January 8, 2024

Dig Your Well

In Genesis 26, we read about a time when there was a famine in Canaan. During the famine, Isaac sought refuge at Gerar in the land of the Philistines, just as his father, Abraham, had done in his day. God blessed Isaac there to such an extent that the Philistines became jealous and he was forced to move into the valley. Then, needing water to sustain his considerable household and livestock, he “digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them” (verse 18).

The Bible does not tell us how Isaac knew exactly where his father’s wells were located. However, he was born in neighboring Beersheba and spent some part of his childhood in the area. Perhaps, on occasion, he had observed his father drinking from these wells or had seen servants watering the flocks from them. At the very least, he would have grown up knowing that Abraham had wells in the Valley of Gerar, and that those wells produced water.

After Isaac grew to adulthood and was on his own, it was his responsibility to find a source of water and tap into it. The water that Abraham had obtained could not do him any good; he needed to get his own supply. He could have picked up a shovel, wandered out into the desert, and started digging in any location. Instead, he went to where he knew his father had found water before.

Spiritually speaking, each of us has a well that we need to dig. To obtain salvation, our deeper experiences, and daily guidance, we need to seek God until we reach the Source of living water. It takes earnest prayer to get ahold of God and His promises, and that could be compared to digging a well.  

Someone who has never dug a spiritual well might wonder where to begin, how to go about it, when to do it, and what to expect along the way. By looking at Isaac’s actions in re-digging his father’s physical wells, we can gain spiritual insight concerning all these questions.      

Where to dig  

Isaac grew up in a family where his father had obtained water by digging a series of wells. When it was Isaac’s turn to find water, he went to where he knew there was water before. Spiritually speaking, we can do the same. There have been saints who have gone before us, digging a series of wells. We know they found water because we have seen them enjoying the benefits of the Gospel, and we can follow in their footsteps.

Many of us can point to individuals in our lives who were like Abraham, doing everything they could to set us up for success in the Gospel. These are people who dug spiritual wells, showing us the way. My father was like that. I am no stranger to the Portland campground; I grew up around there. I can remember many camp meetings where I spent time out by the fishpond after services waiting for Dad and Mom to finish praying. I count it a blessing to have grown up in a home where I never had to wonder where my parents were when church was over. If you needed Dad, he was at the altar getting ahold of God; he was digging a well.

My grandmother was another who showed me how to dig a spiritual well. She came to church and prayed meeting after meeting, and it was clear that her prayers reached Heaven. One Tuesday evening, my family was giving her a ride home after church, and the two of us were in the backseat. She leaned over and whispered, “I haven’t been feeling well lately, but I got prayed for and I’m looking forward to a healing.” Why did she tell me that? She was showing me how to dig a well. Years later, I had to dig that well for myself. I arrived at the Portland camp meeting feeling burdened because I was afflicted. I went up on the platform and two ministers came to pray for me. The three of us started up a well-digging operation, and it was not very long before we hit water. I had walked onto the platform unwell, but I walked off healed. When I followed the example of my grandmother and sought God, I experienced the same result that she had.

Many other faithful saints have gone before us, and we need to ask ourselves what we are going to do with all those wells they dug. Are we going to let them run dry or are we going to take advantage of what we have seen and heard? What will we do with the Gospel? We want to keep digging, praying, and tapping into the living water. Not only will God’s blessings flow in our own lives, but we will be examples for the next generation to follow.  

How to dig

Through Isaac, God wanted to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham and his descendants. For that to happen, God needed to lead Isaac back to Beersheba where his faith would be strengthened by the memory of God’s faithfulness to his father. It doesn’t appear that Isaac knew where God was leading; he was just digging wells. However, as he went from one well to another, he traveled in nearly a straight line to where he needed to be. God was moving Isaac into a position where He could pour out a blessing on him, just as He had moved Abraham many years before.

