1 Peter 4:10-11
Let’s spend a little time this morning getting acquainted with three individuals whom God used in powerful ways. But it wasn’t always obvious how God was going to use them. Sometimes he met with resistance, and nobody else but God would have suspected how God was capable of using them. Let’s start with one of the Old Testament’s greatest heroes… but he wasn’t always great.
My name is Moses. I was 80 years old this last birthday. God’s been finished with me for years. Here I am exiled in the wilderness, living the life of a nomadic shepherd, nobody for a hundred miles in any direction except sheep and lizards. If God were ever going to use me, it would have been years ago in Egypt, when I had something to offer. But now, I’ve got nothing of use to anybody. It’s just me and my sheep and… hey, does that look like a bush on fire over there?
I’m just a little boy, nobody ever notices me. Right now, I’m following this crowd and they’re all following this fellow named Jesus. They say he does miracles, and I want to be right up front when he does his next one. Don’t worry about me – I can look after myself. I know just about every nook and cranny in this town. I know all the shortcuts, and we’re heading out into the hills – that’s my playground. I’m staying near the front, always keeping my eye on Jesus – just in case. We’ve been out on the hillside now for hours listening to him teach – something about the kingdom of God. Isn’t he ever going to get around to one of those miracles? Now he’s having a conference with a little group of men. One of them keeps staring over at me, and everybody around me is starting to grumble about being hungry. “Boy, am I glad my mom fixed me a sack lunch.”
“Zacchaeus is my name, taxes are my game!” I’ve always done pretty well for myself. Well, that’s because that’s really the only one I’ve cared about – myself. Like I say, if you don’t look after yourself, who will? And especially cause I’m short – everybody thinks just because you’re short, you’re stupid. I’ll show them! They say Jesus is coming to town. I’ve always wanted to see him – they say he’s quite the miracle worker. If I could help him market that, we’d both get rich. Here’s the crowd coming down the street now. There he is! No, get out of my way. Hey, I can’t see over you. You make a better door than a window! I know – there’s a tree – I’ll just climb up that – here we go. This is the best seat in the house. Wait a second, where did he go? Oh, hi, Jesus, we haven’t met. Zacchaeus? Yes, that is my name, how did you… come to my house for lunch? Well, yes, that would be fine…. What could a man like Jesus possibly want from me?
Have you ever thought about God having a purpose for your life?
God’s purpose? Well, sure he has a plan, and I know he uses people like Abraham and Noah and Joshua and Peter. But somebody like me – I’m not so sure. What would I have to offer? How could he use me? I work a 9-5 job, M-F. Nights I run my kids around to sports and music and school events, Saturdays I try to keep up with the yard work and house repair, Sundays are pretty much filled with going to church. A pretty ordinary, uneventful life – how could God use that? If God has a purpose for my life, I’m not sure what it would be, or what I might possibly have to offer him.
Maybe you’re like me – when I think of God having a purpose for somebody’s life, I think on the big scale – I mean Bible story size dimensions like Abraham and Noah and that bunch – and how often does that come around? And it certainly wouldn’t include me.
Let me tell you a little secret – even preachers have a problem imagining God’s purpose for their lives sometimes. When I was young I used to think about being one of those preachers on demand for lectureships and gospel meetings – leading the church in revival – held in awe for my biblical expertise – holding audiences spellbound with my eloquent oratory. And then real life set in, and my work is far less glamorous and far-reaching than I used to dream. I’m sure God has a purpose for my life, but there are a lot of times it’s not really very obvious how I’m making a difference.
Isn’t that the key? Making a difference for God? When we talk about God’s purpose for our lives, it isn’t just religious busywork. It’s feeling like what we’re doing has made a difference of eternal dimensions in somebody’s life.
Part of the problem is, eternal dimensions aren’t always obvious on the short-term radar screen. And some of our efforts are only a part of the whole. We play a part, but somebody else is playing another part, and the sum is greater than all the parts. And some of the parts would be undetectable by themselves, but without them, the bigger picture would never develop. And sometimes, we can only see the effect of our work in hindsight. Only looking backward, do we see how God was orchestrating the movement of people and circumstances to bring about his plan – and there we are – smack-dab in the middle of it all.
