It is said that one of the most asked questions in life is, “What is the meaning of life?” I am sure all of us at one point in time have asked the same thing and some are still asking. We all desire a good, fulfilling life. And in the pursuit of this good life, many of us look for it in material things. Things that are pleasing to the eyes, things that will give us a comfortable life, things that will give us pleasure, fame, wealth, recognition, and security.
I have looked in such places and a lot of things I never received. But I realised no matter how much I get out of my search, my life is not as good and fulfilling as I thought it would be. Solomon, said to be one of the wisest and richest kings who ever lived, also tried the same tactic. He sought all the pleasures and wealth the world could offer. He had the best of everything, but at the end he concluded saying, “Everything is vanity”. He realised that the true meaning of life is “to fear God, serve God, love God, do what God says – this is the true meaning of life” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
If the good, fulfilling life that God promises is this simple, why do we struggle so much to find life in things that only make life more empty and meaningless? Have you thought about this?
I work with girls and women trafficked for sexual exploitation and in prostitution. I have seen many of these girls and women do what they do with the hope for a better life for themselves, for their families, or for their children. But the cycle never ends. There is never a day enough to say, “This is it. I have it all now – a good life.”
Bertrand Russell, an atheist, puts it this way, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.” Even an atheist who says there is no God still realizes that life’s meaning can only be found in God.
Today we live in very digital and materialistic times that make it harder to fully understand the real meaning of life that God intended for us. It is very easy to be swayed and be drunk in the things the world places importance on. Therefore, today there are more people suffering with depression and anxiety. Infidelity is high. Divorce is now like a game and suicide rates are much higher than any time in history. This tragedy will only get worse if we do not get the meaning of “Life” that God offers. And mind you, those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ are also grappling with the same tragedy.
With that, I would like us to turn our attention to a very familiar passage John 4:1-42 – Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. When Moreen wrote to me and gave this as my text, I laughed.
In Miqlat Ministry, we have a story of this passage. Whenever we have guest speakers or anyone who comes to visit us and fellowship with us, many of them based their speaking from this text. As time went by, a few of the girls asked why everyone who comes only speaks about the Samaritan woman from John 4. Is it because she was also assumed to be a prostitute? One time one of the girls even commented maybe because of the life we have lived, they think we can only understand this passage best. So now every time people come and speak on John 4, we look at one another and smile. So when I was given this passage, I also thought maybe because of the work I do. But jokes aside, John 4 is still one of my favorites because to me this story is personal and life-giving for it powerfully portrays that there is LIFE in Jesus Christ – a good, fulfilling life.
Like most good Baptists who preach a three-point sermon, I will deviate from the three points and bring two points – still maintaining my upright position of a good Baptist.
The Samaritan Woman Was Restored
The word restored means bring back or re-establish. I am a Naga, and we Nagas don’t really enjoy or waste time on appetizers/starters. We love the main course most. So I’ll not go into details of the narrative of the meeting and conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. I call that part the appetizer/starters, assuming that everyone participating in this amazing conference knows that part of the narrative too well. I’ll jump straight into the main course. And to me, the main course is when the Samaritan woman realised that the man who had been talking to her all this time was Christ (vs. 25-28).
The Bible does not tell us the name of the woman. Even Jesus Christ called her as woman and not by name (vs. 21). The fact that she came out to fetch water at a time when there was no one around gives us the notion that she must not have been a very good woman, someone that society perceived as having low moral character. Whatever her character was, like any one of us, it is obvious that she wanted something more in life that would make her life meaningful and fulfilling. So when Jesus said that the water He gives will become in Him a spring of water welling up to eternal life, she quickly said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (vs. 15, 16).
To me, it is clear that this woman was not happy with the life she was living. Maybe she was always looked down on, criticised, and perhaps she also did not have friends and family that supported and encouraged her because of her lifestyle. She must have been very lonely, living in shame and guilt. Maybe there were times when she even thought of committing suicide. It is also possible that with the kind of life she was living, she might also have been a depressed, frustrated, and very angry woman. She might also have harmed herself often. There are so many possibilities we can think and go on and on. A lot of the women I meet and work with carry with them marks of self-harm. So when Jesus offered a better option, she immediately knew she desperately needed that alternative for herself. She just didn’t have the courage and desire to meet people, so she thought when she drank the water that Jesus offered, it would free her from what she dreaded most – meeting people outside. Her confidence was totally shattered. She sure must have felt so unloved and worthless.
Today, how many of us can identify with that kind of feeling – like that of the Samaritan woman. You may not be a prostitute. You may not be an alcoholic or a drug addict. You may be a good Christian in the eyes of many people. You are active in church and do all the right things that good Christians do. But you cannot run from yourself. You know that Samaritan woman is feeling too well.
It would be so discouraging if the Samaritan woman feeling ends there. But the best part is yet to come. Through the conversation, as the Samaritan woman opened herself to Jesus, the broken pieces of her life were knitted together one by one even without her realizing it.
In vs. 28-29 it says, “She left her water jar and ran back to the town to tell people who she met and asked them to come and meet Him too.”
You see this insignificant woman – always looked down upon and so scared to be seen by people – left the safest thing she came for, to fetch water when no one could see her, and ran to the city, not hiding but with full confidence. I am sure her face was beaming with joy.
