Pastor Craig Carter
This week we’re introducing a new sermon series: What on Earth Am I Here For? It’s based on Rick Warren’s bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
As we learned last week on Easter, there’s more to life than simply being alive. And in order to enjoy the abundant and eternal life that is ours in Christ Jesus, we have to look to God since He is the One who created us in the first place, and He did so with some specific reasons in mind. For the next six weeks, we’re going to seek to find the real meaning and purpose of life and understand how God wants us to spend our days here on earth.
More than a sermon series, this study is a 40-day spiritual journey. In addition to reading my blog posts, I hope you’ll participate in the endeavor by reading the book (stop by our office or email us if you need a copy) and by joining online or in-person discussion groups. I hope through this post that I’ll convince you it’s worth your time and energy to do so!
Imagine for a moment that your phone buzzes and you look down and see “heaven” as the place where the call is coming from and “God” shows up on the caller ID. I think it’s fairly safe to say most of us wouldn’t silence it or transfer it to voicemail. That’s a call we’d want to answer – no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
The fact is, God has already called each and every one of us.
Many of you may be familiar with Romans 8:28 and perhaps you have quoted the first part of it: We know that in all things God works for the good…
We understand that God can take anything and make something good out of it.
Here’s the rest of that verse: …of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)
Paul is suggesting we’ve already been called and it’s “according to His purpose.” In other words, God calls us and He does so, for His purposes.
The Bible is the story of God calling people. He called Noah to build an ark. He called Abraham to form a great nation. He called Moses to deliver His people. He called Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, He called prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel to speak His message. Through His Son Jesus, He called Peter, Paul, and Mary to be His followers.
In every case, God’s call enabled those people to fulfill their purpose.
The spiritual growth campaign we’re launching today is all about finding our purpose in life by hearing and heeding God’s call.
In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren describes the five purposes for which God made us – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. We’re going to explore those topics in terms of God’s calling on our lives.
The word, call or calling, is used much more prominently in Scripture than purpose. In fact, it is mentioned more than 100 times. So we’re going to look at what God calls us to do and be in order to discover our assignment, our purpose, and the very reason we even exist.
In other words, our calling helps us answer the question: “What on earth am I here for?”
During this study we’re going to find out what the Bible says about our calling. As we journey together, my prayer for you as your pastor is the one expressed by Paul:
My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God called you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God’s people. (Ephesians 1:18-19 CEV)
I want you to understand your calling … so you can discover the glorious blessings that await you and that you may otherwise miss out on.
What We Need to Understand about Our Calling:
1) Our calling is a GIFT from God.
God, by his grace through Christ, has called you to become his people. (Galatians 1:6 NCV)
We often think God will accept us and use us if we can “get our act together.” But that’s not the way it works. Our calling to be God’s people is a gift from the Lord. We didn’t earn it, we certainly didn’t deserve it, and we didn’t talk Him into it.
It is “by his grace.” Grace refers to “undeserved kindness or unmerited favor”.
In other words, God has chosen to give us what we don’t deserve – kindness, and called us to become His people. Paul goes on to describe this divine calling in this way to his friend, Timothy: He has saved and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:9a NIV)
Our calling is connected to our salvation – we are called to faith in Christ, which brings us holiness and the ability to fulfill our God-given purpose.
Again, not because of anything we have done, but because of God’s grace.
We tend to think we get to call ourselves “Christian” because of our choice – i.e. our faith in Christ and a decision to live His way. That’s a part of it, but only a small part; the major reason we are Christian is because of what God has done in and through His Son Jesus.
That leads us to a second thing we can say about our calling…
2) Our calling is the reason God CREATED us.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you. (Jeremiah 1:5 MSG)
Let me make a couple of observations from these verses. First of all, notice that we are God’s “handiwork. The Greek word is poema (cf. poem). We are God’s poem, or work of art. Some translations go so far as to say, “We are God’s masterpiece…”
Most of us don’t feel like a masterpiece, do we? More times than not, we feel like a piece of junk or velvet art at best. Our true beauty comes out when we fulfill our calling.
A second observation: Our purpose is to “do good works”.
We were not put on this planet to take up space or simply to be consumers. We were made to be contributors – to do something beneficial with our lives. And God’s plans for us were made even before we arrived on Planet Earth.
You see, God created us with His calling for our lives already in mind.
During this study we’ll have a memory verse each week. The one for this week relates to this subject:
I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born! (Isaiah 44:2 CEV)
God makes it explicitly clear that He created us and chose to use us before our birth. You and I are not accidents.
Rick Warren explains this further with these statements:
There are accidental parents, but no accidental babies.
There are illegitimate moms and dads, but no illegitimate children.
There may be unplanned pregnancies, but no unpurposed people.
God had a plan for your life and for mine even before we were born.
Here’s an important point for us to remember: You and I were made by God and we were made for God. Everything was created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16b NLT)
God didn’t make me so I could live a life that brings me great satisfaction. He created me for His pleasure, for His benefit, to fulfill His purpose. If you don’t know it already, here’s a spoiler about the opening line of the book: “It’s not about you.” Why? Because it’s all about God.
So the reason we were put on the earth wasn’t to fulfill our plans, but God’s. We may have lofty ambitions for our lives and desire to do great things. But even if we achieve those goals, they won’t bring us any sense of satisfaction and significance unless they are aligned with God’s ambitions and His plans for us.
