JeremyHouck.com

Creating Thirst

John 4:4-30

One of the things that have always caught my attention as I read the New Testament is that Jesus welcomed all kinds of people. Jesus welcomed Simon the leper, even though he was considered unclean and unfit for God’s presence because of his skin disease. Jesus welcomed the woman caught in adultery, the same woman the religious leaders wanted to execute. Jesus welcomed the religious leader Nicodemus, even though Nicodemus came at night so no one would see him visiting Jesus. And in our text this morning we will see Jesus welcoming the Samaritan woman who’d had more husbands than Elizabeth Taylor.

In every one of these situations Jesus welcomes them and offers them a place in His family.  You know we live in a society where many people experience more pain than love and more disapproval that acceptance in their families. Divorce, substance abuse, spousal abuse and stress from work or finances twist our lives and kill our ability to feel and give acceptance.

Simply trying to survive at work requires so much energy that few people have time for deep friendships with folks at the office. Many can’t depend on their neighborhoods for acceptance. Sure, some people are blessed with great neighbors. But most people are too busy working and fulfilling responsibilities to make friends next door.

So where can we find the acceptance and love that our souls cry out for? I believe that we all know the answer to that question. Today I think we need to clear up a misconception. Most of the evangelism that I have been a part of or witnessed reminded me of the old cartoon that pictured a medieval Crusader standing in full armor holding a shield. He also held a long sword at the throat of a prisoner on the ground. The prisoner on the ground struggles to say, “Tell me more about your Christianity. I’m terribly interested.”

Evangelism is not hand-to-hand combat; it is an opportunity to share the reason for your faith. We have all heard the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Well my father in law owns a few horses and he says that isn’t exactly true.  If you want to make your horse drink all you have to do is rub a little salt on his tongue. In other words if you want to make him drink you have got to create thirst.

In John 4 we see Jesus encountering a woman that really needed a relationship with the Prince of Peace. By every human standard, she didn’t matter to anyone. If she had dropped dead carrying water back from the well, it’s doubtful that anyone would have noticed. But she mattered to Jesus, as a matter of fact she mattered so much He intentionally crossed some barriers to get to her. (Read Text)

First Jesus crossed cultural barriers.

Verse four says He had to go through Samaria. That statement is true geographically, but it wasn’t true culturally. Does that make sense to you? Samaria was straight north if a traveler was headed to Galilee. But no self-respecting Jew would travel through Samaria. The proper Jew would cross over the Jordan River, then go north, then back west to get to his destination. In a culture that linked sin with our associates, being with the Samaritans was a death sentence because they betrayed their religious heritage. But Jesus had to go through Samaria, not because He had a faulty GPS system, but because He wanted to keep divine appointments.

Next Jesus crossed social barriers.

Think deeper about her situation. Women had no power. She wasn’t the one who sought a divorce from husband after husband. She didn’t move from man to man. She was discarded by one after another. Now, she’s living with someone. He’s not her husband. And that’s not necessarily because she has no standards, but because no one cared about her.

Thirdly, Jesus crossed religious barriers.

The disciples were raised in a culture greatly different than the Samaritan culture. They would be shocked when they return from town and find Jesus talking with a woman of the Samaritans. He is acting in a way that stood in direct contrast to their religious upbringing.

But He’s not concerned about anyone’s opinions; He forces His followers, and us, to take a hard look at our attitudes, especially the self-righteous ones. He crosses barriers to put Himself in contact with the woman, and He expects us to cross a few barriers as well.

But notice how he did it. He didn’t say or do anything that you and I couldn’t have done. He was simply a Jewish man meeting a Samaritan woman at a well and asking for water.

It is important to notice that this Samaritan woman was not an eager convert; in fact she was pretty indifferent. She had not come to Jesus to hear about salvation. She had come to a well to get a bucket of water. Most of the people that cross our paths are not looking for a salvation experience, they are looking to borrow a stapler in the office, or looking to get by us and get that can of soup off the shelf. But Jesus knew what this woman needed, it is the same need that every one of us has the need to be loved and accepted.

Now, it wasn’t that she was not interested in spiritual things. I mean she’s more than willing to discuss religion with Jesus. But when Jesus began to get a little too close, when Jesus begins to bring up her past and her sin, she started getting defensive. And she tried to sidetrack the conversation. I understand that.  We talk everyday with religious people, who are not afraid to talk about religion as long as the discussion is out there.  But when the spiritual discussion begins to shed light on the dark corners of my life, well then I am ready to change the subject or bolt.

But in our text, Jesus doesn’t get sidetracked. Jesus had set His mind toward changing this woman’s life and nothing was going to deter Him from that objective. But before he could make a difference in her life he had to get her thirsty, and it’s not what He said but how He said it that created her thirst.

What Jesus did with this Samaritan woman to cause the thirst is something that you can do as well; it’s not that hard! Look at what He did.

Jesus talked to her.

You might say, “that’s nothing big!” And you’re right. That is nothing big, but its more than most Christians do. When most of us think about “sharing our faith” or “talking about Jesus”, we think in terms of talking at people (arguing, convincing, overcoming objections, etc.), not talking with them.

When I was in college I was working with a girl who was a Seventh Day Adventist and would often throw Biblical references around in her conversations with others. Being a Biblical Counseling Major I felt compelled to study with her and straighten her out.  So I spent 6 weeks looking up every belief she held, and every scripture to combat what she believed. Then when I felt that I was ready I asked her if we could study, and she agreed. We set a date to sit down and talk, I gathered my materials, and to put it mildly we went at it. For two hours we went back and forth point and counter point. The study ended when she said that I was a close minded buffoon.  I left the victor and she left in tears.

