Pastor Craig Carter
In our current church-wide study, we have discovered that the Bible oftentimes speaks about God’s purposes for our lives in terms of “callings” He has placed on us. So far, we have observed that we are called to be loved by God and to love Him back through worship, we are called to belong to His family through fellowship, and we are then called to become like Christ through discipleship.
Each of these callings builds upon the others. As we receive God’s love, we want to belong to a church family, and it is there that we grow in Christlikeness. As we become more and more like Jesus, we begin to take on His attitude, His character, and His conduct.
Our study of Pastor Rick Warren’s bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, is helping us find answers to life’s most basic question, What on Earth Am I Here For? Knowing why Jesus came is a critical to understanding our purpose. Jesus once described His purpose for coming to our planet in this way: [I] came not to be served but to serve others… (Mark 10:45a NLT)
And how did Christ demonstrate this life of service? Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38 NLT)
So Jesus spent His time here on earth doing good and serving people’s needs. In doing so, we could say that Christ blessed people wherever He went.
Since you and I are called to become like Christ, it means we also are called to bless others.
And how do we fulfill this calling on our lives? The same way Jesus did – by doing good and serving people. Paul states it this way in a passage we looked at a couple of weeks ago: 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)
We are uniquely fashioned by God and re-created in Christ’s image for one express purpose – to do good works. Through those good works, we bless others and fulfill God’s calling on our lives.
God in his grace chose me even before I was born, and called me to serve him. (Galatians 1:15 GNT)
So we now arrive at a 4th answer to the question, “What on earth am you and I here for?” We are called to bless others because we were shaped to serve God through ministry.
In the New Testament, the words service and ministry are used interchangeably. Every follower of Jesus is a servant and every Christian is a minister.
It’s the idea we’ve tried to convey here at LHUMC through our use of the label, “servant.” We have paid servants (staff members) and unpaid servants (church members), but no “volunteers” (because that title makes service optional). So how many “ministers” do we have at LHUMC? Not two or three, but more than 1,000. That’s because all of us are called to bless others by finding a place of service.
When we do that, what can we expect to happen? There are some incredible benefits that take place when we fulfill our calling to serve and bless others…
1) We experience real JOY.
No rational person wants to be unhappy, so we’re constantly seeking happiness. Unfortunately, we often look for it in all of the wrong places. We typically seek happiness in pleasure, power, possessions, popularity, and prestige, but we don’t find it there (at least not of any lasting value).
We foolishly think we’ll find satisfaction in success, sex, status, or salary, but our search in those places proves futile and we come up empty-handed.
God wired us so that we’ll only find real joy when we give our life away in service. Why? Because He wants us to be like Christ and that’s what He did.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians talks about joy more than any other book in the Bible. Even though the great apostle wrote it from a prison cell, he talks about knowing real joy and how he came to experience it. He describes it as a “secret” he’s discovered. There are two parts to the secret:
First of all, real joy comes when we take the focus off OURSELVES: Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice! Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do. (Philippians 4:4-5 TLB)
The more selfish we are and more we focus on ourselves, the more unhappy we become. It’s no accident that the words, miser and miserable, come from the same root word. We’ll never find true joy until we quit looking at our own wants and desires and begin to concentrate on the needs of others.
Some of us need to heed Paul’s advice: Forget about yourself long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:4 MSG)
That leads to the second secret of finding real joy as it comes when we use our gifts to serve OTHERS.
God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. (1 Peter 4:10 TLB)
You and I are blessed by God to be a blessing to others. We all have been given certain gifts, talents, and abilities. Why? Not to serve our own interests, but to serve the interests of others.
I am living proof of what Paul and Peter claim to be true – real joy comes through serving. As I’ve shared previously, early in my adult life, I thought the sole purpose for my existence was to eat, drink, and be merry (although not necessarily in that order). And while a variety of activities brought me some degree of satisfaction, it was always short-lived and left me longing for more.
Then I came to know God’s love in a real and significant way, I became a part of a local congregation, and began to grow in my walk with the Lord. In other words, I started living a purpose driven life without even knowing that’s what I was doing.
During that time, my wife Lee and I were invited to serve in that church’s ministries. We were asked to direct a children’s play, we helped with the worship committee, and later we started to work with the youth.
Let me inform you, I tend to have an addictive type of personality. “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew or run with girls who do” because if I ever got started I’d never stop any of those practices. Once I started serving in the church and tried to bless others rather than always focusing on myself, I began to feel real joy and happiness. It was like “crack” to me and I couldn’t get enough. I’m not joking here. There was a “high” associated with serving! And when I found out I could get paid to do it, I was all in!
The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether we do it for a living or not, we can all be a minister. That’s because we’re all called to bless others through our service. When we do, we experience true joy because we take the focus off ourselves and use our gifts to serve others – and that’s God’s purpose for each and every one of us.
2) We receive a BLESSING.
The writer of Proverbs puts it this way: The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. (Proverbs 11:25 MSG)
Anyone who has ever served knows the truth of this statement. It’s the principle of “sowing and reaping.” Whenever we plant a seed of blessing, we get a blessing in return. But we don’t get back another seed, we receive a full harvest of seeds.
When it comes to service and ministry we always get more than we expect. The reason is very simple: when we serve we are being like Christ and becoming who the Lord intends us to be; so, like any loving Father, God rewards our obedience.
