My work team is studying the gospel of John this year. We study quite slowly, and it will probably take the full year to finish it. Over the last week we read through the second chapter, summarizing each paragraph in our notes, and got together to discuss on Monday.
The question was asked: “What applications can we take from Jesus turning water to wine?”
The host of the wedding at Cana would have been embarrassed by their poor wedding planning. But was that Jesus’ problem? Shouldn’t they have planned better? Most of the other miracles we’re told about address real, physical, life-or-death needs. Providing more wine for a wedding seems a bit trivial in comparison.
Elsewhere in the Bible, wine shows joy in God’s abundant blessings. We saw this first miracle pointing in that direction. God’s blessings on us are abundant, extravagantly more than we need and absolutely above what we deserve.
After this discussion, we went into our weekly team meeting. A (relatively trivial) need was brought to our attention which was the result of poor planning. It was something that we ordinarily would pay no attention to. We didn’t think it was in the scope of our work. Yet, Jesus turned water into wine just because. So why shouldn’t we help with this? Plus, it’s fun to join God in giving good gifts to his children!
As we discussed this, I thought of the chapters I had just read in Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman. Twice in this final quarter of the book, Gladys was confronted with a need, a possible avenue for ministry and dismissed it out of hand. It wasn’t what she considered the scope of her work.
Chapter 14 started out in China, after the visit to the lamasery. Gladys was told that there was a need for Christians in the prison. Prison ministry was not what she did, and she really didn’t intend to start now. But God gave her no peace until she did. And what amazing things happened in that prison!
Soon the persecution of Christians became so great that those who could escape did. In her twenty years of life in China, Gladys had become Chinese “in name, in dress, even—in some ways—in thought,” and now it was time to go back to England. She wrote, “I had gone to China with very little except youthful determination. I came back, middle-aged, with absolutely nothing but the knowledge that God had never failed me.” If you’ve repatriated, did you relate to Gladys’s thoughts about returning to England?
Then, over in Ireland, she met a Chinese girl and asked about other Chinese people in the area. Of those the girl mentioned, she assumed the woman in the asylum was not her concern.
But God said, “That woman you heard about is your concern.” Gladys paid attention and got to help Wong Kwai so much. How often do we assume what God wants us to do, and he suddenly shows us that something we never thought of is actually in store for us?
What I see in Gladys Aylward’s life is a willingness to set aside her plans again and again in order to do whatever God has set in front of her. I love that in her book she describes the internal struggle when these things happened.
One of my favorite passages in the book was the last page. Gladys told how “again God has proved that if we trust Him He will provide.” And she ended with this: “My heart is full of praise that one so insignificant, uneducated and ordinary in every way could be used to His glory and for the blessing of His people in poor persecuted China.”
Thanks for reading with me! Come on in to the comments. How has Gladys encouraged or challenged you? What could you relate to? What sticks with you from this book?
Join us in March as we go through the book Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World by Osheta Moore! Here’s a summary of the book from Amazon:
Shalom, the Hebrew word often translated as “peace,” was a far cry from blogger and podcaster Osheta Moore’s crazy life. Like a lot of women, she loved God’s dream for a world that is whole, vibrant, and flourishing. But honestly: who’s got the time? So one night she whispered a dangerous prayer: God, show me the things that make for peace. In Shalom Sistas, Moore shares what she learned when she challenged herself to study peace in the Bible for forty days.
Here’s the schedule for the book:
March 2: Part 1 (Chapters 1-3)
March 9: Part 2 (Chapters 4-6)
March 16: Part 3 (Chapters 7-9)
March 23: Part 4 (Chapters 10-12)
March 30: Part 5 (Chapters 13-15)