Smile... The Future's On Its Way
by C.J. Horn
A Return to the Well: A Perspective on Confidence
If one could have returned to Samaria 10 years after Jesus saved the woman at the well, and if that same woman could be located, what would her life have been like? The woman at the well believed in Jesus Christ the day He met her. She became a born-again believer, but she was a woman like all women. She had to live in the real world after her salvation experience. Even though we cannot go back and find her, we can make certain assumptions about her life and rehearse the eternal lessons she may have come to understand in her own walk with Christ. Why a return to the well? Because a well has water, and because it is the stuff that life is made of. And because often a Christian woman finds herself in a worldly wasteland, longing for a cool drink of living water.
A Relationship Founded on Honesty
The woman at the well was looking for the return of Messiah: "I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things" ... "Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He" (John 4:25,26). She believed and ran to the city and said, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29).
The woman gave no thought to hiding her own sin. Perhaps for the first time in her life, this woman was totally honest with someone. When Jesus confronted her with everything she had done up to that point, she realized the futility of deception. The Holy Spirit that indwells a believer is 100% truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." A person cannot become a believer unless he faces the truth about himself and his standing before God, for "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13)." The reason why this woman (and all who come to Christ for salvation) could be honest is that her salvation did not rest upon anything she was or anything she had done. Consider what Paul said: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:7,8). This is one of the truths that sets Christianity apart from every other religion. Jesus Christ doesn't withhold Himself from mankind until they are good enough to receive Him. Rather, the very reason He was on the earth was to die the death that everyone deserves because every man and woman is born a sinner (a son of Adam).
The writer of First John taught that every person is born with an inherent knowledge of their sin. If a person says otherwise, he is trying to deceive himself (1 John 1:8). Salvation for the woman at the well and for all true believers begins on a foundation of truth. There are no secrets between the sinner and the Savior. God Himself set the standard for the relationship between man and Himself and He sent His own son to fulfill His standard for righteousness. All believers are embraced, not on the basis of who they are, but on the basis of an honest recognition and confession of sin and belief in the resurrected Savior.
The Prepared Heart
One can almost see the bewilderment on the faces of the woman's neighbors as she went to the village and told them about the meeting at the well. The woman was transformed by her meeting with the Savior and her fervent testimony sent the people to the well to hear Jesus for themselves.
In fact, many of them believed: John 4:42 records "Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).
Without a doubt, the meeting at the well was providential for the woman. One of the many proofs that God is omnipotent and omniscient is His ability to use all of the circumstances in a persons life to lead up to one point in time when that person realizes the need for salvation.
One could say that God "prepared" the heart of this woman. Specifically she had been taught the Word of God. No doubt the woman was familiar with the prophecy about what Messiah would say, found in Psalm 78:2, "I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings (things hard to understand) of old." She was expecting Messiah to "tell us all things" (John 4:25). Jesus claimed fulfillment of this prophecy as he spoke before the multitudes: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 13:35).
Twenty-eight "generations" before this woman lived, King David prayed for the people of Israel and his son, Solomon. David prayed that God would prepare their hearts to keep (guard) the "commandments, (thy) testimonies, and (thy) statutes," and do them (1 Chronicles 29:18,19).
The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for "prepare" is translated several ways that build a picture of the character of a person who is a believer.
Did Life's Changes Frighten Her?
One assumption that can be made with certainty about the woman at the well is her life did not stay the same. As spring follows winter, so change comes into every life. Life changes can be abrupt. A sudden death of a loved one or any traumatic experience can leave one feeling that things are out of control. At such a time, the present is painful; the future is uncertain and a potential minefield filled with further disasters. In such a situation, the heart that was "prepared" by God for salvation, is the same heart that is "fixed" by Him. At a time when all earthly support seems to shudder and move beneath the believer, "He shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord" (Psalm 112:7). The same word "fixed" that is used in Scripture is also the word for "stablished," as in "the world also is 'stablished,' that it cannot be moved" (Psalm 93;1). The earth most certainly moves as a person can physically move, but the earth never moves out of its divinely established orbit.
Also, although the earth travels in an appointed orbit, it seems to hang on nothing. The Bible speaks to this subject: "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing" (Job 26:7). The earth appears to hang in space with no visible support, and yet its rotation and path are so sure and so predictable that mankind sets calendars and clocks according to the complicated interaction of planets.
This mysterious "fixing" of the earth in its path is no less a miracle of God than the fixing of a person's heart who trusts in Him. Though all visible means of support may be destroyed, the believer can continue on, sure in the knowledge that his path has been prepared and walked before by the One who walked a path to Calvary.
A Daily Cross
One of the most beautiful verses in Scripture is Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Picture a shepherd leading sheep; never asking the sheep to go anywhere that he would not go himself. Jesus took up the cross and carried it to the place where He was executed. Luke 9: records Jesus' conversation with His disciples about His death "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day" (Luke 9:22). Then He says, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it (Luke 9:23,24). This conversation about His death took place just after the miraculous feeding of the 5000. But the miracle that would satisfy heaven's justice in payment for sin was nothing less than the death of the Son of God. Jesus was the only one who could satisfy the requirement for a sinless sacrifice on behalf of all mankind. But those who would "follow Him," and claim His name, and receive His just offering to God on their account are called to take up their own (a personalized) cross . not just once, but daily.
