“Wake up and look around, the fields are already ripe for harvest.” John 4:35
Jesus’ way of lovingly engaging with people, disarming their defense mechanisms and speaking insight-fully into their lives never ceases to amaze me. He exemplifies, like no one else, the ability to reach across every barrier and befriend people no matter what their age, gender, social status, ethnicity or religious persuasion. The fact that he was criticized for being a “friend of publicans (tax collectors) and sinners” testifies to that fact. (Matthew 11:19)
What was Jesus’ secret? How did he engage with people and direct the conversation toward spiritual things?
His encounter with the woman at the well in John 4 provides four wonderful insights into how to befriend people for eternal purposes.
1. Be Alert and Available. You never know when you may come into contact with someone whom God has sent your way for spiritual purposes. The challenge is that it often happens when you least expect it and/or when it is inconvenient. That was the case when the Samaritan woman came to well where the travel weary Jesus was resting. (John 4:6) In spite of his tiredness Jesus was alert to what the Father was doing in sending that woman His way. (John 5:17) He recognized the opportunity, mustered up His strength and made Himself available.
2. Be Friendly. Jesus did not let any barrier hinder him from starting a conversation. With one simple question, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7) To the woman’s surprise, He reached across the gender, age, ethnic, religious, and even the Jew/Gentile boundaries. (John 4:9) As the conversation developed He took a genuine interest in the woman.
3. Be Discerning. While Jesus was talking to her, He was also listening to the Holy Spirit. He was looking for revelation from the Father – words of knowledge and words of wisdom – that would reveal ways in which He could speak into the woman’s life. And of course the Holy Spirit showed Jesus that the woman had been married multiple times. (John 4:18) With that word of knowledge He was able to speak to the very core of her being.
4. Be Bold. Trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance and turn the conversation toward spiritual things testing whether there is an interest. (John 4:10) Be sensitive to His timing and do it in a natural, unassuming way. Weave the things you sense He is showing you about the person into the conversation. Even though you may not have as dramatic discernment as Jesus, share what you have in faith.
Many times we do not know in the moment, whether what we have said is even registering with the person. Let God take it and do with it as He pleases. Be bold, and entrust the results to Jesus!
Engaging with people in this way ultimately will have the same effect upon us as it did upon Jesus. It will nourish our souls as we find ourselves doing the will and work of God. (John 4:34) And we will discover true joy. “What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!” (John 4:36) Jesus Himself was so revved up and full of joy after His conversation with the woman that when his disciples finally came back with some food He said “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” (John 4:32)
When was the last time you had this kind of encounter with someone? If it has been a while, why not follow Jesus example and try the four things He did with the woman He met at the well? The next time you have an opportunity to engage with someone for an extended period of time 1) Be alert and available. 2) Be friendly. 3) Be discerning and 4) Be bold.
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