Charles Stanley — God's Answer for the Empty Life
Have you ever felt empty? I mean empty in your heart, empty in your spirit, empty in your soul, not empty in your stomach, but empty in the real you, your personality? You look around and you think, Well, I've got everything I need, and I can live anywhere I want to live, I can drive anything I want to drive. And everything seems to be so right, but somehow deep down inside, something's missing. And oftentimes you may talk to folks and you say, "Well, you know, let me tell you what's going on in my life". And they'll give you some suggestion and you may ask yourself the question, "Well, what have I done wrong? Or what's missing in my life"?
Many people will go through life feeling empty and never figure out why because they're looking in the wrong places. And to be empty means that you're not complete. In other words, you're just not satisfied. There's no real peace, and you can look around and say, well, I ought to have peace and I ought to have joy, but why do I feel what I feel? Now, lots of folks have suggestions, but the issue is what's the real reason for it? Well, one of the wonderful things about our Lord, the Scripture says in that last part of the second chapter of John that he knew all men, that is, he knew all men and women. He had insight into all of them, so many times he avoids situations and circumstances because he did. But he also had divine discernment, that is, he could meet a person and know exactly what was going on inside of them.
Now, when you walk in the Spirit, and I think God gives this to some degree. When you walk in the Spirit of God and you're living a Godly life, he will give any one of us discernment, a degree of discernment to be able to understand and know what's happening, not only around us, but also when we meet somebody. And I'm sure you've met people and you walk away and you think, you know, "I wonder what's going on inside of them". You can almost feel them say, "I'm hurting on the inside". You can almost feel them saying, "I feel so lonely. I feel so rejected. I feel so unfulfilled". You can just discern what's not right within them or maybe you don't know what it is, but you know something because they can't keep it to themselves.
And if you'll think about it, our countenance reveals who we are and what we're like. And you've met people who are just smiling, and the longer you talk to them, the smile goes away, something's not right. Well, in our text this morning, Jesus preached one of his greatest sermons to one person, and one of those, of course, was Nicodemus, and when he talked to him about being born-again. And then in the very next chapter, he talks to one woman. There's a lot of insight into the life of people, and the life of this one woman. So I want you to turn, if you will, to the fourth chapter of John. And I want us to read a portion of this passage, and I want us to talk about this whole issue of emptiness. Beginning in verse 1 John chapter 4, "Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were, He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria".
And he had to pass through Samaria for a very specific reason, we'll talk about. "So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied," he got tired, "from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour". Now, in our time that would be about like noontime. "There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.' For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, 'How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?' For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, "Give Me a drink," you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.' She said to Him, 'Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us this well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?' Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.' The woman said to Him, 'Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.' And He said to her, 'Go, call your husband and come here.'"
Now, that was a strange response. She said, how can I get this water? And He says, Go call your husband, which looks like Jesus was changing the subject. What's all that about? So I want us to think about this lady for a moment because she is a perfect example of people who live a very empty life. What does it mean to feel empty? What's going on in a person's life that's empty? There's no sense of direction. There's no sense of real purpose. There's no sense of accomplishment. Friendships are sort of so-so. Their plans are always in question. They don't have a lot of goals or real dreams in life because they've already given up on all of those. And so, there they are living out their life, and they go home in the afternoon from work into an empty apartment or an empty house. It may be meager in its furnishings, or it can be very, very affluent, but still, the emptiness is there. May have been that they were married and no longer married, and that just makes the emptiness that much worse. Or it may be that they were married and their spouse is gone. They've passed away, makes the emptiness that much worse. Or maybe their kids have all gone away to college, and there they are now and they're alone, and that makes it worse.
