Monday, May 10, 2010

R12: Do you know God's purpose for your life?

This morning we continue, and conclude, the section on Sober Self-Assessment by answering the final life question, "what am I supposed to do?" This question weighs heavily on many of us and the answer is different at different times in our lives. For many, graduation is right around the corner and thousands are right now asking themselves this question. Some are praying about it, and some of those have a misguided doctrine of what they're looking for for an answer. The book, Decision Making and the Will of God is outlined around a anecdotal case of an unmarried couple who is seeking God's will in their lives. They become paralyzed by indecision because they don't have a 'religious experience' or some audible answer to their prayers. They wrongly think that because they don't feel a "calling" towards a particular vocation that that means they are not to pursue that path. They also "put out a fleece" for their relationship and are surprised that God does not answer those prayers either. These are common approaches to try and discern God's will in our lives, but Biblically those methods are the exception, not the rule. Romans 12 has already taught us that discovering God's will is as simple as wholly surrendering to Him.

Chip Ingram makes this simpler than voices from heaven, a stirring in your heart, or a wager with God. He points out that we all have been given spiritual gifts and that when our gifts are aligned with our passions, we are doing God's will. That doesn't mean ministry, that doesn't mean jobs or marriage. Those big questions are better left surrendering to God that He knows best and then stepping out on faith. (another good book I recommend on this subject is Kevin DeYoung's Just Do Something) But the daily living of a Christ-like life involves making decisions based on the best knowledge you have. If you have a sober self-assessment, are at peace with where God has placed you and a conviction that you belong to Christ's Church as a unique part of His Body, then you need to next identify your spiritual gifts so that you can make the best choices you can.

I mentioned it before, but the Living on the Edge series, Your Divine Design, is a great resource to answer this question. And I don't believe it is coincidence this series is going on right now. Without getting into the weeds on this subject (and avoiding the ongoing debate over what manifestations of the Holy Spirit apply today), let me just say that Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 are the Biblical foundations to define these gifts. Some of these you may be familiar with, some may require an extra measure of faith to discern. But we all have at least one of these, and doing God's will involves putting these gifts to use.

The best answer to the question "what am I supposed to do?", is to identify your primary spiritual gift and aligning that gift with your personal passions. The former is a gift from God and should not change through your life, though it may mature and grow. The latter is a function of your station in life and changes with changing circumstances. A parent to young children have different passions than the graduate from high school, for example. And it's also important to point out that spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents. Natural talents you have from birth, but spiritual gifts are received in the waters of baptism. Spiritual gifts however, may leverage your natural talents.

So step back and look at where you are. Identify what you're passionate about. (To get a feel for what I'm talking about, click the "ministry" label to the right, or just follow this link.) Study the passages above and discover your spiritual gifts. Then pray about how the three may align (I say three here because you may be passionate about the needs in Haiti and may have the spiritual gift of healing, but you have two infant children and a tight budget- I would argue that it wouldn't be wise to sell everything you have to go on a mission trip to Haiti- while you need to be faithful, you also need to be wise). Remember also that you are part of Christ's Body, so first seek how to employ your gifts and passions in service to the Church. I've found that usually everything then flows from there. And again, this changes with time and circumstance. I had to step back from leading the pre-teen ministry when my first child was born, but I continue to teach Sunday School and I mentor a teen so I didn't bury my talent.

Finally, I cannot leave this subject without pounding my fist on this last point- the Church needs you to identify and use your spiritual gift. That may sound dramatic, but I have a strong conviction of this based on Ephesians 4:7-16 that the Church cannot and will not grow unless we are putting these gifts to use, until "each part does its work."

Think: What is the value of discovering and deploying your primary spiritual gift?
Reflect: How have you thought about your spiritual gifts in the past? Highly important? Somewhat important? Mostly confused?
Understand: How clear are you on "what you are supposed to do" with your life? Do you feel motivated or confused by the question? What do you think your primary spiritual gift might be?
Surrender: Ask God to make clear what your Ephesians 2:10 "mission" is in this lift. Tell Jesus you are willing to follow if He will show you what you are supposed to do (John 7:17).
Take Action: As a quick shortcut to "test the waters," ask yourself: "What do I love to do? What am I good at?" Then go try it for six weeks.
Motivation: Do whatever it takes to discover your primary spiritual gift. Determine a time to listen to the full-length audio message "How to Discover Your Primary Spiritual Gift" from the series "Your Divine Design" at R12 online. [follow the R12 button on the right and this message is found in the Self Assessment tab under "free resources" or you can also find this lesson right now from the Living on the Edge main page.]
Encourage Someone: Send a gift card this week to someone whose spiritual gift God has used to impact your life. Thank them for using the gift God gave them.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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