Father, you know how I strive
Strive to please
Strive to keep up appearances
Strive to finish the to-do list
Strive to accomplish
I strive even in prayer
There’s a hustle within me to prove my worth
Lord, heal me
Show me the difference between
striving and mission and focus and ambition
They’re all bound up together
I see the passionate faithful
and the apathetic
and those that are clear and still and fruitful
What should I be?
How should I be?
Show me how
Show me how to live
How to trust
How to strive for your Kingdom
that good gift you delight in giving
Luke 12:29-32 Jesus said, “Do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Sermon Series: Many Gifts, One Spirit. Discerning Our Calling From God Message 5 of 5: The Purpose Puzzle
Scripture: Luke 4:42-44
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 10/27/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. This message was inspired by the Network Curriculum by Bugbee, Cousins, and Hybels.
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. -Mark Twain
Why was I born? Why am I here? What’s my purpose? If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a purpose, a mission, a calling from God. It isn’t a secret. God wants you to know your calling and God fills you with the Holy Spirit so you may fulfill it.
Jesus knew his purpose. It gave his life focus, intention, clarity, movement, and boundaries. The same is true for us.
Luke 4:42-44 At daybreak, he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.
Mark 10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Jesus didn’t just say, “Follow me.” Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Come follow me and join me in the great adventure of saving the world. Salvation and service.
We’re thinking, “Of course Jesus knew his purpose, Jesus was Jesus! So how do I figure out my purpose?” Three things we can do immediately.
We ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it.
We ask trusted, faithful friends to help us discern what we are hearing. We may have blind spots where they can see.
We look and listen for where Christ is already at work and join him in that work.
We can dive deeper into knowing our calling from God by understanding our God-given preferences, spiritual gifts, and passion.
THE POWER OF PREFERENCES Click Here for the worksheet
In line 1, write your name as you usually do. In line 2, write your name with your other hand. How does that feel?
Cross your arms. Now cross your arms with the other arm on top. How does that feel?
Your usual way of doing things is a preference. You could learn how to write with your other hand and cross your arms a new way, but you currently prefer to do it the way you do it. It’s what feels natural.
Preferences are neither good nor bad, they’re just preferences.
What energizes you? Reflect for a moment on how you serve others or see yourself serving others. Are you serving from a place of preference, something that feels natural to you?
A classic editorial cartoon– Which animal will climb the tree best? On your football team, which is going to be the best wide receiver? The best lineman?
Imagine someone teaching preschool Sunday school. It’s a disaster. The teacher is miserable and the kids are miserable. Why is this so? Could be many reasons.
Is it that they’re serving in a place they’re not called to serve, not wired for it? They’re doing it out of duty. “Someone has to do it.”
Is it because of a lack of training or confidence or help? Serving even in a way that is natural isn’t necessarily easy.
Has it become a chore, uninspired? They’re serving in a way that is too safe or too comfortable when they’ve called to do something else that stretches them beyond their comfort zone.
Our calling can change season after season in our life. Just because we’ve served in one way for a time, it doesn’t mean its still our calling. We can have a new calling in a new season.
Your preferred place of service should be a clear, intentional discernment of how God wired you coupled with the truth of your season of life.
Let’s look at the worksheet again. Ask the Spirit to reveal the truth and speak clearly. Each is a faithful choice. You’re choosing the best choices for you from among all the good choices, the best choice for this season of life.
Check all which energize you.
Working within the congregation
Working out in the community
Working behind the scenes
Working with people
Working with objects
Visioning for the future
Being part of a team
Working on my own
Your season of life- Given this season of life, what commitment to serving is God calling you to make? What is both challenging and sustainable for you right now? This will change over time. A parent of two small children is in a very different season than a recent retiree.
6 times per year
One big project a year
Putting Together the Purpose Puzzle- Holy Spirit + Spiritual Gifts + Passion + Preferences = My calling from God in this season of life
Holy Spirit – God with us now, our Guide and Guardian. Distributes and empowers our spiritual gifts
Spiritual Gifts – what God designed me to do
Passion- where God invites me to do it
Preferences- How I will do it
Examples of persons who have put together their purpose puzzle.
The litmus test for your calling from God? Does this glorifyGod and/or buildupothers?
Discover my spiritual gifts
Clarify my passions
Put my purpose puzzle together with a trustworthy spiritual friend
What do you notice repeatedly that breaks your heart?
Now let’s get honest. What annoys you, angers you? We’re not talking about an inconvenience. We’re talking about righteous anger. We’re talking about something that if it were changed, it would bring glory to God and new life to others.
