Digging Wells: Part 1
You will wonder what I mean by this subject, “Digging Wells.” Let me tell you that to me it means very much. I will never forget the time I dug my first well. I am speaking now not of a natural but a spiritual well, and one is just as real as the other. Are you here this morning all dried up in your experience, then let me tell you about well digging. Here is my first experience. I was called to preach for ten days in a town in Canada, and everything seemed to be booming spiritually when I got to the platform the first night. There was a great choir singing the old gospel tunes, and the leader was free and spiritual. I had what I thought was God’s message for the evening, and soon I started to deliver it, but I could not get at it. My first thought was a simple one, on the priesthood of Jesus, and try as I might I could not leave it. I would close one paragraph when another thought of His priestly office would come to me and I would give it.
Forced To Be Simple
Thus I was literally forced to spend the time talking of the priest side of the work of Christ. It was simple, and that which I felt when I closed—that every one before me could have stated much better than I. I gave the invitation but none responded, and I went out feeling greatly defeated. I felt also that others felt it. I found afterward that many felt as though I surely could not size up an audience and give them what they needed, for here were Bible students and old corn-fed saints by the hundreds and I had talked as if I were teaching heathen who did not know the first principles of the work Jesus came to do. I went on my face before God when I reached the room, but He only spoke peace to my heart, and let me see some new things in a chapter which I read while on my knees. Remember now as we go on with the story for your own good that you can’t dig a well without having your Bible before you as you wait on God. I went back at it the next night, and the same thing happened. At the end of that service the preacher told some of the folks who spoke to him about it that I was probably so worn out from a campaign that I had just closed that I hadn’t gotten warmed up yet, but he could not offer the same excuse when at the close of the next night the same thing had happened.
I went to my room from that service with feelings in the natural that you can well imagine. I kneeled in great longing before the throne with my open Bible digging for a well. I needed water fresh from His supply. My soul was thirsty. I found myself reading in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. I read along about the resurrection, and all that I read had nothing for my present need. I could not leave the chapter, though I turned from it twice only to turn back and read again from where I had left off. It was like digging through the rock strata under which flows the cooling waters. I dug on. I came through the wonderful shout of victory over death in the 57th verse, and then oh praise the Lord! I struck the water in the 58th verse that closes the chapter. Here it is, “Therefore my beloved brethren be ye steadfast unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I shouted for joy. I did not know that my labor was not in vain before, no matter how weak it was, but I knew it then, and praise God I know it now. That 58th verse has been my well in many a hard labor since. I have gone to it over and over and found its waters refreshing. I walked into the pulpit on air that next night only to go over the same ground.
I was conscious while I was preaching, that I was still held to these simple milk passages, and that the Holy Spirit had a reason for holding me thus, though I did not know why. When I closed my sermon I gave a call to men and women to accept this priesthood of Jesus, and the same dull pull continued. I kept on pulling though I was conscious that the crowd was restless and that even the best Christian workers felt I should close the meeting. I saw a young woman with foreign looking features just three seats from the front and I was sure she was under deep conviction. I motioned to a godly looking woman behind her, thinking she would speak to her. This sainted woman caught my meaning without the audience noticing my signaling to her. She leaned gently forward and touched the young lady on the shoulder. They were both on the aisle seat. The young woman never even stopped to look behind to see who was talking, but dropped to her knees and began praying out loud something like this:
Light At Last
“Oh, Jesus, I need no priest but you. I take you. You take me.” Soon after confessing sin to Jesus as if she were talking to an earthly priest, she began to rejoice aloud saying simple sentences which the Holy Spirit had made me use over and over and over again in my sermon, such as: “The blood cleanses whiter than snow.” Others began the same thing. The young man at her side broke out in confession and took the blood to cleanse without a worker to say a word. All who were converted that night were Catholics. Do you see how the Spirit was working? All the young women were the hired help of the church folks around in the district, and only such simple teaching could make Jesus plain to them. The next night people who had these girls in their homes were crying out to God for forgiveness for never having talked to these girls about their souls. It was a real revival. Oh I thank God for that well. Yes, beloved, I say to you labor on. It is not in vain in the Lord. It may seem so to the eye of flesh. Others cannot refresh you at such times. God knows and God must speak. He has a well for your present need.
The Living Word
Now you know what I mean by digging a well. It is some experience that forces you to dig through God’s written Word until you come upon a portion that God makes to become the living Word to you. The author of the old hymn caught this thought when he wrote:
“Break thou the bread of life
Dear Lord to me,
As Thou didst break the bread
Beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page
I seek Thee, Lord.
My spirit pants for Thee,
O Living Word.
We will take Isaac’s career as a well digger for our edification. The record is in the 26th chapter of Genesis. You will notice the 15th verse to start with, “For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.”
