How many here today long to live a life of purpose? How many have noticed that purposelessness is killing our society – purposeless living “dehumanizes” people – it causes a society to go on a mad spin for happiness and fulfilment. That need not be – Our Creator designed us to live with purpose and focus.
Throughout the Bible we read about the lives of men and women who were called to purpose, the pages of history are filled with such folks – people around us have found purpose, their lives may not be rich in material sense but it is rich in life itself – maybe that’s you – if it is not, if you are living aimlessly, with a restlessness in your heart the good news is that there is a God who loves you and who designed you to live with purpose.
E.g. Saul Read Acts 9:1-22 or 25. From this story of Paul’s conversion we can draw some personal lessons:
- Recognise we are all bent on destruction
This story begins with Saul “breathing out murderous threats” – he was determined to destroy what was threatening the security and law of the Jews. He was bent on destruction.
E.g. I wonder whether you have ever observed anyone who was just out for a fight – not matter how nice you are, how patient you try and be they are just ready to fight. Maybe like me, you have been that one! Lack of purpose does that to us – boredom, irritation. Kids fighting when they are bored! Road rage – bent on destruction.
So Saul in his religious, righteous zeal is bent on destruction.
And in a sense we can all identify with Saul, because in some ways all of us at some time, maybe in religious zeal or blazen rebellion have been bent on destruction. Maybe not with murderous threats like Saul, but maybe with:
• words of death we have clobbered our family, our spouse, our children, or even ourselves – I say the most hurtful things to people I love the most
• maybe with sinful habits that we have allowed residence in our lives that are slowly but surely destroying us
• maybe by wilful or even unconscious disobedience to God we have turned our back on Him and are doing our own thing
• or misrepresenting Christ and His Gospel by not being very Christ like
It’s easy to judge Saul, until we look at our own hearts and realise the awful truth, that you and I, just as much as Saul have the ability to have hearts and minds that are bent on destruction.
DISCUSSION – talk about what it means in our lives to be “bent on destruction” – may not be as violent as Paul! When do we bring destruction to the lives of others instead of joy & hope? Why do we tend to do it with ones we love the most? E.g. words of anger or harsh answers.
- Respond to god’s holy whammy moments
Now God obviously wanted Saul’s attention, basically to let him know he is being a jerk and to stop it. How do you get someone’s attention who is bent on destruction and determined to have a fight? You knock them senseless. And that’s what God did. And Saul lies there – and when Jesus says “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…”Think about the impact of those words – the knock of the donkey was nothing to the knock of the heart.
For Paul it was of course a far more serious, spiritual awakening. His whole upbringing on law and deeds had still left him in darkness, only Christ could rescue him, wake him. His paradigm shift was what Jesus called being born again – not in the natural, but in the spiritual sense.
Our “holy whammy”, moments are all different:
• whispers in our heart and mind that question purpose and life – personal example – life seemed so empty
• stupor of drugs and alcohol God came through
• searching for more because loneliness or depression
• dramatic like Paul, audible voice
• friend who challenged you with the truth of God’s love
Many years after his holy whammy moment, Paul would write:
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Maybe you’ve had a holy whammy moment and never responded, or today - what will you do. True paradigm shifts are evidenced by a change of life, actions and words.
DISCUSSION: Discuss your “holy whammy” moments – when did you have a significant paradigm shift? How has that changed you?
- Discover your purpose by serving others
11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." 13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Saul’s whole life was a preparation for this moment – a moment when bent on destruction, God knocked him off his donkey with a violent, holy whammy, in that instant his paradigm was changed to the realisation – that life is so much bigger than he had thought.
That God of the heavens had pursued him, that he was about to become an instrument of purpose to bring the Good News to OTHERS!!!!
Paul’s whole life turned from self-righteous pursuit to the pursuit of others.
That God of the heavens had pursued him, that he was about to become an instrument of purpose to bring the Good News to OTHERS!!!! Paul’s whole life turned from self-righteous pursuit to the pursuit of others. One of the greatest addictions of all time is our addiction to self. In his very raw and in your face book about the journey of a follower of Christ, Don Miller says (Blue like Jazz): “The most difficult like I have ever contended with is this: LIFE IS A STORY ABOUT ME.
I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have had habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self addiction.”
