Friday, June 5, 2015

Shaped for a Purpose (Eph 4:7-8,11-16; Rom.12:3-8) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel


A man was attending a community prayer breakfast and sat down at a table with a group of other men.  He writes:  In the course of our conversation, the subject of retirement came up. The man sitting next to me, who appeared to be in his early fifties, was excited by the prospect of early retirement.  He said how much he was looking forward to stopping working and related a conversation he had with his wife that morning.  His wife had asked him: 'What are you going to do when you retire?'  I told her, 'I'm going to sit on the couch, drink beer and watch TV all day.”  The table turned suddenly silent, but I couldn't keep quiet for long. "If you do that," I said, "you'll be dead in a year."  He looked at me, wide-eyed and asked why.  I said, "If doing nothing with your life doesn't kill you first, your wife will.

Religious truth is generally expressed as a paradox.  For example, the Bible and Christian faith make this biblical and theological claim, you are God's creation.  You were created by God.  You were created in God's image.  God breathed life into you.  You were born by God's purpose and for God's purpose.   Obviously, there is the counter-claim, the anthropological claim: “But what about my parents who conceived me, and my DNA and genetics which shaped me, and the environment I grew up in which formed who I am?”  Yes, both are true, it's a paradox. 

Notwithstanding, we confess this biblical and theological truth-claim that God created you as a unique person, one of a kind and made you wonderfully complex!   God didn’t make us simple.   Are you always predictable?  How many of you married somebody who is or was wonderfully complex?   How many of you have a friend or colleague or family member who is wonderfully complex?  Just when you think you understand them, just when you think you've got them dialed in - they surprise you.  Sometimes we are a complete mystery to ourselves.   Have you ever acted in a certain way or said something and later thought - “Now why did I do that?”  “Why did I say that?” “What was I thinking?”  God fashioned and shaped you and me.  We are unique and marvelously complex.

God further shaped us for a purpose.  I like the locution, “One enthusiastic flea can worry a whole dog.”  God created the world and God created us for a purpose.  You’re not an accident or a mistake.  You're not an oops!   You're not just taking up space or gulping air.  God made you for a reason.  You were designed by God; you were God's idea.  The Bible declares that you were  personally, purposefully, planned and designed by God.  God didn't just randomly throw some stuff in the air and see where it landed to make you.

Further, God didn't create us to squander or waste away our lives or to use and exploit people around us.  God didn't create us for some trivial purpose.  God didn't create us as a joke.  God created us for a reason.  God made and saved us for significance, to live and to lead significant lives in the years God has given us.

We are reminded in this Pentecost season, that God, through His Holy Spirit, has shaped our lives.  The letter of Ephesians says:  But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.  When Christ ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive and gave gifts to his people.”  When Jesus ascended to heaven, he sent his Holy Spirit at Pentecost to impart gifts to his followers. 

The purpose of these gifts was to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that we might mature in the fullness of Christ.   The letter of Romans speaks about the “grace God has blessed us with, a grace which brings humility and means we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to.  By grace, through the Holy Spirit, God has given us gifts and abilities.

The Bible says you and I have a God inspired shape, your Godly design affects every area of your life - your relationships, your career, your intellect, your emotions, your values, your priorities, your interests, your passions, your enjoyment, your faith.   Your shape combines five factors.  God has shaped you for a purpose in the years you are blessed with on earth.  And what is critical is that your shape is in sync, in alignment, congruent with, in accord with your purpose.  We shall use the acronym SHAPE to identify how God has made us.

The S is for Spiritual Gifts.  The Bible says:  Each one has a gift from God; one has this gift and another has that gift.”  There are many gifts listed in the Bible, like being an encourager, a teacher, a server, a leader, a healer, a caregiver and others.  I recall a man at our church in CO who taught adult education classes in the church and taught classes at his company.  He excelled at teaching and loved it.  Clearly God had blessed him with this gift.   The Bible says every believer has at least one gift and oftentimes two or more gifts which are to be used to glorify God, upbuild the church and benefit others.  Every time you do something and do it well, and find satisfaction in doing it, you are revealing your giftedness.    Do you know your spiritual gift?

