Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.
—John 4:13–14

To become a velvet-covered brick—a person who stays firm in your beliefs but is soft with people of a different persuasion—you need to listen to other people’s stories. It’s typical for many of us that once we corner an unbeliever, we feel this pressure to dump on them all of the arguments or the canned gospel presentation we learned somewhere without any thought of what they are thinking or what their needs are. God didn’t call us to become spiritual dump trucks. We are not to go to an unbeliever and dump our arguments on them. You never win people that way. Instead, we need to learn to listen to other people’s stories.

I think it’s interesting in John 4, when Jesus encountered the woman at the well, He started by listening to the woman, determining what she was interested in. She had come to the well for water. Jesus said in verses 13-14, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst.” He got to know the woman. He demonstrated a concern for her. He began a dialogue with her and empowered her to continue the argument, giving Him more time with her to persuade her.

If you are going to not just win a debate but win another person, you need to listen to their stories. Not long ago I was on a news program in New York. Before the show, I was in the greenroom watching all the activity that was going on. And there was a lady seated next to me who was going to be on the program as well. She asked, “What are you here to talk about?” So I explained the reason I was there. She said, “I want to ask you, why do you conservatives hate homosexuals?” Well, I quickly went into debate mode, ready to pounce on her right then. But I thought about this sermon and told myself to continue the dialogue. So I said, “I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of our viewpoint.” I continued, “Tell me what your story is. Why are you here?” She explained why she was on the show. As we continued talking. I said, “What do you do for a living?” She told me her occupation and we talked about that a little bit. She said, “What do you do? “ I said, “I’m a pastor of a church in Dallas.” She said, “You know, I grew up in the Catholic Church and I’ve always wondered, what is the difference is between what Catholics believe and what you believe?” And I said, “The only thing that really matters is what the Bible says, and the most important issue is how a person can have a relationship with God.” I went on to explain the plan of salvation with her. Now I believe the reason God got me up at 4:45 that morning to go to the studio was not to be on television. He had me in that greenroom to deliver a message to somebody who was interested in knowing Him. But if I had followed my natural inclinations and gotten into an argument with her, I would have lost the opportunity to present the gospel. We need to listen to other people’s stories if we’re going to influence them for the gospel like Jesus did.

***
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Influence Our Culture for God” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.