you and making you his own. And now you have twenty, fifty, sixty, seventy years to get to Canaan. To get home. How do you experience his guidance and not just his nourishment?

“God began to rumble in my soul with the word of God. You read, and your heart burns.”

One answer is that you follow the oasis. I used to say to people, “Just stay under the waterfall of grace, of sweet fellowship with Jesus. And if it moves, go there! If the outpouring of the blessing from God on your life, to keep you close to himself, is shifting to another place, go there.

If it means changing your job, change it. If it means leaving your country, leave it. If it means changing your school, change it. God is over there, and he’s beckoning me, saying, “Get under my waterfall. It’s my blessing for you — I’m not talking about anyone else. Don’t point your finger at anyone else when you make this move, because his waterfall might be right where you were.” You just follow the waterfall or the oasis.

Are You Maximizing Your Joy?

It sounds subjective. I don’t mean to dislodge you from the word of God, because that’s the instrument through which the water comes. But ask yourself: is your goal in life to move through the wilderness of North Carolina — or whatever mission field you might be a part of — so that you are constantly experiencing maximum joy under God’s smile?

Is that your goal? That’s mine, and it makes a lot of choices for me. I know there are television shows that strip me of that. Noël and I were watching a couple, and during the third one, I said, “Noël, I don’t think we can finish this series. It’s just gotten too risqué. You may be able to handle this, but not me. My soul, my sweet fellowship with Jesus, is being threatened.”

Now, there are so many people who do not shoot for that. They don’t care. They’re just going to watch it, because the titillation is strong. It feels good. They think, “I’m going to go to that movie, and I’m going to do that stuff.” They’re not thinking, “How do I maximize God in my life? How do I maximize joy in Jesus in my life?” If you make that your goal, thinking, “I’m staying under the waterfall of maximum blessing from God,” you’ll find that a lot of choices are made for you.

Wells Should Wow Us

Notice another thing about the word wells. Isaiah 12:3 doesn’t say, “You will drink water from the buckets of salvation.” It doesn’t say, “You will drink water from the bowls of salvation.” It says, “You will drink water from the wells of salvation.” Is there any significance in that?

I was talking to Cody, who I mentioned before, and was commenting on his neighborhood — about how many trees there were, how much forest, how all the houses seemed to be surrounded by woods. And he said that it’s because every house used to have a well, back before water came from the city. I thought, “That’s interesting. Every house in Charlotte has a well.”

I’m renting a house right now, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and it has a well. Every time I turn the water on, I say, “This is absolutely amazing! This is coming out of the ground?” I’ve been living in Minneapolis, where the water comes from the stinking Mississippi River and has to be treated with a zillion chemicals to make it drinkable. But in Knoxville, I can just turn the water on and take a shower. I think, “This is coming out of the ground? How much is down there?”

“God means to have his Son exalted among all the peoples. That’s missions.”

Before I cut my finger, Noël had planned for us to take a little trip out to the Lost Sea, which is near Knoxville. It’s the biggest underground lake in America. To get to it, you go three-fourths of a mile underground, and you get on a boat. You float out onto the lake, underground, for about half of a mile. That’s a lot of water.

The point is, wells don’t run dry for centuries. You might drink a bowl and say, “I need more.” And there isn’t anymore. When you have a well of salvation, the implication is that it’s inexhaustible. You turn it on, it just keeps coming. You can stay at that well all day long. I recommended that you set apart one or two days a year where you do stay there all day long. Have you ever done that? Have you ever taken a retreat with Jesus to read fifty chapters of the Bible? Give yourself a chance to test the well.

Lingering in the Word

Wesley Duewel wrote two books on prayer that moved me deeply, years ago, and he talked about taking retreats with Jesus in which he had to read fifty chapters of the Bible just to get ready to pray. I was so convicted.

What he meant is that the world is just so much with us. The radio is with us, the internet is with us, television is with us, movies are with us, and magazines are with us, and none of them are telling us to pray or are making prayer look attractive at all.

How does it start feeling attractive? Get near God. How do you get near God? You get in his word. And you’ll only spend five minutes or ten minutes there if you don’t plan. Every now and then, do some extraordinary lingering at an oasis where there’s a well of salvation — namely, a well of God.

