Shaped For Serving God
SHAPED FOR SERVING GOD
The Purpose Driven Life – Part 5
Saddleback Church – Lake Forest, Calif.
October 26-27, 2002
Sermon Outline Notes
“We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good
works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph. 2:10 (NIV)
“Your hands shaped me and made me.” Job 10:8 (NIV)
Spiritual Gifts Heart Abilities Personality Experiences
“Each one should use whatever gift he’s received to serve others.”
1 Pet. 4:10 (NIV)
MY 4th PURPOSE IS TO
SERVE GOD BY SERVING OTHERS
Jesus: “Your attitude must be like My Own, for I did not come to be
served, but to serve...” Matt. 20:28 (LB)
LEARNING TO SERVE LIKE JESUS
1. SERVING LIKE JESUS MEANS BEING AVAILABLE.
“Two blind men... shouted, ‘Lord, have mercy on us!’ ... Jesus
stopped and called them. ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’
He asked.” Matt. 20:30-32 (NIV)
“Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can
help them now.” Prov. 3:28 (TEV)
1st Barrier: SELF-CENTEREDNESS
“Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Phil. 2:4 (MSG)
2nd Barrier: PERFECTIONISM
“If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything
done.” Eccl. 11:4 (NLT)
3rd Barrier: MATERIALISM
“No servant can serve two masters... You cannot serve both
God and money." Luke 16:13 (NIV)
2. SERVING LIKE JESUS MEANS BEING GRATEFUL.
“Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have
heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this for the
benefit of the people standing here...’" John 11:41-42 (NIV)
“Serve the Lord with gladness.” Ps. 100:2 (KJV)
“It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work not because
we deserved it but because that was His plan...” 2 Tim. 1:9 (LB)
1st Barrier: COMPARING & CRITICIZING
“Who are you to criticize someone else's servant? The Lord will
determine whether His servant has been successful.”
Rom. 14:4 (GW)
2nd Barrier: WRONG MOTIVATIONS
“When you do good deeds, don't try to show off. If you do, you
won't get a reward from your Father in heaven.” Matt. 6:1 (CEV)
3. SERVING LIKE JESUS MEANS BEING FAITHFUL.
“I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You
gave me to do.” John 17:4 (NIV)
“The one thing required of servants is that they be faithful...”
1 Cor. 4:2 (TEV)
“Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that
nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort.”
1 Cor. 15:58 (MSG)
“He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how
you have shown your love to Him by caring for other
Christians.” Heb. 6:10 (NLT)
“'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!” Matt. 25:21 (NIV)
Ministry Fair on Patio
For three weeks, Elvis’ album of greatest hits has been the number one album in the nation, 25 years after the guy died! Now in spite of enormous success, Elvis was, according to friends, an unfulfilled and unhappy man. He died of obesity and drug dependency at 42. And in an interview with his wife, Priscilla, she said this about her husband: “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. That agonizing desire was always with him and he knew he wasn’t fulfilling it. So he’d go on stage and he wouldn’t have to think about it.” Elvis didn’t have a clue where to begin to look. In a sense, he was lost.
And today we’re continuing our 40 Days of Purpose, and we’re going to look at God’s fourth purpose for your life, there on the top of your outline…you were Shaped to Serve God. Elvis felt like he was here to do something, to serve, to preach, to save…to do something with his life, but he just couldn’t quite figure it out, said his wife. I don’t want you to make that mistake.
The Bible says this, let’s read it together in Eph. 2:20, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Would you circle the word “workmanship”? 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 is not the duration of your life, but the donation of your life. On this planet nobody gets a free ride. We’re all meant to give something back. We’re all meant to make a contribution. The Bible says we’re created to serve, we’re saved to serve, we’re gifted to serve, we’re shaped to serve. We’re commanded to serve God back.