Look at what Paul says on this subject: If you serve Christ in this way, you will please God and be respected by people. (Romans 14:18 CEV)
As I’ve pointed out on many occasions, life is all about relationships because life is all about learning to love (since God is love). So when we fulfill our calling and use our lives to bless others, guess how God blesses us? By blessing us with good relationships – with Him and with others.
Our service and ministry pleases God and so we enjoy a right relationship with Him and receive His blessings.
Whenever I hear someone say, “I’d really like to serve but I’m too busy,” I feel a certain degree of sadness – not for me and the church, but for that person. I want to say, “Don’t you want God’s blessing on your life…on your home…on your business?”
Only by giving our lives away do we open ourselves up to receive all the good things God has in store for us.
Service also brings us blessing in our relationships with others. Paul says, “Serve Christ and you’ll be respected by people.” I would add, “Serve Christ and you’ll be absolutely loved by people.” Nobody likes a selfish person, but everyone loves the person who unselfishly gives of him or herself for the sake of others.
Quit trying to be interesting. Be interested. Stop trying to get. Give. Cease striving for more. Serve more. You’ll be the “belle” of the ball and the “lord” of the manor when you do.
We are blessed to be a blessing to others and when we fulfill that calling, we ourselves are blessed even more. As the saying goes, “Just try it, you’ll like it!”
3) We find true MEANING.
At an early age, most of us come to realize that there is more to life than just existing – eating, sleeping, breathing, taking up space. So we search for the meaning of life in what we can learn or we try to find significance in the things we can accomplish or in the stuff we can accumulate.
But true meaning does not come from reciting some mantra or by making lots of money. It is found in ministry – by giving our lives away to bless others.
It’s the message Jesus preached time and time again: If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life! (Mark 8:35 EXB)
It is only by giving up our lives for God and for others that we truly live rather than just exist. We become like the actor who says, “I was made for this role.”
God has shaped each of us to serve and when we find that which we were made to do, we experience real meaning and purpose in life. If you’re familiar with Rick Warren’s book, you know he says God has created each of us with a unique SHAPE that determines how and where we serve:
- Spiritual gifts: God-empowered, supernatural abilities received when we are saved; every believer gets at least one (e.g. teaching, mercy, wisdom)
- Heart: Passions, desires, things we feel strongly about
- Abilities: Natural talents that we’re born with (God can use them all)
- Personality: Each of us is “wired” differently
- Experiences: Good, bad, ugly
I’d like to add another to the list:
- Needs: Sometimes we just need to do what needs to be done
If you’d like to know more about this subject, we are offering a SHAPE class on Sunday, May 16, from 11 am – 1 pm. The seminar will be led by our Care Minister, Heather Howell; lunch will be provided and child care is available. To sign up text SHAPE to 850.265.5231 or email Heather@mylhumc.net.
Meaning comes from ministry so let’s give our lives away and truly live; when we do…
4) We leave a LEGACY.
Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to have lived and died and never left a mark on this planet? Yet, for many, that is largely what happens – here today, gone tomorrow, game over.
But the Bible says you and I can make a difference – both on earth and in eternity.
In Proverbs, we’re told: Good people will be remembered as a blessing. (Proverbs 10:7 NCV)
Do you want to be remembered as a blessing? Then do something good with your life and bless others with your time, energy, and attention.
If we determine to live out our purpose, we will be remembered as a blessing by the way we serve others. And when we do that, not only do we leave a legacy on earth, we also make a mark in heaven.
There is nothing too small or insignificant that God doesn’t see and reward us accordingly: [God] will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers. (Hebrews 6:10 EXB)
Others may forget or may not even be aware of all that we’ve done, but God will never forget. That’s because He realizes that even small acts of service yield really big results.
Preparing this message, I’ve reflected on all the folks who helped me get to where I am today. Since it’s Mother’s Day, let me focus on some of the women who’ve made a difference in my life, in addition to my own wonderful mother:
- A grandmother next door and aunts who lived nearby that bragged about my smallest accomplishments and convinced me I could be anything I wanted to be
- Nursery workers and Sunday School teachers at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, MO who loved me unconditionally and taught me the ways of the Lord
- A Spirit-filled woman I met at First UMC that became my mom in the Lord
- A college friend who sent me money to help pay my seminary bills
- Ladies that cooked me fellowship meals and made feel a part iof a new congregation
- Dear souls in this room who have written me notes that lifted my spirits when I needed it
You don’t know them and I don’t even remember many of their names, but they made a difference in my life and I’m guaranteed a place in heaven as a result. Not only did they have a profound effect on me, they are partly responsible for any good I have done in the lives of others.
Do you see how this thing called ministry or service works? As we receive God’s blessings and share them with others, the blessings go full circle and come back to us. Not only that, but when we serve as we have been served, we carry on a legacy of blessings that last, not just a lifetime, but for all eternity. The eternal destinies of other people hang in the balance. How will they ever know there’s a God who loves them and gave His life for them unless we show them His love by giving away our lives in service and ministry?
So it’s no wonder you and I are called to bless. Like Jesus, we were sent here, not to be served, but to serve. Are you fulfilling your purpose and using your time and energy to help others?
What do you hear God calling you to do to serve Him and His people?