Whatever you named is probably your passion.
Passion is the God-given desire that compels us to make a difference
Passion is like gasoline, it drives us. It’s energy, the movement of the Holy Spirit in our life, faith in action.
Passion is a good gift of God that can drive us to good. If the good gift gets twisted it can drive us to trouble. So we seek the Godly gasoline, the Godly passions- truth, justice, healing, belonging, empowering. Seek the things that bring life, things that matter. Making the wrongs right. Making the broken whole.
Passion is often described as hunger. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” – Matthew 5:6
Passion will keep you up at night and get you up in the morning.
Titus 2:11-14, The Voice 11 We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people. 12 Grace arrives with its own instruction: run away from anything that leads us away from God; abandon the lusts and passions of this world; live life now in this age with awareness and self-control, doing the right thing and keeping yourselves holy. 13 Watch for His return; expect the blessed hope we all will share when our great God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appears again.
Passion is associated with zeal and enthusiasm en theos – possessed by God, “God within us”
When we come to faith we repent, we turn from our selfish ways to follow Jesus. This passage instructs us to “run away from the passions of this world, abandoning anything that leads us away from God.” We place our trust in Jesus, we turn to run towards God- aware, awake, alive in Christ, watching for the movement of God, expecting the movement of God.
We choose self-control so we may better help others. We live intentionality because we value the time, energy, and resources we’ve been given. We want to do the right thing. God calls us to follow Jesus in this adventure of the Christian life, the saving of the world.
14 He gave His body for our sakes and will not only break us free from the chains of wickedness, but He will also prepare a community uncorrupted by the world that He would call His own—people who are passionate about doing the right thing.
Passion is from the Greek root path meaning “to suffer.” That’s why the period from Jesus’ arrest to his crucifixion and death is called His Passion. Jesus suffers to end suffering.
Compassion- with passion, with those who are suffering. Most of the time our passion is to end some kind of suffering.
Jesus suffers and dies and rises again because he’s passionate about saving the world- ending evil, injustice, sin, death, shame for all time. He comes alongside us in his great compassion so that our suffering may end.
When we become Christians, when we become “little christs,” we say yes to compassion, yes to suffering so that suffering will end.
There’s good news, we don’t have to do it alone. Jesus prepares a community. As you think about what suffering God is calling you to do something about, who’s on your team? Who will you bring together or what group will you join? A single person can’t end malaria, but together we can.
We’re better together, stronger together. Different people each bring their spiritual gifts. We come together, we become the Body of Christ, and the world is made new. The Kingdom comes.
What suffering is God calling you to end and who is on your team?
Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder of Focus: Hope, in downtown Detroit, and she shared what caused her to become passionate about reaching the inner city.
While watching TV one evening in the late 1960s, the program was interrupted by a news bulletin about the March on Mississippi. She saw the brutality being committed against African Americans and decided something had to be done. She and her family moved from the suburbs to the inner city and began Focus: Hope, to dedicate the last 43 years of her life to “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice.” Eleanor had found her passion and she followed through with her words and deeds.
This past week Tee and I spent a great deal of time talking and it prayer over deaths of desperation. Deaths of desperation are a gentler way to talk about suicide.
There were three murder-suicides in Sarasota county last week. One seems to be a situation of domestic violence. The others are spouses caring for an incredibly ill spouse. The situation was overwhelming. The only way out seemed to be death.
ListeningCare to push back against the epidemic of loneliness, isolation, despair. Folks need someone to listen. It’s not counseling, brainstorming solutions, or fixing. It’s creating space for a person to be heard and received just as they are.
The topic isn’t important. Joys or needs could be shared. It’s about making connections.
We’re praying about how we can be trained more deeply so we can offer this deep training to the congregation. This may be something you’re passionate about. Lowering the suicide rate. Lowering the number of people who feel alone or in despair.
Acts 9:36-43. Tabitha/Dorcas is described as “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” She dies and the community sends for Peter. When he arrives, the widows of Lydda beg Peter to raise her from the dead because she was the one who’d been caring for them when no one else would. She was their safety net when they had none.
Peter raised her from the dead. He answered the call of God to do something way beyond his abilities. Tabitha continued to answer the call to care for the widows of her community.
What would be it like to be so needed, so important to a group of people they begged for you to be raised from the dead?
At the end of your life, you’d like to look back and know you’d done something about … That passion we would name at your celebration of life and give God the glory for because you answered the calling God placed upon your life.