Now whenever God gives us an assignment to do something, He never gives it to us without equipping us first. And in the next verse Job says, “Your hands shaped me and made me.” (Job 10:8). And of course here at Saddleback we’ve talked about this many times, that God uses five things to shape you: Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. That spells ‘SHAPE’. Those five things make you, and God uniquely shapes you, different from anybody else in the world, for a purpose. And that purpose is to serve Him. Now we’re not going to go into detail today on these five things (the spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences) because we cover them in Class 301 and because you’re going to be reading about them in detail this week in your daily readings. But I do want you to notice this, God made you unique and your uniqueness is not for your benefit. Look at the next verse. Let’s read it aloud: 1Pet. 4:10, “Each of us should use whatever gift he’s received to make a lot of money”. Oh! That’s not what it says! It says we’re to use whatever God’s given us to what? Serve others! Your talents are not for your benefit. Do you remember the first line in the Purpose Driven Life book? “It’s not about you.” Your purpose in life is to be what God made you to be. And He gave you gifts and talents and abilities and background and experiences and all these things for the benefit of other people, to be used by serving others.
So write this down, “My fourth purpose in life is to serve God by serving others.” You want to know why you’re alive? That’s why you’re alive. You weren’t put here just to take up space, consume and get a free ride through life. You were put here to serve God and the way you serve God is by serving other people. Now, some people want to serve God; they just don’t want to serve others. But you can’t do that. The only way you can serve God is by serving others. You serve God by serving others.
Now the Bible has a word for this, it’s called “ministry”. And again, like worship and fellowship and discipleship, the words we looked up the last three weeks, this is a misunderstood word. When I say the word “minister” most people think of priest, pastor. They think of somebody who wears those funny collars, or a robe, and talks like [close to microphone, in a deep voice, drawing out the word] “GOD”, and you know, that kind of stuff! But the Bible says every believer is a minister. Now, not every believer is a pastor, but every believer is a minister. Ministry simply means using my shape to help somebody else in the name of God. Any time you use your talents, your abilities, your background, your experiences to help somebody else, you know what that’s called? Ministering. And you know what you are? You’re a minister.
In the Bible the word “service” and “ministry” are the same word. And in the Bible “servant” and “minister” are the same word. So all of us are called to ministry. So you say “I’m not called to ministry”. Oh yes you are! If you are called to salvation, you are called to serve. And so, God’s going to talk to you today about your ministry. Before we do, I want you to turn to the person next to you and say “You’re a minister”. Go ahead, just say that right now. Now, unfortunately I can’t get us all tax deductions on that! But the truth is every Christian is a minister. Any time you use your talent to help somebody else, you are ministering. You are serving. And it’s the fourth purpose of your life. All women are ministers. All men are ministers. All little kids, all old people, if we’re believers, we’re all called to serve Jesus Christ.
Now remember, I said in the very first week of this series that life is preparation for what? For eternity, right! What God wants you to do while you’re here, the 60, 80, 90 years, is practice for what you’re going to do in heaven forever and ever and ever. And one of the things you’re going to do in heaven is serve God and serve others. And what God put you on earth to do is practice, practice, practice! He wants you to learn how to serve, and we’re going to talk about that today.
Now the good news is that God not only created us for service, He gave us a model. He came to earth Himself and said “This is how you do it. I want you to watch Me”. And so he came to earth in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, and He said, “This is what I want you to do with your life”. You were created to be like Christ, and what did Christ do while He was here on earth? He served. Notice the next verse. Let’s read it aloud together: Matt. 20:28, “Jesus said, ‘Your attitude must be like My own, for I did not come to be served, but to serve’.” Now listen to this, because this is real important. Your SHAPE (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, experiences) your SHAPE determines your ministry, but your attitude determines your maturity. Big difference. Your SHAPE determines your ministry. You want to know what God wants you to do with your life? Look at your spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences. But your attitude, your servant heart, determines your maturity. And I know a lot of people who figure out their SHAPE, but don’t get this second part down, and so that’s what we’re going to focus on tonight. Tonight we’re going to look at learning to serve like Jesus.
You know a lot of people spend so much of their time searching for self-esteem, for self-worth, and significance. They want to feel good about themselves. But they’re looking in all the wrong places! You don’t get your self-worth from success, because there’s always somebody else who does a better job. You don’t get your self-esteem from status. You don’t get your self-esteem from sex. You don’t get your self-esteem from your salary. The Bible says you get your self-esteem from service. Jesus said to give your life away in order to find it. We’re going to look at that tonight, because the greatest thrill in the world is to be used by God.
Adam Watts wrote that song for this series. Now the greatest thrill in life is to be used by God, to be used in serving Him. And what does it take to be used and to learn to serve like Jesus? Well it takes three things. Number one, write this down. Serving like Jesus means being available. It means being available. One day Jesus was walking down to go to Jericho and some blind men start yelling at him. And the Bible says this (Matt. 20:30-32): “Two blind men shouted ‘Lord, have mercy on us! Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’.”
