Each of us has an opportunity to be faithful where God has placed us and we can finish well by living with reckless abandon and ruthless discipline. God doesn't condemn our longing for significance, He simply corrects our strategy. Greatness comes through serving and giving: We're not here to get something out of life, we're here to add something to it.
Living Life on Purpose - Week 5
Living Life on Purpose - Week 4
Living Life on Purpose - Week 3
Living Life on Purpose - Week 2
Living Life on Purpose - Week 1
We're going to close up our five weeks together on Living Life on Purpose. As we've mentioned these last couple of weeks, we're at a place where if you've not come to understand that there is a Father who loves you, who wants you to have the sweet stuff; if you're still at a place where you're wrestling with whether or not there's anybody you can consult with, a God who cares, who desires not to push you toward things that are going to take life from you but, in fact, push you to where the sweet life is, then some of what we're going to talk about doesn't make that much sense.
So after a couple of weeks, we've said sooner or later you come to a point where you have to make a decision, because your life is going to be influenced by the choices and decisions you make. We'll kind of close that loop today a little bit, but we want to build off the idea that each of us has an opportunity to be faithful in what it is God designed us for.
There's a story about Abraham Lincoln that during the Civil War, he would often sneak away and go to different places of worship, different places where men were supposed to provide a perspective that was going to give him comfort and direction and hope as a leader to our country in its war-torn state.
He often wouldn't announce that he was there. He would sit back in a study and just listen with an aide who would arrange with different people and then move out so he wouldn't make a big scene. His aide always used to love to ask him when he was leaving a situation like that if he enjoyed the speaker, if the speaker did a good job.
There was one time that there was a guy who gave a pretty stirring message in the view of Lincoln's aide, and on the way back in the carriage he said to Lincoln, "Hey, how do you think the pastor did?" and he said, "I think the pastor failed." The aide was shocked. He said, "What do you mean? What was it? Did you not think he was consistent in his reasoning?" Lincoln said, "No. He was extremely consistent in his reasoning. There was nothing wrong with his reasoning. His flow was logical."
"Well, did you feel like his presentation was poor, he didn't know his material well?" He said, "No, not at all. He was extremely put together in his material and what he said. He spoke without much pause, without much hesitation. He spoke with a sense of conviction about what he was sharing." The aide said, "Well, then why did he fail?"
Lincoln looked at him and said, "The man failed because he failed to ask of us something great." In other words, there wasn't a call that was placed out. There wasn't any action point. There wasn't any real statement that said, "If this is true, then this is what it should produce in your life, and what it should produce in your life ought to be a source of challenge and growth for you."
I'll tell you what. I may make a lot of mistakes today, but I'm not going to fail because I fail to ask of you something great, and that is to challenge you to be, ultimately, the kind of person the Lord designed you to be and participate in the kind of life God wanted you to participate in and to do that with reckless abandon and ruthless discipline. And it's going to take ruthless discipline.
You're going to find out that a lot of guys enjoy talking about what a purpose-driven life might be like. A lot of guys enjoy considering what they might do to give their life more meaning, significance, and purpose, but not very many guys finish well. Five hundred fifty-plus guys will show up and start something like this, and you'll wean off about 150 of that before you get to the end of even five weeks.
Four hundred guys will come out here today with a sense of having processed different ideas throughout five weeks, and the percentage of men who will really have this take root in their lives and produce something sustaining is going to be tragically small. The last couple of days, I was up in Missouri with some folks, sharing and doing some speaking up there. One of the things that came up in the midst of where I was, which is a place where a lot of my roots are, where I shared a lot of my ministry early in my years…
Five of the 10 guys who were in my wedding have dropped out of what we had all been partnering with together because of moral failure. Five of the 10 guys who stood with me in my wedding 12 or 13 years ago are no longer running the race. One of them, actually, made some decisions along the way and has faced them and responded to them like a man should, because none of us are going to be without blemish in every area of our lives.
This guy's issue wasn't so tremendous that it violated his ability to have respect from people for an ongoing period. It was more of an addictive response to something. He has worked through it and faced it and brought it to the light and is actually now back in a very good place, but four of those five have dropped off. They haven't finished well.
I can tell you that I know for a fact… I used to stay up late at night with these guys, dreaming, talking to them about what it was they wanted their life to stand for at the end of the day, but they didn't have, at the end of the day, what it took to be a man who lived life with discipline and on purpose. At the root of that is they had a failure to understand that it wasn't going to be their desire that sustained them and held them.