Daily Challenges
There was a meal served by Jesus and his disciples in an outdoor "cafe" on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee. On that day, Jesus took five loaves and two fishes and fed five thousand. The very next day a large crowd followed Him across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. When the crowd found Him again, they asked him why He had left their area and crossed the sea.
"Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled" (John 6:26). How many times does a woman find herself thinking that people just use her to prepare a meal or clean house, or organize a work day, or any one of a number of tasks that receive no recognition in the moment. That day Jesus knew that most of those who followed just wanted Him to provide another miracle meal. Instead, he spoke to them about the "Bread of Life."
When He finished talking to the crowd, many of them went away. Jesus looked at his disciples and asked them, "Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:67,68).
Jesus, the Bread of Life, came to give man eternal life, and if one is to be His follower, one must look beyond the immediate, knowing full well He sees, hears, and understands everything.
Things Common to All
Paul taught that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). Ephesians 6:11 admonishes the believer to put on the "whole armour of God" in order to stand against the "wiles of the devil." The word that is translated "wiles" in the King James text is a Greek word that means to "travel over." It is the devil's goal to knock the believer down; to "devour" him (1 Peter 5:8). "Against the Wind" is a young people's song about living a life for Christ amidst the peer pressure of the world. A song about how the devil tries to run over a Christian might be titled "Against a Freight Train."
Another of the devils tactics is to "buffet" the believer. Paul wrote about a messenger of Satan sent to "buffet" him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Buffet means to hit with the fist, rather like being hit repeatedly by a prize fighter. It is the lot of a believer to suffer persecution (or be knocked about) unfairly. "For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (1 Peter 2:20).
One can be certain if the woman at the well followed Christ, she was among the countless Chrsitians throughout the ages that have been subject to the unjust and, many times, lethal weapons in the devil's arsenal designed to destroy God's people. Yet she, like Paul, and like all believers can say with honesty, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
Once the woman at the well became a believer, she entered into the agelong struggle against "the world, the flesh, and the devil." Paul put the struggle in a nutshell when he wrote, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). No person in his right mind enjoys suffering, but suffering is part of following the Savior. Refusing to give in to the temptation to lie or steal can cause suffering. Being mocked for not taking part in sinful behavior can cause suffering. Denial of self encompasses a myriad of life's situations, but it is part of the daily cross that is inexorably linked to the life that follows the Savior.
Daily Cross - A Gift
How often has it been said that a certain ailment or physical handicap or a sick loved one is the "cross" that one must bear. If that was true, then what of the "daily cross." As difficult as the above-mentioned things are, it may be a mercy that the believer is given a "daily cross" and the daily cross may deal more with faith and attitude than circumstance.
When tragic circumstances come, it is a temptation to think that God has forgotten all about the individual. Sometimes it is impossible to think with eternity in view, because the present is so overwhelming. It is then that a "daily cross" is a mercy. To shoulder the "cross" (or "death of self" and self's opinion) in these types of circumstances is to have faith just for one day. The Psalmist said it best: "He (God) will not suffer thy foot to be moved (moved off the path He has ordained): He that keepeth thee will not slumber" (Psalms 121:3).
A Heavenly Perspective
The woman at the well worshipped a God that had the hairs on her head numbered and who today still notices every time a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29,30). The Psalmist even felt like that sparrow sometimes: "I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top" (Psalms 102:7). God can keep track of everyone and everything because He is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful).
On the other hand, wise Solomon observed, "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). If Solomon in all his wisdom made this observation, then it is likely a believer could adopt the same perspective. However, one must remember that Solomon began well and ended badly, allowing the worship of pagan gods at the end of his reign, when these words were penned. Solomon did not withhold anything from himself that would give him earthly pleasure and in this particular verse, his observations were about earthly endeavors. If one looks at the physical outward appearance only , then it will seem that things are not on any particular course. Paul called those who minded only "earthly things" enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18-19). That would bring one to the conclusion that a follower of Christ will be able to see past the immediate. The believer's life encumbered and overwhelmed by present circumstances does not equal the entire life story of that particular believer. Perhaps the following poem says it best:
The Weaver
My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper and I, the underside.
Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
-- Grant Colfax Tullar
The Perfect Day
One must remember that God lives outside of time. He knows everything because He sees it all at once. It is this truth that makes sense out of the teaching in Psalm 103: 3 "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." In Christ, all of the believer's sins have been forgiven, and it is only the years until death that separate him from the reality of having every disease healed. The sin that entered the world by Adam's disobedience brought death and disease. When Jesus Christ died and rose again, death was "swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54).
But every believer awaits his own personal graduation. Paul said, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
The heart of the woman at the well was "prepared" by God to meet her Savior. Her heart was "fixed" on Him and her steps were "ordered" (same Hebrew word as fixed) on a course He ordained for her and all believers (Psalm 37:23). And when her life on earth was over, we can be certain her faith was rewarded with the reality of all that God has promised in His Word. Proverbs 4:18 is a favorite of all believers: "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." It is important to note that the phrase "more unto the perfect" is the same word as "prepared" and "fixed": That future day for all believers is a day prepared by God in a place prepared by Him:
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2,3).
The woman at the well and all women who have trusted the Savior can say with confidence: "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise" (Psalms 57:7).