Now I want you to circle the word “stopped”. Jesus stopped. If you want to be used by God, if you want to serve God, you must be willing to be interrupted. Would you write that down? You must be willing to be interrupted. Most of Jesus’ ministry and most of Jesus’ miracles were interruptions. You think about it. All the people he healed – the blind man, the lame man, the sick people, the paralyzed man, the dead child – all of them were interruptions. His first miracle? Interrupted at a wedding. He second miracle? Interrupted on the way to Galilee. It says, “Jesus stopped”. You know a lot of people like to follow the steps of Jesus? I like to study the stops of Jesus. You ought to go study the stops, and study how many times Jesus stopped in ministry. Almost every miracle Jesus did, He did it because He let Himself be interrupted. Almost all the ministry He did, He did it because He allowed Himself to be interrupted. The Bible says this: Prov. 3:28, read it with me, “Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now.” Servant-hearted people don’t procrastinate. They’re spontaneous, they’re sensitive, and they say “OK, let’s do it!”
Here was John Wesley’s motto:
Do all the good you can by all the means you can by all the ways you
can in all the places you can and at all the times you can to all the people
you can as long as you ever can.
That, my friends, is greatness. And that’s what it means to be shaped to serve God. You must be available. You must be willing to step out and say “OK, out of my comfort zone, God what do You want me to do?” There are hurting people all around us, and the wounded will not wait. We’ve got to help them now. Now what keeps us from being available? You see a lot of us say “I’d like to be used by God. I’d like His power in my life. I’d like to serve God, but I’m just not available.” And what is it that keeps us from being available? Let me give three common barriers. Number one: self-centeredness. The Bible says, “Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand.” (Phil. 2:4) Whenever you see a need right in front of you, guess what? God is giving you the opportunity to practice serving. Let me say it again. Any time you have a need right in front of your face, and it’s real obvious, somebody needs help. God is giving you the opportunity to learn to serve, to learn to be like Jesus Christ. You see the number one enemy of compassion is busyness. We just get too busy! And because I’m so busy, I don’t have time to serve. I’ve got my agenda, my plans, my dreams, my goals, my ambitions. You know what the problem is? We hang this [Pastor holds up a “do not disturb sign”] on the door of our heart, “Do Not Disturb.” We do it all the time. We say, “do not disturb”. “Don’t disturb my heart. I’ve got my goals. I’ve got my safe little life going here, so don’t disturb me for the needs of other people.”
You know every once in a while I get invited to speak somewhere and they’ll put me up in one of these real fancy hotels. And I’ve learned that they have these guys called “concierge”. Now these guys are really cool. They’re paid to just do whatever you ask them to do. They’re paid to be servants. One time I was in Washington D.C. and I had a page of the Bible I needed to get framed. I didn’t know where there was a framing store in Washington D.C. I went down to the concierge and I said, “I need to get this thing framed.” And the guy got it all fixed up. I mean, he instantly knew what to do with it. But I have to admit, whenever I go down and talk to these guys, these concierge, you know, I’m like, “Where’s the best BBQ in town?” you know, which is usually the number one thing I’m asking a concierge. I always feel a little apologetic, like, “I don’t mean to bother you. I’m ready sorry to ask this but…”, and every time the guys say, “Mr. Warren, you’re no bother. You’re no bother. This is what we do!” You see, real servants don’t mind being interrupted. If you really have a servant heart, like Jesus Christ, you don’t mind being interrupted because your agenda is God’s agenda, and you get up in the morning and you say “OK, God, you want to bring somebody in my life today? Bring them in! Bring them on!” I say it again. Almost every miracle and almost every act of ministry Jesus did, He did when He was interrupted. We have this self-centeredness that gets in the way and gets to be a barrier.
A second barrier to being used by God…is perfectionism. Perfectionism. You know, wanting every thing to be perfect. You know, “When it’s all just right, when things settle down, then I’ll serve.” Let’s read Eccl. 11:4 together: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.” Would anybody like to give a testimony on that verse? Real servants, Christ-like servants, do the best they can with what they have for Jesus Christ today. They don’t wait. You see what’s happened in America, is we have a made an idol out of excellence. We really have. And many people worship excellence, even Christians. And they say “Well, you know if you can’t do it first class, don’t even try.” Well, there’s a Greek term for that…hogwash! OK?
