1 Peter 4:7-11 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
As Christians, we believe that understanding purpose doesn’t start with us, but with God. It’s not about what we do well or what we enjoy or dream about, but rather it is about what God has in mind for our lives. We believe has made us on purpose for a purpose. We have been created for God’s pleasure (Rev. 4:11). God also has good works planned for us that are unique and specific to each one of us (Eph.2:10) that we are to accomplish. The fact that our lives are to glorify God and bring Him delight and also that each one of us is here for a specific reason gives our lives meaning and purpose. Without embracing those realities we are left to wonder and sort of wander through life.
As Author and Pastor Rick Warren has said, “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/498377-without-god-life-has-no-purpose-and-without-purpose-life) I Peter 4 reminds us life is short. The world will come to an end. One day we will come to an end. Both could happen today. Because of those realities, we must have a sense of urgency about our purpose for living and find the motivation and dedication to live that purpose out. How do we discover and live out our purposes here in our our personal lives, our spiritual lives, and our relational lives?
1. Let’s talk first about our personal lives. Peter tells us in verse 7 in our passage
that we should be clear minded and self-controlled. Decisions we make every day about how much money to spend, whether to exercise or not, what we put in our bodies, how much time to give to TV and the computer, how far to extend ourselves in our friendships, how many activities we can cram into our family’s schedule, how to manage our attitudes and actions—all are very critical when it comes to success in living out our purpose.
Compromises in our personal lives, lapses in our integrity, impulsive decisions, a lack of self-discipline, financial strain, being over committed, all of these can steal our focus, get us off center, and keep us from living on purpose. While I can’t tackle the whole topic of what it means to live a disciplined or ordered personal life I want to address two things I believe Peter is calling our attention to.
What does it mean to be “clear-minded?” If I were to describe this generation or this time period in our culture I would say as one comment about our world in general is that it seems people are fueled by emotion. This is the drama generation. The fact that Jerry Springer still has a show on television (I mean the fact that people are still watching it!) suggests to me that we almost thrive on chaos and on emotion-led situations that often escalate out of control. I feel we are confronted all of the time with a lack of courtesy, kindness and restraint whether in the marketplace, in the workplace or on social media which also suggests to me that people are living at an emotionally high pitch today.
This is just my opinion, but I believe if we were managing our personal lives better when it comes to our emotional selves we wouldn’t see so many quick-tempered, rude, or impulsive decisions being made that have negative consequences for our families, our friendships and our communities overall. Many have adopted an “It’s my right to spew out what I think and feel” mentality and in many cases as a result, truth and logic have taken the back seat while emotion is what is driving many people’s personal lives. We have to find a way to dial down the emotional and often dramatic way we are communicating with and responding to each other.
Being clear-minded involves being led by the truth and being willing to hear the truth and embrace what that truth means for our lives. We need to ask ourselves, “God am I thinking appropriately about this situation or is what I am feeling getting in the way of me being able to effectively, appropriately and truthfully work through this situation?” Until we gain God’s perspective on any situation, how we feel about it really has little to do with how we should respond to it.
Peter also says concerning our personal lives that we should be “self-disciplined.” If we consider God’s purposes for our lives to be like goals we are to set for ourselves, we must learn to manage ourselves and motivate ourselves in order to achieve those goals. Something else that is alarming to me about the time in which we now live is what appears to me to be a lack of ambition and drive. The rewards that come with hard work no longer seem to motivate people to want something better or different. An entitlement mentality has become pervasive in our society. I was racking my brain trying to figure out how we have arrived to the place where people will just take what they can get or settle for something less than they have the potential to achieve. I heard about a little girl who told her teacher when she grew up that she wanted to be a “drawer.” Yes. A drawer. Oh not an artist, but someone who just draws a check from the government each month. Where are the dreams our children are dreaming for themselves? Where is the aspiration to believe and become something unique or special? Why don’t people want more? Why have so many stopped dreaming? As I mulled it over, I was simply led to this thought: We either no longer want what God wants for our lives or we don’t believe what He wants is possible. Because God wants an abundant life for us (John 10:10).
I grew up hearing that God had a plan for my life. God made me for a special purpose. God had great plans for me. He wanted to use me. I was on earth for a reason. My job was to develop the gifts and talents I had to the best of my ability so I could be ready to be used whenever God called me. All of that motivated me. I wanted to learn to sing better, to play instruments, to read music, to do Community Theater and competitive speaking and get used to speaking in front of groups of people. I wanted to do well in school. I had a desire to further my education so I could be at my best not just to make a good living, but to make my Maker pleased. Wanting what God wanted for my life motivated me to practice piano, to practice singing, to do well in school, to refrain from activities that harmed my body, etc.
