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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Transforming Power of Water and the Word
Adventure or Inconvenience -- a Matter of Attitude

By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- On a recent trip abroad, as a result of some travel alerts, terrorist activities, an airport fire, and several flight delays and cancellations, I spent many unplanned extra hours in airports and on airplanes over several days. In times like those I am always reminded of something my dad told me as I was going off to the Air Force at the age of 18. He said, “Son, I want you to remember that God always works all things together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”

God responds to the believing prayers of His people

I was not a Bible scholar at the age of 18 and didn’t even know where that verse was found in the Bible. However, as I was later faced with difficult situations, the Lord brought that verse to my mind, and I eventually discovered that it was found in Romans 8:28. Over the past, almost 50 years, the Lord has brought that verse to my mind numerous times. In times of problems, difficulties and crisis, I think of that verse and ask the Lord what He has in mind and how He wants to use that situation.

During my recent trip with all the delays and re-routings, I had dozens of conversations with fellow travelers. Many of those conversations led to spiritual issues and ministry opportunities. Years ago I read a booklet entitled, “There are no accidents with God.” It is really true that God can work in the most difficult situations to bring good to us and glory to Himself. During my 68-hour travel experience from Houston to Nairobi, Kenya, I encountered a CEO of a British oil company, a student from the Middle East, a South African business owner, a women’s rights activist, and many others. And, on top of all that, the Lord gave me a lot of unplanned, but valuable time for reflection, prayer and meditation, and an opportunity to do some reading and writing.

Community engagement is an important
part of the job

Over the years with Living Water International, we have seen this Romans 8:28 principle worked out in numerous ways. Even when a water project appears to have failed, God still shows up and brings good out of the situation. We realize that it’s not just about the water, but it’s about the people and the relationships that really matter. It is often in the most difficult and darkest times that God demonstrates to us that He is in control and that He reigns over all of our lives and circumstances.

We often tell people who are going on mission trips that the only difference between an adventure and an inconvenience is our attitude. If we are looking for, expecting and prepared for God to redeem any situation, we can, in fact, get in on His redemptive activity. Thinking back on a couple of my most recent trips which were filled with a lot of problems and difficulties, I can see the hand of God in all the new connections and relationships that would not have happened otherwise.

When LWI drills water wells, or conducts hygiene or orality training, we get to know amazing and incredible people. We are inspired by their stories and learn so much from hearing about their experiences. When we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, we can recognize those divine appointments. However, it is always a temptation to get caught up in our own personal interests and comforts, and miss those God-ordained opportunities.

Clean water is a great blessing for women and brings transformation to communities

One such divine appointment was with a hotel staff member who met me at an airport, and as a result of a late driver, we had a 45-minute conversation. His name is Samson. He shared with me how he got his biblical name -- the tradition in his culture that, when people come to Christ, they take a new name. That conversation led us to discuss the story of the blind beggar, known as Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, from Mark, chapter 10. Samson was excited to learn of the many lessons we can discover in one short story -- lessons about the character of God, faith, prayer, transformation, God’s power to heal and many others.

In our Orality Training Workshops, the following are some of the questions we ask about this story of the blind beggar:

* What led this blind beggar to believe that Jesus could do something about his condition?

* How did he make the connection between Jesus of Nazareth and the son of David?

* Since faith comes by hearing, could we assume that the blind beggar was an oral learner?

* Do you think someone had told him stories of Jesus?

Orality Training Workshop participants eagerly listen to true stories from the Word of God

Some great conversations take place as we dig deeper into the story. Many other questions can be asked about what we observe in the story, what does it mean and how does it apply to our lives? The blind man had heard enough about Jesus to exercise faith and call on the Lord. When the people rebuked him and told him to be quiet, he cried out even louder. So, we have a lesson about persistence. Then, when Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Master, I want to see.” And, we have a lesson about being specific in our prayers and requests of the Lord.

A few other questions we can ask about this story are:

* What can we learn from the fact that the man threw off his coat (outer garment) in order to come to Jesus?

* What do we learn from the fact that, when Jesus said, “Go your way, your faith has made you well,” the man immediately received his sight and started following Jesus?

* What do people do when they receive their spiritual eyesight?

* What is necessary in order to be a follower of Jesus?

* What can we learn about the people’s attitude toward the blind beggar, when they wanted to keep this man from Jesus?

* What do we learn about who Jesus cares about and is willing to take time to help?

* What did the disciples learn about priorities and time management?

There are many other lessons that can be brought out of a short story, with the appropriate pre- and post-story discussion and dialogue.

Well, by the end of my conversation with Samson, he said he couldn’t wait to tell this story to his wife and four children.

Keeping our spiritual antennas out and our spiritual eyes open can result in the most incredible ministry opportunities. It is so easy to be consumed with our own plans and interests and then miss God’s divine appointments. I am often reminded of how important it is to keep watching for God’s activity in our circumstances and keep listening to that still, small voice in our hearts, so that we connect with His divine and eternal purposes. One of my mentors used to say, “Watch for or find out what God is up to, and get in on it.”

A new well and clean water, a reason
to rejoice

Just to keep things in perspective, it is healthy to remind ourselves that roughly a billion people in the world today face crisis situations every day because of disease, poverty, armed conflict, political upheaval, or lack of food and clean water. These are the people we have the opportunity to serve by bringing clean water and the Word. As water is the first step to transformation development, the Word of God, the Story of Jesus, is the foundation for spiritual transformation. God is continuing to bring good out of the most difficult and darkest situations.

In my recent reflections, I was thinking of how we should keep our focus on the Lord, to focus on His all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present and loving care for His people. He is working all things after the counsel of His own will and is concerned about every detail of our lives.

It is a challenge for us to see God in all of our circumstances, hear God in our hearts and stay in tune with Him on a continuing basis. However, it is important in order to be in the flow of His redemptive activity. Living Water International has drilled some dry holes over the years, and it is always disappointing. But God always brings good out of those situations and demonstrates His sovereignty and control over our lives and circumstances.

I recently reconnected with a man I had known almost 30 years ago. We were once together on the streets of Washington, D.C., as a result of a rain storm. I had the opportunity to share the Lord and pray with a lady while we were waiting under her umbrella for a taxi cab. It was a simple, straightforward presentation of the gospel, and we had a brief prayer with the lady.

My friend told me that he had been inspired by that encounter 30 years ago and the power of asking a few questions and sharing the gospel. As a result, he began to share Christ in the simple way that he had observed me doing it. He went on to tell me that he estimates that more than 1,800 people have come to the Lord as a result of him sharing with them. Telling the story of Jesus and asking the right questions really does have power to transform lives, and it can have a reproducing and multiplying effect.

We can have confidence that the seed of the Word of God will have impact as it is shared in an understandable and relevant way. We just never know when it will take root in a receptive and fertile heart, and produce 30, 60 or 100 times what is sown.


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Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International (http://www.water.cc) Living Water is one of the world’s leading faith-based water solutions organizations with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Having gotten involved in orality-based evangelism and disciple making strategies in the 1980s, he has been a paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and presently serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Wiles has more than 35 years experience in ministry and international mission work. He can be contacted at JerryWiles@water.cc

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