At Saddleback we don’t believe that. At Saddleback we practice what we call “The Good Enough Principle”. And The Good Enough Principle is this: it doesn’t have to be perfect for God to bless it. That’s the truth. If God only used perfect people, what would get done in this world? Nothing, zip, zero! We’re all a bunch of misfits. We all have weaknesses. We all have faults. We all have failures. We all have handicaps. But guess what? God uses us all. Why? Because God doesn’t use perfect people because there aren’t any. There aren’t enough superstars in this world to get it done. God uses normal people. We have seen Exhibit A of that in the 40 Days of Purpose as nearly 2,500 normal people opened up their homes as hosts. And 25,000 people are being blessed. Why? Because normal, ordinary, average people said, “My house isn’t perfect, and I’m not perfect, my schedule is not perfect. I don’t perfectly know the Bible, but I could do this!” And guess what? You could! And you did. And God is blessing it. So God says, “Don’t wait for perfect conditions.” You know when things settle down, they aren’t going to settle down! They’re just not. So go ahead and start serving while things are not settled down.
Number three: materialism. Materialism is the third barrier that keeps us from being available to serve. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Lk. 16:13). Now would you circle the word “cannot”? He didn’t say, “You should not serve both God and money.” He said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” You’ve got to decide whether you want to be rich or you want to be blessed. Really! I’m telling you, you have to say, “What’s number one in priority in my life?” You cannot serve both God and money. It’s an impossibility. You see, you get so busy taking care of things; you don’t have time to take care of people. And that’s a problem. The most important decision you’re going to have to make in life once you become a believer is, “Am I going to be a kingdom-builder or am I going to be a wealth-builder?” Now if God wants to give you wealth, that’s great. That’s wonderful, but it is not the number one goal of your life. Because the wealth you’re not taking with you to heaven, but your character you are. So you say, “I’m going to be a kingdom-builder.” You put that first and let God take care of whatever He wants you to do. If your job is keeping you from having any kind of service, you need to make some kind of adjustment.
I want you to listen to what some have said have kept them from serving. Listen to this:
Woman: What kept me from being used by God was when I first came to
Saddleback I was a brand new Christian. And, I saw all these
advertisements in the bulletin for ministry. I didn’t really even
know what ministry meant, so I thought I had to be very well-schooled in the Bible to even volunteer for anything.
Man: I didn’t really know that God needed my help. My wife and I had come to faith together here at Saddleback Church, and we were all tuned in to what we needed to do have a relationship with God, but we really didn’t have a clue that our all-powerful God really needed us for anything.
Woman: I think initially what kept me from being used by God was just not
knowing how much ministry would positively influence my own life.
And probably the second thing is not knowing where I could be used, where I could make a difference.
Man: I was too busy, and I found that I was being caught up by trying to
meet the demands of family, job, a career, that type of thing. And it
carried me away from my focus, and I wasn’t allowing God to direct
me because I got too busy.
Pastor Tom Holladay
Serving means being available. You know what else it means? Serving like Jesus also means being grateful. To serve like Jesus, we have to serve gratefully, grateful that we get the opportunity to serve. The Bible tells us a story in John Chapter 11 of Jesus serving in an incredible way. His friend Lazarus had died, and He went there, some people thought for the funeral, but Jesus had a different idea in mind. He went there to do ministry, to raise Lazarus from the dead. Now, He could have walked up and prayed a prayer and not said anything to anybody, to Himself and God. But He decided to pray the prayer out loud so that we could still read it today and see what He had to say, so those people could hear it. The Bible tells us in John 11:41-42, “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You heard me. I know that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here.’” “I want them to know that I am grateful that you heard Me”. Jesus had an attitude of gratefulness in everything that He did. He started with gratefulness. That was His attitude in ministry. Now you might think, “I’d be grateful too if I could raise people from the dead.” However, Jesus was grateful in the tough times. Jesus was grateful when He was criticized. Jesus was grateful when things were not easy in ministry. That was the attitude that He led in His ministry. Ministry and miracles always happened in this attitude of gratefulness. The apostle Paul was grateful. He said, “I thank Jesus Christ because He trusted me. He gave me this work of serving Him.” And the Bible talked about our attitude of gratefulness in Psalm 100:2. Let’s read this verse “gratefully” together: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” You did sound grateful in that!
