December 30, 2011 Devotion Sharing (John 4, 9)

Submitted by Chul K. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

John 4:28-42

When the disciples were concerned about the meal that Jesus might have skipped, Jesus said he had another kind of food which would strengthen his mind and body. This secret food Jesus mentioned was to do the will of Father who sent him and to finish his work. As our body craves for food when we need energy, Jesus showed his hunger for doing God’s will. As our body receives strength from eating food, Jesus was strengthened and satisfied when he did God’s work. Thinking of my own life, this is indeed true to the reality of life. When I recognized the need of doing God’s work and responded to that by using my body and mind, it brought me joy of serving God. Even when I see my effort of doing God’s work not going as well as I had expected, I find myself experiencing deeper fellowship with Christ through participating in his suffering. Yet, it was not easy for me to do the work of God in a timely manner because of my selfish desires for comfort and laziness. When Jesus was engaged in the conversation with this Samaritan woman, he was very tired and wanted to take rest beside the well. That was not the best time for anyone to be motivated to talk to a stranger about serious topics. But Jesus overcame his bodily desires to carry out God’s work. How did Jesus become so interested in the life of this Samaritan Woman in spite of his utter physical tiredness? From the text, I can see how Jesus was keen on the significance of seizing the window of time given to him during his stay on the earth. While most people are just keen on meeting their bodily needs and finishing their own work, Jesus was keen on the advancement of God’s kingdom work. He was aware of how God’s salvation work had to begin before the creation of the world (sowing) and how it progressed through the Old Testament days and how it came to the time of harvest. When he talked about “harvest time”, he probably meant what he was going to accomplish on the cross. With the coming of Jesus and his redemptive work on the Cross, indeed, God’s salvation plan was fully revealed and amazing number of people began to be saved. Jesus compared God’s salvation work to farming. Farming is a time-sensitive business. We have to sow at the right time and reap at the right time. We must pay close attention to how the crops grow each week. When Jesus said that his food is to do the will of God and to finish God’s work, the word “finish” stood out for me. “Finishing God’s work” requires faithful and timely work. “Finishing work” presupposes existence of the deadline for the work and the finiteness of its content. For Jesus, it was his death and resurrection. For me, it is the work that God has entrusted to every Christian. I realize I did not think of God-given work in my life as something that needs to be “finished” within a certain window of time. I often do God’s work as if it has no deadline or due date. That is why I did not have the same kind of urgency, sensitivity, readiness to respond people’s need in my ministry as Jesus did. When I think about students whom I minister to, indeed, there is only a certain window of time during which they might be interested in the gospel. I must constantly think about what this window of opportunity is for each student and respond to it in a timely manner. I have work to “finish” for each person God has placed in my care. I must finish it. When I see the urgency of doing this, I would be more willing to endure self-denial and sacrifice that are required. The encouraging news is that I have food that people in the world know nothing about–the joy of serving God and fellowship with Christ through participating in his suffering.

John 9:1-15

While Jesus’ disciples tried to “interpret” what happened to this man blind from birth, Jesus was interested in bringing “change” to this man’s life by carrying out the work of God in the life of this man. This story gives tremendous encouragement and hope for me. It shows how there is always hope and always the work of God that can happen in the life of any person no matter how much his/her life seems to be messed up and seems to be hopeless. I should never put myself in the position of “explaining away” in any hopeless or painful situation. As long as the gospel is available, as long as it is day, I must do the work of God for people whom God entrusted to me. Because of who Jesus is and what he had accomplished on the cross, everyone has hope and no one’s life is hopeless. Again, I have to “finish” the work assigned to me before night comes. I have only limited amount of time and opportunities with the precious souls whom God had entrusted in my care. I must be faithful in doing “timely” work for each person that I know of. What does this mean in a concrete way? It means sending new year’s greeting to students I have not seen for a while to praying with intensity and faithfulness for people who are losing spiritual interest. As the winter retreat is coming up, I need to be alert and sensitive to the window of time.

Submitted by Sharon K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

John 4:34-36

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.

After having a conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

I was blessed reflecting about how Jesus said this right after having a conversation with the Samaritan woman. GOD’S WILL sounds really grand and FINISH(ing) HIS WORK sounds quite high, lofty and ambitious as something that I cannot attempt. And yet we can sense Jesus’ excitement as he said this. What he said made me rethink about how Jesus saw the Samaritan woman. To Jesus, she was not just a woman who has had many husbands, not just someone who came out to the well in the heat of the day. She was someone who has been observed, loved, and cared for by God for a very long time. God’s work had already begun in her life and when Jesus saw her, Jesus saw the work that had begun by God that needed to be finished and brought into fruition by him. And I’m so blessed thinking about the fact that Jesus’ sentiment of excitement of doing God’s work, His joy of co-laboring with God as sower and reaper was over one nameless woman who has been disregarded and looked down upon by others in the society.

