Cup of Cold Water Christians

Bible Book: Mark  9 : 41
Subject: Servant Living; Sharing; Christian Living; Witnessing

(Before the sermon, hand out peppermints)

Months ago I was preaching and a few minutes into the sermon I started coughing. I was not aware of it at the time but a man left the sanctuary and came back with a cup of cold water that saved me and the sermon. I knew then that the Lord wanted me to develop this message.

The church today is in need of many things but perhaps most of all the church needs great servants of God. In many ways we have become consumer Christians who see the church as the servant who meets our needs. As far as the world is concerned, we condemn the world but do little to “serve” the Gospel to the world.

Here, in our text, Jesus shows in word and deed the importance of being a servant of the King. In these verses, first, we see believers who are not serving. Then we see Jesus’ call for believers to serve one another. Then we see the need for Christians to serve the world with the good news of Jesus.


Three times before Jesus makes His statement about the cup of water, there is the record of the disciples arguing or complaining. In the first case, the disciples are arguing with the Scribes. Look at verse 14. We are not told what they are arguing about but we can imagine that they are arguing about Jesus. In the second incident, look at verse 33 and following, the disciples are arguing about which one of them was going to be the greatest. And in the third case, verse 38, they are complaining about someone who was not a part of their group who was preaching and ministering in Jesus’ name.

In the first incident, instead of joining the disciples in their argument with the Scribes, Jesus heals a little boy. In the case of the disciples arguing about who was going to be the greatest, Jesus brings a child in their midst and teaches them that the greatest is like a child. In the third case, He shares these words about a cup of cold water.

As far as the world is concerned, we spend a lot more time condemning the world than we spend sharing the gospel with the world. We condemn the darkness but we share no light. It’s easier that way. It doesn’t cost us anything. But the Lord has called us to be salt and light. He has commissioned us to go and as we are going we are to make disciples. So the mission of the church is not to keep saying, “Come to the church.” The mission is to go to the world.

In the church it seems that we often spend more time arguing with each other about things that have very little value rather than serving each other. Once, when I was a pastor, the church decided that it was time to change the carpet in the sanctuary. Early on, a dispute arose about which color we should use. I told them that I was going on vacation and that I would conduct the funerals of those who died over the carpet issue. It seemed to diffuse the situation and all went well after that. But a negative attitude often prevails in our churches and that keeps us from being the family of God.

And if that is not enough, we spend the rest of our time criticizing other churches just like the disciples were complaining about someone who was not in their little group doing ministry in Jesus’ name. I was preaching in a church recently when I overheard some members talking negatively about another church in the area. The church had been conducting a survey in the community to find unchurched families. The church members were upset because their sister church was doing ministry in the community.

So this is how the story begins – Christians arguing and complaining.


Now, Jesus is ready to teach the disciples about service. Listen again to Jesus “Truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Matthew’s gospel records Jesus as using the phrase “cold water.” The scholars tell us that this is significant because someone had to make an extra trip to the well to get a cup of cold water.

Remember the scene. On the way the disciples had been arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom of God. When they arrive at their destination, Jesus asked them what they were talking about on the way. He knew. So Jesus brings a little child in their midst and tells them that the greatest in the kingdom of God is like a little child.

John, like a child whose hand has been caught in the cookie jar, tries to deflect Jesus’ attention away from them by talking about a man who was preaching and ministering in Jesus’ name without their permission. So Jesus uses the man as an example of that they, the disciples, should be doing rather than arguing about who was going to be the greatest.

Through the entire experience, Jesus is trying to teach them about service. Instead of arguing with the world, serve the gospel to the world. Instead of arguing among yourselves, serve each other in the church. Instead of criticizing other believers or churches, get busy doing the work that they are doing.

Let me tell you this. Serving will cost you. It will cost you some time. It will cost you some effort. You may have to swallow your pride. You may have to serve by being slow to speak at the next business meeting. You may have to make a commitment to teach that class that no one wants to teach. Later Jesus gave the disciples another example of the power of service by washing their feet. You may have to serve as if you are washing someone’s feet.

But serving others in the church will change your Christian life in ways that bring more blessings than you can imagine. Your life will take on new and more powerful meaning. You will be an example to all of what being a Christian really means. You could help change the whole environment of your church. You will help create an environment of love and care.

In the church serving one another is a powerful thing. It helps us avoid the conflicts and arguing. It teaches our children how church should be. More than that, it catches the attention of the unbelieving world. Jesus said, “They will know that you belong to me by the way you love one another.”


A cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is a powerful witness. It is so powerful today because it is so rare. People just don’t serve today, especially people that they don’t know.

A few years ago I heard the testimony of Christian comedian Mike Williams. Mike’s mother tried to give him away to the mailman. Every day the mailman would deliver the mail and say, “Here’s your mail. Have a nice day and remember God loves you” That “cup of cold water” led to Mike being adopted by the mailman’s daughter who had multiple sclerosis and her husband who was a Baptist Sunday School teacher. Mike accepted Jesus as Savior because of that family and he now has a worldwide ministry. It all happened because of a cup of cold water. “Here’s your mail. Have a nice day and remember God loves you”

When I was a pastor several years ago, I preached a message on this passage and asked our church what we were going to do to be cup of cold water Christians. One of our members came to me within a few days and presented a drawing of a portable booth that we set up at the local fall festival. In 3 days we gave out thousands of cups of cold water, hundreds of Bibles, and served the carnival staff a meal and a positive witness.

Listen to PROVERBS 25:25. “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Cold Water – Good News.

In MATTHEW 25 – Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you came to me, sick and you visited me.” It’s all about service. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? Yes, and He served us with all He had. That’s what He’s trying to teach the disciples and us today.


Two lifetimes ago I was serving in a church as a youth minister. One of our members, Mr. Dan Stevenson came to church every Sunday with pockets full of peppermints. He was known as the Candy Man. He would give every child a peppermint and say, “It’s good to see you in church today. Here, have a peppermint and remember Jesus loves you.” One by one I saw those children come to faith in Christ. I know that they had great Sunday School teachers, pastors, and others who helped lead them to Christ. But every time I saw one of them baptized, I thought of Mr. Dan. He is probably the reason that I am known as the Candy Man at the Children’s Home.

What do you need to do to be a Cup of Cold Water Christian? Perhaps you need to accept Christ today as your Savior. You cannot serve like Jesus if you do not know Jesus. Maybe you need to recommit your life to Christ. You’ve fallen in the trap of complaining and arguing rather than serving. Maybe you just need to resolve today to get up out of the pew and start using the gifts God has given you. Share your faith where you work or go to school. Serve people the gospel through deliberate acts of kindness in Jesus’ name.

If you make a commitment today to be a servant of the King, a cup of cold water Christian, do you know what we will do? We will watch God do something incredible with your life.

Perry Hancock, PhD

President & CEO

Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home & Family Ministries
Office 318.343.2244