What We Speak Once We Drink

Now, let’s turn from the persevering part, the thriving part, the drinking part, to what you say when you drink. This is probably what grabbed me the most about this text. What do you say when you drink? What happens when a tired and thirsty person draws up from the well of salvation and drinks and bows down? What you say comes from Isaiah 12:3–4:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day. . .

Just stop right there. Do you have that experience? Here’s what I mean. I was a pastor for thirty-three years, and now I’m not. One of the reasons I became a pastor is because of a particular kind of experience. I don’t know how many people have it. I think most pastors have it, and lots of laypeople have it. I was about twenty years old when it started to happen to me.

Reading Brings Rumbling

This is the experience. God began to rumble in my soul with the word of God. You read, and your heart burns. It happened almost every time that I would stoop by that well and drink deeply. Before I was done being satisfied, I was thinking of ways to commend the well. My mind was creating sermons. My mind was creating lessons. My mind was creating devotions. Today, I was creating tweets.

Before I’m done, I’m thinking, “How can I say this? I want to say this.” I think that’s evidence of a call on your life. A call to speak. It doesn’t have to be as a pastor. It could be as an evangelist, and it could be just as a remarkably effective witness at work.

Saying Is Part of the Satisfaction

So when I read these verses — “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say. . .” — I say, “Yes! That’s right! That’s what happens! I want to say what I’m seeing in the text. I don’t have the full joy and effect of it until I’m saying it. It’s coming in and going out like this.”

“To drink is to go to God and to feed on his power.”

And its’s still true for me, even though I stopped being a pastor at Bethlehem a bunch of months ago. As I was getting ready this morning, I thought, “This is the first time that I’m getting to do this again, and it feels really good. Because when you drink water from the wells of salvation, you will say — and the saying for the soul that is drinking completes the joy of the drinking.

It does. At least, for me it does. And it seems that there is a correlation between the drinking and the saying. So I have four things to say about the speaking that comes from the drinking.

1. The speaking focuses on missions.

It is a missionary speaking in Isaiah 12:3–4, so let’s read all of it.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
      call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
      proclaim that his name is exalted.”

There are two things going on here. There’s a kind of evangelization going on, in that you’re calling people to know the Lord, to give thanks to the Lord, and then there’s mobilization going on there, in that you seem to be saying to the very people of God, “Make known his deeds among the peoples.”

It’s missionary evangelization and mobilization of speaking. They’re speaking to those who need to give thanks, and they’re speaking to those who are giving thanks, telling them that they need to declare the deeds that are making them give thanks to the peoples.

Many Peoples, One Fountain

There’s something deeply wrong when you can drink, day after day, or hour after hour, at the wells of salvation and still feel no impulse rising, isn’t there? The peoples need this water. Can you drink and drink and drink and drink, and then watch the news about Syria or look at friends in Lebanon without feeling a rising up in your heart?

They’re trying to clear all the Americans out of Lebanon right now, so I’m wondering if they’re going to stay, those who are ministering to Syrian refugees. There are millions of refugees in Lebanon right now because of Syria. Syria is just one big, horrible tragedy right now. And of course, they’re mainly Muslim, with a little teeny Christian community there from centuries ago. They’re terribly threatened, by both regimes. There’s nothing we can do right in Syria, that I know. Everything seems to be ending in a mess.

Missionaries Find a Way

But all I’m saying is, How can you look at the news from Pakistan to Tunisia or just read Operation World and soak in your Bible and come up from drinking at the wells of salvation and not feel a rising in your heart? Declare among the peoples what you’ve seen, or tell others to declare, or fund what will be declared, or find some way make it happen. Be a part of making it happen.

Test your soul. Something is wrong if you’re enjoying God and his word, day in and day out, and there is nothing rising up in you.

Give thanks to the Lord,
      call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
      proclaim that his name is exalted. (Isaiah 12:4)

So, the first thing to say about the speaking is that it’s a missionary evangelization and mobilization kind of speaking.

