Greg Laurie — Satisfaction for the Spiritually Thirsty
I think most of us are aware of the shocking death of Oscar winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This academy award winning actor was found dead of an overdose of heroin with a needle still in his arm and two open envelopes of heroin next to him. His apartment was filled with more. A great tragedy no doubt. There has been a lot of debate. I have seen people talk about it in news programs. Some sort of take the position of drug addiction and alcoholism as a disease and these people really are victims of this disease. Others argue more the personal responsibility of it all. You made choices and then you reaped the consequences of the choices.
Here is what I haven't heard addressed in this great debate. What drives a person to do such things? My contention is that there is a despair, and emptiness, there is a loneliness, and there is a hole in the heart that sends people in this direction. Nothing is new under the sun. Now the things that people turn to may change, but the void in our lives, that emptiness, it is a loneliness for God. Let's talk about a story that happened 2000 years ago. It is an encounter between Jesus and an immoral woman. We usually refer to her as the woman at the well.
Let's read now John 4 starting in verse 3. "So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way". Underline that phrase. He had to go. We will come back to it. "Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there: and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, 'please give me a drink.' He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.
She said to Jesus, 'you are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?' Jesus replied, 'if you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.' 'But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket, and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water' 'and besides, do you think you're greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?' Jesus replied, 'people soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them giving them eternal life.' 'please, sir,' the woman said, 'give me this water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to get water'. 'go and get your husband,' Jesus told her. 'I don't have a husband,' the woman replied. Jesus said, 'you're right! You don't have a husband-for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now.' 'Sir,' the woman said, 'you must be a prophet.'"
Look at verse 4. It tells us a lot about Jesus. He had to go through Samaria on the way. You could read that verse and not think much of it, but it is really significant. A little historical background will help us to understand. No orthodox Jew would ever go to Galilee through Samaria. In fact he would go out of his way to avoid them altogether. Most Jews of Jesus' time, if they wanted to travel from Judea to Galilee would take the long way around even though there was a direct route from Judea to Galilee through Samaria. The reason they didn't want to go through Samaria was prejudice pure and simple. Here is Jesus now going to Samaria. Why? He had to go. Why? He had an appointment to keep with a burned out immoral woman.
This reminds us of who we are to go to. Whosoever. The Bible says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son and whosoever believes in him should not perish". We need to go to whosoever. Where do we go? We go whenever to whosoever. And when should we do it? Whenever. We are to go whenever to whosoever, wherever God directs us. That brings me to my first point. It is simply this. We have to go to wherever people are. We have to engage people. Sometimes Christians I think try to isolate themselves from nonbelievers. We are not supposed to isolate. We are to infiltrate. We are supposed to permeate because that is your mission field.
That grumpy neighbor. That argumentative coworker. Those unreceptive kids. Moms and dads who don't yet know the Lord. It would do us all well to remember it wasn't all that long ago that we didn't believe in Jesus either. But someone entered our world. We don't go in as someone who is superior. I am not better than anyone else. Better off. Yes. Better. No. I am just one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. Jesus wants us to go to all people. They might be younger than you. They might be older than you. They might be a different race than you. They might be of a different social or economic background than you. There is no room for bigotry. There is no room for prejudice. We have to overcome those things and go to people. The Lord might even lead you to share the Gospel with someone you just are not comfortable with.
Here is Jesus waiting at the well. Here comes this woman, water pot probably up on her shoulder. Maybe on her head. She is carrying it in. Normally no one is there. She gets closer. She sees a figure. She gets a little closer. It is a man. Then she realizes it is a Jewish man. Why is a Jewish man in Samaria? What is going on? She braces herself for a confrontation. She puts her armor on. As she walks up Jesus breaks the ice. Verse 7. "Please give me a drink of water". She is shocked. She responds, "You are a Jew. I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink of water"? She was right about that. Normally they had no engagement whatsoever. Jesus just entered her world.
That brings us to point two. We have to care about the people we speak to. Don't just do it out of duty. Pray for compassion.
That brings me to point three we need to keep at it even when we are tired. Verse 6. "Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime". Isn't that amazing? He was tired from the long walk. If I were Jesus, I wouldn't have done all of that walking. He is God. He can do whatever he wants. I would have said to the disciples, "Meet me in Jerusalem and when you are there, I will be there". "What does that mean"? "Never mind. Just go". As they were walking I would snap my fingers. I am in Jerusalem. "Hey guys. How is it going? I have been waiting for you". Why walk that great distance if you didn't have to. Jesus was weary from his walking. Now he is hungry. He is waiting for the disciples to get some food. But he waits. He is tired.