I think it's one of the biggest surprises men find out when they move into a marital relationship. They don't get married until they have this feeling like they've never felt before, which they somehow call love, because they think, "Man! I've never felt this way about a woman before, so I'm going to get married to her, and because I feel this way about her, it'll be a great relationship."
They're shocked when they get into marriage to find out that no matter how you felt before you get married, sooner or later, in every relationship, you move to a place where you have to be a disciplined individual who loves because you said you'd love, who sticks in it because you said you'd stick in it.
A lot of guys start to fall prey to the notion that "Wow! I must have married the wrong gal, because it's not as easy anymore to want to love her. In fact, I find it easier to somehow be attracted to this person over here at work or someone I'm sharing some new ideas with than it is to love this person at home." So they start to waver and waffle, and they don't realize that love, biblically, is a verb which describes how you will live and not an adjective which describes how you'll feel.
Proverbs talks about the fact that "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat." What that proverb means is that both the sluggard and the disciplined want the same thing, and what makes the difference in the two of them is that one of them applies diligence and discipline to their life, which is a fruit of the presence of God. We have a purposeful God. We have a God who is perfect in his desires being accomplished.
When you live in relationship with him and when he controls your life as you depend upon him, one of the things that will mark your life that is part of the glory of God is that you would be a man who lives your life on purpose. But I'm going to tell you, it is in your nature, it is in my nature to want good things but not to discipline myself toward those things, not to yield myself to the will and way of God so I might be who God wants me to be.
There's not a man in this room who wants his life to be floundering, meaningless, and off center, but there are not going to be enough men in this room who bear the fruit of self-discipline in their lives that allows them to finish well. Now, one of the great tragedies that was waiting for me when I got home from Missouri was my 4-year-old boy. Each of them had something different to share with me, and last night, Cooper came into my study, and he dropped down a 100-piece Cinderella puzzle.
He laid it right there at my feet. He said, "Dad, Cinderella is missing two pieces." He was saying, "The other 98 are pretty much worthless, because I, for the first time, on my own, put together Cinderella, and we're missing the top of the mouse. Gus' head is not there, and part of the carriage wheel is gone. So this puzzle is pretty much worthless, because something that's supposed to be there isn't showing up where it was supposed to be."
Gang, let me tell you why this is a big deal we're talking about this morning: because in God's grand design, he created you for a purpose. He created you for a mission. He created you uniquely. When we live out of step with who God wants us to be, there is a hole in the puzzle that God intended. Now God is sovereign enough that he will put that picture together one day, but you will miss out on the blessing of participating with him at creating the glorious picture he intended with your life.
There's always a consequence to not stepping up the way you want to step up. There are opportunities to shepherd young men and young women that are represented by men in this room, that those young men and young women in the households of men in this room are not being shepherded well because you're not in that puzzle right now. You're not letting God uniquely use you in the way he shaped you and called you and formed you to use you.
There are women who are frustrated that they're going through life without a man who's going to serve them and cherish them and honor them because there are some guys in this room who aren't in place the way God wants them to be. There are people in this town who are suffering because the body of Christ is not doing what God wants it to do, because men in this room are not stepping up to say, "I'm going to live my life intentionally on purpose the way God designed me to be."
If you are not living your life in the context of relationship with God, fully availing yourself to him, discovering, developing, unleashing, and deploying your gifts the way God intended you to, there is a tragedy somewhere, where some kid is saying, "This doesn't look like it should look." Too many times, the pieces that fit that puzzle to make it look like God wanted it to look are sitting right here.
The reason churches aren't functioning in a prevailing way that God wants them to is because there are all kinds of men who are out there in the body who are listening and watching and not participating to fulfill their unique design that God gave them. That's what this whole series has been about: understanding that part of what God is doing in your life is to allow you to reach your maximum potential for him. That, folks, is where life is, where joy is, and where purpose is.
Let me just read you a little section of Scripture. This is one of my favorite sections of Scripture. It's Mark 10:35-45. There are a couple of guys in this room who… I think seven or eight years ago now, at about 3:00 in the afternoon on this September day, I got a phone call, knowing I was from St. Louis, saying, "Hey, Todd, do you think there's any way we could go to the Cardinals' game tonight?" I said, "What are you talking about?"
They go, "Well, you know, McGwire has 61 home runs. This is a historic time in baseball. Do you think there's any way we could get ourselves up to St. Louis if I could get a ticket?" I go, "Who cares if we could get a ticket? It's 3:00. The first pitch is at 7:15. What does it matter?" They go, "Hey, I've got a guy who I think, if we can get tickets, will let us jump on his plane with him and go up there."
