George Whitefield was born on December 16, 1714 in Gloucester, England. His father was the owner of the Bell Inn in Gloucester, but he died when George was just two years old. For the next few years his mom ran the establishment with the help of her oldest son. The other kids, except for George, also worked at the Bell Inn. George’s mom saw something in George that compelled her to keep him in school. George was gifted, had a great memory, and often acted in school plays.
When George was 8 years old his mother remarried, but it was a bad marriage. At age 15, George had to drop out of school for a year and help support his family. George learned to relate to all kinds of people as he worked in the bar and cleaned up after the evenings ended. George worked to help support his family, but he dreamed of going to college at Oxford University. George had all but given up hope that he would ever be able to realize his dream when he found out that he could go to Oxford as a “servitor,” so at 17 he enrolled at Oxford University.
Life at Oxford, as a “servitor” was tough, humiliating, but George didn’t mind. As a servitor he lived as a butler and maid to 3 or 4 other well-to-do students. He was responsible for washing their clothes, shining their shoes, and helping them with their homework. He lived on whatever they gave him as payment, sometimes it was money and at other times it was cast off clothing. George wore a special gown to identify him as a servitor and other high ranking students were forbidden from talking to him. Most servitors left school because of the humiliation.
At Oxford there was a group of students known as the Holy Club. They were passionately committed to the Lord and sharing the Gospel. One of the members, Charles Wesley, reached out to George Whitefield because he had heard of his heart for God. In time, the Wesley brothers graduated from Oxford and left for an American colony called Georgia as missionaries. At the same time, George was studying for his Masters degree and was now the leader of the Holy Club. People began to invite him to come and share the Gospel. George went and people came by the droves. George’s popularity was growing like wildfire, but not everyone was excited. Some church leaders took offense that George was teaching that all people are sinners. The Church of England began to close its doors to George. All they wanted was for their members to show up and be quiet. George would have none of it; he declared that all people, including the preachers, needed to be born again.
As more and more church doors were closed to him, George decided to preach out in the open fields. In February of 1739, George felt called to go to Kingswood, an undesirable place, filled with what others would call undesirables, near Bristol. Kingswood was home to thousands of coal miners, who lived in deplorable conditions. There was no school and no church in Kingswood, but George felt called to take the Gospel to the people.
They were working class people. Men, women, and children worked long hours in the dark mines. Death and disease were rampant. The people had a reputation for being vicious to strangers. There were stories of people from Kingswood terrorizing the people of Bristol. George saw them as sheep without a shepherd and he was willing to shepherd them to Jesus.
In February it was freezing cold. George went through the town inviting folks to come. During his first sermon in the open field, on Hanham Mount, 200 people came to hear him preach. George’s message was simple: Jesus loved the people of Kingswood, He loved them so much He was willing to die the most excruciatingly painful death to save them from their sins. As George spoke about Jesus’ love, he began to notice white streaks on the coal stained faces of some of the miners. As he continued to preach he noticed more and more lines on the dark faces of those who had come to hear him preach. They were tears of conviction that witnessed to the impact of the Gospel on the hearts of the miners.
Three days later the chancellor of the dioceses in Bristol called George in and told he was not allowed to preach in Bristol again. George returned to the coal mines of Kingswood and the next day 2000 came to hear his message of Jesus’ love. The next Sunday, 10,000 came, and on Sunday March 25, 1739, the crowd was estimated at 23,000. God had led George to open his eyes and see the fields. Years before George Whitefield ever saw the fields covered by undesirables that others refused to recognize, Jesus came to the well of Jacob. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning.
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” 39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:27-42 NIV)
We are well into our story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman so I won’t take the time to review what we’ve spent weeks studying. Let’s pick up the story as Jesus’ disciples arrive back at the well. Let’s pick up at verse 35 where Jesus said,
35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35 NIV)
Many believe that Jesus was repeating a proverb that was common among the people of His day. The proverb had to do with sowing and harvesting. The farmer sows the seed and then waits about four months before harvest time. Jesus made it clear to His disciples that, in the spiritual realm, this was not so…now is the time of harvest! The Samaritans were headed their way!