That brings me to point four. As we engage others we need to use tact. Jesus the master evangelist used something many Christians seriously lack. That is tact. Other words for tact are diplomacy, sensitivity. Tact has been defined as skill and grace in dealing with others. Isaac Newton is quoted to say, "Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy". Notice how Jesus engaged this woman. Here she comes. Water pot on head. He knows her backstory. She doesn't know he knows her backstory. He could have said, "Harlot come here. Immoral woman. Sinner. Did you know you are going to hell"? Would that have been accurate? Yes. Would that have been diplomatic? No. Would that have been tactful? Hardly. He engages her instead. He talks to her. He asks her a question. He listens.
When I stand up here behind this podium it is basically a monologue. But when we talk to people one on one about our faith it is a dialogue. One of the problems is we turn that into a monologue. We start preaching to people. We don't come up for air. All they can think about is getting away from us. They don't want to pray to receive Jesus. They are praying we will go away. One of the best ways to engage a person is to ask them questions. Remember as I have told you before everyone's favorite topic is themselves. Ask them about themselves. Listen to what they say. Respond appropriately. No one can be argued into the kingdom of God and no one can be manipulated into the kingdom of God. If they can be, they can also be argued out and manipulated out. We have to leave that in the Lord's hands.
The other day I went into a restaurant with my wife for lunch. We had never been there before. I couldn't decide what to order. I ordered a sandwich when I really wanted a hamburger. I finished my lame little sandwich. There was a guy sitting a couple tables over with a big burger. He was enjoying it. I actually walked over to him and said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you is that a good burger". He goes, "Oh it is great"? All of this stuff dripping out of it. I said, "I am going to get that next time I come here". His wife sitting next to him said, "Wait. I know you. Are you Greg Laurie"? I said, "Yeah. I am". She said, "I have heard you preach". I said, "Well that's great". She said, "I listen to your radio program. I am a Christian". I said, "Fantastic". Then she says, "My husband isn't a Christian yet".
I felt sorry for the guy. He is just sitting there with his burger. Doh. Now he has got some preacher standing in front of him. Do you think I hit him with both barrels of my Gospel gun? I didn't. I kind of let him off the hook. I said, "Buddy you are in that awkward spot your wife put you in". He says, "Yeah. I used to be a Jehovah's witness. I am trying to make my way". I said, "Listen. Don't wait too long OK, but enjoy your burger". You say, "Greg what kind of a testimony was that"? I was just trying to be nice. I am sure he has heard the Gospel many times from that wife of his. I just wanted to be a nice loving person and not trap him. Now I am going to turn the screws. I don't believe in that. I believe conversion is a work of the Spirit. I felt led to just leave it at that.
Next time I go to that restaurant I am getting that burger too. A lot of times we will be untactful, rude, insensitive, and then when someone rejects us we say, "Praise God. I am being persecuted for righteousness sake". You are being persecuted because you are an idiot. You need to be tactful like Jesus was. Jesus didn't blow this woman out of the water. He engaged her. He invaded her world. He spoke her language. Then he makes a statement in verse 13. "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life".
By the way I tried this approach when I was a brand new Christian. I had read the story probably for the first time. I was at the beach one day. It was very hot. There was a long line of people for the drinking fountain. I stood right by the fountain. I kind of leaned on it. As a person would take a sip would say, "If you drink of that water, you will thirst again". People just looked at me and walked off. "What an idiot". It didn't work for me. It worked for Jesus. Jesus wasn't talking about well water at this point. He is using the well the woman was drinking at as a metaphor for life. He is in effect saying, "Lady listen. This water will not satisfy you". Really what he is saying is, "You have gone to the well of relationships. You have gone to the well of romance or the well of sex or whatever it is. You have come back five times and it hasn't worked. I am telling you if you drink of that water you will thirst again".
You could write that over so many things in life. You could write it over the well of education. You drink of that you will thirst again. The well of success. You drink of that you will thirst again. The well of accomplishment. The well of fame. You fill in the blank. You will thirst again. But if you drink of the water I give you will never thirst again. Even the fact that he asked for a drink of water showed a vulnerability. It showed a humanity. It showed an approachability. Now he is engaging her.