So there are many things that make it worse. But why are people so empty? What is it that's really missing in their life? Well, I want us to look at this woman. The Bible says that Jesus was passing through and decided that he was going through Samaria. And so, he sits down to take a rest and somebody says, "But isn't he the son of God"? Yes. "Well, what's he doing being tired"? Remember, that Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, that is, what would make us tired would make him tired when it came to physical things. So he's sitting there at the well and taking a break, and the disciples have gone into town to get something to eat. And so, he was just sitting there, and this woman shows up.
Now, it was the custom that men did not speak to women in public. So, notice what happens, she shows up at the well and Jesus' first statement was, "Give me a drink". Well, that was really a very odd situation because they both knew immediately he's a Jew, she's a Samaritan, they don't speak, and yet, he's asking her for something. And so, he began a conversation with her, and the purpose of that conversation was to help her find out who she was and where she was in life, and to bring her to a different relationship. And so, when you look at that and you think about all the things that were going on in this conversation and some of the things that Jesus said here, it's pretty evident that the Lord was heading in a particularly different direction than she thought. And she thought it was just another man. And so, as they began to discuss this whole issue of living water.
Now, in those days, water was probably one of the most precious things that existed. And so, to have living water meant that you had running water. And so, she had to question about that because this well isn't running water. It was sort of stagnant water, and so when we talk about living water, she interprets that as running water. And He said, well, if you knew who I was, you would ask and I'd give you a drink. It'd be living water. And so, in that conversation, they began to talk about the water and so forth. And naturally, she was interested because what they would do, they caught rainwater, and they built cisterns that catch the rainwater. And so, when He brought up this whole idea of talking about running water, He got her attention immediately. Living water, running water. And so, in the process, it led her to relate to the Lord Jesus Christ because the next thing you know it's three times, listen, three times she calls Him sir.
Now, He's just a stranger at first. And so when He talks about living water, then she says to Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with". Then again she says, "Sir, give me this water that I may drink". The woman said, "Sir, I perceive that you're a prophet". So, all of a sudden, her attitude changed because she recognized He knew something she didn't know, something that she certainly needed to know. And so, as the conversation went on and He talked about when He said, "Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again, but the drink that I give him will never thirst again". And naturally she says, "Well listen, I'd like to have a drink of that". And then Jesus says to her, "Go call your husband".
Now, what did he do? He went straight to the heart of the issue, and, that is, she had a problem. So she said, "I'm not married". Jesus said, "You're correct. You've had five husbands and the person you're living with is your lover. You're not married to him". Well, imagine what she must have felt when all of a sudden her total insides were spilled out, and she didn't have to say a word. But notice what? Jesus did not condemn her and say, "You adulteress woman". There is not a single word of condemnation. Now, think about her for a moment. She had five husbands, but what does this mean? It means number one, she only pleased each one of them for a season. Well, after about the third one, more than likely, she probably was beginning to think, "You know what's wrong with me"? And beginning to think, well, if I married again, I wonder if that will work? And so, each time she married, five times she married, now she's living with someone else.
Now, the problem in those days was that if your wife did not please you for whatever reason, you could divorce her. She didn't cook your eggs right, she didn't shine your shoes, she didn't wash your clothes. In other words, she was late, you could divorce her. So five times she suffered terrible rejection because more than likely, let's give her some credit, that she fell in love with these guys or whatever the issue was. Or it may be that she was just looking for somebody to take care of. But whatever it might have been, each time she got rejected. So think about this, watch this, you're not good enough. You don't count. You don't measure up. You're a nobody. You can't produce. You promise, you can't. So over and over and over again, what happens? Each one of these men took a slice out of her, out of her very personality. She didn't measure up.
Have you ever been in a situation where somebody did the same thing to you for whatever reason you don't measure up, you don't count? And now, I think about how many women, for example, go to work every morning to help support the family and the husband comes home and one of these days he says, "You know what? This is over. I'm finished. I'm out of here". "Well, why are you out of here"? "Well, you just don't do this, and you don't do that". You know, you can always find a reason to criticize somebody. And so, I think until a person has been rejected, for whatever reason, but truly rejected, it's hard for us to understand the kind of feeling and the kind of pain. It's almost like mortal pain that a person experiences when they've been rejected, especially when they thought they'd done their best.