So, through a long series of events, I called up to some folks I knew in St. Louis, and they made some phone calls to some folks in St. Louis who told us we were crazy for even asking. They said the Bush family had called looking for extra tickets for their friends and they told them, "Forget it. No way."
Another one of my friends got ahold of this. He called a friend of his who used to work for the Cardinals who now worked for the Rangers, and that guy laughed and said, "You've got to be out of your mind." It was about 4:30. He said, "I'll tell you what. If those guys can get here, I'll give them some 'standing room only' tickets, because we are sold out." Lo and behold, at 5:30 I found myself at Love Field.
I was in a conversation with a guy, in fact. We were talking about some pretty difficult stuff, and that phone call came back. My office phone rang. I didn't answer it. I could hear my secretary's phone ring. I could hear my cell phone ring. Finally, I heard the knock at my door, and my secretary said, "Todd, you need to pick up this phone call." They go, "We got the tickets." I hung it up. I said, "This time is pretty much over at this point. I've got to go. I'm going to St. Louis."
So we got to Love Field. We flew up there. We got delayed around Arkansas because of some bad weather. We landed at Lambert Airport in St. Louis. We raced to that stinkin' stadium. We got there in the top of the fourth inning with two outs, got our tickets at will call, ran in there, ran to the left field foul pole, and seven minutes after we got there, about 25 yards from us, we watched McGwire hit his sixty-second home run. It was a great evening. We could not believe he did it. We couldn't believe we got there. We couldn't believe we got to share in that moment.
I'll tell you why I share that with you. In the midst of that happening, they put a big picture of Roger Maris up there on the screen, that picture of Maris in the summer of '61 when he hit his sixty-first home run. Underneath that, they had a little picture of McGwire, and they had Roger Maris' family there. Now Roger Maris wasn't there. Does anybody know why Roger Maris wasn't there? He was dead. But up there was this great picture of Roger Maris hitting his home run, and it said, "Chasing immortality."
I just sat there. I mean, the world was going crazy, and everybody was thinking, "This guy just did it. He just became immortal. He just became baseball single season home run king. He just became as immortal as that dead guy up there." I just thought of the irony of the situation. Nobody would have supposed there would be somebody else on as much steroids as McGwire who just three years later could shatter his record, but it happened.
His immortality didn't even last 30 years. It only lasted three. I just thought to myself, what a great picture of how fleeting the things are we throw ourselves at to make ourselves essentially great, and how nobody was even bothered by the fact that you can be this immortal, you can do something that for 30 years folks will talk about, and you'll die, but your picture will be up there. That's no way to think and chase for immortality.
I'll tell you something. God doesn't have a problem with you chasing for immortality. This is what this little section of Scripture is about. "James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.'" Unbelievable statement. They were pretty square at this time who he was. This was no genie in a lamp that you can only rub up against three times and some stuff would happen.
This brother consistently, over three years, had pretty much opened their jaws, made them gasp and go, "This guy has got it going on. The blind can see. The lame can walk. The ocean is stilled. We've seen him walk on water. That was impressive." So when you tell this guy, "We want you to do for us whatever we ask," you have a good inkling that he could do it.
What's amazing is that Christ's response to this was not, "What are you doing? Haven't you learned anything yet? Don't you know it's not about you? What do you mean you want me to do for you whatever you ask?" What Christ does is he says, "What do you want? What would you like me to do for you?" What a great response. When you say, "God, I want you to do something for me," God will say to you, "What do you want?"
There's a great place in Scripture where God was leading the nation of Israel, and he was trying to call them to live a life on purpose in full relationship with him, but Israel kept saying, "We don't want that relationship with you. We want this. We want this. Give us that. We want to be like those nations. We want this experience."
It says in the Scripture… Do you know what God did? It says God gave them the desire of their hearts. He gave it to them. "You want that? You can have it." But then it says right after that in Psalm 106:15, "But he sent leanness to their souls." In other words, "I'm going to let you have what you think you want, but you're going to find out in getting what you think you want you're not going to get what it is you're chasing."
There will be some moments of sweet satisfaction, but it will always create in you a panging and a longing and a need and a hankering for something more until you find what it is you were created and designed for. So Jesus is going to say to James and John, "Let's see what you've learned in hanging out with me for three years. What do you want?"
They said, "We want to be essentially great. We want you… Because we understand that you've told us now three different times that you're going to be turned over, crucified, and you're going to be buried. You're leaving the scene right here, so somebody has to take your mantle. Somebody has to lead these crowds.
