Remember back in the early days of the pandemic. How did you and your roommates or you and your family pass the time? More puzzles? Board games? More Netflix? Sourdough bread?
There was so much we did not know at the time about the coronavirus. None of us had experienced anything quite like this before – an entire world on high alert. The world almost completely shutting down.
And yet some heroic men and women had to keep working. They were first responders, doctors, nurses, bus drivers, grocery store workers, and package delivery drivers.
One of the more shining examples of the beauty of humanity in the midst of the darkness was how some people decided to take care of these frontline workers. One of the examples were the people who put out drinks and snacks for the men and women delivering packages to our doors, and there was a simple message to those working so hard: “Take What You Need.”
Such a loving gesture! And these delivery drivers did just that. Never taking so much that other drivers wouldn’t have any when they got there. They took what they need to make it through the day.
In this series, that analogy helps us catch a glimpse of how God provides for us. The main difference being what God offers each of us will never run out. There is an abundance for all with no fear that if we need more those behind us won’t have enough.
Let’s go back to the passage we looked at in week 1 of this series.
Paul is writing to those who are following Jesus. If that is you, listen to what you have access to?
“3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” – Ephesians 1:3 (NLT)
“He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” – Ephesians 1:8 (NLT)
“Because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” – Ephesians 1:11 (NLT)
Here’s the dilemma. We walk around as if we don’t know we have access to this inheritance. We walk around as if we are spiritually bankrupt when in reality we have won the spiritual lottery!
As we have been seeing throughout this series, we have access to God’s hope, His peace, His community, and even to His Spirit which comes to live within us when we choose to follow Jesus.
Some of us are living like life is a state fair when in reality it’s more like Six Flags.
When you go to the State Fair each ride costs you money. At Six Flags the rides are included!
Some of us are missing the fullness of life with God and the adventures He has for us because we don’t realize we already have access to all we need to enjoy this life! Sure, real life can have long lines and it can be hot out, but you can get on the Shockwave for free!
If you don’t like roller coasters or have never been to Six Flags, maybe another analogy would be helpful. Chuck Swindoll in his book Grace Awakening uses the analogy that many believers are like the couple who were able to go on a cruise ship and brought their own bread, peanut butter, and jelly. All throughout the cruise while others were enjoying the unlimited and delicious buffets, the couple was back in their room eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches thinking that the buffets cost extra!
You and I need to start riding the rides and stop watching clothes have all the fun!
We need to start enjoying the buffets and stop surviving on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
We need to understand our purpose.
We are going to look at some foundational truths that you need to know
You need to know that…
- You have been created on purpose and with a purpose. Too often we believe the lie that we have been condemned by God.
- You have been chosen by God. Too often we believe the lie that we have been rejected by God.
- You have been called by God. Too often we don’t believe there is a God or believe the lie that He is silent or distant.
- You have been gifted and empowered by God. Too often we believe the lie that we have been abandoned by God.
We need to replace the lies with these foundational truths and build our lives on these truths.
So let’s talk through these foundational truths.
1. You have been created on purpose and with a purpose.
The Creator of the Universe created you that you might have a relationship with Him and discover the plans He has for you.
You were born at the exact time in history and place on this planet that gives you the best opportunity to discover God.
26 God began by making one person, and from him came all the different people who live everywhere in the world. God decided exactly when and where they must live. 27 God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us: 28 ‘By his power we live and move and exist.’ – Acts 17:26-28a (NCV)
Think about that for a moment. Notice the intentionality about this statement.
The Scriptures describe how God knit you together in your mother’s womb and that you were fearfully and wonderfully made!
Just as the Scriptures describe God’s intention for the prophet Jeremiah, I believe He has that kind of intention for you.
Jeremiah 1:5 says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart….”
To discover your God-given purpose starts with a relationship with God. You need to seek to know Him and His ways on your own and in community. This is how we can replace our ways which lead us astray with His wisdom and guidance.
You also need to know,
2. You have been chosen by God.
Back to the passage we looked at to start this series – Ephesians 1.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us….
Have you ever felt left out?
Ever have that moment in elementary school in the playground when two kids are picking teams and you just hope to hear your name? Round after round goes by and you end up being the last one?
You know what’s worse than that? When that happens when you are an adult, but rather than being picked last, you aren’t picked at all.
In college one summer, one of the football players was in one of my classes. His name is Adrian. We helped each other through the class and even ate at the cafeteria together a few times. One day we started talking about my favorite sport – ultimate frisbee. As I described how great I was at it, he invited me to come and play with the football team. During offseason workouts the players organized their own ways to stay in shape. I couldn’t believe it! I would love to play!
So we ended up on the practice field, and they started picking teams. I couldn’t wait to get out there! These guys may be big and fast, but ultimate frisbee was my sport!
There were 20 of us. I wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t picked first or near the top. I was new to the group and probably 6 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than the smallest guy out there. What I did not expect was not being chosen at all! The last guy picking teams didn’t pick me! He would rather go against the other team with one fewer person than to have me on his team!
I was so embarrassed and so disappointed. I started to turn to walk away when I heard Adrian call my name. He added me to his team even if the guy who chose his team didn’t.