That brings me to point number 5. We much adapt to the situation. I want you to know something. This woman wasn't buying it. She had missed her metaphor. She is being sarcastic. Listen to what she says. She is being quite flippant. Verse 15. "The woman said, 'sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.'" She missed the point. "'I want your special water so I don't have to come to the well anymore.'" Look at what Jesus says. "Go, call your husband, and come here." "Well I have no husband." "That is true. You have had five husbands and you are living with a guy.'" Doh. Busted. "'Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet' she says". He got her attention.
This brings us to a very important point. A person cannot appreciate the good news if they don't know the bad. Sometimes we are afraid to deal with these issues. You might be talking with someone and they say, "I am living with my boyfriend. Do I have to stop doing that if I become a Christian"? You might say, "I don't want to get into that. Let's just get them saved first". Do you know what I will say? "Yeah you do. You have to stop living with your boyfriend. That is a sin". "Don't say that Greg". I have to say that. It is the Gospel truth.
I cannot understand the wondrous grace of God if I don't first help a person understand they are a sinner separated from him. One of the problems in Gospel presentation is we leave that out. We will just offer Jesus effectively as an additive to one's life. He is not an additive. He is the Savior. He is the only Savior. If we don't let him become our Savior there is no hope for us at all. We have to preach that message to people and tell them the truth. There is going to be no forgiveness without repentance. No conversion without confession. He confronted her with her sin. What does she do? She does what most nonbelievers do when they are coming under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. She tries to change the subject.
Look at verse 20. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship". Now we are back to that racial war between the Samaritans and Jews. Even her verbiage is almost anti-semitic. "You Jews. Say this". He wouldn't go down this rabbit trail. Sometimes people will try to get us on rabbit trails. You are talking to them about your faith. "Yeah you are probably conservative politically. Let me just say I am liberal". I am not going to get into a political discussion with a person. I am going to bring it right back to Jesus Christ. That is the bottom line. Regardless of where they are at politically or in any other area. As we do this we are keeping the main thing the main thing.
That is exactly what Jesus did. He adapted to the situation. We should never be robotic as we share our faith. I have seen people that they have this little line they use with every person. It is always the same. I don't like that. I think you want to be flexible. Look at how different Jesus dealt with Nicodemus than how he dealt at the woman at the well. Or with Zacchaeus. Or with Matthew. Or with any other person. It was an individual approach becoming all things to all men. The woman asked the question, "Could this be the Messiah"? She is getting close now. Sometimes you will be speaking with someone and they are starting to get it. They are starting to understand it. Now it is time to go to the next level. Her initial cynicism has given way to curiosity. Now it is becoming belief.
Look at verse 25, "The woman says, 'I know Messiah is coming who is called Christ. When he comes, he will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am he.'" His compassion, insight, patience, and words all combine now to move her. This is when we want to close the deal. This when we want to pull in the net. This is where it breaks down for a lot of people. You will share. A person will be hard at first. Then they start softening up. Then they start engaging. Now they are ready to believe. We will say, "God bless you. I will pray for you". And you walk off. Wait. What are you doing? That is a person is ready to believe. Here is the question. You have got to pop the question. What if they say no? You will live through it. You will survive. Would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior right now? No. All right. I will pray for you.
Just remember you can do that anytime, anywhere. Call out to the Lord. Here is something you might pray. What if they say yes? I think deep down inside that may be what we are afraid of. They are going to say yes. Now what? Pray with them. You bow your head and you lead that person to Christ. It is one of the greatest joys you will ever know this side of heaven. In preaching the Gospel I think we unnecessarily complicate it. When I speak in an evangelistic setting I am not there to exegete scripture in particular though I will do that. I am not there to give a Bible study. I am there to proclaim a simple message. Sometimes it is not just what you put in it but it is what you leave out of it. What you leave out of it is secondary information. Rabbit trails. Things that are not essential. You keep it focused on Jesus. On the cross. On his death. On his resurrection. How a person can believe. We tell them who he was. Then we tell them what he has to offer. Finally how to get it. He told her that. She believed that day. She could drink of the living water. She believes right on the spot. Verse 28. "The woman left her water pot, went on her way, and said to the men, 'come see a man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' "Then they went out of the city and came to him".