In fact, you told us you're going someplace to prepare a home for us, that we're going to come to you and we're going to be with you, and we want to know that in this world you're going to we can be one on your right and one on your left, that we can be the main men after you." Jesus said, "Are you sure you want to do what it takes to get to where you want to get?" They said, "Absolutely."
He said, "Can you drink the cup you need to drink to make that happen?" They said, "Sure," without asking what that cup was. He says, "Fine. You'll drink that cup, but whether or not you'll get those positions is not mine to give." The others were indignant with them and angry, because they kind of beat them to the punch. They found a more opportune time.
What's really amazing about this is when you read one of the other stories in the Gospels, you find out James and John didn't even go. They sent their mom to approach Jesus for this. "They may not like the fact that we did it, but he can't say no to good ol' Mom." So we find out really it was James and John who put their mom up to this, and their mom asked this question.
Jesus gathered them all together. He realized they were angry at James and John that they had tried to put themselves in this position of greatness, and what Jesus does is he comes back around and says, "Look. I don't want you all to be frustrated. What James and John wanted…to be essentially great…is what I designed them to be. I want you to know that the way you think you're going to become great is the problem."
James and John thought it would be through political manipulation, through some strategic alliance, that they could count on the old boy system and good old favor to get to where they wanted to go, and God is saying, "That's not the way it's going to happen. The way it's going to happen is you're going to become like I am. The reason nobody can have the seat I'm going to have is nobody is going to be the perfect servant that I am.
But if you will follow in my path and do as I did and give your life away as I'm giving my life away, then, yes, somebody is going to sit at my left hand and somebody is going to sit at my right. And you know what? I want you to have that position. I want you to be as glorious as God intended you to be. I want you to be somebody he lifts up and says, 'You've been faithful in your service.' Do you know what the reward for faithful service is? The answer is: the opportunity for more service."
That's exactly the way it is in your industry and your business. When you have somebody who's faithful in executing a task and a job for you, what do you want to do? You want to give them greater opportunity. You count on them more, and you put them in positions of greater and greater influence in your life. In your kingdom, if there's somebody who is faithful to you to execute what it is that you know needs to be accomplished and that person pulls through, you keep giving them more opportunity.
That is true if they're your lawyer. That is true if it's your son. That is true if it's your accountant, your architect, your teacher, your friend, and it's true of you with God. There is nothing in this world that is greater than God saying, "This is my go-to guy, and I can count on him to be faithful. He's faithful with his family, so I'm going to give him several families. He's faithful with several families; I'm going to give him a different platform."
Sometimes we'll never see even on this earth because God says, "This isn't the place that you're ultimately going to get greater opportunities to serve me, but this is the place where we determine who it is who really wants to serve me and live their life on purpose and yoke themselves with me." Now let me just share with you some observations I make from this little section.
First of all, even the best of us are capable of the worst of men. What I mean by that is there are none of us who are not capable of making some terrible decisions or, if you will, defaulting to some poor strategies at some point. What basically happened right here is James and John forgot the deal. They forgot that they were made for God, not God was made for them. They thought God existed for them.
One of the very first things we talked about when we were here is we realized to get this thing right you have to understand it's not about you, it's not about me. We exist for God; God does not exist for us. We want God to be this genie in a lamp that we can rub and get what we want from him when we want what we want from him.
God is going to say, "You know what? You don't even know what it is you should want to get what you want if you could rub up against me that way, so I'm going to teach you where life is. I'm going to call you to where life is." Ultimately, you're going to find out that it's not about you, that God doesn't exist for you but you exist for God, and you have to stop trying to manage it and rub it that way.
All of us are capable at any moment of saying, "No, this is really about me." The day we forget that is the day we're going to go down. My close friends, and then guys who aren't so close… All the time around me I'm hearing of another guy who said, "You know what? This is really about me." The Scriptures remind me all the time, "Todd, beware you who think you stand, lest you fall."
I am constantly before the Lord, reminding him, "Lord, you know what? If you don't hold me close, if you don't keep me on task, if you don't constantly retrain this mind, then I'm going to be capable of the worst of men." One of the things I did when I was up there speaking… They put me in this hotel. That hotel had HBO. There are shows on HBO certain nights of the week that I guarantee you if I had HBO at home I could not not watch them.
The problem with not not watching them for me is that… Watching them is one thing, but I know you sow a thought, you're going to reap an action. You sow an action, you're going to reap a habit. You sow a habit, you're going to reap a character. You sow a character, you're going to reap a destiny. So I had guys… I said, "Look, man. I'm going to be in this hotel, and I don't want to be playing this game."