Pinpointing Your Passion Insert
Complete the worksheet to discover your passion. Your passion is where God invites you to serve. Combine your passion with your spiritual gifts, what God invites me to do.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God
You have a mission, You have a purpose, You are needed
What step will you take today to fulfill your calling?
Prayer: God we honor you and thank you for the spiritual gifts you give us through the Holy Spirit, for the passion and calling your place upon our lives. We are humbled before you, that you would desire us to help you save the world, but you do. You have said I need you and I want you. Help us to hear clearly and see clearly and step out in faith to love and serve alongside you.
Fill us with compassion and empathy. Fill us with fire to see good things come. Fill us Lord because we cannot do this in our own strength. We need you. We always need you.
We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, our Lord, and our Savior. Amen.
It’s our Tradition at Trinity, Sarasota to offer couples the opportunity to renew their wedding vows the Sunday before Saint Valentine’s Day. Click Here for the liturgy we use.
Testimonies of the love between a couple, between friends, between a mother and son.
Joy Voyles quote: Chris is trying to keep under control while caring for his mom. It has been very hard on him. What a beautiful creation God blessed Nancy with. Though the time has been stressful for both Chris and Nancy, it also has allowed one on one time for them to share, pray and bond even more… maybe that was a blessing in disguise if you can call “pain” a blessing. Although, as I think about it… the pain of childbirth is a blessing… you reap the reward of a beautiful newborn in your arms and heart to love forever… Could it be the pain of leaving your body and moving into the arms of our Lord is a blessing of love to last thru eternity…
Song of Solomon 8:5-7 5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
1. Coming up from the wilderness
Wilderness of the time before we know Christ
We wander in the desolation. Then we accept God’s love, are buried with Christ in baptism and we come up out of the wilderness. We are raised to new life.
Wilderness of an awful time in our lives
dry, barren, desolate, deadly. Christ is will us. Christ helps us to come through and come up out of the wilderness. We are raised to new life.
Wilderness of life this side of heaven.
Like the Hebrew slaves in Exodus, we cross the wilderness of this life to the promised land of heaven. We come up, raised to new life, eternal life
2. Leaning upon our Beloved Christ
Why do you lean?
For strength because you are weak
For support because the journey is long
For steadying because the footing is unsure
Because you just want to be near the one you love, your beloved
Charles Spurgeon Quote, Adapted
Beloved, there is no part of the pilgrimage of a saint in which we can afford to walk in any other way but in the way of leaning. … at the first, and at the last, still leaning, still leaning upon Christ Jesus; ay, and leaning more and more heavily upon Christ the older we grow.
Under the apple tree, I awakened you. There your mother was in labor with you; there she who bore you was in labor.
Consider the details, the specifics, the intimacy with which Jesus knows us
Knows us within our mother’s wombs
Knows us at our first breath
Knows the hairs on our head, our every experience, the deepest longing of our heart
6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;
Makes an impression
Ensures something is real, authentic
Reminds us the reality is binding. There’s a permanence to commitment, a sense of security
Jesus desires to be the seal on heart (call to be) and the seal on arm (call to do)
for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.
1. What makes death strong?
Death comes for all people, just as Christ comes for all people
There’s a permanence to death. Total. Irreversible. The same is true for Christ’s love which is even stronger than death. Christ’s love overcomes sin and death and the grave with sacrificial love and resurrection love.
2. The Passion of Christ’s Love
The unrelenting longing and desire of Christ is to have an intimate, saving relationship with us
In his passion (healthy jealousy) Jesus doesn’t want to see anything come between us and our relationship with him.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
Christ’s passionate love is compared to fire
Fire has great power
It is alive
It is useful
It is unchanging, unquenchable, unstoppable
Nothing can put it out. Not even wave after wave of trouble. Not night after night of darkness. Not even death.
If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.
All people are made in the image of God. In this God gives us the ability to love and be loved. Love cannot be bought or sold; it is not a piece of merchandise. Only objects can be bought and sold. Love is not an object. People are never objects.
This is why human trafficking, pornography, and prostitution are scorned. They are outside God’s will because love and people are objectified.
Love is of infinite value. We cannot buy it or earn it.
Love of God in Christ Jesus
Saves us from the wilderness
Something we lean upon always
More intimate than our first breath
Real, Authentic, Makes a lasting impression
Strong, Fierce, Passionate
Unchanging, Unquenchable, Unstoppable
Of Infinite Value
Offered to you as a gift
Accept the gift of God’s love
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.