Thursday, July 10, 2014
Stories of the Thirsty
Overcoming Misconceptions and Dispelling Stereotypes
By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- “Why didn't you come sooner? I wish I had done this years ago.” Those were the words of a lady that a friend and I had the opportunity to share the gospel with in the slow part of the day in a restaurant. After confessing her need for the Lord and placing her faith in Christ to save her and make her a new person, she shared some of her background. She told us about growing up with many hardships and difficulties and making bad decisions.
However, in many people’s lives, it is the hard times, the troubles and turmoil they experience that captures their attention and causes them to turn to the Lord. On the other hand, it is the goodness and kindness of God that leads us to repentance, according to Romans 2:4. God knows what each of us needs and is actively seeking to get our attention in whatever ways that He can. However, there are certain people who never pay attention to God’s activity in their lives.
I once had a conversation with a wealthy medical doctor about spiritual matters. After some casual remarks and small talk, I asked him a question that I have asked many other people over the years. I simply asked, “Have you noticed any signs of spiritual awakening?” He said, “No.” A little later in our conversation, I asked if he had noticed that many people are coming to an awareness of their need for the Lord. Again his answer was, “No.” On another occasion I asked those same questions of a high-ranking military officer who was ready to embrace the gospel. Two weeks after my conversation with the officer, I received a letter from him thanking me for sharing with him on the plane that day. Actually, I have probably asked hundreds of people those two questions over the years. Not all, but many people have been open and have expressed their faith in Christ in those short encounters.
When thinking about misconceptions and stereotypes, I am reminded of the words of Jesus, when He told us not to judge according to appearance, but to judge righteous judgment. People who are spiritually thirsty are not always those who seem to be in the greatest need. Nor, is it often obvious on the outer surface. Some people, who seem to have it all together, are sometimes the ones who are hurting on the inside and are eager to hear and respond to the love and truth of Jesus.
A blind man in an Orality Training Workshop in a Central American country, learned the story of the blind beggar, got up and retold it to a group of about 200 people. A lady at another workshop, who was legally blind in one eye, told of learning the story and the impact it had in her life. At home after the training, she said she closed her eyes, was meditating and praying and said to the Lord, “Lord I believe, Lord I believe, Lord I believe.” She shared in the training session the next morning that when she opened her eyes, she could see.
Desperate and needy people are often eager to call on the Lord when they hear and understand the Word of God, while people who seem to have all their physical needs met and have good health are often not interested or thirsty for anything outside themselves. However, a crisis can change all of that. People who lose their health, their wealth, or are displaced because of armed conflict or other crisis situations, all of a sudden realize their need for God. They have a new hunger or thirst for God and an interest in the spiritual and eternal that they did not have before.
When it comes to sharing our faith, it’s easy to stereotype or profile people in our own minds. Sometimes the people we think will be open to the gospel are not, and those we think may be closed or resistant are open, interested, and receptive. Even with those who are believers and active in church activities, not all are equally interested and passionate about the things of God and sharing their faith with others. In our Orality Training and disciple-making efforts, we find that only a small percentage are really committed to becoming faithful witnesses and reproducing disciple-makers. A friend and brother in Christ emphasizes the importance of focusing on the few. It is liberating to realize that we are not responsible for the way people receive or respond to the message of Jesus, but we are responsible for giving them the opportunity.
Jesus related with and reached out to various kinds of people. He didn’t always go after the brightest, wealthiest or the most prominent. He demonstrated His concern for people of different races and ethnic backgrounds. He was interested and concerned about women, children, social outcasts, blind, crippled and demon-possessed people. Those who participate in LWI’s Orality Training and disciple-making efforts gain remarkable insights when discussing these topics. It is exciting for many when they are made aware that God is no respecter of persons and He is concerned for and uses the least, the last, the seemingly nobodies, by the world’s standards.
What we learn from I Corinthians 1:20-31, from biblical examples and Church history, is that the Lord often uses the most unlikely candidates to accomplish His most significant work. We now know of major movements of God around the world that are being led by men and women who have very little formal education and few of this world’s resources. Some of them have never learned to read or write. However, they have learned to tell the stories of Jesus and they are passionate about the Lord and sharing Him with others. Many of them have been set free from witchcraft, idolatry, and spiritual bondage.
It is liberating to come to the realization that, in and of ourselves, we can do nothing, but that everything God expects of us, He has enabled and empowered us for by His very life in us. He is waiting for us to discover, in the words of the late Major Ian Thomas, “We can’t, He never said we could, but He can, and He always said He would.” It is wonderful to realize that our real responsibility, as followers of Jesus, is our response to His ability. He is our Source, and He will clothe His divine activity in our humanity, as we trust and obey Him.
For information about the Orality Movement and training opportunities, visit – www.water.cc/orality
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
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