You know, "Where is ESPN? Oh, well, that isn't ESPN, but that is an interesting sport. I shouldn't watch that sport." I'll play that little game back and forth if I don't say, "Guys, I don't want to go there. I don't need that kind of crud in my mind," because I'll run there easily by default. I know it is in my nature to do that. So I was on the phone with those guys before I left. I was on the phone when I got there. I was on the phone the next day with them.
I said, "Men, you need to encourage me in this area. Hold me accountable in this area. I haven't been there in a long, long time, but I can tell you this: I'd love to start going there again." When I was in elementary school and junior high, I saw more pornography than you'd ever think a guy should see, and some of that stuff is still burned in my brain. The lie and deceitfulness that there's still life there is still really fresh to me.
I have to tell you, I run scared, not just from that but from a lot of things that I know can drag me down a path. If I stand here before you guys in 40 years still faithful, it's going to be because I'm well aware of the fact that I am capable of the worst of men. So I have to order my life and discipline my life and live on purpose in community, in connectedness, in relationship with God and his Word, and in prayer or I will be next on that list.
Secondly, a desire for greatness is not the worst thing of men. It's what you were designed for. This is what I want you to understand in the midst of this. God doesn't have a hard time when you say, "I want to be essentially great. I want to be great in the eyes of God." He has no problem with that. There's not a guy in this room who doesn't want to go, "I want my life to matter. I want my life to count. I want the Sovereign of the universe to go, 'Now there's a man.'"
But here's the next thing: God doesn't condemn our longings; he simply corrects our strategies to satisfy them. Guys, part of being made in the image of God is that you are to bear his glory. Part of us turning from God's ways is what causes the glory God embedded in us to be tainted. That's what it means when it says, "For every man sins." Every man chooses less than what God would have them choose and, in doing so, becomes less than God created them to be.
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We've talked about this before: the image of God is defaced in all of us in different ways but not erased in any of us completely. God doesn't want us to meet our God-given desires in a God-forbidden way. James and John, you want to be great? That's fantastic. I'm going to tell you, this is the way, essentially, to greatness.
So what is it? It says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life [away] ." Men, if you want to know what essential greatness is in the eyes of God, there it is: to serve and to give and to be a man who finds who God designed you to be and put yourself in that puzzle piece and then let him go, "That picture looks like it should look."
What we're talking about today is living life on purpose is knowing who God created you uniquely to be and doing everything you can to excel as the piece that God made you. Now, some of you guys go, "You know what? I don't like the fact that I'm this piece over here that's not as attractive. I'm not Gus' head. I'm the horse's hoof in this puzzle."
You might not like that, but I'll tell you this: if God created you to be the horse's hoof, if he created you to be just a bland meadow scene in a puzzle where you don't think you stand out, you need to know you have the exact same opportunity to receive the fullest reward as Cinderella's face, because God rewards you for faithfulness, not for where you fit in that puzzle. It's for how you fit where God designed you to fit.
If you are a one-talent person or a five-talent person or a ten-talent person and you look at the story of how Christ rewards each of those, every single one of them got the same reward. When you fully use what God gave you, you get the same reward. Now, there are certain things, another parable, where we've all been given the same thing, and God says, "How you use that same thing I've given you, there will be varying rewards in that," but when it comes to talents, when it comes to what piece you are in the puzzle…
You might go, "How come I'm not Cinderella's head? Why am I Gus' head? Why am I that black/blue screen over there? That doesn't really stand out at all." I'll just tell you this: if you fit in the piece of the puzzle God designed you, you will receive every bit as much reward as the puzzle piece that is Cinderella's head, because one of those pieces missing ruins the whole puzzle. God says, "You just make sure you find out who I designed you to be and be it recklessly." Here we go. Let's talk about some of these.
You're not here, ultimately, to get something out of life. (The world tells you that. Madison Avenue is going to bombard you with that. "You're here to get all you can out of life. Go for the gusto.") You are here to add something to it. This is what Paul said in Acts 20:24: "But my life is worth nothing…" This is one of his purpose statements. He has a bunch of them all throughout the Scripture. "My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus, the work of telling others the good news about God's wonderful kindness and love."
This is one of the things God said to his servant Jeremiah at one point: "Now, gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them…" In other words, "Don't be dissatisfied for what I created you to do." "…or I will dismay you…" I love that. That's God just telling it like it is.
"If you don't do what I ask you to do, your life will not be what you want it to be. You can have the life you think you want, but I will send leanness to your soul. You don't have to go to Nineveh, Jonah, but if you don't go where I called you and created you to go, you're not going to like where you choose to go, because I love you enough to never let your life have the peace it can have and should have until you are in the place that will give you the peace you ultimately are looking for."