JESUS DID NOT TEACH THAT – He truly understands the brokenness of the human heart – and going counter culture, against popular demand He says to the potential follower:
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
IF this truth really penetrated our hearts we would live differently, we would act differently we would talk differently.If we truly believed the words of Christ – that as His followers we are here to serve the Kingdom purpose of others and not ourselves then we would:
• Not be offended anymore , or at least not as easily and frequently as we are. Touchy, sensitive – because you have a little robot in your mind that tells you everyday “What about me, what about me, what about me!!”
• We would no longer be so concerned about where we fit , whether all our gifts are being used just the way we would like. Because if it is not about us, but about others, it doesn’t matter where the Captain of the Army puts you – Soldier, you have a job to do – and this war is not about whether you are in a position of prominence but whether you are willing to roll up your sleeves and give it your all.
Freedom is found in this paradox. The world says we will be happy when we pursue the gains of self, and God says you will find true fulfilment when you learn to loose your life for others.
The gifts you possess, the attributes you bring to the table of a community are there to bring Christ to that setting – our gifts are not something we are given to be arrogant about, to boast about, to compare to others – your gifts are given to you for one purpose – for the good of others. They are given to you by God and He is expecting a return.
As followers of Christ we are forbidden to bury these gifts and talents (leadership, service, administration, helps, mercy) because of hurts, or fear, or offence, or selfish pursuit – as followers of Christ we know that these gifts are given for us to invest into the lives of others – it is there that we truly find what life is all about.
TO DO - why don’t you do some homework and test me on this. Find out how much of your thoughts and actions have to do with you
• Start praying God use me for your Kingdom and for the good of others
• Start consciously replacing selfish thoughts with prayers for others
• Start doing random acts of kindness everyday for others
• begin a new habit – and find out how the Holy Spirit will assist you in this, and how suddenly your own needs seem to be met as you help others.
2 Cor 5:14-15
14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
DISCUSSION: Discuss Don Miller’s comments about self-addiction – does that ring true? How do we notice that in our own lives? What are some things we can do to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in focusing our lives on others? Why do you think people who are other focused are some of the happiest and most content individuals we know?
- Embrace the love of others
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
The great apostle Paul lived his life with and for people, and there were many times when he received from others. Right at his conversion the Lord showed him this – the independent, highly educated man desperately needed Barnabas to come and pray for him. It was both a humbling and a moving moment. This was one of the people he was bent on destroying, and now he came and ministered to him.
One of the greatest lessons in life of the kingdom is to learn to received from others – God puts us in community – to give, to learn and to receive.
We all so desperately need a Barnabas. A person, or people that God puts in our lives, often through obscure and bizarre situations that minister to us. They are gifts from God.
And there are some of you here who are so very comfortable at serving, and your service is so wonderful and so precious. But God is also wanting to teach you to allow the community of your brothers and sisters to serve you, to love you, to pray for you, to minister to you. You find this so hard.
Maybe perfection and performance was what was demanded of you all your growing years. Maybe you feel if people really knew you they would not love you, or maybe you have come to evaluate everything through those lenses – and relationships are not working in your life because no one is measuring up to your expectations. Yet the thought of authentic relationship built on trust, openness and vulnerability terrifies you.
We live in a broken, fragmented world – and to face that in ourselves is a terrifying exercise. Yet it is from this position – of our own neediness – that healing, growth and transformation can really happen. Not just as we serve other, but also allowing others to be the hands and feet of Christ in our own lives.
God wants us to start dismantling the barricades in our lives:
• say thank you when complimented
• accept with gratitude when someone offers to do something for you
• be part of a small group where you are known and loved, where people pray for you and you are held accountable
God has created us as tribal creatures. We are destroyed when we refuse to recognise this. Learn to live in the tribe – to love and to be loved.
DISCUSSION: Do you find it easy to receive love and affirmation? What are some of the barricades you have put in your life to keep others out? Why?
God is a God of community – how should this truth affect our lives?
Saul’s life was never the same again.
It was not a life of comfort, safety and pleasantries – far from it – it was a life fraught with danger, heartache, pain, suffering and eventually martyrdom – but for a man who was knocked off a donkey in relentless pursuit of meaning – it was the only life worth living.
1 Cor 9:24-2524 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.