The disciples had already missed one opportunity. Remember, the Samaritan woman was leaving Jesus as the disciples were approaching Jesus. They had most certainly passed her without even giving her a thought. In a short time the woman’s testimony would touch the hearts of her neighbors back in the village and Jesus didn’t want His disciples to miss the next opportunity. Take a look at John 4:39-40 with me.
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. (John 4:39-40 NIV)
In John 4:39, we find the woman sharing her testimony with the people of her town. In the very next verse the Samaritans have made their way to Jesus at Jacob’s well and are urging Him to stay with them so that they could hear more.
I don’t know if you picked up on it or not, but I noticed something this past week that hit me like a ton of bricks. The Samaritan woman had never been to Seminary, she had never had an evangelism class, never even been to Sunday School, she was clueless about doctrine and the fundamentals of the faith, but she was armed with her testimony. An unbelieving world can disagree with you and me about our doctrinal stances, we can quote chapter and verse to them with no effect, but when we share our own stories of how Jesus has changed our lives, and then they witness that change, well how do you argue with that?! Pastor Spurgeon wrote,
Here was a poor fallen woman and yet, after her conversion, she became a missionary of Christ to the city of Sychar! She was, altogether, quite an unofficial person. She does not appear to have been called a sister of mercy, or to have put on any peculiar garb, but she ran straightway to the people with whom she had lived and, perhaps, to the very men with whom she had sinned! She went to tell the story that Christ had come to her and had given to her that Living Water, of which, if a man shall drink, he shall never thirst again! Well, Believer, if no man sends you, go all the same, for Godsends you! Perhaps no man has laid his hands upon you, but of what use is the laying on of hands? Full often I fear it is only empty hands laid on empty heads—so, if no man has laid his hands on you, go without the laying on of hands, in the name of Him who has laid His pierced hands upon you and said to you, “Fear not, for I am with you: be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Spurgeon, C.H., How Faith Comes. May 21, 1899)
How many of us here this very morning have a testimony of how Jesus has changed our lives? I pray that it is every one of us. Now, I must ask a second question, “How many of us this past week has shared with someone how Jesus has changed our lives?” It saddens me to think of all of the lost, lonely, desperate people in our neighborhoods and work places who are dying for something, for someone, who can rescue them from their hopeless situation in life and yet we remain silent. Rather than speak of how Jesus has changed our lives we decide that “it’s still four months until the harvest.”
Just think with me. If there was some disease that suddenly began destroying lives all across our nation and some scientist discovered a cure, but decided to wait until he could do more study, until he got FDA approval and a marketing plan put together by some Madison Avenue corporation…how many lives would be lost? He had the cure in his hands, but decided “it’s still four months until the harvest.”
The time for healing is now! The time for relief is now! The moment of salvation for some man, woman, boy, or girl is right now! The time for harvest is right now! Yet we wait and wait and wait…and for what? The right time? For a more convenient opportunity? For a time when we aren’t so busy? “It’s still four months until the harvest?” Four months? While they languish and suffer in isolation waiting? Four months? While they are tormented with the burden of carrying around the shame and guilt of their past? Four months? While their addiction robs them of their life and paralyzes their family? Four months? Who of us when we have been in such a desperate state wanted to wait four months? We longed to be delivered and the Lord sent some brave soul who threw caution to the wind, who cancelled their appointments, and came running to our side to share with us the good news that Jesus is the Deliverer.
Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Why can’t we see? What is it that prevents us from running with the Samaritan woman to those we know who need Jesus? Lack of confidence? Pride, we are afraid of what they might think about us? Or, here is a reason I often find myself using as an excuse, “I’m too busy.” I’m learning that when I find myself saying that I’m too busy to minister to someone that I’m definitely walking outside of God’s will. I should never be too busy to go to those who are hurting, those who are lost, and those who are desperate for relief. Jesus said, “…open your eyes and look at the fields,” but it’s impossible to see if my vision is blurred by my busyness.