The next day a friend that I went to church with asked me how it went, and I replied that I won. She got this sick look on her face and asked me “What did you win?” Smugly I replied the bible study. She said Jeremy; if you won the Bible study then you lost her soul.

I was confused; I thought the whole purpose was to have all the answers show her the error of her ways and she would just jump right into the water. But it didn’t happen. My friend taught me a valuable lesson that day, it’s important to talk to people, not at them. Jesus did that. He talked to the woman at the well, not at her. But Jesus didn’t stop there.

Jesus talked to her about Spiritual things

They got to talking about water. It was a common enough topic to discuss. And then Jesus uses that topic as a springboard to talk about something more eternal and lasting. He said to her: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13

Jesus started by talking about the things that interested this woman, the whole reason she was there in the first place, water. And then ever so naturally, He started talking about God.

Most of us feel comfortable talking about things that interest others and us. Things like sports, or our favorite TV programs, or our favorite hobbies, or things we like to eat or drink. We feel comfortable discussing those common interests with others. But then we get uncomfortable talking about our faith. I have often wondered why we get uncomfortable talking about spiritual things. And then I realized it’s because we haven’t learned how to share our faith.

All too many of us are stuck in the idea of talking at people. And that’s part of what makes us uncomfortable. Our faith shouldn’t be something we throw at people. It is nothing that we should have to force down someone’s throat; it should be something we give to people.  Our faith should make people thirsty.

What do I mean?  Well here is a practical example: Let’s say you have a friend who is having problems at work, or with their health, or with their kids, or whatever. This is a great chance to create a thirst in their lives. Ask them if you can pray with them.

Now I am guilty of saying I’ll pray for you. That’s missing a great opportunity; instead let’s say can we pray right now! Just close your eyes then and there and begin appealing to God on their behalf. This tells the person you’re praying for two things: You care enough for them to not just say you’ll pray for them, but to actually do it in front of them. And you’re telling them that you believe enough in your God to put your faith on the line; that you have an active faith, not just a Sunday go to meeting faith.

Now, praying with people is one way to create that thirst. Another way is by telling people what Jesus means to you. Tell your story. Tell what God has done in your life. Remember last Sunday I asked you three questions:

Why did you become a Christian? How has being a Christian changed the way your life has turned out? Why are you a Christian?

Did you think about those questions last week? Why you became a Christian to begin with is part of your story. Has God done anything in your life since that time? That’s part of your story too.

People will listen to your stories about Jesus and those stories will create a “thirst” in people. I am trying to be better at this. I want to tell how I’ve seen God at work in other people’s lives, or how He has worked in my family or in my own life. And I make a deliberate attempt to do this. I want people to love Jesus like I love Jesus. So I tell them these stories over and over again because I want to create thirst for Jesus.

The most amazing part of the text to me is the next thing Jesus did to create a thirst in this woman, He let her go! Look at John 4:25-28. (Read)

Jesus had been talking with this woman, she is right on the verge of making a decision, up walks his disciples and she slips away. And He let her go!

Now, if it had been me, I’d have said: “Wait! Don’t Go! Come Back! We’re not done yet!” But He let her go. Now, I don’t how it is with you, but it used to be when I’d get in a conversation with people about Jesus and I was trying to “share my faith” with them there was this anxiety that overcame me.

There was something inside of me that believed that every conversation I had with people about Jesus just had to end in the water. And there was this nagging doubt that if I didn’t get the person to make a commitment right there and then that, somehow I’d failed. I mean I may never get another chance like that again.

But Jesus was more than willing to let this woman walk away. Why? Because people take time to process information. Often we don’t make a decision overnight. Sometimes we have to think about what we’ve heard. Decide if the decision we want to make is really the right one. Our best decisions often take place after we’ve talked to several people about an idea or concept we eventually embrace.

In the Bible we read about people whose conversions are often like a bee sting. They hear the good news and then pow they are in the water. But that was not my experience and that is usually not the experience I have with folks I am studying with. My experience was more like the opening of a flower. Slow, steady, and gradual but the affect is the same. Don’t be afraid to let folks go, so that they can have a slow, steady, and gradual growth.

There’s one more thing I want us to consider; I don’t think this meeting was an accident. I don’t think Jesus just happened to be there when she came out to get water. I believe this encounter was the result of intense prayer by Jesus.

The Apostle Paul asked the church in Colossi to “pray for us… that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

And then, in Ephesians he wrote: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” Paul believed that when God’s people prayed, His preaching gained power, hearts were opened, and lives were changed.

Do you know how much Jesus prayed? He prayed in the morning, He prayed in the afternoon,

Sometimes He prayed all night long. And these were prayers that went beyond “God bless brother so and so, you know he has bad bunions on his toes.’” He was praying every day for opportunities to arise. For the crowds to be prepared for His message. And for men and women to be at the right place at the right time.

That’s the best way that we can create thirst. Allow God to stir the desire in people’s hearts and souls, so that He can use us to direct them back to Him.

 

Questions To Consider

Read Acts 8:26-40

How does this passage apply to our modern day relationship with Christ?

Philip’s evangelism focused on meeting the needs and the interests of the Eunuch. How can we do the same today?

How does recognizing the needs of others allow you create thirst in their lives?

In Acts 10:34-43 Peter gives the pattern of the gospel, what is it?

What are the cultural barriers that we have to cross today to get the Gospel message out?

What are the social barriers that we have to cross today to get the Gospel message out?

What are the religious barriers that we have to cross today to get the Gospel message out?

How can letting people go and think about the gospel create a thirst in their lives?



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