Reviewed by Catherine K. Arveseth
When you pause to inspect your spiritual reservoirs, are you sometimes surprised to discover that over time they have been slowly depleting? Each of us, as imperfect but striving followers of Christ, will occasionally suffer some season of drought. For me, in the moment of recognition, I feel a surging or longing thirst to drink of something that will fully satisfy and rejuvenate my soul. Christ’s words to the woman at the well in Samaria were, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14) Brent L. Top, professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, has taken this principle of “living water” and created a stunning collection of messages on the life and teachings of Christ. He shows us that the Savior is “living water” – a “constant, ever-flowing spring” that can fill even the most dry or empty soul.
Living Waters closely examines the parables, actions and teachings of the Savior. Each chapter gives insight to a different New Testament moment – the moment when the Savior cursed the fig tree, when He dined with Mary and Martha and taught them to choose “that good part”, when the rich young ruler went away from Him sorrowing, when an ailing but faithful woman touched His garment, when He raised Lazarus from the dead, when He spoke on the Mount of Olives about the signs that would precede his second coming.
Top explains the circumstances, longings and burgeoning faith of those who were coming to know and understand Christ. As you move through each chapter, you will find yourself realizing that we do not differ much from the early followers of Christ. Although we live in another dispensation, we today are seeking to know Christ, just as they were. Top gracefully opens a window to the human soul, encouraging us to take an honest look at our own weaknesses and longings, to evaluate our growing faith.
A tone of humility permeates Top’s book. His words are those of a true teacher, offered in a literary setting where both student (reader) and teacher are edified. Top writes of his book, “Most important…is my desire that these chapters – these personal lessons learned from the fountain of living waters’ – will serve as a catalyst for you to personally drink from His well and to gain your own lessons from Him. What He can and will teach you is infinitely more satisfying than what I can offer.”
Top’s deliberation of Christ’s teachings on issues such as hypocrisy, forgiveness, humility, and unrighteous judgment makes points that squarely “hit home”. His explanations ring true because knowledge had through an in-depth study of the Savior’s life cannot be paralleled. To provide a feel for some of Top’s insights and the style of his writing, the following excerpts are several drops of wisdom from Top’s Living Waters:
“Low profile’ service is as significant, if not more so, than high profile’ service. As Jesus taught and exemplified, sometimes the simple, quiet and unheralded acts of service are the greatest acts of true discipleship.”
“A great person recognizes that he need not be in the limelight, because there is indeed only one Light that matters – the Light of the World.”
“We should heed the Savior’s counsel to lie down in green pastures’ and walk beside’ spiritually still waters.’ If we can’t slow down long enough for the Lord to catch up to us, how can he restoreth our souls?'”
“Being easily offended is one of the first steps toward personal apostasy…There will be times, however, where the offense against us may be egregious, but we must not abandon the ship. To do so…is like going on a cruise ship and jumping overboard if the waiter is rude or the meal is not what we wanted. If the flight attendant spills tomato juice on me, if the person next to me snores, or if I don’t like the in-flight move, I’m still not going to jump out of the airplane.”
“[Christ’s] message of life and light was not merely for the next life, but also to give guidance, purpose and joy in this life…it shows that he, as the Light of Life, cannot only restore life to the dead, but give life to the living.”
With candor and truth, Top urges us to stretch spiritually, to examine the frailties of our soul and reach deeper for more faith, more patience, and more love. He concludes, “The Savior’s message for us is to labor and love, serve and sacrifice, work and worship today, so that when he comes tomorrow we will be ready. It is as simple as that. I don’t know when tomorrow will come, but what a tomorrow it will be! I look forward to it with love and longing.”
Living Waters provides introspection, inspires change, and helps us apply the teachings of the Savior in our lives. As we live the truths Christ taught, our spiritual thirst will be more consistently quenched. Top’s book is an excellent supplement for gospel doctrine students who wish to become better acquainted with the message and mission of Christ. As the apostle, John, testified, “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)