Theme: God shaped you to serve him through serving others.
Last fall, Elvis Presley’s album of greatest hits was the number one album in the nation, 25 years after he died. I think he died! They say some people don’t think that. But, in spite of enormous success, Elvis as most of us know who are his fans or who read anything about him, was a very unhappy man. He was a very unfulfilled human being. And, his wife Priscilla gave an interview at some point and said this about her husband who died of obesity and drug dependency at age 42. “Elvis never came to terms with who he was meant to be or what his purpose in life was. He thought he was here for a reason, maybe to preach, maybe to serve, maybe to save, maybe to care for people and that agonizing desire was always with him and he knew he wasn’t fulfilling it. So he would go on stage and he wouldn’t have to think about it.” That’s pretty sad. In a sense regarding his purpose in life while he was here, he had no clue. He didn’t know where to look. He was at sea. He was lost.
Today we are continuing our 40 Days of Purpose, and we are going to look at God’s fourth purpose for your life. And that’s that you were shaped to serve God. Elvis felt like he was here to do something, but he just wasn’t quite sure what it was and he basically didn’t find it. He just couldn’t figure it out according to his wife, and I just don’t want that to happen to any of you, any of us. And so we are going to look at 1st Corinthians 12, verses 4-7 and we don’t have time to unpack it really, but just make a comment and then just talk a little bit about the whole idea of being shaped to serve.
Let’s pray, okay? Lord, as we go into your word, even though it’s a very brief passage, we pray that it will stick with us, and we will understand what this fourth purpose is about for each of us. We ask it in Christ’s name. Amen.
1st Corinthian 12:4-7, Paul in context is talking about how every person in the body of Christ, every believer has been given something, a gift, a manifestation of the spirit, something that will help us to contribute to the whole body. 1st Corinthians 12:4-7.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all people. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
In a nutshell, the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the trinity, gives each Christian a gift or gifts, and those gifts are of various types, and they go towards works of various kinds for the purpose of the common good. Now, in Greek, the word common “good,” the word literally means “profit” or “benefit.” So in other words, I think this is what this text is saying. That God has built something into you and into me, not simply to seek our own good or our own benefit, but so that others can profit or experience and advantage because of what God has worked into you. You were made to make a contribution, not just to consume. God made you to make a difference and what matters is not how long you live, but how you live. What matters according to Rick Warren is not the duration of your life, but the donation of your life. So, many here at Central have figured out where they fit in the puzzle of service. Others of you have not figured that out. And still others of you may still be in transition. You may be thinking, I have done this for a while in serving, maybe God wants me to do something else and so you are in transition. And, I want you to know very carefully this week in days 30, 31 and 32, we are on day 29 today, in days 30 through 32 Rick Warren in his book very carefully explains your shape, your servant profile, who you are uniquely and how to discern where you might fit in terms of offering service in the body of Christ. In future classes here at Central, there is going to be opportunities for you to figure that out even more. God does not want you to do a ministry without equipping you to do that ministry and that’s all available in a book and in the coming ways to help you figure that out. The thing I want to emphasize today is that our talents are not primarily for our benefit. They are obviously for building others up.
Do you remember the first line in The Purpose Driven Life book? First line? It’s not about you. You see, God wants you to be in this life for others. You know, we ask him what are we here for? What’s our purpose? The fourth purpose is to serve God by serving others. That’s why we are alive. Some people say, “Well, I want to serve God, but I don’t want to serve other people.” You can’t do it that way. It is impossible. You have to serve God by serving other people. Now the Bible has a word for this and its called ministry. And like all the other words that we have looked at, worship, fellowship, discipleship, it could be misunderstood. When I say the word minister most people of think of somebody who wears their collar backwards or they think of somebody who wears a robe like I do at the 10:00 o’clock service or they think of somebody who talks like God, you know? Somebody like that. That is what people think of when they think of the word minister. But, the Bible says, every single believer is a minister. Not every believer is a pastor, but every believer is a minister. And ministry is this, it simply means using my shape, how God created me to help somebody else in his name. If I use my shape, how God created me to help somebody else in his name, I am a minister. I am doing ministry. You know what you are, you are a minister. So, would all the ministers in this congregation please stand. There you go, a few of you weren’t listening. It took you a little time. Okay, you may be seated. All ministers, please be seated. There you go.
In the Bible, the words service and ministry are used interchangeably. The Bible sermon and minister are the same word. And so all of us are called to ministry. People say, “I am not called to ministry.” Yes, if you are called to salvation, you are called to serve. Now the good news is this, God not only called us to serve, he said, “Let me show you how to do it.” And the scripture says that God himself took on the form of a bondservant. Four words in the Greek language for servant, this is the lowest of the low, the doulase. Jesus became a bondservant and washed feet and Jesus himself said, “This is what I want you to do with your life.” He said, “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” Last week we said that if one of our purposes of discipleship is becoming like Christ and he came, and so purpose was come to serve then obviously we are growing in Christ when we learn to serve others.
