God Equips Me!

Dear Friends,
 
We’re in the third week now of our five-week sermon series called, “Claimed: Wildly Loved by God!”. The first week we heard how God claims us – how God created us as we are, full of value and worth, and claimed us as his own. Then last Sunday we heard how not only God created and claimed us, but he loves us, without condition, beyond our comprehension. And now today, understanding we are created, claimed, and loved by God, we learn how, or are reminded how, through God’s Holy Spirit, we are equipped with unique gifts to serve and love God. Again, like last week, remembering just how much we are unconditionally loved by God, knowing and understanding that these gifts from the Holy Spirit that we’ve each been created with, then compels us to use them to serve, love, and uplift those around us. This is God’s purpose for us always – to serve and love him while serving and loving others.
 
In his book, Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli writes, “I am convinced that what characterizes people who know Jesus is not their lack of sin, but the presence of a radical, wild, mysterious calling from God upon their life.”
 
God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. We weren’t saved from a life of sin to simply and only sit in a church pew on Sunday mornings. Christ died for us so that we could tell others that Christ died for them, while loving and serving them in any way we can. While sharing that common goal, each of us has been equipped and prepared differently for unique purposes.
 
I saw another quote online that I couldn’t figure out the source of, but I like it, “The mission of the church in America is not only to save souls; it is also to save people from a life without purpose. The Church, through Jesus, must save its people from a life of meaningless, unfulfilling, empty work.”
 
So after turning 50 last week I have decided to commit again to getting in better physical SHAPE by eating better and exercising more often. We often think about and/or worry about the physical SHAPE we are in. In fact, it can consume much of our time and thoughts if we let it, perhaps even getting us down on ourselves. But what about our spiritual SHAPE? Does it work the same? If we are not in good spiritual SHAPE we might find our relationship with God and our siblings in Christ also feels meaningless, unfulfilling, or empty. Thankfully, God has already thought of this. The spiritual purpose God has already equipped us for and prepared us for is easier to understand with the help of this acronym – SHAPE. To get in better spiritual shape we must use our Spiritual gifts, our Heart, our Abilities, our Passions, and our Experiences.
 
With these five areas of spiritual exercise we will get in better spiritual SHAPE. We’ve learned the last couple of Sundays that God has SHAPED us just the way we are so that we will be able to do what He has equipped us for and intends for us to do. And just like when we are good physical SHAPE we feel have more energy for whatever life sends our way, when we are in good spiritual SHAPE to serve and to love, we can help others get in SHAPE to serve and to love – to save them from a life without purpose.
 
Rick Warren in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, calls this eternal work, work that has eternal consequences. We are all equipped for a work that has eternal consequences. Part of our purpose is to help others fill their days with work that has eternal consequences. But I would also add that our work, and the work we inspire in others, also has powerful consequences here and now – both in this life, and in the life that we’ve promised – eternal life. Discovering the purpose that the Holy Spirit has equipped us for can challenging, which is hard because we all want to get busy making a difference in this world in the way we were created to, don’t we? It can be discouraging, frustrating, overwhelming, trying to figure out what we are good at or what we’ve been equipped for.
 
Listen again to Paul’s words about that as he wrote them to not just pastors or spiritual people, but to all the believers. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Eph. 4:11-12)
 
All of God’s people are equipped for some kind of unique work that will make a difference here and now and in the world to come. But as Paul says it in verse 7 of our text this morning, as unique as each of our purposes might be, we carry them out “all for the common good.” You’ll read about this in my monthly newsletter article coming out next week in your October Grace Courier. The United Methodist Church has shared a Scripture based, three-fold mission and vision across the entire denomination. It’s really very simple. As members of the denomination we are to commit to loving God and loving others, healing a broken world, and reaching new people. This the common good that Paul is talking about. In my article I invite you to reflect on how our congregation is doing at fulfilling that three-fold mission and vision in within our walls, within our community, and within our world. But now today, I’m asking YOU to reflect on how YOU are using or might be able to use your God given gifts to love God and others, to heal a broken world, and to reach new people for Christ in YOUR own life.
 
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul unites all of our purposes for this one common purpose: “so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Eph. 4:12) A calling like this is overwhelming to many. They think they have so little to offer, thinking what difference could they possibly make. If that’s you this morning, understand that God has equipped you and called you to be of service, and He’s gifted you in such a way so that you can do what He has called you to do. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Paul assures us that all the gifts needed to make a difference have already been activated by the Holy Spirit.
 
It’s been said that, “God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called.” God equips and qualifies you for the ways He calls you to serve. This is an important point to remember in our third week of our series. We’ve already learned or been reminded of the fact that what God created us to be and thinks of us is far more important than what the world tries to create us to be and thinks of us. According to the world, we may not seem qualified, but God has, through His Holy Spirit, qualified us for that which He has called us. That’s what matters.
 
Rabbi Zusya, shortly before he died, said, “In the world to come, I will not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not Zusya.’” God doesn’t ask you to do anything you can’t do; he never calls you to live out someone else’s’ calling. We are to respond to the calling or the purpose that he created us for.
 
So what do we do now? Live up to your calling. Just do it. Paul often asked people, “Don’t you know who you are? You are children of God.” He said of himself, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He presses on to do what he was created to do. We each need to do that in our lives. Press on to do what God has created us to do.
 
Greta Thunberg is pressing on, using her God-given and Spirit-activated gifts, to accomplish what she feels she was called to do in order to heal a broken world. Greta is sixteen years old. She’s from Sweden. She’s a climate activist. And she has Asperger’s Syndrome. This past week, Greta has rallied the world around her passion for raising awareness of Climate Change. Addressing our United States Congress she concluded, “You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never be an option.” As overwhelming of a goal this seemed to be, Greta believed and took action. As a result, a recent count estimated 4 million people in 163 countries took to the streets last Friday to help bring Greta’s passion for our climate to the forefront. It’s believed to now be the single largest demonstration in world history surpassing even previous demonstrations for women’s suffrage, civil rights, and LGBT rights. This is why we are to press on, like Paul, like Greta, to do what God has created us for and to do. The present and eternal consequences are potentially immeasurable but not impossible.
 
Paul also assures us that if God has gifted us, and if we use those gifts and respond to that purpose, we can be assured that nothing we do will ever be lost, or wasted, or forgotten. The works of service that we do for others and for our world will be remembered, and rewarded, now and in our heavenly home.
 
My daughter Annica and I went on our second annual father/daughter date last night. We have attended the Lutheran Social Service Annual Gala called “A Celebration for Changing Lives” the past two years. People with a purpose and with a passion gather at the Marriott City Center in downtown Mpls to celebrate the work of LSS while contributing financially to their future work. With this morning’s sermon still percolating in my mind I was struck with what one of the speakers shared: “With every act of kindness, service, and neighbors helping neighbors, we start a ripple effect — a ripple that can be seen and felt across our state, our nation, and our world. Let’s not just make ripples, let’s make waves!”
 
Our current church building also turned 50 – one year ago. Like my own mid-life renewal and commitment to get back in SHAPE, as the community of faith within this building, let’s also commit to getting in SHAPE. Let’s use our combined spiritual gifts, hearts, abilities, passions, and experiences to make even more of a difference in our community and world. Find your purpose. Be true to your purpose. Don’t listen to voices of the world around you who might tell you otherwise. When you begin to feel as though, and maybe believe that, your gifts don’t matter, think again. Perhaps you’re just out of SHAPE. Be the stone that begins the ripple, and don’t let anything lead you away from doing what God has created you for doing and equipped you to do. May your ripple become a wave of difference-making in our world.
 
Thanks be to God!
 
Pastor Dale