Does the name Thomas Edward Lawrence ring a bell? Probably not. Ask the average man on the street and it won’t conjure up much recognition. However, when used with his moniker he suddenly has a face—Lawrence of Arabia.
But of Arabia, Lawrence was not!
T.E. Lawrence was born and raised in Wales and graduated from Oxford University after earning First Class Honors in History. Lawrence was British through and through. Union Jack was his blood brother. In fact, being a good Brit, and with England on the verge of the Great War, Lawrence enrolled in a two-year OUOTC (Oxford University Officer Training Corp) program.
But History was his real love, and sure enough, upon graduation Lawrence accepted a position as an archeologist in the Middle East.
As WWI exploded, Lawrence was recruited by the British Army to wear the uniform and put his military training to use. His covert assignment was to survey the desert under a smokescreen project titled, “An Archeological Hunt to Locate the Biblical Wilderness of Zin.”
But all that was just a cover while he gathered wartime intelligence from the Negev Desert. The Allied forces wondered if a secret passage existed across the Negev that the dreaded Ottoman Army might use to invade Egypt.
(Why does this have the familiar ring of an Indiana Jones movie?)
As the war progressed, Lawrence took more and more leadership, using his historical and military training to rally the nomadic and Bedouin tribes into a fighting force. This did not go unnoticed by King Emir Faisal of Mecca who himself had led Arabian troops in their guerilla operations against the Ottoman armed forces.
Through his multiple exploits, heralded by much American press, Lawrence of Arabia became a household name around the world.
Therefore it was no surprise that in 1919, at the conclusion of the war, King Faisal invited Lawrence to join the Arab delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. The king needed someone who understood Western thinking and who could ensure his hopes for Arab independence.
While in Paris, many of the Bedouin representatives were introduced to a world they’d never seen or heard—a city covered by electric lights, motor cars on every road, telephones in every building, and—the greatest of all desert dreams—an endless supply of water in every hotel room.
Upon the conclusion of the Paris Peace Talks, Lawrence made his way through the hotel to thank each of the visiting Arabian delegates. To his shock he found them disassembling the hotel faucets and packing them into their bags. When asked why, they said they were going to take the “magical metal pipes” to their tents in the desert, insert them into the cloth walls, and enjoy the endless supply of water the faucets provided.
You and I know that could never work. And yet the story has the feel of a modern day parable. In order to have an access to the endless stream of water the “magical metal pipes” must be hooked up to the river that supplies the water.
Sticking pipes into a wall may look efficient, and depending on your tent or desert, they may even look impressive. But if the pipes—magic or otherwise—have no connection to the source of water, they’re all for naught.
The marvel of being a pastor is that we get to announce to a dry and barren world that we’ve found the endless supply of Living Water. That, in itself, is an unparalleled privilege that never grows old.
The source of this water is, of course, the Savior who said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus was inviting thirsty souls to come to Him for spiritual, eternal, life-giving water.
The source of this water is still available. Our listeners thirst for it. They’re dying for it.
And we have it.