I made this observation based on that deal in Jeremiah: If you are a consumer of resources and not a provider of results (in other words, if you take up time, space, and resources and you don't provide any results for that), then you're dead weight and you need to be dealt with. That's true. Guys, you think about that as leaders in business and industry. If you have something that is sucking resources from you and not fulfilling what it was created to fulfill, if there is no benefit to the cost, then something needs to be done with that thing that is a drain on resources.
God loves you enough if you're his son to deal with you, and if you don't get dealt with, if you're not held accountable to your irrelevance, then you have bigger problems. Look at what it says in 1 Corinthians 6:20. "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." God paid a great price for you. As it says in this book somewhere, I think, you were not bought at the Dollar Store. You've been bought for a great price, so you ought to make sure you are faithful. To whom much is paid for, we expect a lot of it.
If I go down to Al's Junkyard today and buy a $400 rent-a-wreck, I don't expect it to perform like if I went to some Lexus dealership and dropped 80K for a car. When something is paid a dear price for, you expect it to perform, don't you? Well, I want to tell you what. You have been bought with a price, a high price, and God expects you to be worth everything he purchased you with. There is no response too radical.
This is what Romans 12:1 says: "I urge you, therefore, brethren, in light of God's incredible mercy, in light of the fact that you have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ, to give your entire life as a living and holy sacrifice, which would be then acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Men, if you are not performing to the fullest of how you were created to perform, then you are creating frustration with the one who purchased you.
He wants to call you to greater performance. Now, by performance, don't think just in terms of what you do. It's not a salute and say, "I'm going to go run hard for you, God." Your character matters more than your career. You're a human being, not a human doing. By performance I mean you were created for a purpose: relationship with God. If you are about something else than living in unity and relationship with God, then you're out of step with him.
When you live in relationship with God, you're empowered to be the person he wants you to be as you love your kids, love your wife, serve your neighbors, make a difference in your workplace, and live a life that is marked by holiness. There is nothing unreasonable you could do in service for God in light of what God has done for you. You're not here to get something out of life; you're here to add something to it.
You were saved for good service; you're not saved by good service. I want to make this clear again so you don't confuse this. You were saved to do good work; you are not saved by good works. That's a little passage in Ephesians 2:8-10.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
You are not saved by your good work, but you are saved with a purpose of doing good work. Do you understand that? That is significant, and that is one of the things that delineates the faith of Jesus Christ from every other faith system in the world. What we do is a response to what he has done. We don't do anything to make him do something for us.
Until you understand that there's nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make God love you less, you don't understand grace, but until your life fully responds to grace by saying, "God, I'll do anything in response to you in light of what you've done for me," you probably also haven't fully understood grace. You are saved by faith alone, but the faith which saves is never alone. It always has a right response with it.
What would you call a non-serving servant? A servant who doesn't serve is a…what? A non-servant. That's what a servant does. A servant serves. A non-serving servant is a non-servant, which means if you're a non-servant, you don't have a master or a king. You can tell me all day long that God is your King, that you live your life on purpose with him, but if you don't live in the fullness of obedience and availing and responding to him, then your life betrays your profession.
If you are not actively engaged in serving God for the sake of his kingdom, then you can tell me all day long that he's your King, but if you're a non-serving servant, you are a non-servant. If you're a non-servant, it means you don't have a master or a king. We're just being consistent enough as men to tell each other that.
If you were created to become like Christ, then you were created to become a servant. There are two places in the Scripture that specifically say, "This is an example for you." One is in John 13. One is in 1 Peter 2. Jesus just got through, as an example of how we should be attentive to the needs of one another, washing the feet of his disciples. That's what's going on in John 13.
He says, "You call me Teacher and Lord. You're right. I am Lord. I am God. If, then, God and your teacher washed your feet…I saw the need that was there, cared for you, and provided for your need…so you also ought to do this with one another. I gave you an example that you should do it as I did." Do you hear what he says? This is one of two places in the Scripture that God specifically says, "This is an example. You want to be like me? Then you must do this kind of thing."
It's not washing feet. Washing feet is a type of what the type of person God wants you to be does. "I did this as an example. Just like I served you, you should serve one another. A slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one sent greater than the one who sent him." Now watch this. "If you know these things, you are blessed if you act on what you know."
Jesus said, "The person who hears my word and does my word is like the wise man who built his house on a rock, but the person who hears my word and doesn't act on it, it doesn't matter. In fact, all he does is create greater judgment for himself, because he knew how he should build his house and he didn't build it that way." Jesus is saying the exact same thing here. "You want to be great? This is the key to greatness: get in step with God and serve him with reckless abandon, consistent with how he has shaped you and made you and created you."