It seems many are simply looking for the short cut, the easy route, the express lane and the idea of paying your dues, taking the time to develop and cultivate that future has gone by the wayside. Lazy living has lowered many people’s standard of living. That’s not what God desires. Christians, we are to aspire to become what God has intended and self-discipline, focus, determination, hard work, setting goals and taking the steps to achieve them, that’s the way to experience life on purpose in our personal lives.
The late great evangelist Billy Sunday said, “More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.” What is God’s purpose for your personal life?
Tom Landry said, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/d/discipline.htm)
What is it that you dream of in your personal life? Ask God if it is His dream for you and then develop a “whatever it takes” mentality through clear minded thinking and self-discipline work to make it happen.
2. Peter also addresses our spiritual lives in this passage. He offers in verse 7 that
a clear-minded and self-disciplined life will enable us to pray. A lack of clarity and a lack of discipline will keep us from praying. It’s true. Worry will keep us from praying. Drama will keep us stirred up emotionally and cloud our thinking and we know that when we pray emotionally we aren’t apt to pray according to God’s will but our own.
If we are going to get anything right it will be because we have sought God in prayer. Notice the order of things in this passage. Peter says, “Get your mind cleared up and get to prayer. Only then can you love correctly (verse 8). Only then can you serve correctly (verse 9). Only then can you distribute God’s grace correctly (verse 10). Only then can you speak on God’s behalf correctly (verse 11). Thinking correctly and seeking God correctly precede getting our spiritual purpose correct.
To be more specific, not only should we be people of prayer, but we should be praying specifically about all of those things I just mentioned. God, will you show me how to purposefully love people in my life? God, will show me how to be the most effective I can in serving others? God, will you help me know how best for your grace to flow through me? God, will you anoint my words and lead me to say the things on purpose at the right time to the right people to reap Your desired harvest?
The Christian’s strategy for a winning life is to pray.
Peter also says about our spiritual lives is that to live with purpose we need to rely on the power of God’s strength (verse 11). How many of you know that living on purpose with a purpose is hard work? It is exhausting. It takes a toll on a person. That is why we must not rely on our own strength. We must walk in the power of the Spirit. We must leave results up to God. We must use the weapons of our warfare that Ephesians 6 describes. We must let God precede us into battle. We must let God open and close doors and be in charge of the future.
In a seminary missions class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.
Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, “Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson’s astonishment, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.
J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians l:19-20, “How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God.” When we make firm our connection with God, his life and power flow through us. (Ernest B. Beevers. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/power.htm)
Verse 11 of our main passage says we are to live life in the power and strength God provides. David knew what it was like to rely on God’s power when he went up against the giant named Goliath in I Samuel 17. King Saul suggested David wear the King’s armor in the battle against Goliath. Not only was it completely too big and awkward for the young man David to wear, it represented reliance on himself and his strength. Listen, when we are in a battle, when we are faced with a challenge, it’s not about what we can bring to the fight. It’s not about trying to add something to our arsenal, but it is about relying fully on God for Him to deliver us.
“Well, if I just make this connection with this person, I can make something happen.” “Well, if I just make this impression in this situation, I can making something happen.” “If I can just study hard enough to outsmart my opponent I can score the win.” It’s not about what we can do. David didn’t try to become anything other than who he had always been. He brought his shepherd’s sling and some stones with him because that represented who he was and who he had always been. What made the difference wasn’t his skill as a slingshot expert, but what made the difference was the power of God. God directed that stone to the right place on Goliath’s temple and it killed him instantly.
David was never depending on his slingshot for victory. Not for a minute. He said to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45 “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
The first step to relying on God’s power is admitting you’re weak. II Corinthians 12:10 tells us when we are weak, that is when we find strength. When we realize it’s not about our expertise or anything we can bring to the fight, but it is all about resting in God’s power. Obtaining power begins with an attitude of meekness and humility.
Gladys Aylward rightly has been called the most noted single woman missionary of the 20th century. Her story has been told in a popular biography, a film starring Ingrid Bergman, and a BBC ‘This Is Your Life’ feature.
If you’d met Gladys in her younger days, however, you would have wondered what all the fuss was about. Born into a working-class family, Gladys did poorly in school and began working as a maid at the age of 14. She would have remained in that life for life if God had not intervened.
A pastor’s wife with a passion for the lost — whether they be rich or poor — won Gladys to the Lord. After her conversion in her mid-twenties, Gladys began dreaming of telling the lost about her Savior. And not just in the corner of London where she worked. She felt distinctly called by God to go to China as a missionary.
The mission board to which she applied couldn’t have been less enthusiastic. That didn’t hinder Gladys. She set out by train across Europe and Asia. That she made it to China is a miracle. On one occasion, Gladys found herself in a deserted train, stranded in Siberia — less than a mile from where Russian and Chinese soldiers were at war.
