Summary: Our testimony has a powerful influence on others but only if we share it with them. We should know by now that there are many ways to give a witness to the changes that we have experienced since we have trusted in Jesus.
THE POWER TO SAVE
If we ever needed motivation to share the good news of salvation with others, all we need to do is to look around at the mess many people have made of their lives. Many are in desperate need of help. It may be that someone has already told them about what God has done but they need to hear something at the moment of their current needs in order to surrender their lives to God through trusting in Jesus.
If the need is so great, then what can we do? There is a brief story about a boy walking along the shore where literally thousands of starfishes had been washed up on the beach and he was picking them up (one at a time) and throwing them back into the water so they would not die. Someone told the kid that such an effort was not going to make a lot of difference since there were so many that needed to be rescued. The kid’s answer was that it was making a difference to the ones he had thrown back. In John’s Gospel we see Jesus engaging people from all walks of life, in all kinds of circumstances, wherever they were and whenever He met them. The lesson from what Jesus did is that we are to follow God’s leading to engage whoever, whatever the circumstances, wherever and whenever. We can’t touch all who are perishing but we can make a difference to some. How?
Tell Others You Believe – 4:39-42
39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42 (NASB95)
It is amazing how the witness of a Christian seems to be more effective when they have abandoned a life that is very much in contrast with what is considered acceptable. I guess that the power of the gospel is much more evident in such cases because of the dramatic change. The people of Sychar could see that something had happened in the life the woman and such change is a powerful witness. Some have labeled such a change as moving from the “gutter most to the utter most.”
What about people whose lives are more typical of what we might call normal behavior? As most of us have noticed there are many actions and practices that are considered to be acceptable by the culture in which we live that are totally contrary to what the Bible teaches us as God’s norm for acceptable behavior. For our witness to be effective, we need to be distinctive from the rest of the world in our lifestyle and value system. In the world of today in which we live the distinctions seem to have much clearer boundaries than we saw several decades ago. (We told our children when they were growing up that it is OK to be different as long as your differences are in being better.) God uses ordinary people, just like us, to be His witnesses and our very lives are to give testimony that God’s salvation makes a difference.
This passage shows two distinct responses to the gospel message. One group believed simply because of the testimony of the woman. The other group did not believe until they themselves had heard Jesus. We will find these same responses among people today. Some will believe the gospel message based on the testimony of others. They will then experience Jesus in their lives as a result of the initial belief. Other people tend to be skeptical and it may take a significant happening (sometimes a traumatic event or crisis) before they will believe. The Samaritans responded to the gospel in a much better way than did the Jews. They confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world.
It is noteworthy that they did not demand signs and wonders from Jesus as was the case with the Jews. Jesus commented on this difference when He and His disciples returned to Galilee.
Our testimony has a powerful influence on others but only if we share it with them. We should know by now that there are many ways to give a witness to the changes that we have experienced since we have trusted in Jesus that go beyond a simple verbal expression of those changes. We can appreciate that actions speak louder than words and the contrast in our behavior “after salvation” compared to “before salvation” in addition to the contrast in our actions compared to the society in which we live will be evident to those who see or experience what we do. Our verbal testimony is a way to give clarity and an appropriate interpretation of the cause of the change.