What does this mean for me when I am trying to love one person? This means that I am also joining God’s work that He has begun and this means that I am also co-laboring with God as the sower and reaper co-labor and are together glad as they experience the harvest. I realize that I am only a step away from experiencing the kind of excitement and fullness that filled Jesus as He ministered to the Samaritan woman. This sense of joining God’s work was what filled his soul, what kept him going, hence “his food.”

I pray that I will also be able to say, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” And one important way that I will be able to experience Jesus’ sense of excitement and passion is that I need to be disciplined seeing the work that God has begun in each person as I try to love someone. I need to keep in mind that God has been watching, loving and caring for this person already and God’s work has already begun in his/her life. I need to see that I have a role in joining God’s work and doing His will. It might be sowing the seed of the gospel; it might be showing hospitality and opening hearts; or, it might be serving in the background and not having direct contact with that person. The truth that I am joining God’s will and his work and I get to be God’s co-laborer who can be there together when the harvest is gathered is an amazing privilege and honor.

John 9:1–5

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus tells us that this man born blind from birth was not someone who was unfortunate, someone who was forgotten, dismissed or unfavored by God. But in reality, this man was also someone who has been dearly loved and cared for by God. He was someone whom God focused His attention on and poured in His work of care. His work had always been in his life, but Jesus came into contact with him so that His work can be displayed for everyone to see.

One lesson for me is that I need to approach each person with the attitude of “I want God’s work in his/her life to be displayed” with the faith that His work has already begun in this person’s life.

From these two encounters, one thing I can see clearly is that Jesus looked at each person in terms of God’s work that had already began in their lives. And Jesus knew his role as someone who would display His work, someone who would complete and finish His work, knew that he is joining God’s work as a co-laborer. And Jesus looked forward to the day where the sower and the reaper will be glad together.

I pray that I will also have the same perspective more clearly and regularly in the coming year. Knowing that his own time is limited on this earth, Jesus regarded each encounter as something very precious, where he had only this chance that he had right at that time to really love and minister to that person. As 2011 is coming to a close and I am getting ready to embrace another year, it is more clear that my time to join God’s work is also limited as well. For only a certain number of years, I was serving God as a single person. For only a certain number of years I was serving God as a mom of infants, toddlers, etc. With this perspective in mind, I commit to join God’s work that had already begun in people’s lives with sharper intentionality and focus in the coming year.

Submitted by Shufei L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Jesus’ view of time was very different from his disciples’ view of time because he judged the time according to God’s spiritual activities on earth. The disciples did not have this view because they were spiritually blind to what God was doing around them. That’s why in John 4:35 Jesus exhorted his disciples, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest,” after his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus saw that God had prepared the heart of this woman and subsequently the hearts of people in her town to come to believe in Jesus. Jesus was excited about the “ripe”/ready hearts of these people responding to him. Yet, his disciples did not see this at all as they were simply too concerned about the daily needs, such as making sure that they had physical food to eat.

Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples to open up their spiritual eyes applies to me very aptly and personally. Like the disciples, my heart and mind are often filled with concerns for the daily, physical needs. As a father of two little kids, I am worried about how my kids are doing. My older son doesn’t like to eat, so how much he’s eating everyday is a concern for me. I also need to worry about the finance of the family as my wife and I are supporting our two little ones as well as my parents. These concerns sometimes cloud my eyes toward God’s spiritual activity around me, which is indeed ripe for harvest. God has been working mightily in our church, bringing many people to salvation this past year and opening the hearts of many seekers. He has also been training us up and enlarging our capacity in preparation for greater kingdom work, such as church planting in 2013.

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples ran into this man who was blind born and his parents. The disciples were trying to explain the cause of this man’s tragic condition while Jesus saw the spiritual significance behind the event, which was that “the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Confronted by this inexplicable tragedy, Jesus viewed that it was a special time (kairos) or opportunity for God to display His power and grace instead of looking for explanations for it. Jesus pointed out to his disciples that “as long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me” (John 9:4). Jesus called his disciples to actions in the face of human tragedies because this was the time for God to manifest his goodness and compassion through His people.

Like the disciples, when I am confronted with difficulties, challenges and tragedies that are beyond my control, I want to spend more time looking for explanations of these situations than seeing how God’s glory may be displayed. However, when I do this, I would end up losing out in experiencing God’s calling to send me out as His hands and feet and to do God’s work.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your reminder that my spiritual eyes are blind due to my sins, my earthly concerns, and my worldly fears. You show me your view of the world through your word. This world is ripe for harvest because there are so many people who are lost in their sins. And you want to use me to participate in your salvation work by working through some of the inexplicable tragedies and difficulties in my life and in other people’s lives. Lord, I want to commit once again to see this world the way you see it and approach this world the way you want me to approach it, so that your glory may be displayed. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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