2. The speaking focuses on peoples, not just people.

“Peoples” — with an s. I never put an s on the end of people until 1983. I had a missionary revolution in my life, and it revolved around putting an s on the end of people.

When I began to do it, little children would come up to me and say, “Is that a word? Is peoples a word?” If you don’t know that it is a word, then I haven’t been a pastor yet. I haven’t done my job. I haven’t made missions understandable in this church. I haven’t been faithful to the Bible.

Who Are the Peoples?

What do I mean? What I mean by peoples, what I think Isaiah and God meant by peoples, is what we find in Revelation 5:9:

Worthy are you to take the scroll
   and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
   from every tribe and people and nation.

Now, if you try carefully to distinguish those four things — tribe, language, people, nation — you can’t do it. They’re just so interwoven.

The point is that peoples is all those human groupings that are out there. Those language groupings, those cultural groupings, those ethnic and racial groupings. All those groupings. Missiologists count them in different ways, from eleven thousand to seventeen thousand of them around the world. This is not Germany, England, America, and Argentina. This is Cherokee, Ojibwa, Fulani, and Berber.

That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about peoples that are defined by some kind of cultural, ethnic, linguistic reality that has an integrity in-and-of-itself. It’s a reality that’s a little bit distinct from those around them, and they need the church. They need the gospel, and the Bible says that God means to have his Son exalted among all the peoples. That’s missions.

Taking the Cross Across Cultures

It has to cross from one of those groups to another, and it can happen in Charlotte. I don’t know the refugee situation in North Carolina or the multiplicity of those who come from the nations to you. I know that international students are a big deal in my hometown, and fifty thousand Somalis have come to Minneapolis in the last fifteen years or so. Almost all of them are Muslim, with a handful of Christians.

You don’t have to cross an ocean in order to be a missionary. A missionary, in my definition, is a culture crosser, a language crosser, who works to plant a church in a people group that doesn’t have one yet. That’s missions.

Commissioned to the Peoples

And so the speaking of drinking is about peoples. This means, by the way, that if the Great Commission says to go and to disciple the nations, and the nations are the peoples, then the Great Commission is finish-able (Matthew 28:16–20).

Have you ever thought about that? If you think of missionary goals only in terms of saving individuals, then the Great Commandment is not finish-able. It will never be finish-able, because there will always be people that are not reached. They’re being born every minute.

“You always praise what you prize. Always.”

But if you think of a limited number of peoples, and there is a limited number of peoples, it is conceivable that the church will one day — and I pray, within a generation — reach all the peoples. It could happen. The International Mission Board, where I get most of my numbers, has the numbers up from the unreached, from the unengaged, from the unengaged with one hundred thousand people or more. They’re thinking and praying with all the other mission agencies and churches that are mission-minded to target these people and to get an army of believers to them. This is doable today. This is finish-able today.

And that’s a very hope-giving thing. It gives you something to rally toward, to buy that book Operation World, that has all the peoples and all the countries in the world, and to begin to pray intensely that God will finish this work.

3. The speaking exalts God.

The speaking that comes out of your mouth, once you lift your face out of the spring of God’s faithfulness and have drank of him, the wells of salvation, is a God-exalting speaking:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
      call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
      proclaim that his name is exalted. (Isaiah 12:4)

Why is this? Why does drinking from the wells of salvation produce God-exalting speech? It’s because the salvation is God. God has become your salvation, so to drink is to go to God and to feed on his power. Feed on his wisdom. Feed on his grace. Feed on his kindness, patience, and mercy. Everything. He’s strong. He’s wonderful. He’s beautiful. That’s God-exalting talk.

Thirsty for Joy

There is a very profound truth behind this, one that I’ve given my life to, called Christian Hedonism. It goes like this: God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. God is most glorified when you’re most satisfied. Do you see it? You’re thirsty.

A man in the congregation named Fred said that I‘m a happy pastor. Actually, I’m a pastor who really wants to be happy. You can ask my wife, “Is this the happiest pastor you’ve ever known?” She’d say, “I don’t think so.” In the pulpit, I always look happy.