That’s why it’s so critical for us to discover: “What on earth am I here for?” Our calling is the very reason God created us in the first place.
3) Our SINS and MISTAKES don’t change our calling.
Aren’t you glad that’s true?
No matter how much I’ve messed up my life and no matter how much others have messed up my life, it doesn’t change God’s calling for me. He created me and He called me … that settles it; nothing will ever change that fact.
Saul of Tarsus was the perfect example of this truth. He was a rude dude in a crude mood, but God called him to be an apostle. Here’s what he (Saul later named Paul) had to say about it, after the fact:
By calling me into his service, Jesus has judged me trustworthy, even though I used to be a blasphemer and a persecutor … Mercy was shown me, because while I lacked faith, I acted in ignorance. (1 Timothy 1:12-13 NJB)
I like that phrase, “while I lacked faith, I acted in ignorance.” Lots of us, me included, can identify with that statement, can’t we?
Growing up (and even after I was old enough to know better), I did a lot of dumb stuff and made a lot of foolish, ignorant choices. But, thank God, that didn’t affect His call on my life.
What the Apostle Paul shows, and my own experience confirms, is that God never wastes anything that happens to us and He fits it all into His plan for our lives – the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Looking back, I now realize that God was calling me into ministry at a young age but I had other plans.
In college, I just wanted to survive – in other words, to eat, drink, be merry. Later, I wanted success – a good job that brought me prestige and paid lots of money. But then, through an encounter with the living Lord, I discovered true significance. I had committed lots of sins and made lots of mistakes along the way, but I found out God was going to use it all to fulfill His purpose in my life.
I didn’t waste ten years of my life in the military chasing the wrong dream. Rather, that time period helped me become the person I am today and God is still using those experiences to assist me in my calling.
Let me point out that my calling is more than being a pastor (that’s my career). Sometimes our calling and career matches up, but more times than not, it doesn’t. So don’t think because you’re not called to a Christian vocation, you’re not called. We all have a calling or purpose to fulfill. A few detours along the way do not disqualify us – Thank God!
Keep this thought in mind and say it with me: “God has no Plan B for my life.” Even our sins and mistakes are all a part of God’s Plan A for you and me.
4) Our calling CONNECTS us to others.
We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future hope. (Ephesians 4:4 NLT)
Our calling and assignment from God is connected to other people. In other words, you and I cannot fulfill our God-intended purpose alone. Calling and community go hand-in-hand.
On several occasions, Paul suggests it is like being parts of a body. The individual parts are useless unless they’re connected to the whole. Together we become something beautiful and valuable in God’s service.
It is through our involvement in God’s Church, which is Christ’s Body, that we become connected with other believers and find purpose and meaning: Brothers and sisters, you are holy partners in a heavenly calling. (Hebrews 3:1a GWT)
We may see ourselves as Lone Ranger Christians, but even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. We find and live out our calling, not in isolation, but in relationship with other Christians.
5) God EMPOWERS us to live out our calling.
Whatever God calls us to do, He also equips us to do. God doesn’t call the prepared, He prepares the called.
God will never give us an assignment that He doesn’t give us the power to complete. And if that’s the case, it’s time to get moving in the direction He’s calling.
Flipping channels recently, I came across one of my favorite movies – The Shawshank Redemption. Toward the end of it, Red (played by Morgan Freeman) gets his release from prison after spending over 50 years behind bars. Not sure if he can make it on the outside, he remembers the words of his old friend, Andy Dufresne: “You either get busy living or you get busy dying.”
That seems to be the advice the Apostle Paul gives believers on several occasions:
I urge you to live the life to which God called you. (Ephesians 4:1 NCV)
That is why we always pray for you, asking God to help you live the kind of life he called you to live. We pray that with his power God will help you do the good things you want and perform the works that come from your faith. (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NCV)
Live the kind of life that pleases God, who calls you to share in his own Kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12 GNT)
Our calling is more than just a task to accomplish, it’s a lifestyle. Over the next six weeks, we’re going to try and learn how to live it.
Here’s an acrostic that Rick Warren suggests we use as a guide – LEARN
LISTEN to God’s Word every day – read a chapter from the book, about 6-8 pages
ENLIST in a small group – find details on how to join or start one HERE!
ATTEND worship regularly
REINFORCE what you’re learning by memorizing a verse each week
NOW, DO IT! (go and live out your calling)
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14 NIV)
If we’ll do our part (read, participate, reinforce, press on), God will surely do His.
I’m excited about what the next 40 days will hold for us, individually and collectively. I believe we’re going to receive some incredible blessings together as God’s people
Let me close with this thought from Rick Warren’s book. He says that if we live to age 70, we’ll spend 25,550 days here on earth. No matter how many days we have left – dozens, hundreds, thousands – doesn’t it make sense that we might want to set aside just 40 of them to figure out what God wants us to do with the rest of them?
That’s all I’m asking for and that’s all God is asking for – just 40 days. That’s a good biblical number, because in 40 days, God radically transformed the lives of folks like Noah, Moses, the Israelites, David, Jesus, and the disciples. Maybe in the next 40 days He’ll do something similar, or even more dramatic, in your life and in mine. Imagine what a difference the next 40 days could make in our congregation and ultimately on our impact for God’s Kingdom in our community and world.
There’s a call coming in and the caller ID shows it originates in heaven and God is on the line. That call was made a long time ago before you and I were even born and the question is: Are we going to answer it?
It might just help us answer the question: What on earth am I here for?