And so, here's a woman who's been rejected five times and now living with someone and probably thinking, "I wonder when I'm gonna do something wrong and he's gonna walk out"? And so, Jesus brings her to deal with what is going on in her life, totally rejected, unimportant, doesn't count, ostracized by all the other women in the village because that's why she's there alone. And Jesus not only saw her being alone, he saw the loneliness deep down inside of her. Now listen, God created every single one of us alike to some degree, that is, he is created all of us for a personal relationship with himself. You may not be a Christian and you say, "Well, yeah, that's totally off the wall". Listen again, he created every single one of us with a place within us for himself. That means that not anything you and I substitute for Jesus Christ in life is ever gonna satisfy us. You can't have enough money. You can't have enough prestige and promise. And you can't have enough drugs, alcohol, sex. You can't have enough of anything to substitute and bring about a sense of contentment and happiness and peace and joy in your life. She had tried it all and nothing was working, and then Jesus came upon the scene.
So I would simply ask you this, is there anything going on in your life that if you stopped and were really, really honest about it, you'd have to say, "This is my attempt to fill up my emptiness, this is my attempt to do something about my loneliness, this is my attempt to do something about my feeling that nothing's ever right. I'm some somehow not acceptable. I can't do enough right," because, you see, until you have a personal intimate relationship with him, life is not gonna be right, no matter who you are. And I think one of the worst types of life, watch this, is not to have nothing, but to have everything and can't figure out why none of it works, and there are many people like that. They have all the money they want. They can go anywhere they want to go. They can do mostly anything they want to do, and yet, remaining on the inside is this gnawing, continuous, throbbing of emptiness, loneliness, frustrations and fears and all the things that accompany that. Well, that's where she was, and so Jesus began to talk to her.
Now, let's just think about what happens. When a person feels empty, they are frustrated. When they're empty, their mind is divided because no matter what goes on, whoever they meet, maybe that's the right one, maybe he is, maybe she is, or maybe if I get the next job or if I get a promotion. Always looking and searching for something to satisfy that deep, deep longing in their heart. And so you think about it this way, how much alcohol does it take to satisfy? Another can or another bottle. How much drugs does it take to satisfy? One more shot. How much sex does it take to satisfy? One more episode. How much more money? Some more. And a different car. A higher-price apartment or a more expensive home or a more expensive trip. And what happens? It's always more and more and more, and here's the reason. If you told me you were thirsty and I said, "Look, I can quench that thirst, I want you to go down to the beach and get you a big cup and just drink all of the water you want. Look in the ocean, you'll never be able to drink, now just help yourself".
Let me ask you a question, how much ocean water does it take to satisfy? Not a drop, because, you see, it's the wrong thing. And people who are trying to get satisfied with all these other things over here, it's futile. It's futile. It's empty. It is not going to work. And the reason I know it's not going to work is because I know how God created us. And secondly, look around you. Look at all the stars of Hollywood and look at all the prominent people, and what happens? They're miserable, not everybody. But you see, if all those things over here in the world's well, if they satisfied, then people would be happy and satisfied doing what the world does, but they're miserable because there's not but one thing that satisfies the human heart, and Jesus told her about it.
He says now, "The water that I'm talking about is eternal, it's flowing and it's lasting". In fact he says in the tenth chapter of John in that tenth verse, I believe it is, he says, "I've come to give you life more abundantly," and that word simply means overflowing. It means more than enough. That is, I've come to give you a life that is satisfying. Somebody says, well in the Scripture, what does that life look like? Well, here's what it looks like, it looks like this. When you drink from the well that Jesus talked about, here's what you get, "Love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, patience, and faithfulness, self-control, that is, the fruit of the spirit". You say, "You mean to tell me that if I have Jesus in my life, I have the privilege of having all of that"? That is the promise, and there are multitudes of people who can stand up right here and say by experience, "Yes that's true".
