One of my favorite stories about Jesus came up in our recent reading in the Chronological Bible. In John 4, Jesus has a significant conversation with a Samaritan woman. In that first century context, his willingness to speak with her at all was shocking enough, but then Jesus tops that revealing to her that he is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. This passage always reminds me that Jesus is eager to make Himself known to those who hunger and thirst for His salvation.
But the part of the story that really gets me is when the disciples return. As we might expect, they are shocked to find him talking to this woman. They stand there, a bit befuddled about what to say, and so they change the subject to food. Jesus had sent the disciples on an errand to buy bread, and now they have returned. They tell Jesus to eat something. But Jesus responds with this amazing statement, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing his work.” (John 4:34)
We might expect Jesus to say something like that. It sounds very spiritual, doesn’t it? But look again at what he implies here. Essentially, Jesus tells the disciples that when He serves God and gives His life away, He gets filled up from that process. Doing God’s work energizes, rather than drains him. In our busy, go-go-go world, I wonder if we ever experience this. Work is draining. Kids are exhausting. Volunteering and helping sap our strength. We get to the end of a day most often feeling very depleted and hungry.
Yet here is Jesus saying that to work for God is all the food He needs. What this says to me is that when we live our lives according to God’s plan and God’s call, we are filled up. I get so busy marching to my own agenda, intent on accomplishing my own personal
to-do list, that I wonder if I have room for God to speak and direct in this way. I am encouraged by this story to reflect on how my “work”, especially the things I do “for God” could come from God’s direction. Let me make four suggestions of how we might all move in this direction:
1. Know who you are. Jesus knew that He had come to seek and save the lost. When he saw a lost woman at the well, He knew that it was God’s will for Him to speak with her. While we will never be Jesus, we have been given an assignment by our Heavenly Father. He has crafted and created us a certain way. We are wired to do certain things well. Lean into these areas of your life.
2. Know who you aren’t. In John 4, Jesus rests at the well because He is tired. He had an awareness of the limits of his humanity. He needed to be refreshed. So often, our work is draining because we get busy trying to live beyond our limits. We try to fulfill someone else’s vision for who we should be or what we should do. You aren’t super-human. You aren’t Jesus. Learn to say “no” to the things that simply go beyond your capabilities.
3. Take time to listen. From the earliest stories of Jesus’ life, we find him escaping to solitary places, not just so he can be alone, but more importantly so that He can pray. The Son of God knew He needed time with God; how much more do you and I need the same thing? We must spend time each day in God’s Word and listening for God’s voice if we hope to know what the Father has and has not called us to do.
4. Walk in obedience. In John 4, Jesus chose to walk through Samaria. Most “proper Jews” would go miles out of their way to avoid the place. I think Jesus’ intentional path through Samaria was in obedience to God’s leading. The events with the woman at the well would never have take place if not for this first step of obeying God. As we make choices to do what God has called us to do in Scripture, we also will put ourselves in places to do the filling, nourishing work that God has for us.
Can you imagine what it would be like to get to the end of a busy, full day and say, “I’m filled up.”? I believe this is the kind of life God invites us into when we listen to His voice and live out of who He has made us to be. May we all experience such fullness from doing His will!