When I was a kid, all forms of soda were a treat. Occasionally, my mother would buy a six-pack of Fresca or Tab, which was always marketed in bottles. When I was in junior high, I was only allowed to drink one 10-ounce bottle after school. My mother was not being stingy — drinking soft drinks on a regular basis was simply not something that most people did. Soda was considered a luxury.
I remember my first Burger King meal at age thirteen, when Burger King was new in St. Louis. I marveled at the “flame-broiled” hamburgers and was entranced by the hamburger, fries, and Coca Cola. When we purchased the Coca-Cola, we received one cup full of sparkling, bubbly Coke. We would never have considered asking for a refill, as that would have cost more money.
Years later, I had the opportunity to live in France, Germany, and Norway. Soda of any kind was expensive, and ice was not abundant. In Paris, I remember ordering a Coke to go with a pizza. I was appalled at the narrow glass of room-temperature Coke the garçon whisked in front of me with a grand flourish. I stared at it and quickly flagged him down; politely, I requested ice. He grabbed the glass of warm Coke, placed it deftly on his serving tray, disappeared, and swiftly returned with the glass. Stupefied, I stared at the ONE small cube of ice floating in the Coke. The French way of drinking soda was certainly different from the American! Of course, there was no discussion of refills, unless I wished to pay another two dollars, which in the 1970s was an astronomical price for a glass of Coke.
Years later, we moved from Europe to Texas and were happily surprised to discover that we were residents of the land of unlimited free refills. We could sate ourselves to our hearts’ content with Coke, Diet Coke, Minute Maid Orange, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, and numerous other varieties of soda. In fact, I ultimately found myself placing limits on the number of refills my children consumed with their Happy Meals. Moreover, the size of the soft drink cups had increased exponentially over the years. When I was a child, no one would EVER have considered drinking 32 ounces (nearly a liter!) of Coke or Pepsi. Suddenly, gas stations were offering 32-, 44-, and even 64-ounce cups of soft drinks for unbelievably low prices. To this day, our children laugh about the rare occasions when we relented and bought them a 32-ounce cup of soda, only to have someone (usually our daughter) spill it in the van.
In Texas these days, most customers assume that the purchase of a soft drink at a restaurant entitles them to unlimited free refills. We expect to be allowed to overindulge ourselves in something that is not a healthy habit. We are convinced that, if we have paid two dollars for a soda, it is our right to gulp down as many glasses of our favorite beverage as we can possibly hold.
One of the many wonderful things about God is that He exceeds our wildest expectations. He is the One who INVENTED unlimited free refills! The best part is, we don’t even have to pay ANYTHING for them! Those refills come with being part of His family. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) Jeremiah tells us that God Himself IS the Fountain of Living Waters (Jeremiah 2:13). A fountain continues to bubble and sparkles with life. It doesn’t ever go flat or stagnant, as it continues to move. John 4:14 assures us that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” In Revelation 21:6, Jesus promises: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.” Clearly, this fountain of living water is something we don’t even have to pay for! It doesn’t even cost two dollars, and it is readily available to all who believe! Paul urges us in Ephesians 3:19 “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” He also encourages us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled, and keep on being filled, with the Spirit of God. God delights to give us an abundance of Himself. He calls us to drink fully and freely: “Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything’s free!” (Isaiah 55:1, The Message)
When I feel discouraged and disappointed by this world, these words remind me that NOTHING in this world will ever truly satisfy my thirst. Unlimited free refills of Diet Coke may sound good, but Coke really does not quench my thirst; it also chips away at my budget and erodes my health. On the other hand, God offers the water of life in abundance. His fountain never runs dry; His refills are readily and freely available, at no cost to me. All I need to do is ASK Him. His fountain is full of life, healing, hope, joy, peace, delight, and wholeness. His refills are alive with His very Presence. Why would I ever consider drinking from any other fountain?