So, let’s be honest here. My book is entitled Desiring God — not, Having Arrived at Being Happy with God. Here I am, day after day, one factory of desires. My heart says, “I want, I want, I want, I want, I want.”

Now, I can either go for sin or God, because I’m a wanter. If I put my face down in the pool of God’s grace and say, “That’s good,” what am I doing? What is that? That’s worship. That’s good. When you’re satisfied, it goes up. He gets glorified. It can’t be any other way. You always praise what you prize. Always.

It’s like when you’re eating your favorite Blizzard. I just think of it because I don’t eat Blizzards except once a year, on my birthday, and then I get the biggest one I can get, and it’s always a Butterfinger Blizzard. I couldn’t say enough positive things about Butterfinger Blizzards for the next half hour. Then I wait a year and have another one.

How to Pray When You Feel No Thirst

A lot of you are thinking, “I just don’t relate to God that way. I don’t feel anything like that when I read my Bible.” And I’m so sorry. I was talking with a couple of guys last night about that. If I took the time to spend an hour after this, which I’m willing to do, you’d tell me that. Lots of you would. You’d come up and say, “How do you get that?“

And I will pray that God will quicken the taste buds of your soul; that he will carve away the calluses of worldliness that have grown up around your soul; that when you drink from the wells of salvation through the word of God, in order to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” that there will well up in you affections for him that have been long dead (Psalm 34:8).

“The source of all perseverance comes from drinking at the wells of salvation.”

And I want to be really careful here. I know that we have different personalities. I’m not telling everyone that they have to be like me. I know lots of you grew up in homes where you were beaten down by your parents, where you never saw them sing or laugh. Maybe they never said one positive word about you at all, and they were purely strict, duty-driven people that tried to keep you out of trouble. Therefore you have never had a high affection for anything. You don’t have affections. Emotionally, you died a long time ago.

I’m so aware that that’s a reality, and I don’t want to beat you up or to condemn you. I just want to say that God will take you right there. You just turn to him and start drinking and ask him to give you whatever measure of affection for him that you’re able to have.

And we’re just all different. We just are. When I was looking at the choir, some people had their hands up over and over and over again. Now, I looked at the rest of the congregation, and they didn’t. Now, what am I supposed to make of that? “They’re all dead, but she’s alive.” Wrong! Wrong. I’m warning you so that, as I’m pleading with you to experience affections for God, you won’t believe that I’m ruling you out of the kingdom if emotions are hard for you.

4. The speaking produces worship.

When you drink, you will say, “Sing praises to the Lord” (Isaiah 512:5). When you come to the Bible, or to the well, you don’t come mainly to analyze the water. You don’t come mainly to develop a lecture about the water. You come to drink the water.

You come to drink when you’re thirsty. You’ve used a weed eater all morning in the hot sun, you’ve sweated out a bucket of sweat, and you haven’t paused to rest. You come into the house, put your glass under the faucet, put some ice cubes in it, wait just a minute, and look at it. There’s nothing chemical going on here at all. You just know: “This is going to be good. This is going to feel good, all the way down.” That’s the way you should go to your Bible.

And then when you come up, you come up with a song, a commending song. We’re after ourselves, after our own satisfaction in Jesus, and we’re after a song in other people. A song from the heart. You don’t want duty songs. That’s a contradiction, right? That’s an oxymoron: “I’m supposed to sing, so I guess I’ll sing. I don’t want to sing, but I’ll sing, because everybody’s singing.” This is not what we want. We want songs — songs from hearts that are satisfied in God.

The speaking that comes from drinking at the wells of salvation is worship-producing and worship-commending speaking. Missions exist because worship doesn’t, so you can see how missions flows from this kind of experience with God.

Drink Deeply and Say Sweetly

The source of all perseverance — the source of lasting, of going long, of being able to give and give and give as a mom or dad or pastor or employee, of being able to give as a Christian — comes from drinking at the wells of salvation.

God is exalted when you drink at these wells and come up saying, “I will drink, and then I will say. I might say it in Charlotte, and I might say it in Shanghai, but I’m going to drink until I’m satisfied, and I’m going to keep drinking all the way to the Promised Land, at every oasis of my life, and I’m going to speak.”