So, how do you know what God’s purpose is for you, and how do you have your part ready when he calls you?
Let me ask you a personal question: What is your S.H.A.P.E. ? FAT (Faithful, Available, Teachable)
This is a list for a little usefulness checkup – these five areas will give you a good start on assessing where God might use you.
Spiritual gifts – How has God gifted you? What are your spiritual strengths that God has put within you? (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12) 1 Peter 4:10-11
Heart – What do you love to do / passionate about?
Abilities – Natural talents you were born with, or have developed. How can you use them for God?
Personality – How can God use your unique personality?
Experiences – How can your experiences, both good and bad, be used to help others?
The truth is, it’s not your ability, but your availability that God can use.
God will often use a person, regardless of their talents or gifts, who is expectantly available for God to use. It’s not always what you’re good at, or where your strengths are – it’s what you make available to God. Even the apostle Paul had to learn that the hard way. He prayed, “God, if you would only take away this thorn in the flesh, then I could really be useful.” But God said back to him, “Paul, you keep the thorn in the flesh, and I’ll use you in spite of it. In fact, I use your weaknesses better than I use your strengths, because then it’s me who gets the glory, not you.”
At times, God needs us to color outside the lines: What we generally do, is lay down on a piece of paper, trace around ourselves and hand the outline to God and tell him, “Try and color inside the lines.” What we’re really saying is, “Here’s what I do best, call me when you have an opening, and I’ll consider it.” Don’t restrict God to what you think you’re good at.
And finally, the most important question of all: Are you looking for a way in or a way out?
If you’re looking for a way out of getting involved: You look at a sheet like we used for the Spring Cleanup that listed several things a person might do, and you don’t find anything that interests you, so you say, that means I don’t have to do anything.
Others looked at that same sheet and didn’t find anything listed that they could do, but they saw that line that said “Other” and started writing in all these incredible suggestions and offers for how they wanted to help in their unique way. Some will say, “Nobody ever asks me to do anything around the church.” Never mind the pleas that go out for prayer leaders, or children’s ministry or communion preparation or homeless ministry or a dozen other needs for volunteers. To them it’s an exemption, because nobody ever begged them to get involved. Others don’t wait to get asked; they show up with a smile on their face and say, “Where can you use me?”
Are you looking for a way in to God’s purpose, or a way out? Whichever you’re looking for – you’ll always find it.
Let’s take a last look at our three opportunities for God to do something great.
Moses – he took some convincing. He didn’t think he had what it took, God thought otherwise. God won. And you know what? God was right, Moses was exactly who he needed to do the job. Sometimes we argue with God about whether we’re right for the job, when what we’re really worried about is what it’s going to cost us in the long run – when it comes to experiencing being firmly planted in God’s purpose for your life, it’s worth everything it costs us.
The little guy with the sack lunch – he didn’t have much, but what he had, he willingly gave to Jesus – and he got to see his miracle. Sometimes, it’s not the huge task and the great gift, but simply what we have in our hands at the moment that makes the greatest impact.
And what about Zacchaeus? When Zacchaeus got up that morning, he never suspected what God had in store for him that day. But when Jesus showed him God’s will and God’s purpose for his life, he jumped at it – and it literally cost him everything – and he would have done it again in a minute. And let me tell you about the impact he had on everyone else – that’s the power of a changed life.
Are you looking for God’s purpose for your life? Don’t just wait for the once in a lifetime experience, be available all of the time, everywhere you are – in the small as well as the big opportunities. God may indeed be grooming you to lead his people in a nationwide revival, he may also ask you just to share your sack lunch. Don’t miss out when God calls.
You may recall the name David Livingston, a great pioneer missionary into the heart of Africa. His missionary society wrote him and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you.” Livingston wrote back, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all.”
If you’re looking for God’s purpose for your life, don’t look for a well-traveled road, look for the unmistakable footprints of God – and follow them wherever they lead you.
Posted on Sun, January 6, 2019
by John Roberts