It was a hot, sunny summer afternoon, the kind of day perfect for two rambunctious schnoodle pups to run free and scamper through the wooded fields of Brown's Farm, their favorite local park. As is there want to do, the dogs ran up and down hills, jumped through tall grasses and explored trails leading into the woods. They ventured deep into the forest, all the way to the creek. By the time we had made it to the edge of the pleasant waters the dogs were panting, exhausted from their romp in the great outdoors.
The creek babbling before us was pristine and beautiful. The water flowed gently and the depth was so shallow we all could easily wade at the edge. I dipped my hands into the crystal clear blue below and scooped up some of its refreshing water. With my ankles submerged beneath the water's surface and my hands damp I felt cooler and more comfortable. Nature's provision brought me relief from the heat.
From behind me I could still hear the panting of Pippy and Molly. They had yet to experience the cool oasis at the water's edge so I called them closer. In a gentle, prodding voice I urged them to come and explore at the creek bed. But they wouldn't budge. From a few feet away they paced back and forth, looking at the water while keeping a safe distance.
When my two silly dogs wouldn't come near the water, I lapped some up in my hands and attempted to take it to them. But, of course, the droplets slid through my fingers before I could make it back to the dogs. Not that they would have partaken of my offerings even if I could have kept the water resting in my palms. They wanted nothing to do with the liquid relief I had to offer. For some strange, inexplicable reason, they preferred panting.
After a few minutes and multiple failed attempts to convince the dogs that the inviting water was good and enriching, I gave up, conceding to the fate that my thirsty dogs would be panting until we made it back home to a proper dog bowl. So we turned around and headed back out up the trail and out of the park.
Once home the dogs rushed to the front door. I opened it and the two went bolting in, straight to the kitchen where a porcelain dog bowl full of water was consumed in a flurry of slips and slurps. I'd never seen the two drink with such enthusiasm and vigor. They drank until the bowl was dry, then both collapsed on the floor from exhaustion and, what I can only guess, was dehydration.
In short order the dogs recovered. The effects of an hour of activity without water didn't cause them to expire but it did cause me to consider an important truth: you can offer a dog water, but you can't make a dog drink.
And so it goes with people.
Despite the dehydration and parched lips of a dried up spiritual life, no one can be forced to drink the nourishing water Christ offers. To you and I who see and gladly partake of the flowing, refreshing springs of His Holy Spirit we wonder why the thirsty stand by panting. The water is accessible and inviting so why needlessly suffer a dry mouth and a parched heart? Christ has prepared and made ready the perfect life-giving, soul-reviving refreshment fresh from His eternal spring and all anyone has to do is choose to drink it in.
The thirsty are spiritually panting like a couple of exhausted schnoodle dogs, in need of reviving, yet you and I can't make them drink of Christ's redemption. We can't bring another person's lost soul to salvation. We can only bring them to the creek and show them the flowing waters. God is the only one who can compel their hearts to drink and be satisfied. Only Christ can convince the thirsty that the water He has is good and worth kneeling down to receive at the foot of the cross with outstretched hands and a surrendered heart.
Like my thirsty dogs, many expiring hearts will stand away from the refreshing waters of Christ's redemption, looking on without ever lapping up the goodness of His eternal grace. They will choose to pant and sweat in exhaustion rather than get low and submit in humility.
But like my silly schnoodles, dehydrated souls are not hopeless. Like Pippy and Molly went running through home's front door and to their familiar and trusted bowl of refreshing water, there is hope that the spiritually thirsty will one day come running to the foot of the Cross where the refreshing springs of God's forgiveness and restoration are poured out. As long as their is still panting in their lungs God's work in their hearts isn't finished yet. You and I can hold onto the hope that our beloved one's with lost, thirsty souls just haven't run through the door quite yet to partake of the glorious water that will give them eternal, never ending life.
So let us never stop praying for our thirsty friends. May we never give up on the dehydrated and dry hearted. Because there is a door that leads them home and right to the life-giving water flowing from the spring of Jesus Christ.