"I'm tired." "I'm hungry." "I don't have the energy." "I'm overwhelmed."
We often use these phrases to describe our lives. It is so easy to fall prey to the busy-ness of life and lose sight of the things that are truly important. We can get so absorbed in our culture that we let our energy- or lack thereof- dictate our steps rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit.
John chapter 4 tells the familiar story of Jesus' encounter with the Woman at the Well. It is a wonderful story that displays the mercy of the Father so vividly, but today I want to focus on what happens immediately before and after this encounter; something that has the potential to happen in our own lives, if we put the Father's priorities above our own.
When the story begins, we find Jesus journeying through Samaria and stopping in the town of Sychar. The Bible says that Jesus was tired from the journey, so he stopped at an obvious place of refreshment- a well. While Jesus rested, his disciples went into town to buy food. The scripture indicates that it was around noon- lunchtime. Back in that day, Jesus and his disciples traveled from town to town by foot. As much as Jesus was God, he was also man, and the constant traveling had to take its toll on his body. At this certain instant, the Bible makes a point to let us know that Jesus was tired and hungry.
I don't know about you, but the phrase "tired and hungry" describes me at just about any point in the day. With toddlers, there hardly comes a time that I am not at least one or the other, since mealtime is designated to cutting their food, wiping their faces, refilling their drinks, cleaning up spills and leaves no time for me to actually eat myself. We all seem to lead such fast-paced lives that our bodies often cry out for more attention than what we give them.
Jesus was tired and hungry. But he did not let that interfere with the opportunity to minister to a woman who was in need of the Truth that day. He expended energy he did not have to share with her that she could have living water and an intimate relationship with God. He was sensitive to the Spirit and obedient to the Father. He did not let his current feelings and needs distract him from what was truly important.
But the part of the story that strikes me is what comes next. After Jesus talks with the woman, she goes and tells people in the town about this man who she believes to be the Messiah. Meanwhile, the disciples return with the food they went out to get. But before Jesus can sit down to a nice meal after a long journey, the crowds are gathering. People are wanting to know if Jesus really could be the Messiah. The disciples have been with Jesus. They know he is tired from traveling and hasn't eaten in a while- possibly all day. They begin to try to talk him into eating something. Common sense, right? They are just trying to watch our for their friend and leader. But Jesus replies to them, saying:
“My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest."
Jesus was so in tune with the will of God, that he didn't even let appeasing his hunger take priority over winning souls. He knew that his needs would be met as long as he was doing the will of his Father. There was no hunger too deep, no exhaustion too great to keep him from doing the work and will of God.
This scripture is so humbling to me. How many times do we neglect what God is trying to do through us because of our "needs"? Have you ever seen someone in need, yet not stopped to help them because you didn't have the time or energy to do so? I think sometimes we believe that God wouldn't ask us to go hungry in order to do His work. He just wouldn't do that. But would He? Would He ask us to go hungry in order to give someone else the bread of life? Would He ask us to use energy we don't have to share the living water with a dry and thirsty soul? What makes us think that our physical needs are so much more important than the spiritual needs of others?
Jesus had it right- when we put our needs aside to meet the needs of others, we receive "nourishment" from doing the will of God. And if we make the sacrifice to be used by Him, we will reap a harvest that is ripe, just as Jesus did. Not only did he witness to a woman at a well, but the Bible tells us that "many Samaritans in the village believed." Often we stop with one good deed and don't realize that, if we would put off our hunger for a few minutes more, there could be a whole field waiting to be harvested.
I am challenged today by the obedience and sacrifice of Jesus. It is my prayer that I would never use my schedule or my needs as an excuse not to do the will of God. How often are you not simply fed, but supernaturally nourished by doing the will of God? May God increase it many times over!