Now listen to this because it’s really important. Your SHAPE, which is your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, your personality, your experiences, that spells the acronym, that’s what in the Purpose Driven Life book this week. That determines your ministry. But your attitude determines your maturity. See you can know all about the shape, but your attitude may not be the attitude of the Lord Jesus.
Do you know what the number one enemy is of compassionate service, beside self-centeredness? The number one enemy even for believers in our culture is busy-ness. We are just too busy. We are going so many different places we don’t have time to serve. I’ve got my agenda, I’ve got my plans, I’ve got my dreams, I’ve got my goals and ambitions. Right? Do you know what the problem is? It’s like we take a do not disturb sign, like we see in a hotel and we hang it right here. We hang it right on our heart. And we say, please do not disturb. My goals, my dreams, my life, I am focused on, so please let me be. Don’t knock. Don’t interrupt. Don’t disturb me for the needs of other people.
Two weeks ago I was shopping, I really demonstrated sacrificial service, I entered the mall and I went into one of the department stores shopping for my wife’s birthday gift, and I asked the woman there after I bought a gift, I said, “Can I get a gift box?” She said, “Yeah, it is up in the service department, take the escalator up.” So I am lost, I don’t know where anything is. I am on the third floor and another woman is walking my way and I said, “Excuse me, do you know where the service department is?” She points in the back, just over her left shoulder, and she said, “The no-service department is right back in the back there.” And I thought, what did she say? I didn’t register it really. I thought I heard something, but I said, “Okay, thanks.” So I went back and there are three people behind the counter. There is hardly anybody in front of the counter. All the numbers are gone and nobody really needs a number. All I need is a box, that’s it. So I am waiting, standing there and three minutes go by, four minutes and I am like, “What’s up with this?” So finally I said, “Could I get a gift box?” Oh yeah sure. Three more minutes goes by, they looked busy. I don’t know what they were doing. Finally, somebody gave me a box. It was like six minutes or seven minutes to get a box. I walked out of there with a box in the bag and I said; “Now I know what that lady said. She said the no-service department is back there.” She must have just come from there. And yet at the time it didn’t register, I said yeah, that’s right. It’s like a no-service department, not really a service department. Here’s the point. People who have an attitude like Jesus don’t mind being interrupted. Isn’t it amazing to think in the gospels that most of the things that Jesus did to touch people, he did when he was interrupted. He was going from one place to the next or doing one thing and somebody else tried to get his attention. And He did it. He served the needs of the people who came his way. So, a servant wakes up in the morning and says, “Okay God, I am not sure what the interruptions are going to be today, but I am ready to serve. Bring them on.” Now, I am not sure if there was an interruption, but I want you to hear from a couple of members at Central that have their own story to tell about the path of service that has led them here and that they have discovered. So I am going to ask Phil Munds first, do you guys want to come up together? Okay. We got a little tandem here. Phil and Amy are a team and they are going to take a turn and they are going to share with you how God has led them in to finding their shape and service here.
Phil Munds: Good Morning. We have been asked to talk about how ministry has affected our lives. Both of us have been churchgoers all our lives, but we have pretty much been on the sidelines and pretty much sit in the pew and then go home. We rarely got involved in serving at all, really not knowing where our exact fit was. The last church we went to I actually tried to run the soundboard and they really never recovered from that. But, my dad is a audiologist, so. That certainly was not my gift. When we came to Central we took the new members class and quickly realized that I had to first find out what my gifts were and what God made me for. It was pretty evident that one of my passions is music, classical music in particular and I want to read something that the composer Mendelson wrote about music. He said, “What a divine calling is music. Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing and it carries us so far from town, country, earth and all worldly things that it is truly a blessed gift of God.” Another passion that I have is the concept of finding common ground with people and sharing faith through that common ground and my favorite example of that is Bono, the singer of U2. He writes songs with mass appeal, but shows his faith at the same time. I was shown that the two can come together and through the help of a lot of people the Sundays in Central concert series was born. It has been a lot of work for a team of people, but by following his design for me in ministry, I have not only been able to see the joy that others experience through music, but I have been much more energized in my own faith and I feel like I have a real part in building God’s kingdom and not just sitting around watching it.
Amy Munds: Hi, as Phil said, I too was a sideliner at church and more out of insecurity than not really, not knowing what my passions were. Maybe this scenario sounds familiar to some of you. Sunday mornings meant getting up early, putting on my best face and dress. (BRIEF INTERRUPTION IN THE TAPE) Listening to a sermon and then leaving, feeling as if something were missing, but not knowing what. A week would go by without even thinking about church, and then I would start all over again. When we came to Central I too learned more about the gifts that God had given me and the responsibility that I had to put those gifts to use for Him. It was then in spite of my insecurities that I started singing, at that time is was the new EPIC worship team and then that same year, Second Sunday for the World began, and I was able to use my gifts there with younger children. That is also one of my passions. So, not only do I see how God has used these ministries to reach others, but I have also made a connection with this church family. So, no longer do I come to church feeling that something is missing, but I am now an active participant in the building of God’s kingdom. Thank you.