Or, are you afraid of the hostile environment in which we live? You and I both know that we can talk about “spiritual” matters all we want, we can talk about Buddha, Mohammed, tarot cards, palm readers, and modern-day “spiritual teachers” like Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson and folks don’t even bat an eye, but if we mention Jesus then eyebrows are raised all over the room. Does this intimidate you to the point that you remain silent? We need to pray for the courage of the blind man who was being interrogated for his testimony in John 9. Do you remember the story? A man, who had been born blind, was healed by Jesus and instead of celebrating with him, the Pharisees were enraged. They didn’t get the answer from the man they were wanting so they turned to his parents. His parents felt the heat of the interrogation now aimed at them so they said, “Hey, he’s old enough to speak for himself. Ask him.” Wow! Throw him under the bus! Turn with me to John 9:22-25 and listen in. Why did his parents say what they said? John tells us.
22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:22-25 NIV)
The Pharisees were relentless, just like there are some folks today who are relentless in venting their anger at you or me when we refuse to back down from our stories that it is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who has changed our lives. They turned from the parents back to the son once again. Look at verses 24-25 with me.
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:22-25 NIV)
The man who had his life changed, radically altered by Jesus, refused to change his story. He said, “I don’t know much about ophthalmology, theology, or soteriology, but this I know—I was blind but now I see!” Don’t let your fear of others silence the truth that Jesus has changed your life.
Fear, lack of confidence, a busy schedule, and much more keep us from lifting up our eyes and seeing the harvest right before us. You think Jesus was busy? I will assure you that there is not a CEO today, or a single mom working three jobs today, who had as many people pulling at them as Jesus did and yet, we read in verse 40.
40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. (John 4:39-40 NIV)
John didn’t mention that Jesus had plans, He was heading to Cana, forty miles from Jacob’s Well, and then onto Capernaum, another 10 miles from Cana. He had things to do, people to see, but the Samaritans urged Him to stay with them so He stayed with them for two days. Two days?! And just what was Jesus doing during those two days? John tells us in John 4:41-42. Read along with me.
41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:41-42 NIV)
I love it that we don’t know what “words” Jesus shared with them. If we knew then we would codify them, create a new evangelism method based upon them, organize a Christian conference and charge people a fee to come and learn them, and our system and methods would fall flat on their face. What was the content of “his words” that led many more Samaritans to become believers? Did He speak to them about the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World? Did He comfort the afflicted, let the little children come unto Him, and pray for the sick? I don’t know for sure, but this one thing I can be certain of—He met people where they were, He spoke to them in a language they could understand, and while all of this was taking place during the two days that Jesus stayed with the Samaritans, they learned of His love, mercy, and salvation.
There is a great lesson for us that is found in verse 42. A lesson that should stir our hearts and cause us to leave this place with our eyes wide open looking for those who are hurting, lonely, and lost so that we might spend time with them, speaking of our glorious Savior’s love and power to save. Read verse 42 with me.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42 NIV)
Oh, my friends, we don’t have to have all of the answers. We only need a willingness to go and share what the Lord has done in our lives. The Lord will use your story, my story, to draw others to Him. Throughout Paul’s life he never hesitated to share his story with others. When he wrote to the young pastor, Timothy, who knew him well, Paul wrote,
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:13-16 NIV)
“I once was a blasphemer, but His grace saved me! I once was a persecutor, but His grace saved me! I once was a violent man, but His grace saved me! Jesus came to save sinners and I’m the worst there ever was!” Why did God do this for Paul and why was Paul quick to share his story with everyone and in every place? Paul makes it clear for us when he says, “…I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” Paul is saying that his story is not his story, it is evidence for others that just as God worked so miraculously in his life, He will work in the lives of others as well. And this is why we must tell them!
Oh, lift up your eyes my friends. At this very moment I can assure you that there are those the Lord is bringing to mind who are lost, broken, drowning in sin and hopelessness, and He is calling you to go. It is good to study God’s Word, but it is even better to tell them of His love. It is good to hide God’s Word in our hearts, but it is even better to share how He has changed our hearts with others.
I have no doubt that there are some of you who are here this morning who have never surrendered your lives to Jesus. Oh, you may have been coming to church for years, but it’s just another social activity for you, another opportunity to make a business contact, or something to fill your empty life. You need to know that Jesus has brought you here this morning so that you might know that He is the One you have been looking for, longing for, your entire life. There is no other who can bring you out of the darkness, there is no other who can turn your dry, arid soul, into a lush oasis flowing with living waters, and there is no other who can save you from yourself, but Jesus. Won’t you come to Him this very morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 1, 2013