What do you live for? You may have seen the movie, ‘The Martian’. If not, just think of your ultimate ‘left behind’ nightmare. This is not like when you were a kid and your mum accidentally left you at the shops. This is getting accidentally left on another planet! Matt Damon plays an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars. He is unsure whether he will survive, and at a key moment, he radios this message though to his fellow astronauts:
So, um, Commander Lewis, I need you to do something for me. If I die, I need you to check on my parents. It won’t be easy talking to a couple about their dead son. Please tell them I love what I do. And I’m really good at it. And I’m dying for something big and beautiful. And greater than me. Tell them I said I can live with that.
He can handle dying for the cause that he lived for—space travel in his case. But we often hear a version of that on ‘real life’ news. A footballer dies on the field, and they interview his mate saying, “At least he died doing what he loved”. Or a sailor dies at sea and the comments flood social media, “She died doing what she loved”.
My question for you is, “What is your big passion in life?” What would you be doing if someone said of you that you died doing what you loved? What do you live for? What would you die for?
We’ve seen passion and ambition on display all week at the Commonwealth games. Kurtis Marschall’s victory in the pole vault was just brilliant! It took him years of dedication to reach that gold medal standard.
But what do you live for? You might have big goals, but for most of us, our life goals are simpler. “I want to do well at school. I want a half decent job. I want to find love. I want my kids to have a better go at life than me. I want financial freedom. I want to travel.” Or maybe it’s just, “Whatever, I just want lunch.”
What do you live for? In John 4, Jesus’ disciples get an insight into his passion. They are literally at the ‘I want lunch’ level, trying to get Jesus to eat, when Jesus, ever the teacher, turns the conversation and says in verse 34:
My food … is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (NIV)
That was what sustains Jesus. Who cares about a sandwich when you have a kingdom to establish! Jesus lived to do God’s will and finish God’s work. We know that Jesus also died to do God’s will and finish God’s work saying, “Not my will but yours be done”, and then crying out from the cross about his work that “It is finished!” And Jesus urges his disciples to join in his single-minded passion and to live for the same goal. And He would also plead with us to do just the same! Just like them, we need to deepen our faith in the Messiah Jesus until serving him is the number one goal we live for.
But Jesus knows that our hearts drive our actions. So there are four pictures here about deepening our heart-faith, that we might live more fully for his goals. There are four models here for us moving to a deeper faith.
Model 1: To Move From Preoccupation To Passion
This first model is for his disciples. We saw last week that Jesus and his followers took a short cut through the country of Samaria. In the heat of the day, they stopped off at Jacob’s well to rest. The boys went into town to do a Maccas run or whatever they did back then, but Jesus stayed behind by himself and got into an amazing conversation with a Samaritan woman. He offered her living water for her spiritual thirst, and the conversation ended with him very openly declaring that he is the Messiah that she and her people had been waiting for. She was stunned by what she hears. She no longer cared about collecting water. She headed off to town to spread the news, verses 29-30:
“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (NIV)
Meanwhile, scene two happened at the well, because Jesus had then been joined by his disciples. They had come back from town with lunch. It would take a while for the Samaritan crowd to return, so Jesus had a moment for a lunch break, verse 31:
“Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (NIV)
Now the disciples were still clutching take away and thinking that Jesus must be hungry, but Jesus was teasing them, to bring out the lesson that they would never forget, verse 34:
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (NIV)
Jesus was saying, “My food, my bread and butter, what I love doing, is my Father’s will and my Father’s work. I’m on a mission here!”
The problem was that the disciples were not. They were in tourist mode, checking out the tabbouleh and hommus that the Samaritans were selling. They were not caring about the Samaritans—after all, they were just those half-cast cousins who split off from Israel and Israel’s God centuries ago. They had just been to the Samaritan markets and they would have met a stack of Samaritans, but they hadn’t brought any out with them to meet Jesus. Jesus, by contrast, had met one woman, and soon afterwards he had the whole town coming out to see him. He wanted his disciples to get with the program.
Jesus wanted his disciples to move from preoccupation to passion for the mission of God! They were thinking that if they tagged along with Jesus, he would do the teaching. It was sowing time and the harvest would come later. There was no hurry. But Jesus said to them, “Hurry”, verse 35:
I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (NIV)
Literally, Jesus said to them, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields.” Because if they had lifted up their eyes and squinted into the midday haze, they would have seen a crop of Samaritans walking towards them with the woman. The harvest was now. Lunch can wait. It was time for the reaper to draw a wage, that is, it was time for the disciples to get on with their job.
The disciples hadn’t sown the gospel among the Samaritans, but the Old Testament prophets had been sowing for centuries. And Jesus had just been sowing—so Jesus and his disciples were about to reap a harvest of souls over the next two days, just as verse 37, “One sows and another reaps”.
