An Unexpected Purpose

“Purpose?  Me?  This blog doesn’t apply to me.  God could never use me.”

I’m confident that there are women who will find this blog and will think that – that God can never use them and therefore there is no great purpose for their lives.  Maybe it was something they did.  Maybe – tragically – it was something someone else did to them.  Maybe it is just what others have told them – all lies- but they believe it.  But they feel worthless and useless to God.

The Samaritan woman at the well shows us that no matter what we’ve done, no matter what has happened to us, Jesus still wants to use us and can use us.

The apostle John tells this story in John 4:1-42.  I’ve always heard it taught as a model for evangelism – how to initiate a conversation, how to turn a common experience into a chance to share the gospel, how to cross cultural boundaries in evangelism.  But it wasn’t until I heard it taught again recently that I saw it as a story of Jesus using a woman – and an unexpected one at that – to influence people for His kingdom.

I love how John starts the story.  In verse 4, he says that Jesus “had” to go through Samaria.  Technically, Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria.  It was the most direct route but not the only route.  There was also one to the east through Perea.  “In Jesus’ day the Jews, because of their hatred for the Samaritans, normally took the eastern route in order to avoid Samaria.”1  John even parenthetically adds in verse 9 the fact that Jews wouldn’t have dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus-And-Woman-At-WellBut John didn’t make a mistake in his wording.  Jesus did have to go through Samaria.  He had to meet this woman, save her, and then use her to reach those in her city so that they would also come to believe in Him.  Jesus is always seeking the lost, even those who are the outcasts and despised in the culture.

The Samaritan woman doesn’t fit the mold of the typical leader, someone you would expect to be used to have an impact.  For one, she is a woman and they weren’t valued in society at this time except as property. “Women had such little standing in that culture that they had no religious or legal authority as spokespersons.”2 The way Jesus treated women is one of the many ways He was radical.  She is also a Samaritan whom we’ve already noted were a class of people who were despised by the Jews.  Besides that, she has had five husbands and the man she is with now is not her husband.  Not the stellar reputation you expect for a leader.  The time she picks to come to the well (about 6pm) shows that she is trying to be there alone, to avoid the scornful, judgmental looks of others that remind her of her shame.

But Jesus chooses her.  I get tears in my eyes as I type that.  How kind Jesus is, how gracious, how amazing.  He not only chooses her to save her and give her hope of never thirsting again, but He also chooses her as His ambassador to her city.   The story ends with her leaving her waterpot, going into her city, and telling the men about Jesus.  Verse 39 summarizes her impact on her community: “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’”

I don’t know if anyone but Jesus would have picked her.  His disciples were amazed that He was even speaking to her since she was a woman (v. 27).  She was amazed He was even speaking to her because she was a Samaritan (v. 9).  The people in the city would have known her history with men and most likely wouldn’t have chosen her.  But Jesus did.  He chose her to be the one to influence her community and make an eternal impact.

And if Jesus chooses and uses her, He can choose and use you.  He’s already made it clear in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 that He calls you to take the gospel to the world and that He has given you the power to do it through His Holy Spirit.  Will you believe it?  Will you believe that He does have a purpose for you?  Will you believe that you are important to Him, important enough for Him to die for you?  Will you step out in faith and trust Him to use you to influence those in your community like the woman at the well?

Notes:

1The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 284

2From an article on everystudent.com – http://www.everystudent.com/wires/women.html

Trusting God in 2015

There is something wonderful about the start of a new year, isn’t there?  A clean calendar and planner to fill in.  The promise of a fresh start and the anticipation of what the year will hold.  Maybe relief that the last year has ended because it was full of difficulties and pain.  There’s a reason that January 1 is pictured with an old man giving way to a baby.

With the freshness of a new year, many Americans have a practice of making resolutions.  Things they will do differently, changes they will make.  I’m not sure how many people succeed in these.  My guess is that the percentage of those with good intentions who actually follow through on them for 365 days is small.

Since I’m in the higher percentage (i.e. the one that fails to follow through), I have stopped making resolutions.  But this year I decided to do a couple of different things to start off my new year.  One thing I did is make some goals for the year instead of resolutions.  Maybe to you there doesn’t seem to be that much difference between the two, but for me there is enough that it gives me motivation.  With resolutions I have a tendency to feel defeated quickly in January, and then I just quit.  (Such is another drawback of being a perfectionist.)  But with my goals, I have a whole year to work to accomplish them so I feel energized and hopeful and focused.  I’ll let you know in 2016 how well it works!

Besides setting goals, though, I’ve decided this year to also have a list of things I am trusting God for in 2015.  When I was on staff with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) at Clemson University, we used to take time at the end of each school year to plan for the next year.  Part of that was picking five things we wanted to trust God for that year.  It might be how many freshmen would get involved or how many students would come to know Christ or how many would go to conferences or on missions trips.  After my first couple of years there, we started having our student leadership team decide what we were going to trust God for, and they really stretched the faith of our staff team!

I came to love and appreciate several things about this process.  One is that it gave us all focus.  It gave us focus in our prayers as we regularly asked God to do these five things.  But it also gave us focus in how we spent our time.  These were our priorities, and so our time began to reflect them.   Another thing I loved about it was the way it increased our faith.  It was amazing to get to the end of the year, look back at what we asked God to do, and then see what He did.  I remember the first year that the students made these decisions.  They wanted to trust God for 40 freshmen to get involved in our movement.  That was a huge faith goal because I think we had seen a total of maybe 15 new people from all classes get involved the year before.  We were in awe in April as we listed the freshmen who had been a part of Cru and realized that it was even more than the 40 we had asked God to bring.  Which leads me to the last reason I loved choosing things to trust God for each year – it led to worship and awe and thanksgiving.

So this year I made a list of things to trust God for.  Some of them are personal and some are part of the ministry of Women with Purpose.  There are ones about evangelism and discipleship and Bible studies, but also some about relationships and finances.  Of course, just because I am trusting God to do these things doesn’t mean that I don’t have to do anything.  If I am trusting Him to see someone come to know Christ, I need to take the initiative to share my faith.  If I am trusting Him to build relationships with my neighbors, I need to get out of my house to meet them and also invite them over.  But at the same time, all of the things on my list are ultimately things that are out of my control.  They all require God to graciously work.

So what do you want to trust God for this year?

  • Sharing the gospel with a co-worker?
  • Repairing a relationship?
  • Discipling another woman as you encourage her in her faith?
  • Excelling in your work?
  • Changing your attitude towards a difficult co-worker?
  • Finding a place to serve in your community?
  • Getting to know your neighbors?

Whatever it is, I encourage you to make it as specific as you can so it will be very clear when God works.  When we pray for things that are vague, it can be hard to know if God really answered.  But when we pray for specific things and God answers specifically, we overflow with thanksgiving to Him.

I’m excited to see what 2015 holds.  God’s plan is always good.  I definitely had no idea when 2014 started that I would be writing this blog and trying to start a ministry in my community to women in the marketplace!  What other surprises does He have in store for me?  How will He answer my prayers?  How will he do “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think”?  (Ephesians 3:20)

Happy New Year!