The Third Wellby Luke Jones on April 1, 2019
Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
In this passage, Isaac, the inheritor of God’s promise to Abraham to give him the land of the Philistines, has been living in the land of Gerar, one of the Philistine territories. He is prosperous there and Abimelek, the king of Gerar begins to fear him so Abimelek sends Isaac and his family away. As Isaac is trying to provide for his family, trusting in the lord, his people dig two wells but the shepherds of Gerar claim them. Isaac doesn’t fight the shepherds even though those wells belong to his family and were dug by their labor. He gives them up and moves on. Finally on the third well, Isaac doesn’t face any argument from the people of Gerar.
Isaac and his people probably put a lot of time and energy into digging those first two wells. It was not fair or just that the people of Gerar took them from Isaac and yet Isaac doesn’t complain. Why? It may be that he knew he couldn’t afford to openly fight with the philistines; that his tribe was not big enough or strong enough to survive if Abimelek sent out his armed forces against Isaac. Or it may have been because Isaac was going forward in pursuit of God’s promise and in faith that God would fulfill it; that one day his descendants would occupy all the land of the Philistines. If God had made that promise, as impossible as it must have seemed at the time, then some wasted effort digging wells they could not use was no big deal.
When we reach out to those who are not Christians as a church, developing events and programs and spending money and committing our time, we are hoping to see the fruit of our labors. We want to see people come to salvation for the first time. We want to see new families and their kids learning to live the way God has asked us to live. We want the privilege of discipling those new people and equipping them to go back out into the world to serve and save more people, but sometimes we don’t see that fruit. Sometimes we put forth lots of effort and time and, yes, money into a project, into our attempts to reach out and do a better job serving needs but we don’t see the new people flooding in and we get discouraged.
This church has begun several new things each year since I started here in the Sumer of 2016. In the Spring of 2017, we launched two new adult Sunday school classes. At the end of that Summer we launched the Family Ministry Committee who planned nine different Family Fun Night outreaches that year. At the end of the following Summer we launched Sunday School groups for kids, Wednesday Night Dinners, Wednesday Night groups for kids, and made plans for two Short term Adult classes; Financial Peace University in the Fall and Grief Share in the Spring, which is now underway.
Through all of this we have seen the Lord bless us. We have made many new connections in our community as a church and have some new families participating in our activities because of these efforts. If we were hoping for a massive flood of hungry souls, we haven’t received that blessing yet but perhaps we are still digging our first wells. Perhaps, like Isaac, we are putting in the effort necessary to find out where God would have us settle. This isn’t waisted time, it’s maturing time. These efforts have not been failures, they have just been the first steps of a longer journey that God has planned for us. We are going to continue trying new things and some of them will fail. Some of them we will invest in for a season and then move on. Some of them God will specially bless and those efforts will become the new normal for our church, our tools for undeniably blessing our community and drawing people to faith in Jesus.
So keep digging those wells. Don’t tire of investing in the lives of people you know who don’t yet believe. Don’t give up on trying new things and seeking to obey God’s Spirit, even if it means taking a risk that your efforts won’t pay off every time. When Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19 that we go and make disciples of all peoples, He also promised to be with us always and reminded us that he holds all authority in heaven and on earth. Like Isaac’s people, who would one day be the great nation of Israel, God is guiding us into the land he has prepared for us. Praise the Lord!