Seeing the White Fields
Text: John 4:5-42
I. Indulge me for a moment and consider the following situations:
A. You are talking about what various church have to offer in the area with your neighbor and you take the opportunity to invite him to our services. He replies, “I think we’ll just go to the church on the corner. It is closer. After all, most churches are basically the same. As long as they believe in Jesus then we’ll get to heaven.”
1. How would you respond?
2. What passages would you show him?
B. You are chatting with a co-worker and find out that he hasn’t been to a service in quite a while. You are curious as to why and he tells you: “Oh, I was saved ten years ago. I was having a real difficult time in the my life back then and I was praying hard. Suddenly this feeling of peace came over me and I knew that the Lord had answered my prayers. It’s just me and the Lord now. I don’t need some institution.”
1. How would you respond?
2. Could you open your Bible and support your answer?
II. It really should be natural to any Christian. I really shouldn’t need to remind you of it again - Hebrews 5:12-14
A. I Peter 3:15 - Be ready to give an answer
B. In other words, apply yourself to learning God’s word well enough to pass it on to others.
C. Cultivate a desire for the word - I Peter 2:2
1. How many managed to get through the daily Bible reading last year?
2. What happened? You started with good intentions, but things just got in the way.
3. David’s thought - Psalm 119:97-114
D. Along with learning, we need to gain insight into how to respond to people - Colossians 4:5-6
1. Any old answer won’t do
2. It needs to be a thought out answer, one seasoned with salt.
III. How did you become a Christian?
A. Whether you came from a denomination or were raised in the church, you didn’t just stumble into being a Christian.
B. Oh, you might have stumbled into finding the church, but not in becoming a child of God.
1. However you were introduced to the church, you were taught before you became a Christian - Jeremiah 31:33-34
2. People don’t become and then learn. They learn and then become. - John 6:45
C. We need to do the same for others. To pass on the knowledge of Christ to other people.
1. Jesus gave a commission - Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16
2. The apostles started it, but are we leaving it to falter. Have we dropped the baton, so to speak?
D. It isn’t as if we don’t know people that need the gospel message.
1. If I asked you to make a list, how many people do you know whom you have a strong suspicion won’t make it to heaven?
2. I doubt your list will be short - James 5:20
E. The real problem is that we defeat ourselves before we start.
IV. Learning from the Master
A. Most of us our familiar with the story of Jesus teaching the woman at the well in John 4
B. Do you realize that if it was left up to the disciples, it never would have happened?
C. No pre-screening - John 4:27a
1. In Jewish society, it just wasn’t done that a man should talk with a woman. “Jesus, alone in public with a woman? He used to be more reserved!”
2. How many people on your list haven’t heard the gospel because we thought it wasn’t the right time, even though an opportunity had arisen.
3. How many people were skipped because we didn’t think the gospel would appeal to them?
4. How many people didn’t hear the blessed news because we thought they were the right sort of people?
D. Yet the disciples did learn not to question the Master’s methods - John 4:27b
1. I hear people all the time saying “teaching the Bible just doesn’t appeal to people any more.”
a. I must admit that I have wondered that as well.
b. But I’m learning otherwise. I continue to be amazed by the number of people seeking out answers to questions about the Bible on our Website. The breath of questions is fascinating.
c. Even more fascinating are the questions qualified with “Bible” or “Christian.” They want to know what God says on the subject.
2. We don’t need entertainment, social activities, and the like - John 12:32
3. We cannot improve on what God has ordained - I Corinthians 1:20-24
E. Teach the taught to teach - John 4:28-30
1. The woman didn’t know everything, but she knew enough that she invited others to seek out the same message
2. Too often we think that teaching others requires deep knowledge or fancy study materials.
3. And don’t forget that raising children to be Christians is spreading the word - I Timothy 2:15
Staying with the Baggage
A few years ago a lovely Christian mother gave me criticism I deserved. I had preached a strong sermon on personal evangelism – pointing out every Christian’s obligation to reach out and win others to the Lord. In the conclusion of the sermon I tried to obliterate every excuse that anyone might have for failure to lead others to Christ. The sermon needed to be preached, of course, as it still does. Only, apparently, I had been guilty of some unfair emphasis.
After the sermon I was invited home with a lovely Christian family. The husband was completing his resident work as a medical doctor, and had little spare time, but still, I might add, spent some of this time in our personal work program. The wife beautifully cared for their three lovely children. All of them were young – one still an infant in arms – and required a lot of time.
During the meal the wife asked if I remembered the Scripture: “For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage” (I Samuel 30:24). I confessed my ignorance and she gave the context of King David insisting that the home guard be rewarded equally with those who had the more obviously essential role of fighting in the front line.
And then she shared a wonderful truth with me that I’m sure I already knew, but which is so easily forgotten. She mentioned that she felt taking care of her children, patiently teaching them the ways of God and His great values, looking for moments of readiness to gently re-track them when they get on the wrong track – she felt that this was staying with the baggage.