The H is for Heart.  It’s what motivates you.  All of us have different motivations, different things that drive us, different interests, different passions.  Would you agree that there are some things you care deeply about and other things you couldn’t care less about?  We have different hearts.  Scripture says, “God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose.  For it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for his own chosen purpose. I was talking with a preschool teacher who told me how much she loves children.  She said she is doing what she was meant to do when she is teaching and caring for children.  You cannot get away from a basic interest or passion that God has implanted in your life.  It’s not by accident that you have certain interests.  God blesses us with different motivations in life to accomplish different things.   Ask yourself.  “What do I love to do?  What am I passionate about?”

The A is for Abilities. God has given us abilities.  I Cor. 12:6 says:  There are different abilities to perform different services.”  Some people think they don’t have any abilities, but we all do.
Some are athletes and exhibit impressive athletic ability.   Some are proficient at computers; while others are computer phobic.  Some of you have a natural mechanical ability, you can fix anything, while others aren’t sure which end of a hammer to use.  Some of you are good cooks or amazing gardeners.  Some are blessed with mathematical abilities, others eyes glaze over when confronted with a set of numbers.  Some are visionaries – they dream of curing cancer, or they dreamed of flying to the moon, or of inventing an automobile or an airplane.  One dreamed of building a theme park called Disneyland.   Disneyland celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

Some are analytical and are exceptional problem solvers.  Some are effective communicators.  Some are excellent managers and can manage projects and people.   Others are weak in their people skills and are better working with machines.  Some possess marvelous artistic abilities, in writing, poetry, music, art, and others couldn't draw or paint a stick figure.  We have different abilities.  Your abilities are not by accident.  What are your abilities?

The P is for Personality.   Are you a Lucy Ricardo?  Are you a Bill O'Reilly or a Tiger Woods or a Tina Fey or a Megan Kelly?  Personality is the dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed  by a person.  It especially refers to the way you act, the way you feel and the way you think.  The five broad traits described by contemporary personality theory are extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.   The Bible points to the root of your personality in your thought life.  Proverbs 4:23 says:  Your life is shaped by your thoughts.”  Without question human personality is complex.  One researcher discovered at least 18,000 different personality traits. 

Is personality something you’re born with or is it the product of your environment?  It’s the old nature verses nurture debate.   More researchers are saying that from the moment a child is born, they already have a set pattern of personality characteristics long before their environment influences them.  Parents see this.  At the same time, personality is not just something that happens accidentally.   Faith claims that God has shaped your personality for a reason.

Finally the E is for Experiences.  God plans experiences in your life and mine to help form us.  The bible speaks about times and seasons.  Romans 8:28 says:  And we know that in all that happens to us God is working for our good for those who love God.”  God works with and through us in our life experiences.  God uses things in our lives to teach us and to build character.   Experiences help us to grow and mature.  God tests us on occasion for his purposes.   God doesn't cause terrible things to happen, but faithfully works with us and through others to bring good out of bad experiences. 

The apostle Paul says:  By the grace of God, I am what I am.”  Why is it important to understand how God has shaped you?   It explains how you and I react and deal with life.  It reduces stress.  It increases your sense of fulfillment and success.  It helps us accept and appreciate ourselves.  It deepens satisfaction.  It builds self-esteem.  It builds faith.   It glorifies God.

God has shaped us not for an insignificant life, but for significance.  God desires to hear this confession from us: “I want to contribute my uniqueness to the world for the glory of God.”  Do you know your shape?

I close with a quote from the late author Og Mandino, a Christian inspirational speaker and writer.  It's from his book The Greatest Salesman in the World.  I am nature’s greatest miracle.  Since the beginning of time never has there been another with my mind, my heart, my eyes, my ears, my hands, my hair, my mouth.  None that came before, none that live today, and none that come tomorrow can walk and talk and move and think exactly like me.  All men are my brothers and I am different from each. 

I am a unique creature.  I am nature’s greatest miracle.   None can duplicate my brush stokes, none can make my chisel marks, none can duplicate my handwriting, none can produce my child, and in truth, none have the abilities to sell exactly as I.  I am rare, and there is value in all rarity; therefore, I am valuable.  I am not on this earth by chance.  I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand.  No beast, no plant, no wind, no rain, no rock, no lake had the same beginning as I, for I was conceived in love and brought forth with a purpose.  Let us give thanks and  glory to God for our uniqueness.  Amen!

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