Once in China, God allowed Gladys to undergo some harrowing experiences, but used her to win many Chinese to Himself. She demonstrated courage and physical endurance where many a man would have wilted. The secret wasn’t her background, education, or missionary training. By all those standards, she didn’t measure up. But because her life was centered on God alone, He was pleased to demonstrate His power through her.
Listen, God will infuse His power into the life of anyone who is committed to His purpose! (http://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/11573044/) If you are stressed out and struggling to find motivation to make it through the day perhaps you are not only working in your own strength, but you are working on your own plan. Whatever God has for you won’t drain you and leave you empty, but it will energize and inspire you to see it to completion!
Finally, Peter addresses how we live on purpose relationally. Listen, God has put you here not just to become something but to impact someone.
We are to love and serve others (verses 8 and 9). Again, looking at the order of Peter’s words, love is first in the lineup when the relational aspects are discussed. LOVE, not self or power should be the basis for all of our relationships. We are to love others the way God in Christ has loved us; unconditionally, and with great sacrifice. God could have “made” us love Him or made us serve Him or made us work for Him. He had the power to do that. But He didn’t. Instead He came to make an investment in us, to walk alongside us, to heal us, to help us, to teach us. When we were worth nothing, He acted as if we were invaluable and worth any sacrifice to see a turnaround in our lives. Because of what Jesus said to people and did for people they were able to do things and become people they had never dreamed possible.
Part of our life’s purpose involves making an investment in others, leaving an impact on their lives and leaving an imprint on their hearts. That happens through relationships. I believe love has the most impact when it’s “just because.” When someone wants to spend time with you just because they see you are lonely or just because they enjoy your company, when someone wants to treat you to a special event or dinner just because you were on their mind and they wanted to bless you, when someone wants to invest in you just because they see you have great potential and with a little mentoring a little encouragement you could go so far, when someone wants to give you something just because they know it would mean so much to you . . .JUST BECAUSE.
God in Christ demonstrated “just because” love. Why did He send Christ to die for us? It wasn’t because He needed us to do anything for Him or because He thought we could add anything to Him. There was no SELF expressed in Jesus’ coming to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin. There was not concern for what was in it for Him because the only thing in it for Him was death. Not too many people consider that to be a bonus! You know what I’m saying? It was JUST BECAUSE God loved us that He gave His Son to wipe up our mess. And what an impact that kind of extravagant love has made on the entire world!
“No man is an island.” Not one of us can make it on our own. As one author has said, “If you ever see a turtle on top of a fence post you will know he didn’t get there by himself.” The Christian community should lead the way in mentoring and encouraging and training those who are coming behind us and in strengthening those who are in leadership in our lives now. I doubt the Apostle Paul would have made it without Barnabus. In Acts 9:26 and 27 when the disciples were afraid of Saul turned Paul who had murdered Christians yet now claimed to be walking in the way of Christ, Barnabus stood up for Paul and convinced the others he was the real thing. You could argue that Barnabus helped get Paul’s ministry started.
Everywhere Barnabus went he invested in lifting people up. Even people who messed up were lifted up by Barnabus. He was adamant about partnering with John Mark on a missionary journey even though John Mark had deserted a missionary party previously. How many of you know someone who was at one time a follower of Jesus who has become a deserter of the way and needs to get back on track? All of us need people who will vouch for us, defend us and give us a fresh start. Where are the Barnabuses today who are living to make others better?
We also need to see the value of strategically mentoring those God has placed in our lives. Every person here needs a “Paul” and needs to be a “Paul” to someone else. Paul let Onesimus, Titus, Luke, and Silas and others be part of his ministry. He let them hang out with him and learn from watching and listening. Paul saw special potential in Timothy and he set aside time to train and teach him how to become a servant of the Lord.
Every adult in this room needs to become a special friend to someone else and in a lot of cases it needs to be someone who is younger; someone you can see potential in that you can support and encourage and help train in their profession and in their Christian walk. Timothy not only had Paul pouring into his life, but we read in II Timothy 2:5 how his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, purposefully instructed him in his faith. Grandparents and parents don’t underestimate the role you play in the development of your grandchildren and children’s purpose.
I Peter 4:10 tells us as we love one another and serve one another through those relationships God’s grace flows through us into the lives of those we seek to touch. Part of our life’s purpose involves making a difference in the lives of others through our relationships. As a wise man once said, “There can be no effect without a cause.” (http://rapgenius.com/Voltaire-candide-iii-lyrics#lyric) Don’t you want your life to count? Don’t you want your life to speak? Don’t you want your life to have an impact? Don’t you want to make a difference in the world for the Kingdom of God?
So, we’re keeping it real in this sermon series. Here’s the punch line. It’s not about you. It’s about God’s plans for you and it’s about God’s plans through you for someone else. May God help each one of us find our purpose by living on purpose.