She went on to point out that she often felt guilty for not doing more of the “church” work than she did, but that she felt her greatest ministry was being a dedicated Christian mother.
My friend, all you need to say after listening to a needed reprimand like that is one word ... Amen.
There are so many ways we today stay with the baggage. There are so many inglorious tasks that need to be done for Christ and for which we probably will never receive much recognition.
But may God help us to keep our eyes open for little things, seemingly unimportant, but necessary to the Lord’s work. Today or tomorrow, there will be something you can say, someone you can help, or something you can pray, or someone you can teach – and you may be tempted to pass it by. It may seem so insignificant. But ... stay with the baggage.
The too often overlooked task of childcare was seen after capably. And, one of the most important areas of the Lord’s work was given deserved attention in that many visits were made to the ill, newcomers, members needing a little friendly nudge, and others. Thank God for all this work. It shows a lot of love. It builds a lot of loyalty. And it gets the Lord’s work done.
4. Preaching the gospel can even be helped in supporting roles: Watching kids for another couple so they can study with a neighbor uninterrupted, going with preachers to a foreign country to serve as a housekeeper so the preachers can concentrate on reaching the lost. Putting in a word here or there to bring people’s mind back to the cross and the words of God. All of these are essential roles.
F. For those on the front lines, we must desire to teach more than eat - John 4:31-34
1. Too often we look for just the right time. Just the right place.
2. And the perfect time never comes - Ecclesiastes 11:4
3. Often because we put convenience first.
G. Don’t delay - John 4:35
1. We pass up so many opportunities!
2. They are all around us, but we ignore them, overlook them, or just plain put them off for a later time which never seems to arrive.
H. Labor because our reward is in heaven, not on earth - John 4:36-38
1. Many give up because they don’t see the results now.
2. Sometimes we are the ones preparing the ground for those who come later.
3. There have been studies where the response was rapid, but I know that it was due to the work done in advance by others.
4. Teach because it is what needs to be done.
V. Teach what needs to be taught when the opportunity presents itself
Which of the Two Had You Rather Be?
By H. Osby Weaver
While preaching in Hawaii during the war years, one of our members invited a fellow-worker to our services and received a tongue lashing for his efforts, a part of which was that all churches were frauds and were interested in nothing more than getting your money. Later, after thinking more about it, he decided to attend on his own and see for himself.
The lesson of the hour was about what one would expect to hear at any of our services. At the conclusion the man came around and told me that he was interested in what he had heard and would like to talk to me about it further. This we did until about midnight at which point he said, “You know, I believe that, and I want to be baptized one of these days.” My response was, “Why not now?” He informed me that he worked on the night shift at Pearl Harbor and would not have time to catch the bus to get to work on time. I told him that I would take him to work in my car. He said, “Well, no need to hurry about it. I’ll have plenty of time, and I will do it one of these days.” I asked, “Do you mean that you want to serve the Devil a while longer?”
He replied, “No, that is not my attitude at all.” I then asked him that if he never had another opportunity to obey the Lord, what would he say to Him in the day of Judgment? He dropped his head momentarily in sober reflection, then looking me in the eye, he said, “I just don’t know what I would say; let’s do it now!” I took him down into the water and baptized him for the remission of his sins shortly after midnight.
The following Thursday, he became violently ill on the job, was rushed to the hospital where emergency surgery was performed, and it was learned that even though he had no pain before, he was eaten up with cancer. He died in less than thirty days.
He was never permitted to attend but one gospel service in all his life. If he had left me that night without obeying the Lord, he would have died lost. I have always been grateful that “knowing the terror of the Lord” that I persuaded him to obey.
Now let me tell you about another gentleman with whom I talked about obeying the Lord. He was my barber when I lived in a north central Texas town. In talking to him about his need to become a Christian while he cut my hair, he responded with, “My wife, you know, is a member of the church of Christ.” I knew that and told him he ought to be. He chuckled a little and informed me that he planned to be sometime in the future. I told him that he was not getting any younger. He readily agreed to that, but said he had a little living to do yet and felt that he had plenty of time yet. My reply was, “Time may be running out on you.” He said, “Oh, I don’t think it will.” I didn’t either at that time but was merely calling his attention to the possibility.
I left town for several days and upon my return I went to the barber shop. The barber was not there, and I noticed that his name had been removed from the mirror. Thinking that he perhaps had gone to work in another shop in town, I asked, “Where is my barber?” The others said, “He is dead.” While standing at his chair, he had a massive heart attack and died on the way to the hospital.
Time ran out sooner than either he or I thought it would. He departed this life knowing what he should do to obey the Lord and knowing that he really ought to do it. But he didn’t!
Now which of the two had you rather be? Each rational being holds destiny within his own hands. These two were alike in that they both lived, and they both died, and at one point they were alike in that neither had obeyed the gospel of Christ. There, however, the likeness ends. Which had you rather be?
A. The opportunity to teach may be the only one you have. Don’t waste it!
B. The opportunity to respond may be the only one you have. Such an opportunity exists right now. Don’t waste it!