Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Made for More: The Beloved Burden

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This Sunday, we’re wrapping up our series on finding God’s purpose in your life, the role He created you to fulfill in His Kingdom plan.  We’ve spent most of this series looking at spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and last week in chapter 14.  We’ve talked about how to identify the gifts God has given you, and that we find our purpose by serving.  Today, I want to talk about what comes next.  In the movie “Castaway,” Tom Hanks plays a Fed Ex employee who is stranded on a deserted island for four years.  He gets home and finds that the woman he loved now has a husband and a child.  The last scene of the movie shows him traveling out to a rural area to deliver the one package he saved all those years, which washed up on that island with him.  No one is home, but he writes a note saying, “This package saved my life.”  On his way out, he stops at a nearby intersection.  A truck pulls up, and a pretty lady gets out and asks if he needs help.  He says he’s trying to determine where to go next.  She points to each of the four directions of that crossroads and tells where each road ultimately leads: California, Canada, etc.  As she drives away, he realizes she’s the recipient of the package.  The movie ends there.  We don’t know which road he chose. 

Spoiler alert!

A lot of people don’t like the indefinite nature of that ending.  But that’s true to life.  In life, we face a series of crossroads.  This Sunday, for instance…I want to tell you three possibilities for your life from this point forward.  One, you can go on to live your life the way you want, without any connection to God.  I know where that road leads: Destruction.  We were created for a relationship with Him; without that, we are like fish who decide to try to survive on dry land.  Two, you can try to live the life you want with God’s help.  In other words, you can choose to be religious, to believe in Scripture and attend church and pray, but ultimately chase after you own goals and dreams, and hope that God will help you.  Frankly, I think that’s the way many if not most American Christians live.  God is just a resource they call upon to bring them success and happiness.  That road leads to a constant wrestling with God, and frequent disappointment.  Or three, you can live the life you were created for.  You can say, “Lord, I renounce my own plans, preferences and hopes.  You made me and you love me.  I trust you to determine the course of my life.  I want to follow you.”  At the end of this message, I will talk about practical next steps if you want to choose that path.  

But first, I need to give you a warning.  There is a danger that, in thinking of how God created each of us with an amazing, important destiny, we will begin to see ourselves as characters in a fairy tale.  Like young Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the stone, or Cinderella bumping into her fairy godmother, we may think that the plan of God is this wonderful thing that, once we find it, will propel us to “happily ever after.”  The truth is that following the plan of God is going to be difficult.  It will be much easier in the short run to follow your own plans, to simply do what your desires tell you to do.  God’s plan for your life will include some things you would not have chosen for yourself if given the opportunity.  And to illustrate that for us, I want to look at Paul himself, the man who wrote the chapters we’ve been studying, and at two unwanted gifts God gave him that became beloved burdens in his life.  We’re going to look at two times when Paul spoke of gifts that God had given him (Eph 3:7-9, 1 Co. 7:1-7); not only are they not what you and I would describe as “spiritual gifts,” they aren’t what Paul would have chosen for himself.  What does that say to us about following God's plan?

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