The Woman at the Well – 3. "Who God Uses"

August 7, 2011

John 4
God has a way of choosing and using those who others consider to be castoffs - even the low-life of society. He has a way of choosing and using those who are unskilled in theology, philosophy or debate. He has a way of taking the ordinary of the world and accomplishing something beautiful and wonderful through them. So far we've talked about what God wants and what God offers. Today - look at who God uses.
1. Definitions
A. Being "used by God" means participating with Him as He accomplishes His agenda in this world.
We've talked about the fact that God has a life, too, just like we do. He has things that matter to him - his agenda.
B. God's primary agenda in the world is to transform sinners into worshipers.
By "sinners" I mean lost, disobedient, foolish, rebellious self-centred hell-bound men and women who couldn't give a rip about what God says (which, by the way, is the condition of every human being in their natural state, including every person in this room). By "worshipers" I mean people who seek to continually engage both heart and head in the act of humbling themselves before him, revering him and surrendering their lives to his service. I mean people who love God and live to glorify Him -people who strive to put Him first in all things.
God's primary agenda in this world is to transform sinners into worshipers, to take those (who are willing) from the first condition into the second. If you can see that, then you can understand the big picture of the whole Bible and the mission of Jesus and what Christianity is all about. Transformation of sinners into worshipers is the reason Jesus gave his life on the cross. His death paid for all the sin and made it possible for the transformation to take place.
So to be "used by God" means being - in some way - a player with Him in this process of transforming the lives of other people, whether it's with those who are still way deep down in sin or those who have turned towards God and are just moving in His direction or even those who have made it their goal to be true worshippers. Being used by God means making all that you are and all that you have available to Him for that agenda. Now, when people hear that their first thought is "that's HUGE. You're talking about transforming atheists into missionaries! So, if I'm going to be used by God, if I'm going to be a player in His agenda, it sounds like maybe I need to quit my job and go into full-time ministry. Is that what I have to do?" For the answer to that question, let's take a look at the ending of the story.
2. Reviewing the Story
Jesus and his disciples are on a trip from the south to the north of Palestine - through the region of Samaria - something that most Jews would not do - Samaritans were considered pagan and unclean. It's hot and dusty - they come to Sychar and stop at a well just outside the town. Jesus sits down while the rest of the crew goes into town to get some lunch.
We have looked at what was really going on in this conversation. There was a disconnect over the kind of water Jesus was offering. She took it to mean H2O. Jesus meant it to refer to eternal life - the life that not only goes on forever but is also of the quality that God himself experiences right now. Jesus brings up the issue of her past and present failures to point out that she is dead from foolishness and sin, and really needs this living water. She's shocked that he knows all about her life and thinks that maybe God has sent a prophet to her - "what is it that God really wants from me?" Jesus explains that God wants us to worship him and Him alone - that sinner to worshiper thing!
She begins to sense the weight of her failures and inadequacy. So, she says to the one she sees as "prophet" that only the Messiah will be able to straighten her out - Jesus says "I am the Messiah."
3. Used by God
What happens next helps us to understand who it is that God uses – v. 27. They were astonished for the same reasons the woman was surprised that Jesus spoke to her. She was a Samaritan woman. Jews avoided Samaritans. Middle Eastern men avoided speaking to women in public. After the disciples arrived the woman left – v. 28 – 30, 39 – 42. This 2 day event was the first ministry contact that Jesus had with anyone outside of the inner circle of Judaism. The people from Sychar were probably the ones most responsible for the spread of Christianity to the Gentile world after Jesus' death and resurrection ... so you and I are in some way related to what happened. Where did this start and with whom? With some messed-up chick, a 5 time loser who was so ashamed and hardened by her foolishness and sin that she had to draw water in the middle of the day to avoid the ridicule of other women of the town - put her in the right place at the right time to meet Jesus. It was a "divine appointment." Not only does Jesus give her living water to rescue her from her dead life ... he uses her life to help accomplish an agenda so huge she could never have believed it if He told her.
It's amazing how God chooses and uses those who others consider to be the low-life of society. It's amazing how he chooses and uses those who are unskilled. Isn't it stunning how little she understands of these things? All she says to everyone - "Somehow He knows me." Not exactly the Apostles Creed. She says, "I think he is the Messiah." That's not exactly a clear and compelling presentation. But it's good enough because it's all she has. She takes it and she lays it down and God uses it. A whole bunch of people start getting transformed over the next 2 days, then a whole bunch more get transformed over the next 2 decades all over the non-Jewish world, then, 2 millennia later even more are getting transformed - amazing, isn't it?
Who does God use? Anybody who can tell a story of coming to know Jesus and is willing to say - "He is the Saviour of the world. Come and see for yourself." You don't need to be smart. You don't need to have all the answers. You don't need a degree. You don't need to be in full-time ministry. You don't need to be talented or beautiful, you don't need to be perfect. You don't need to be fully-transformed on the journey from sinner to worshiper - you can still be "in progress." You just need to have an experience with Jesus and a willing heart. God can use you - even you, even me - to accomplish his agenda of transforming sinners into worshipers. That's the lesson we learn from this woman at the well.