What is that goal you are living for again? School, job, love, kids, financial freedom, travel? But Jesus says to you and me, “that goal is not big enough!” The harvest for eternal life is now.
As a church we’ve set goals for reaching Sydney’s west—1000 new disciples of Christ in a ten year period. In God’s kindness, we’re over a quarter of the way there! But don’t get complacent. Even if we reach our goal, it is still a small harvest compared to the two million people who live out here. There is an urgency about this task, for the harvest is now, and the west is ripe for harvest. Greater Western Sydney is growing fast, already home to 9% of Australia’s population. It has the third largest economy in Australia, with an airport coming and a whole lot more. It is the epicenter of migration to Australia, a rich mission field on our doorstep!
Will you devote yourself to prayer for a great movement of God here? Will you pray that God would sweep up hundreds of churches and thousands of Christians to be on mission. And will you be a harvester yourself? Will you make this harvest your life goal, devoting not just your prayers, but you time and resources, your energy and maybe your career? Will you give whatever it takes? May God revive Sydney’s west!
There was a professor at a North American Bible college. He took his class of 1940 on a visit to England. They visited the house where John Wesley used to live. Wesley was a man God used to bring thousands to salvation. Beside Wesley’s bed were two worn impressions in the floor, where it was said that John Wesley knelt for hours in prayer for his country’s spiritual renewal. As the students were getting on the bus, the professor noticed that one student was missing. Going back upstairs he found a student kneeling in the kneeholes, praying with his face on the bed, “O Lord, do it again! Do it again!” The professor placed a hand on the student’s shoulder and said gently, “Come on Billy, we must be going.” And Billy Graham stood up and got on the bus.
78 years later one of Billy Graham’s final public messages was this, “I’ve been praying that we might have a spiritual awakening. I think that becomes possible only as individuals surrender their lives afresh and anew to Christ.”
Is your food to do the will and work of your Father in heaven? Will you surrender your life afresh to Christ for that task?
Model 2: To Move From Second-Hand Faith To Personal Faith
But in John 4 there is more going on than that. A second model of deepening faith is that of the Samaritans, and it is to move from second hand to personal faith, verses 39 to 42:
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. 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.” (NIV)
You might call this the Samaritan revival—“many” believed. And it happened because they checked Jesus out for themselves, listened to his words, and made up their own minds that he is the saviour of the world. They moved from second hand, hearsay faith—just curiosity really—to genuine, personal faith, that Jesus was their saviour too!
And maybe this is you today. You’ve made it to church perhaps because of curiosity. Maybe a friend invited you? But Jesus would want you to take the next step—to check him out for yourself, to read or listen to his word, and to maintain the curiosity until the day you can say that your faith is real, personal, and yours.
Or maybe this is you because you grew up in church. Perhaps for you it has always been about your parent’s faith. We say it often enough, that God doesn’t have grandkids, only children. You can’t call yourself a Christian just because your parents are Christians. So you need to get curious and listen hard to Jesus until the day you can say that your faith is real, personal, and yours. Jesus is the saviour of the world. Is he your saviour?
Model 3: To Move From Sign-Based Faith To Word-Based Faith
Our third model of faith is that of the Galileans. We don’t meet them in detail, but there is a clear faith-lesson Jesus had for them. The Galileans needed to move from a faith based on signs to a faith based on Jesus’ words. In verse 43, Jesus finally made it back to Galilee, but there was a problem, because verse 44 says:
(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.)
We’ve been warned by John the Gospel writer that there was something questionable about the Galilean’s response to Jesus. Our radar is up to see what that is. The Galileans welcomed Jesus in verse 45, but John adds that they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, for they had also been there. That was the problem. We know from John chapter 2 that the sign-based faith of the people down in Jerusalem was dodgy. In chapter 2 verse 24, Jesus said that he “would not entrust himself to them” for he knew what was in their hearts. Jesus knows that their faith was shallow, it was faith for entertainment. It was a bit like us watching a magician on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. We just want to be surprised. So Jesus said to them in verse 48:
“Unless you people see signs and wonders […] you will never believe.” (NIV)
Notice Jesus’ tone. He was not saying that sign-based faith is good. He was frustrated. He wanted people to be like the Samaritans he had just been with and believe his words. He wanted them to lose their obsession with signs, and grow mature in their faith, to focus on the giver of signs and his life-giving words.
Are you fascinated by the miraculous? Do you love watching so-called ‘miracle’ TV? Do you think that church is only real if the unexplained happens? Beware!
Signs are funny things. They can produce faith, and so John includes Jesus’ signs in his Gospel. But the nature of a sign is that it points to something. Our faith is not to be in the sign, but in the saviour to which the sign points. That’s the faith that Jesus wants—a solid faith in him.
How can we know what faith in Jesus looks like? Well there is one last model of deepening faith here, that of the royal official.