The Philistines of our day are at the same old trick. They are the class of men who are trying to get Christians to give up their old time faith, and say that we need something new for and taking the Gospel to foreign lands, to a modern program of social service. They are covering the wells of faith with Earth argument, Earth betterment, Earth religion of the natural, and laughing at that which is miraculous and supernatural. They are trying to rob men of their faith in the God of heaven and set up an Earth God limited by what man can know and what man can do, or in other words a god of their own making, a truly Earth affair. Thus are these modern Philistines doing for the springing wells of our day, what the old time Philistines did for the wells of Isaac’s day. Yes, that’s the trick they are working on the modern church, namely “and filled them with earth.” But thank God we do not have to submit to it. We can rise right now and sing:
“Faith of our fathers living still
In spite of dungeon fire and sword;
Oh how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word:
Faith of our fathers! Holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
Our fathers chained in prisons dark.
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers! Holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!”
“And Isaac digged again the wells of water.”
I like that 18th verse. Don’t you? Oh I love to see a soul these days who will not be satisfied with the wishy-washy, suds and foam, skimmed milk, sort of stuff that is dished up and handed out as water to a thirsty world dying and on its way to hell. Yes sir, I am more delighted than I can ever tell anybody in words, when I run across a soul that will not be satisfied with hearsays, and perhapses, and ifs, maybes, and I’ll trys, but keeps right on digging until they can stand up straight, and with no uncertain sound say to the world, “I’ve struck water. I’ve found my way to Calvary, and the blood has made me clean. I’ve found Him who is the Resurrection, and the Truth, and the Way.” Isaac sang the good old song:
“It was good enough for father,
It was good enough for father
It was good enough for father
And it’s good enough for me.
’Tis the old time religion
’Tis the old time religion
’Tis the old time religion
And it’s good enough for me.”
Abraham had found the wells good and Isaac dug where father had dug and he found it good. Oh, if the men of our day would only dig where the fathers dug, they would find that the same results would follow. Isaac wasn’t going to let any of the modernism come in on the good old wells which yielded the good old water, so the verse records that Isaac “called their names after the names by which his father had called them.” Folks I don’t object to some new names, and I realize that many a good thing offered by God to us has had prejudice thrown around it by some of the terms which some fanatics have used. But I’m not going to let any name given by men cheat me out of the glorious experiences of fire and power which the fathers had. I’m not going to let any new fangled notions of the power of the Holy Ghost cheat me out of having the fullness of the Spirit, and work with His gifts instead of my own. No my friends, you must not let the new names cheat you out of the old well water. You must not let any modern foolishness cheat you out of the fire which the fathers had and which praise God you may have.
I’ve heard enough names given to the atonement alone to keep a man guessing the rest of his life. If you’ll go back to the old Bible and take God’s plain statement of it instead of the things men call it in books you will come out clear, and clean. I’ve read books on sanctification that would name it and rename it until all its teeth were filtered out, and you wouldn’t know what the men were talking about. But God’s own Word will lead you to this well and show you how to draw out its powerful, victorious waters, and believe me you’ll want to camp right at this well the rest of your life.
In The Valley
“Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of spring water.”
This 19th verse is bursting with spiritual suggestion. Here’s a great truth pictured out. I know many people who are seeking power for service. They are seeking power for service. They want to live on some high mountain of popularity, and they want God to provide a spring of power up there for them. If God sends them down in a valley they sulk, they grumble. They wouldn’t dig down there. If He sent them to a small work they sit down and write letters to their friends for a job on the big time and in the big town. They’d describe the boob people who were paying them a living salary, and kick at them because it wasn’t more. Their friends would write back and tell them that they thought it was a shame for one with such talents to be burying themselves anywhere outside of the spotlight. Dig? They? They’d stay there until the undertaker took them before they’d dig.
Then there are those who ran on to the testing day and things grew hard and the money was low, and the darkness gathered round and they gave up in despair, and today they are on the scrapheap sore at themselves, sore at the church, sore at God, and thinking that God failed them. Oh, if they had only gotten down to digging, gotten down on their knees and cried to God instead of friends. If they would have praised instead of complained, they would have come upon a promise in God’s Word and it would have opened up such a vision to them as never could have been opened on any mountain top. God would have opened their eyes as He did the eyes for the young man with Elisha. Elisha said to this scared young man, who saw himself surrounded with the enemy’s chariots, “Fear not, for them that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray thee open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw: and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”
A young man came to preach in a Pennsylvania town about three years ago. A pastor had heard him lead a testimony service at a camp meeting and asked him to come for a week to his church. The young man found a very worldly church, but said no word of complaint. He preached on for a week with no apparent results. At the end of the week the pastor came to him all broken up, and thoroughly discouraged. He said the best giver in his church had just told him that if such preaching continued he would never darken the door again. Then his whole choir had refused to sing if the young preacher was in the pulpit the following Sunday. “It’s your pulpit,” said the young preacher, “what are you going to do?” He replied, “I can’t break up my church for the sake of a small meeting.” “Then you want me to go. Aren’t you willing to trust the results to God and let Him pull things out, and get these people right with God? That wealthy man is under conviction and if you stick, God will bring him into line.” All the young man’s pleading was in vain. “I refuse to leave town,” said the young man, “God sent me here and I’ll have to be true to Him.”