And there are many people, for example, there are be people who are drinking, drinking, drinking, participating, doing everything imaginable over here on this side, trying to get some kind of satisfaction. And the Bible says that she talked to Jesus and began to realize what's happening and the Bible says that she ran to town. Now imagine, the Bible says, and she told the men, she didn't tell the women. She told the men, she said, "I've found a man who's told me everything there is to know about me. Could this be the Messiah"? And of course, she recognized that He was. And one thing that happened, we know that she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior, though she didn't know all the terminology we know. She just knew this man was it because when she told them what happened, if she'd not had a change in her life that was so evident on her face that it said, "Oh, here's that adulteress woman with her sixth lover". No, they listened to her and they came out to meet Jesus, and they understood who he was. The Scripture says that then they said to her, "First we believed in him because you said so, we now we believe in him because of what we have seen and what we've heard".
That is, God changed her life. He didn't do any more for her than he can do for you. It doesn't make any difference where you are in life. It doesn't make any difference how deep you are, how lonely you are, how frustrated, how anxious, how hopeless, how helpless in all the things that you've tried that haven't worked. Why don't you try the one thing that will work? And that is Jesus Christ. You say, "Well, how do I do that"? Well, it's really rather simple in a way. You have to do the same thing she did. You see, before Jesus Christ gave her a drink, he said to her, Go call your husband. He, first of all, had to deal with her where she was in life and help her to understand what was so very important. Because, you see, we don't have all the words in every single thing Jesus said either to Nicodemus or to him, but we have enough of it. And that is when she finished talking to Jesus, she knew something was different.
And so, she accepted him as the Messiah. Her life changed and one of the first things she wanted to do was to go tell someone else. And so they came and they listened, and God worked in their life and their life was changed. And so, when you think about what does it take to fill up an empty life, it doesn't take anything that you can find over here in the world's wells. But I want to ask you this question first, is that what you're drinking? What is it that you're looking for, and where are you looking for it? Because, you see, if it's anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ, you will never be satisfied. He is the answer and the solution to every single issue in life. You say, "Well, now look, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior some time ago, and I know that I'm saved, and yet, somehow, I'm sort of empty". I can tell you why, you've been over here dipping out of the wrong well. You're back where you were, trying to get some satisfaction out of the old well you used to drink out of all the time because somebody said, "Well, look, why don't you do this and why don't you try that? And let's do thus and so". Listen, all you do when you go back to that well is create a double sense of thirst and hunger because you're heading in the wrong direction, and the difference is you know better.
So I'd ask you a question, is Jesus Christ the Lord and master of your life? Is he the one that you really live for every day? Can you say that he is your life, that your life revolves around Him and His will and His purpose and His plan for your life? Or are you stooping down and dipping down over here where you're not gonna get satisfied? You know why all the young people do that, why they live over here in this well? Because they've seen their parents live there. They'll tell you they're not happy and their parents aren't happy because, you see, listen, you cannot be happy drinking from the wells of the world, you cannot.
So the question is, what do you do? You come to grips with where you are in life. You ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. You tell him that you're laying your life before him. You're committing yourself to him. You don't understand it all. There are a lot of things you don't understand at this point, but you're trusting his death at the cross paid your sin debt in full, and you're asking him to forgive you of your sins to save you, and to turn your life around. You want what he has to offer, because what you have done, you have done all of these things and found nothing but disappointment in life. And it's my prayer that you'd be willing to accept him as your personal Savior. Say, "What do I do"? You just tell him out of a sincere heart, surrender your life to him. Listen, you've already messed it up. It's not working. Surrender your life to him and watch him work in your life. He'll transform you, make you a new person. That's why Jesus called it being born again, that is, a brand-new life and it's yours for the asking.