I want to thank both Phil and Amy for standing and sharing. If you haven’t found your niche, we have a perfect opportunity for you today in the ministry fair. You will hear more about that in a few minutes. But you see, here is the point. We know that everyone one of you, every one of you is a ten at something. You’re a ten at something and we want to figure out how to get what you are a ten at, connected to a ministry that benefits other people. Okay? And so, we want you to discover your serving possibilities. In fact, we want to value this so much, we cut the worship time almost in half so that you will be to go out in to the ministry tent and do a little exploration about how that matching might go. More later on that. But listen, when you boil it all down it comes to this, one of two things you can do with your life. You can waste it or you can invest it. And the best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it. I don’t know if you have discovered this or not, but not every investment in this life pays off. Anybody who’s invested their money in the last 2 or 3 years has discovered it though. And let me give you a little investment advice. If you bought $1,000 worth of stock in Nortel a year ago, it’s now worth $40.00. If you bought $1,000 worth of stock in Enron a year ago, it is now worth $11.00. And $1,000 worth of Worldcom is now worth $5.00. However, if you bought $1,000 worth of Coca-Cola, not the stock, the actual drink, if you bought the drink, a $1,000 worth and you drank it and then you turned all the cans in for recycling deposit, you would have $214.00. So here’s my investment advice to you. Drink a lot of Coke and then recycle and you will be ahead of the curve. Right? And you don’t have to pay me for that. There is no brokers fee with this one. It was free.
But, one day seriously, you will stand before God and he is going to say to you, “What did you do? How did you invest your life? What did you do with the education and the abilities and the skills and the family support and the experiences that you had, what did you do with them?” And if you say to God, “Well, God I was busy with my own ambitions and plans, I didn’t really get around to it.” He is going to say, “Wrong answer. I didn’t put you on this earth for you to serve just you. I put you here to serve other people.” You may think that God is not watching, that nobody is watching, but listen God is watching. Hebrew 6:10 very clearly says, “God is not so unjust as to forget how hard you have worked in working for him and how you have shown your love by caring for other Christians.” You know God will keep his promise and there will be an eternal reward. You know in this life somebody serves for 10, 20 or 30 years doing something and they give them a plaque, a watch or whatever. That’s a drop in the bucket in God’s economy. You get eternal rewards for serving him here. Listen to what Jesus said he would say the day that he returned and you stood before him if you served him the way he wanted you to. “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things, so I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Isn’t that fantastic? You will know more than anything else that you have connected with God when you hear him say those words to you and people here, leaders here we want to cheer you on so God will say to you, “Well done, way to go. You discovered your purposes for your life, worshipping me and fellowshipping with others and becoming like my Son and finding your way of serving other people. Well done. Come in. I have a reward for you.”
You know, I started this message by talking about Elvis. A curious fact about Elvis is that the only Grammy award that he won for an album out of 250 million albums that were sold, was for a religious album called, “He Touched Me”, it was the Bill Gaither song, “He Touched Me” and the song on that album expresses the whole thing that Jesus says about, “Well done good and faithful servant.” This is how one of the lyrics goes. “After the lightning and thunder, after the last bell has rung, I want to bow down before Jesus and hear him say “Well done my son.” He is my reason for living. He is my king of king’s. I long to be in his possession. He is my everything.” Is God going to say to you, well done? Is God going to say to you, “Enter into my happiness because you have been a faithful servant.” Is there anything in your schedule that reflects faithful service to God and putting aside some priorities that you might want in order to serve others. You know, one day Napoleon looked at a map of China and he said, “There lies a sleeping giant. If it awakes, it will shake the world.” Sometimes I come to Central and I see all the unbelievable giftedness and potential of people and I think if every single person that came under the influence of this church, friends and members, understood their giftedness, their shape and their passions, and it all fit together, it could create a spiritual nuclear reaction for Baltimore, for the East Coast, for the whole world. This congregation would be a mother church to so many people, to so many other congregations it would be unbelievable if we found our fit and our place for service. So I make no apology in saying to you, that the most important thing you will ever do with your life is serving God in some form of ministry, because it is far more important than you career. It’s far more important than your hobbies. It’s even more important than anything else you could think of. Why? Because it is going to last forever. Your service is practice for eternity and you are going to be serving. Jesus said, “You have been in charge of a few things here and you have done it faithfully. Now I am going to make you in charge of many things.” Service is going to last into eternity, into the universe. So, learn to serve right now.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we thank you for your love and for your grace and we realize that we have been shaped to serve you by serving others. So, I want to ask you to pray this in your hearts. Forgive me Lord for the times that I put a do not disturb sign on my heart. Help me to see the interruptions as opportunities to serve. Help me to make time for what matters most. You have been so good to me. I want to give something back. I want to serve you freely and gratefully and faithfully. I want to practice before I get to heaven so that one day I can hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In your name I pray. Amen.