The young man broke down and cried, pleading with the minister for his church’s sake to let God undertake for him, but fear had conquered. On Sunday afternoon and night the young man advertised himself to speak in the opera house. He spent the night in prayer and had dug a well striking springing water in the early hours of the morning as he read the 37th Psalm and came to the fifth verse. “Commit thy way unto the Lord: Trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” The afternoon was nothing out of the ordinary, but in the evening the fire fell and souls were born again. The meetings went on and on Thursday night the wealthy man was wonderfully saved, and Friday night the leader of the choir that had refused to sing if the young preacher was in the pulpit gave up. The minister of the church had another chance. It was his chance to come to the opera house and in this valley, humble himself before the folks who were there and before whom he had failed God, but he would not, and found an excuse to leave town for a fortnight, and two months after that he resigned from his church, and a church, mind you, that had been turned inside out, and was on fire. Oh, if he had only dug a well in that valley, he would have been a fire brand for God the rest of his life. Listen! The dear souls I know who know God in a deep way, can point you back to the hour of trial where they went down before God, in the valley, and they dug a well and found springing water.
Our Own Wells
In the 20th and the 21st verses Isaac makes an attempt to dig some wells of his own, but like all such spiritual attempts of our own, they were matters of a quarrel. I have seen folks come into a deep spiritual experience, and then have such arguments about the doctrinal side of this experience that they would loose their experience. It was so with Isaac. He dug the wells, but there was a quarrel over them. He named the first Esek which means contention, and the second Sitnah which means hatred. There is so much discussion now over the doctrine of sanctification and the filling of the Holy Spirit that hundreds have failed to get an experience. When they have to argue over it, I’m afraid it’s man made. But if we go back and stand on what we know and sweetly stand there, let folks say what they will, as the blind man stood by his creed in the temple, we will be wise. Isaac went back to the old wells of his father. No man holds his love for a person because of debate, and if your experience has to depend upon your ability to debate, some one can beat you in an argument, and you wabble immediately in your experience. It is first contention then hate and every thing is spoiled.
“Spirit Giveth Life”
I am sure that most deeply spiritual folks have an experience that is far beyond their ability to outline and give Scripture for. While they have dug wells and met God as He held the Scripture verse before their eyes, and have lived lives of glorious victory for years, and understand many Scriptures that back up the stand they have taken with the Lord, they did not come into their experience through an outline in the word of the doctrine. Rather they were led to deep things in God because of an awful thirst begotten in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, or a terrific need that drove them to dig deep, and search their hearts before God. I have met people filled with the Spirit and full of faith that I could not stand with at all in their use of Scripture, to tell what had taken place in their hearts, but I could have the sweetest fellowship with them because they were thoroughly yielded and Spirit filled and Spirit led and every act of their life showed that the Spirit was springing up within them a fountain of living water, giving out love, joy, peace, long suffering, etc.
“The Letter Killeth”
On the other hand I have met those who thought they had a perfect line of doctrine and as far as the Word was concerned, I could not contradict them, but every act of their life proved that they had the letter which killeth and not the Spirit which giveth life. A babe is born with an instinct to hunt for the breast with open mouth, and I believe the Holy Spirit through some crisis in a Christian life gets that life to wholly yield through its hunger for God, and then fills it and then goes on from the verse through which the light came to know more from a doctrinal standpoint of what has already taken place in the soul. Most times it is the Living Word that works alone, unaided by the Word, and the Written Word comes after, as in the case of Cornelius, and when Peter arrived he found that he did not have to contend for his doctrine with this company but the Spirit had been there ahead of him and created a great hunger, so that a few words passed Peter’s lips and the Holy Ghost fell upon the company.
They could have started a contention about Gentiles and Jews and spoiled the working of the Spirit, but Peter saw the evidences of the Spirit within them and did not stop to examine them to see if he and they could agree as to what had happened on the inside. Peter took the Spirit’s evidences and joined fellowship at once. When I see folks who show the evidences and the graces of the Spirit, I line up with them, no matter what folks may think of them. I have no right to listen to folks and refuse my fellowship any more than Peter had a right to listen to prejudiced Jews. Oh, for the unity of the Spirit among believers!