Young people sometimes wonder how everything in their lives is going to work out. They wonder how God is going to fit all the pieces together, guide them in the right direction, or resolve the challenges ahead. However, Jesus said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . . But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31, 33). If we will keep our focus on God through prayer, He will direct our lives, and we can trust Him to lead us according to His will.

As a young person in high school, I was trying to figure out how to live for God. I had the best upbringing in the Gospel, but watching Dad and Mom serve the Lord was different from actually doing it. I knew I wanted to be close to God and led by Him, but did not know how to get to that place. One Friday evening after church, I was at the altar bench, but not really praying. My chin was in my hands and I was looking around a little. An older brother named Ray Roll leaned over and said, “Young man, if you want something from God, get down on both knees, close your eyes, and pray like you mean business.” Since then, I have had ample time to prove that out, and it works. Getting down to business with God in prayer changes things.

Whether our need is for sanctification, healing, direction, or a closer walk with God, if we will keep digging, He will help us. He will use our time in prayer to align our wills to His, moving us into a position where we can receive His promises.

When to dig

Isaac likely already had a supply of water on hand when he arrived in the Valley of Gerar, but that did not deter him from re-digging that first well. Inevitably, there would come a day when the canteens would be empty, the sun would be hot, and the livestock thirsty. He knew that was not the day to begin digging.

Similarly, we don’t want to wait until our supply of living water is dangerously low or we are in a crisis situation before we start praying in earnest. We need to be in the habit of seeking God daily for guidance, our needs, and victory over sin. The more often we look to Him regarding our everyday challenges, the better prepared we will be to face the larger issues that come along in life.

A good opportunity for digging is before and after church services. Many have received their deeper experiences in the prayer room before church or at the altars afterward. Praying among God’s people can boost our faith, because it guarantees that God’s presence will be felt. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Praying together also gives us the opportunity to exhort, encourage, and support each other as we seek God.

Of course, God can meet us anywhere and anytime—at home during our regular devotions, at work, or even on our lunchbreak at school. One year while I was in high school, I decided to spend my lunch hour reading the Bible and praying in an attempt to draw closer to God. I wanted to dig a well. At first, I chose a place on the bleachers, but that was too noisy. Then I moved to a tree next to the track. It was perfect because it had low branches, and I could climb up inside and have some privacy. I did this for some time, and it became the bright spot in my day. I hid away, reading and praying, and the Lord met me there. As I dug, the Lord used that time to strengthen my relationship with Him and ground me in the Gospel.

For someone who has never dug a spiritual well, the best time to start is now. One day soon, Jesus will return for His Church, and it will be too late. We want to heed the advice of Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” 

What to expect

By re-digging his father’s wells, Isaac accomplished something valuable: he overcame the enemy. When Abraham passed away, Isaac received the inheritance of the first-born son. All the wells that had belonged to Abraham were now his. However, he needed to show up and claim them. This was not easy, because there was an enemy. We learn from the account in Genesis that when Isaac re-dug the first well, “the herdman of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours.” Isaac moved on and re-dug the second well and the same thing happened: the Gerar herdsmen “strove for that also.” If Isaac had given up, in effect, he would have been handing over to the enemy what was rightfully his. Instead, he persisted and re-dug a third well, “and for that they strove not” (verses 20-22).

We too have been blessed with an inheritance worth claiming. We have been taught that when we come to the foot of the Cross and surrender our lives to God, He transforms us completely. He gives us victory in Jesus, making us able to live without sinning, and we don’t want to give that away. If we are going to hold on to it, we must go where others have dug, and dig for ourselves.

Just as Isaac faced an enemy, when we set ourselves to seek God, the devil will be there trying to discourage and distract us. Remember, an enemy would not waste time stopping up a well that does not produce water. When Satan opposes us, we can press forward in confidence, knowing that God will be faithful to us as He was to previous generations.

God’s promises to us are abundant: salvation, guidance, provision, healing, and much more. However, like Isaac, we must claim them before they will benefit us. Dig a well today and see what God will do in your life.

apostolic faith magazine