In that well known story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, John 7:4-26, Jesus, as He often does, avoids her question and makes a strong statement of His own. The dialogue, after Jesus has asked for a drink, goes thus – Samaritan woman, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus answers, ”If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” It’s that phrase ‘if you knew the gift of God and who it is who asked’ that drew my attention today. I was thinking how often it is that we ask God a question, or we have a question in our hearts that we’d like to ask Him, and He seems to avoid giving us that answer. He remains, to all intents and purposes, silent.
It’s interesting to note that it was not in our 21st century world that this took place, but two thousand years ago, and this woman raises the issues of sexism and racism, stalling a bit I think, because she is shocked that Jesus, a Jewish man, would even speak to her, let alone ask for her help. Jesus didn’t then take the opportunity to teach her, as Paul taught the Galatian Christians some time later, that in His new Kingdom there would be neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor gentile (Greek). Galatians 3:28. Instead He provokes her with two things that would be more important to her in that moment. Firstly there was the hint that he is someone special, and secondly that He has something to give her.
Don’t you just love watching Jesus and the way He is with people, it is so wonderful and, furthermore, seeing how He was with different people when He was on earth, can help us in those times when we don’t understand what is happening or what He is doing in our own lives.
Sometimes when we are in a situation, and it appears that the Lord either hasn’t heard our prayer or that He isn’t inclined to answer it, we need to hear again what He said to the Samaritan woman, and think about how He provoked her to consider two things. i) Who He is, and ii) what gift He has stored up to give.
Let’s consider a real life situation. I am feeling afraid for some reason. It could be about money, my job, my reputation, the family, my health or any area of life where I am threatened in some way. I ask the Lord to deal with it, change things, rescue me, intervene in some way, but not a lot happens. The ways in which He used to intervene when I was first saved don’t seem to be happening anymore, and I think this is because the Lord is more interested in my relationship with Him than in providing me with a quick fix. He is looking to grow me and each one of us up into ‘mature sonship’. Romans 8:19.
So if instead of straight away calling on God for help I first take account of the two things mentioned above and speak to myself about i) who He is for me, and ii) what gift He might have for me, I will pray in a different, more faith filled way. And yes, yet again, thanksgiving will play a big part.
I remind myself and thank Him for who He is for me; My loving heavenly Father, Matthew 6:25-34, My strong deliverer, Psalm 18:2, My provider Psalm 23:1, My very present help in trouble Psalm 46:1. It’s a time to take the names of God – who He has declared Himself to be – and personalise them, with thanksgiving, for me in my current situation.
Then, I can go on to thank Him that He has an appropriate gift for me in the situation. With rising faith and expectancy, fuelled by my thanksgiving, I can ask for and begin to perceive what gift He might have for me in that situation, His peace, His wisdom, His joy, His friendship, His deliverance, His forgiveness, patience, endurance, healing or strength etc, etc. He will always have a relevant grace gift for me, because that is the kind of heavenly Father that He is, and I will receive those gifts as I recognise them, and give Him thanks.
Somehow the threatening situation becomes a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to God, to discover more about His love for us, who He is for us and what He has to give us, as we grasp the opportunity to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’. Psalm 34:8. It reminds me again of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Romans 8:16,17 in the Message, as we give Him our thanks we will become ‘adventurously expectant’ in our life with God saying “What’s next Papa?”What gift have you got to give to me for this situation?….and the next one…. and this one…….and the next….. until it becomes a lifestyle full of expectant faith.