The first place is in John 13 that it says explicitly in the Scriptures, "This is an example: be a servant." The second place is in 1 Peter 2, where it says, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ Jesus suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps." So, you want to know the two places in Scripture that it specifically says, "Here's an example"? You ought to be a suffering servant.
Gang, what does a servant do? A servant does a lot of things. A servant doesn't mind when they're treated like a servant. Sometimes I'm doing stuff and people act like, "That's exactly what he should do," and I kind of go, "Hey, man. Don't they know who I am? Don't they know they should stop and go, 'That's really great, Todd, that you're doing that'?"
When I'm thinking that way, I'm not acting like a servant, because a servant doesn't stop and say, "Hey, do you see that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do? I'd like everybody to stop and take note that I'm doing my job." That's what a servant does: he does his job. A servant doesn't do things to obligate others to do things for him. You don't serve God so God is going to be obligated to do good things for you, and you don't serve other people so somehow they will be obligated to say yes to you when you have to ask of them.
There are a lot of folks who sometimes want to do stuff for people like myself who are in the ministry, and one of the things I tell folks who are in the ministry, especially in their early years, is "You have to be very careful who you say yes to." It's a lot like in the movie It's a Wonderful Life, when Jimmy Stewart's character is sitting there by Mr. Potter, and Mr. Potter is making an offer to him. He says, "Mr. Potter, you're not selling; you're buying."
There are a lot of folks who serve, but they aren't serving; they're obligating. When you serve in order to get somebody to owe you something, you can be sure you're not serving; you are manipulating, and that's not what a servant does. God owes us nothing, and when we walk in the way that God wants us to walk… God, by the way, will tell us that he's not going to forget us.
Just so you can hear this, read Hebrews 6:10. It's one of my favorite verses in the Scripture. "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." We can't keep looking for it here, but you can be sure every time we're faithful as a servant God takes note. He can't wait to celebrate that with us.
A servant is faithful. A servant is somebody who doesn't serve and expect to be rewarded or thanked, doesn't get upset when he's treated like a servant, doesn't serve to obligate others. A servant sees and initiates and helps other people.
I had a guy ask me this this week. He said, "Todd, how come you're consistently in relationship with folks, and there are all kinds of people around people, but you're the only one who shows up when they're in that crisis and has that hard conversation with them to either bring what they're doing to the light or to walk them through this difficult thing?" They go, "How come you're always the one who's in the middle of these things?"
Do you know what my response was? My response was simply this: "Because I have the sense when I'm walking down the road and I see somebody in a ditch that that is my poor victim in my Samaritan's ditch, and I don't want to walk by on the other side and go, 'Surely somebody else is closer to them than I am. Surely somebody else will see that and do something about it.'" When I come across something in a friend's life, even though I have not been the closest person to them in the last six months or six years sometimes…
When I hear about it and somebody says something to me and they pull me into it and I get going, the next thing I know I sometimes find myself on a plane in a different city with some of these guys I've shared life with. They go, "Wagner, how come you're the one who always does something?" and I look at them and go, "The question isn't why I am always the one who does it; the question is why you haven't done it."
A servant doesn't wait for somebody to say, "Would you please do this?" A servant is somebody that when they're walking down the road and they see somebody in a ditch, that's their victim in their ditch. God expects us to love them. There's not a person in your life that when you come across an issue that God can use you in their life that he doesn't expect you to deal with it, no matter how awkward and messy it gets. Love your neighbor. Who's your neighbor? The answer, biblically, is whoever you're near at that time who needs something you can provide.
You will never have a life of meaning until you have a life of ministry. That's what Jesus said in Luke 9:24. If you try to get life on your own terms, control your life, make yourself master, you're going to lose your life, but if you give your life away, you'll find life like you've never known it. True greatness is not defined, according to Mark 10:35-45, by how many men serve you; true greatness is defined by how many men you serve.
We know that. We go to funerals. Do you know what makes a good funeral? It's not when a bunch of folks came and said, "We worked for that man. We came to this funeral because that man was our boss, and, boy, he drove us like nobody's business." There are a thousand employees who worked for him. No. We go to funerals, and the lives we venerate is when there are a thousand people who are out there saying, "We thank God for this servant and the way he blessed every one of us in different ways based on how he was shaped."
How you serve and where you serve is determined by how God made you as his man. If you've always wondered what it is God wants you to do, we have an entire ministry set up to come alongside of you to help you discern how you have been shaped by God, and we want to help you with that. You can write that down: "I want to know how God made me."