It's a lesson that everyone of us needs to take to heart. Our lives are meant to be about so much more than just the things in our own little box. That's not meant to be the sum total of our life. God is inviting all of us to play a role in something that's so much larger, an agenda so huge that it couldn't even come close to fitting in our box - transforming the world. So many of us sell ourselves short "I'm not good enough, I'm not this, I'm not that." Or we sell God short. "He couldn't use me. He can only use people who can sing or play or organise and give a talk. That's the kind of people God uses." God can use anybody!
4. Another Conversation
There were some other people at the well, too - some things we can learn from them - the disciples. When the disciples get back from their lunch expedition they're astonished to find Jesus sitting there in conversation with an unknown woman. Between the time that she leaves and the whole town comes out to the well, Jesus has a conversation with them about being used by God.
v. 31 - their mindset was "let's move on to something more important like ... lunch. We're hungry. There's still a long trip left between here and the ministry God's calling you to do up in Galilee, so you'd better eat something to regain your strength for the journey"- v. 32 – 34.
It's almost funny that these guys have the same problem as the woman. She was talking about water but Jesus was talking about water. The disciples are talking about food and Jesus is talking about food. See, there's H2O and then there is the "living water" that brings eternal life. There's the food that provides nutrition for the body and "living food" that nourishes the soul. That food doesn't come from a farm or a market, but from being used by God to accomplish his agenda in this world. He was taking part in His Father's plan to offer her the opportunity to go from sinner to worshiper. "This is feeding me. It's filling me up."
Being "used by God" is not optional. It's a necessary for our spiritual health and vitality.
When someone says to you, "so, you're going to that church over there - are you being fed?" what they're asking is ... "is the worship good? Is the preacher biblical? Are you getting the opportunity to study the Bible?" Those are all really good things. There is spiritual food in all of those things. But Jesus says -feeding our souls also means getting out of the receiving mode and into the contributing mode, becoming an instrument in what God is up to in this world.
I wonder if this is one reason why so many people who are followers of Christ, who have the "living water" are never deeply satisfied in Him. They drink and drink and drink, but they never eat as Jesus describes eating. They never get into the game of what God is doing. They never make themselves available to God. Their understanding of Christianity is still all centred on what's in their box. "Oh God, please help me with a. b. c. d. on my agenda or in my life."
Jesus is saying, "Look, food comes from putting yourself into God's box and saying 'OK, Lord what's going on in there? What's your agenda? How you want to use me today? How can I serve you, Lord?" instead of "Lord, here's how I want you to serve me. Here's where you fit in my box.'" There's a huge difference between those 2 perspectives. Jesus says that it is also the difference between going hungry and being full in our souls.
v. 35 - these guys had it their head that God was going to use them when they got to Galilee. That's where the "harvest" was. That's why they were making the trip. It never occurred to them that it might be God's plan to use them in the hot, dusty, unclean town of Sychar. They missed it completely. Many of us have the same problem - "God's going to use me in this way or that, in this place or that" - might be true, but you know what? We need to remember that God might want to use us right where we are.
It might be that some person we come into contact with today is a candidate for transformation from sinner to worshiper. Every situation that we're in might be one that God has arranged in the same way he arranged this event at the well. I'm not saying that it is, but it might be. The lesson from the disciples at the well is that we'd better pay attention because God might be doing something right now, saying "come on, get in the game with me."
Let's finish the story. We already know how it ends. Jesus and the disciples are overwhelmed by the crowd of spiritual seekers who have come because of the woman's 2-sentence story. I don't think they finished their lunch that day. In fact, they might not have had time to eat for 2 whole days because the Father was using them in an unusual way in an unlikely place.
Being used by God usually requires us to rearrange our priorities.
Jesus was so committed to being available to the Father that He said, "I'm not going to eat. I'd rather do this. This is more important." .... which raises a tough personal question for all of us who say that we're followers of Jesus. Would we be willing to forego a meal if that's what it took for us to get into the game? Willing to forego our own self-interest - our maintenance of our own little box when God says, "hey, I've got something for you to do over here?" Willing to forego plans for a bigger house, a more affluent lifestyle, more toys and time spent on things that are just fun and games if God said, "I need you. And this is what it takes for you to be used by Me?" Would we be willing to do it?
See, it's true that God can use anyone who can simply tell a story of their experience with Jesus and has a willing heart. It's true that being used by God will feed our souls. It's true that God often wants to use us right where we are. But all of those truths are dependent this one: on our willingness to say "yes, Lord, here I am. Use me as you see fit. Tell me what to do and I will rearrange my priorities to get it done."
Now, I don't know how that works out in your life. I don't know what your life is like, what your box is like, what God might be saying to you individually, if He's already revealed to you a piece of His agenda that he wants you to handle. I don't know.
 

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