Model 4: To Move From Crisis Faith To Contagious Faith
Jesus had went back to Cana, where Jesus had turned water into wine. I’m not sure if there was any of his wine left there, but Jesus didn’t have much time to relax anyway. He was hit with a request.
A powerful man, a royal official, had rushed over 30 kilometers from Capernaum to Cana to see Jesus. He had started with a crisis faith—a “Help me Jesus”—but ended up with a confident and contagious faith.
He arrived exhausted, throwing himself at Jesus, and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. He might have been wealthy and dignified, but that all goes out the window when you have a sick kid. Just go and look into the eyes of parents in Accident and Emergency at Mount Druitt hospital. Verses 49 to 50:
The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” (NIV)
Now here is the amazing bit: the man took Jesus at his word and departed. That is remarkable! Jesus had rebuked the Galilean crowd for needing signs and wonders to believe. But this man listened to that rebuke. He simply took Jesus at his word and went home! He heard and believed. And because he believed, he didn’t even seem to rush home, verse 51 to 52:
While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” (NIV)
Notice the word, “yesterday”. The royal official had stayed the night somewhere! He was so confident that he took his time to travel home. His crisis faith became confident faith, and then confirmed faith, when he heard that the healing had taken place exactly when Jesus had spoken to him. Verse 53:
Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. (NIV)
The royal official moved from crisis faith to confident faith, from confident faith to confirmed faith, and then to contagious faith, which spread to his whole household. We saw this when his servants shared his amazement, and then his belief in Jesus. And then his wife, and the son himself, and whoever else was a member of his household. They all believed. Again this is a model of deepening faith that you and I can follow.
Perhaps you first came to church because you needed help with an addiction. You needed friendship, or you came to learn English. That is great, but it is time for you to take the next step. You need to move from crisis-help to your own genuine faith in Jesus as your saviour. Perhaps you first prayed to God a prayer of desperation, “O Lord, save my marriage, help my sick mum”. But today is the day when you need to take the next step and trust Jesus, to take Jesus at His word for your salvation to eternal life. Jesus died and rose from the dead to forgive you, and to put you right with God. Have you accepted that gift? Have you moved from crisis faith to a genuine saving faith?
Conclusion: Deepening Your Faith
Let’s wrap up. The big question we started with is, “What are you living for, really living for? What step do you need to take to deepen your faith and truly live for Jesus? Which model of deepening faith is for you?
First, is it that you need to make God’s will and work your food, and live wholeheartedly for His mission? Second, is it that you need to move from a second hand faith to your own personal faith? Third, do you need to move from signs-based fascination to a confident trust in God’s word? Or fourth, does yours need to be a move from crisis faith to real saving faith, like that of the royal official?
I think in my own life I’ve had to make all those steps over time. They were all part of my maturity.
At age 11, as a church kid, I made a choice to become a Christian kid. I owned my own faith. I prayed to accept Jesus as my king and saviour. It wasn’t long before my newfound faith was tested. I found myself in different crises, calling out to God. I had to learn to trust God whether or not he answered me the way I wanted.
In my teens, I went through a phase of fascination with miracles. Part of me just wanted to experience God better, but I think I also wanted to rest my faith on what I could see. I had to learn to rest on the great sign of the resurrection of Jesus, that miracle given once for all of us.
Then in my late teens, I had to learn to live for God’s will and not my own. I was a proud young man who wanted to make my mark on the world. But I recall a challenge at church one night to hand over my ambitions to God, to really hand them over and use my life and opportunities to serve the Lord, even if that meant changing my future plans and career, or being embarrassed to tell friends what I planned to do with my life. Because that was the real issue—my pride and wanting to succeed in the world’s eyes. I handed it all over to God.
Where are you at today?
I could have chosen any of our missionaries really, but I love the example of the Borg family. The Borgs have five kids. Gina and Mark were successful entertainers. Mark made a living out of being an Elvis tribute artist. Life was good. Why change anything? But their food was to do the will of their Father in heaven and to do His work. So they upped and moved their family to Malta a few months ago, to share the gospel in the land where Mark grew up. Their food is to do the Father’s will.
What about you? What do you need to say to God? Let’s pray for deeper faith.
We pray and beg that you would bring spiritual revival to western Sydney, that you would stir thousands and tens of thousands to bow the knee to Jesus as Lord. Only you can change hearts. But Lord, start with our hearts we pray.
If our need is to move from curiosity or second hand faith to genuine faith in Jesus as our Lord and saviour, then accept us now Lord, assure our hearts that you hear our prayer, and help us to grow up in our faith and thrive here as part of your church family.
If we need to take a step deeper in our trust in Jesus, then may you grow our appreciation of your love for each of us. Help us to keep putting off sin and resting safely in our saviour’s grace.
If today we need to get with the program, and hand over our ambitions to God, to exchange selfish goals for the Father’s will for us, then hear our prayer. We lay our lives at your feet, Lord. Take us, use us, make your mission our food.
In Jesus name, Amen.