What do you think happened that transformed her into such a confident person in the split of a conversation? To me, I see restoration. She got the Life that Jesus offers – a full restorative life. The life that she was missing was brought back to her alive and full. Her dignity was restored. She was no longer ashamed or afraid to meet people.
Many times when people visit us, they often tell me, “Asha, your girls are all very beautiful.” I proudly tell them, “When God restores lives, He does it to the full so one’s looks are also restored.” As women, we all desire to look good and for which we spend tons of money in beauty treatment and products. It is important to take care of our beauty, but the beauty that God restores is delightful. Why don’t we ask God for it? What or which areas of your lives need restoration? He offers the same restoration that he offered the Samaritan woman. Will you accept that restorative life?
The Samaritan Woman Was Revived/Renewed
Revived means return to consciousness or life, become active or flourishing again, and renewed means being resumed, re-established. A lot of times I pray for revival for myself.
But I never really understood the joy of a revived/renewed life until I fully surrendered and embraced the life that comes from God.
I have also seen in the lives of many of the girls and women that after a certain period of time or years, they still choose to go back to the same old dark place because they still deny the gift of Life that Jesus offers. They try to be good, to change in their ways. But that does not sustain. When Jesus revives, that person is never the same again.
Look at the Samaritan woman. A woman once of low morals, talk of the town, and who was trying to avoid being seen, became alive, active, and joyful. She was revived and became a new person. When she experienced this revival, she chose to share with others. It is said, “They came out of the town and made their way toward Jesus” (vs. 30). Many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the woman’s testimony “(vs. 39). Look at this, many people believed, maybe not because of what they heard from Jesus or His disciples, but because of the woman’s testimony. What a powerful revival!
Today, churches are being sold out. Many churches are dry and dying. Revival is the need of the hour. And revival does not just happen when we organise big spiritual meetings. True revival happens when we receive the life that Christ offers, and we need to let the world see this truth in and through our everyday lives.
Outreach ministry is a very integral part of the work I do since it is through the outreach that we get connected to the people and see the on-the-ground reality. Often times, many of the girls and women who have come out of prostitution and are now living a full life tell me that they really feel burdened for their friends out in the streets in the Red Light areas.
But they say they don’t know how to share the Word of God and pray for them if they were to go and meet them. I always tell them, “You don’t have to say any other thing. Just tell them what God has done in your life, and your Life itself will be a testimony to them.” When God revives, He uses every part of you to bless and encourage others.
When I speak, I express more with my hands and eyes. For some people, this must be a distraction. But I pray to God that he will use even my actions to bless others. And a few times people have come forward and told me how they were blessed and understood better through the use of my hands and facial expressions. At times at outreach, people come to me and tell me that they see ‘Allah’ in my eyes.
I love setting up and beautifying houses. It’s therapeutic to me. So sometimes when I am too stressed, even at midnight I will move things around to change the whole setting of the room. Some people really like my set up designs and ask my opinions and help even in this matter. These are petty things to many people, but to me I see it as God’s revived work of my hands, eyes, speech and every little thing that I do. So I have learned never to take it for granted. When God revives your Life, He will use your voice, your fingers, and even your name to be a source of joy and blessing for others. And that’s the revived and renewed life the Samaritan woman exhibited.
Andrei Bitov, a Russian novelist, once an atheist made a profound statement that “without God life makes no sense,” and as Christians we all understand this truth fully well. Then why are we still seeking for the meaning of life when we know well the source of LIFE?
Nagaland has over 16 tribes and each tribe has its own unique dialect. And not everyone in Nagaland knows or speaks English, so we have a common language called Nagamese that makes communication understandable. So there’s a song in Nagamese that goes like this: “Ekbar Jonom loile duibar muribo, duibar jonom loile ekbar muribo,” which translates “If you are born once, you will die twice, but if you are born twice, you will die once.”
The message of this song is the conversation that took place between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3 where Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born the second time when is already old?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless He is born of water and Spirit.”
A simple yet a very powerful song. The Samaritan woman understood the truth of the song and she made a smart choice to be born twice and die once. I also chose the smart choice.
Dying once is enough for me, and so I choose to be born twice and therefore I choose the LIFE that Jesus Christ offers.
I want to conclude with this statement I often make – even if I die in my sleep, I have no regrets for I have received and lived the life that Christ offers. I know I am doing what He has called me to do, and I look forward to living my second life with him through eternity.
So friends, there is full restored, revived, and renewed life in Jesus Christ. Will you, like the Samaritan woman, put down all your guard and embrace it or will you choose to die twice?
The choice is yours. Life is a gift from God, and we can only find the true meaning of life when we are in tune with the giver of this wonderful gift called LIFE. Live your life worth living all through eternity.
“For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, everything got started in Him and finds its purpose (meaning) in Him.” Colossians 1:16
Speech delivered by Asha Sanchu during the Global Conference of Baptist Women during the 22nd Baptist World Alliance Congress on July 7, 2021.
Asha Sanchu is from Nagaland. Since she was a child, Asha has been a strong advocate for women and children caught in sexual exploitation and that has been her life’s passion and calling.
After she finished her master’s degree in theology, she committed herself fully to the work of rescue, securing freedom, and empowering the lives of women entrapped in the web of sexual exploitation. She first served in Bangkok, then the Philippines, and then returned to continue that type of ministry in Nagaland.
There she has ministered as the Executive Director of Miqlat Ministry, which is under the Women’s Department of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council for the last 12 years, continuing to work for the freedom and release of sexually exploited women and children there.