So now was my chance to prove I belonged!
We started playing, and I was open ALL the time! No one would cover me! But that didn’t seem to matter because no one on my team was throwing to me anyway until that one fateful moment. It was an errant pass. It must have been partially blocked because the frisbee was coming right towards me. I knew I could get there before anyone else if I just ran towards where it was headed. I ran as fast as I had ever run in my life, and I caught it just before I felt a crushing blow against my entire body. It felt like I had been hit by a truck! It was the first time in my life I got the wind knocked out of me while standing up. One of the defensive lineman nicknamed “Big Cat” arrived at the exact same time. I fell to the ground and got up on my knees and flung the frisbee to Adrian and then slowly crawled off the field. And I just kept crawling all the way back to my dorm! That was the first and last time I ever played ultimate frisbee with the football team.
You may feel you aren’t good enough or you have done too many wrong things for God to choose you. You don’t feel like you know enough or have much to offer, but you should know: God has chosen you.
We hear the word chosen or elected or predestined in the Bible, and we think that means God chose some people and rejected other people. He elected some and rejected others. That’s actually not what the Scriptures say. All get to choose. All who say “yes” are now part of the family of God.
The Scriptures actually teach that
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:13
God calls everyone, and all who say “yes” are predestined to become like Jesus.
Look at Ephesians 1 again…
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. – Ephesians 1:3-5
God not only adopts you, loves you as His own precious child, but He makes you “holy and without fault” (not because we did nothing wrong but because Jesus willingly died on the cross for us to wash away all our stains so we can stand before God forgiven).
Now as His children, He gives you an inheritance, a birthright, to all kinds of spiritual benefits, every spiritual blessing, and they are there for you to take.
And your destiny, your calling, your purpose is to love God and love others. You and I become His messengers, His ambassadors, His agents of hope in a world that is broken, isolated, and hurting.
Take as much as you can use God says: Hope, joy, peace, trusting love, purpose.
They are there for the taking!
In choosing you, He is also choosing those you love.
You see He has blessed you to be a blessing to others to those around you.
In His love and mercy, God gives us the freedom to determine whether we want to live out our purpose or not.
To do so requires we need to respond to God’s invitation to you and choose to live out the calling you have received.
3. You have been called by God.
Check this out in Ephesians 2:8-10, one of our favorite passages here at Gateway.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)
God rescues us because of His unconditional love. He created you and chooses you to be His son or daughter just as you are, and He sees you differently than you see yourself. He sees who you can become as you allow Him to transform you more and more into the holy and godly person you were created to be.
This is a gift from God! So if this is a gift from God that we cannot boast about then that means we did not earn this relationship, so we cannot lose this relationship. We didn’t earn it by doing good things. We cannot lose it by doing bad things. In spite of our good and bad decisions, God pursues us and transforms us. You do not have to do certain things to get God to love you. He already does! And because of that love
You are His masterpiece!
God can take our uniqueness and our brokenness and make us new!
We are not stuck as we are right now. Whether you aren’t sure about God or you’ve been following Him for a long time, you still have room to grow. There is more of God He wants to reveal to you!
He gets rid of the mud that may be covering the masterpiece (as John Burke has illustrated this before).
Notice, God has good things planned for us to do!
So what are those good things?
Every follower of Jesus can find their purpose in loving God and loving others.
Our purpose is to allow God to transform us and bring transformation to others.
Our purpose is to allow God to work in us and through us.
Our purpose is to bring more of heaven to earth.
Jesus prayed that God’s Kingdom would come to earth as it is in heaven. You see when you become a follower of Jesus, His Spirit comes to live within us. We have the presence of God within us so everywhere we go we have the opportunity to bring His peace, joy, hope, and love into our home, our work relationships, our neighborhood, and among our extended family.
Here’s what’s remarkable, as we step into loving God and loving others as all followers of Jesus are invited to do, the more specific purposes for our life become clearer and clearer.
As we serve God and serve others, we find our calling.
Let me give you a personal example.
I just recently celebrated my 50th birthday! I still cannot really believe it!
As a child, I grew up wanting to be a combination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and comedian Andy Kaufman. I was born the day after Dr. King and the day before Andy Kaufman (which also happens to be Jim Carey’s birthday, and Jim Carey played the role of Andy Kaufman in the film Man on the Moon).
Now, I wasn’t actually sure how to do that, I just knew I wanted to help Dr. King’s dream come true, and I wanted to bring people together with laughter.
As I got serious about my faith and following God’s will and ways for my life, I found a sense of my calling in my twenties. There was a lot of trial and error. A lot of interacting with others. A lot of false starts. A lot of reflection on uniqueness, strengths, personality, ancestry, and passions. A lot of small acts of obedience, making things more and more clear.
After Deborah and I got married, we left the Dallas area to help start a church for unchurched people in Seattle. Four years later, we moved to Los Angeles to serve at a church where people could belong before they believed. Then in 2010, we moved to Austin (where only 13 percent of people attend church on Sundays) to be a part of Gateway, a church where you can “come as you are.”