The S is spiritual gifts. "But each of you [if you're in a relationship with God] has received a gift. Employ it, then, in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." There are guys in this room who have the gift of teaching, the gift of serving, the gift of hospitality, the gift of shepherding, the gift of leading and administration, the gift of giving. There are all kinds of different gifts.
God embeds a primary gift, sometimes two, in every single person who lives in relationship with him, and the more you mature to become like Christ, the more it's difficult to find out what your primary gift is, but every guy in this room who's in relationship with God has a gift, and you have to find out what that gift is. You find out about that a number of ways. The first thing you should do is you should go, "Where do I find myself drawn? Where do I find myself affirmed in what I'm doing?"
The second thing is heart, your heart's passion. Where do you find yourself constantly drawn? Is there a certain people group, a certain ministry type, a certain life stage that you just go, "I love this opportunity"?
The A is your abilities. Every one of us has been given all kinds of different abilities. What are you good at? Some of you guys have a history in sports. Some of you guys have a history in math. Some of you guys have a history in music. Some of you guys are really good at creating things visually. Every one of us has abilities that can be linked with our heart and the way God has gifted us to be unleashed as his servant the way that only you can be unleashed.
The P is your personal bent, just who you are as a person. God is going to honor that in the way he uses you. One of the great things about the Scriptures is it was written by 40 different authors over 40 generations, 10 different civilizations, 1,500 years.
The reason there's one consistent vein of truth in it is because every one of those guys was used by the Sovereign God to produce a perfect Word, but the reason they're all so different in the way that the perfect Word is communicated is because God never violated anybody's personality. So you have Peter sharing his views this way and Solomon sharing this way, and right on down through. It's going to look a little different in you, but it's going to be divine and consistent with who you are.
Then the E is your experiences. There are some guys in this room who have been through some incredible stuff, who have been through a bankruptcy, who have been through business success. There are guys in this room who have been through trauma, who have been the son of a divorce, who have been through a divorce themselves, who have understood what it is to be around an addictive person, who have been an addictive person themselves.
Every one of your experiences becomes an opportunity for you to come alongside others in God's unique shape of you. Whatever you've done… I don't care how base and godless it is. Even that. What you intended for evil God can use for good. So I'll tell you, men, I don't know where you're coming from, but God is anxious to get you back in the puzzle. Where you serve depends on how you're shaped. You shouldn't be pushed some place you don't fit.
The last little deal is: when you die, you will take your character into eternity, not your career. So, who you are in the midst of this, what we're talking about, is more important than what you do. You were created to be a kingdom-builder, not a comfort-builder. I think Rick Warren says "Not a wealth-builder."
If you are gifted to make a lot of money, make a lot of money, but not for the purpose of making money but for the purpose of building his kingdom; for the purpose not of building greater comfort for yourself but to make a greater difference for him. Until you determine your master, you will never have an ability to clarify your mission. It gets right back to where we started this whole thing: it's not about you. Do you know that?
If it's not about you, then you have to quit saying, "This is awkward. This is hard. This doesn't feel natural to my flesh." It's never going to feel natural to your flesh, because your flesh, like mine, is bent toward evil, but God doesn't tell you to modify and curb your flesh and restrain your flesh; he tells you to crucify your flesh. He tells you the life you now live you should live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and delivered himself up for you.
He tells you you ought to be a person that your purpose in life is to do the eternal and timeless in a contemporary and timely way. You ought to live for something greater than yourself. You guys, like me, are who God specifically and sovereignly placed in the context of this generation in this moment in history. You were, like Esther, created for such a time as this, and the question is…Will you participate with God in those purposes?
A lot of guys want to. The soul of the sluggard is the same as the soul of the diligent. They both crave the same thing, but only those who will partner with God and pursue godliness and pursue his purposes will experience the life we were designed to experience and be marked by the glory God intends for us. Guys, you let us know how we can partner with you and continue to encourage you. Know this: there's no puzzle piece that looks good alone. God wants you to be a part of his tapestry, so you have to snap yourself in in relationship.
If we can process this or why it makes sense that Jesus Christ alone is Master and Lord of your life and how true life is there and how that has changed us, we'd love nothing more than to spend some time with you. Would you let us know how we can serve you? Thanks for sharing these five weeks, guys. We'll be praying that you will continue to live life on purpose. Have a great day.
Self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself, but until you begin with God's reasons for creating you, life will never make sense. So where does real purpose come from and what does it look like? Find out as the men of Watermark study "The Purpose Driven Life" and look at over 1,500 places from God's Word where He answers this question.