In my thirties, I gained even more clarity when writing my book Not Like Me, about my journey of discovering God’s love for all people—even those with whom we disagree, dislike, or differ. In the book, I try to help people of faith love the way Jesus loves, and I share humorous stories to open hearts and minds.
I am nothing quite like Dr. King or Andy Kaufman, but I have found my own voice.
I am called by God to advocate for the rights of those who don’t yet believe!
I want to create space for people to share their struggles and doubts about God.
I want to help people to discover the God who created them and loves them and has a purpose for their life.
I want to help people, no matter where they are in their spiritual journey, discover a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
I want to catalyze community so that people from diverse backgrounds can experience the love of God and find their calling.
I want to mobilize followers of Jesus to bring more of heaven to earth, more love, more equality, more justice, and more of what God wants for us.
God is calling you too.
Trust Him. Surrender your life, your hopes, your dreams, your regrets, your shame, your passions, and all to Him. Let Him guide you.
As you lean into your relationship with God and your relationship with your church family, you will grow to become more like Jesus. You will become more joyful, more loving, more at peace, and more hopeful.
And God wants you to discover what He has for you more than you even want to know.
When you aren’t sure what to do, focus on loving God and on loving people.
Just do the next right thing that is in front of you no matter how small it is. Keep moving forward, loving God, loving people, and living out what He has called us to do.
Finding your calling is just as beautiful as the journey to discovering it, because along the way we experience the beauty of loving God and loving others.
But living out your calling is hard. There are distractions, TPS reports, bills to pay, chores to do. Remember: what God is calling you to do is worth the struggle, challenge, and hardship.
That’s why several times in the New Testament you will see passages like this one
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.- Ephesians 4:1 (NIV)
I love that! Live a life worthy of the calling you have received!
Too often we slip into something not nearly as beautiful as what God has for us.
When things get tough, live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received.
Not sure what to do? Just continue to do good.
Faithfulness means doing the right thing, no matter how small it is. Too often we give up too soon. We give up right before the breakthrough.
Consider what Harvard business professor has said:
“Everything looks like failure in the middle.”Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Some of us have spent too much time blaming our circumstances and blaming the environment.
Instead we need to shift our perspective to realize that as Erwin McManus said:
“The things we want God to do in our life demand that God sends us through a gauntlet that prepares us for that. We want God to use us in great ways, but we don’t want God to prepare us for greatness.”– Erwin McManus
We want to help you discover your calling.
That’s why I want to encourage you to come every Sunday and find a group – it could be to help you grow, belong, serve, or grow. For you parents, make sure your kids and teenagers get connected. We need each other to help us find our way.
When you come on Sundays, be sure to discuss the Next Steps every week. Some of you do this in your community group every week. Some of you may not even know this, but on our new website, you can watch the latest message, read the most recent message notes, and you can discuss the message with the Next Steps which include extra resources to help you in your journey.
This week we have included specific questions to help you determine your calling. Questions like the following:
When in your life have you felt most alive?
In what areas of your life have you been affirmed for your efforts?
In what ways do you like to serve others?
What are areas of need you see around you that you sense need to be met?
What does God want you to do for the world?
It includes guidance on creating your own personal core values and personal mission statement.
Make discussing the Next Steps each week a part of your lunchtime discussion with your roommates or your family.
We also have a workshop coming up in one month called Advance where you can take assessments about your character, strengths, personality, and spiritual gifts. You can find more or sign up at gatewaychurch.com/connect.
Speaking of spiritual gifts…
4. You have been gifted and empowered by God.
You have a unique background, family of origin, life experiences, strengths, personality, and so much more that you bring to the world, and the world needs you to become the person God created you to be!
On top of that something miraculous happens when you choose to follow Jesus, as I mentioned earlier, when you become a follower of Jesus, His Spirit comes to live within you. Not only do you have the presence of God within you so everywhere you go you bring His presence with you, but He has given you supernatural gifts and enables you to do things you could not do before.
There are people in our community who have the ability
To organize and see logistics in a supernatural way others cannot see with the gift of administration.
To share their faith with others in a way that they quickly understand
To discern what others would miss.
To extend mercy and help those often overlooked
To express a word from God others would not have ever heard.
To pray and miraculously see others healed.
To pastor and shepherd others in ways they need.
As it says in Romans 12
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
This is not just true of those of us on staff. If you follow Jesus, you have gifts given to you by the Spirit of God and you have the same power that rose Jesus from the dead living within you! You are gifted and empowered!
There are people you can influence that no pastor ever could.
During this reflection song, I want you to consider God’s love for you.
You need to know that…
- You have been created on purpose and with a purpose.
- You have been chosen by God.
- You have been called by God.
- You have been gifted and empowered by God.
Use this time during this song to connect your heart to God for His guidance and wisdom on what He wants you to surrender, how He might want you to serve or connect, who He might want you to serve.
Watch “Heaven and Earth” video at BibleProject.com
Watch “Holy Spirit” video at BibleProject.com
Sign Up for Advance to discover your uniqueness and calling at gatewaychurch.com/connect
Purchase my book Fruitful: Becoming Who God Created You To Be