Why do we serve God with gratefulness? What do we have to be grateful for? Why do we serve God, not with a sense of duty, but with a sense of delight? Not out of a sense of obligation, but a sense of the great opportunity that He’s given to us? We serve Him with gratefulness because He’s given life to us through Jesus Christ. He saved us! And if He never did anything else for us, that is enough to be grateful for the rest of our lives to serve Him. Look at what the Bible has to say about that over in 2 Tim. 1:9: “It is He who saved us and chose us for His holy work, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan.” He saved us, and out of the gratefulness of that, what He has done for us, we serve Him.
Now, as human beings, we tend to trip over ourselves on the way to serving God, on the way to this attitude of gratefulness. There are some things that get in the way. One of them, one of the barriers is comparing and criticizing. When you compare to others, when you criticize others, that is a barrier that gets in the way for all of us of being grateful. The Bible tells us over in Rom. 14:4, “Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether His servant has been successful.” We’re all His servants. And so it’s a matter of His opinion, not my opinion or your opinion of one another. Competition with each other in service, it just doesn’t make sense when you come right down to it. When you think about it, we’re on the same team. We have the same goal. We’re trying to make God look good to the world, let the world see how good He really looks. And He’s given us different abilities, different tasks. And to think that somehow we can compare or criticize in that is pretty ridiculous.
A couple of years ago I was on a mission trip with a team from our church and, those of you who have been on mission trips know, you can stay in some pretty tough places on mission trips. But this time they put us in this nice hotel on the beach. We were sort of embarrassed, but they said, “We want you to be there”. I mean I opened up my room, I could see half of this beach and it was beautiful, until I went to some other people’s rooms on our team and I noticed they could open their windows and they could see the whole beach out of their room! And all of a sudden that really nice place I was staying in didn’t look so nice because I could only see half the beach! That’s how ridiculous we are when it comes to comparisons. I mean, look at where we get to live! Look at the opportunities we have! Look at the time that we live in! And I’m like you, human nature is, we compare to others and we let it steal the joy and the gratitude out of our lives. Look at all that God has done for us. And when I have gratitude for that, there’s no longer any need to compare and criticize. I realize that any time spent in comparing and criticizing is time I could have spent being grateful for all that God has done. And I begin to live more than I ever have before for God’s approval, not other people’s approval, for an audience of One. Comparing and criticizing get in the way of gratefulness.
The second way we get in the way is wrong motivations, our own wrong motivations. The Bible talks about this in Matt. 6:1. Jesus said, “When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven”. The wrong motivation of showing off. Self-promotion and servanthood don’t mix, but it’s easy to get them mixed up. A lot of our service, let’s just be honest, it can be self-serving at times. We need to be honest with ourselves about that. We serve to get others to like us. We serve to be admired. We serve to achieve our own goals. We serve as sort of a bargaining chip with God. “God, I’ll serve and You take care of me here.” All kinds of wrong motivations. We’re serving, but all the time we’re serving, we’re thinking about how noble we are. We’re humble, but all the time we’re humble we’re thinking pridefully about how humble we are! That’s the struggle of service.
Let’s admit it, sometimes servanthood is just our way to try to manipulate God. And it’s hard to see the wrong motivations in us. I have them, you have them. How do you know? How do you know if you have a wrong motivation? Gratitude. This very attitude. When you lose a sense of gratefulness, of gratitude in your life, you can know right away there’s something wrong with my motivation. The minute you lose the gratitude you can know, that’s a strong indicator there, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something wrong with the motivation of service in my life. Wrong motivations don’t last. That’s the problem with them. Wrong motivations get us caught up with the wrong things. But there are some good motivators that can keep up serving for a lifetime. In fact we asked some people to talk to us about what was it that motivated them? What was it that got them into service? Listen to this:
Couple We were looking for a ministry that we could both work together in
and be involved in. We wanted a ministry that we didn’t have to
spend a lot of time preparing for. We wanted a ministry that maybe we could do some physical activities as well. And so the Levites really I think did a lot to approach those different needs. (Video of couple washing windows at church)
Man I decided to follow God’s plan for my life after taking Class 101 and
hearing Pastor Rick ask everybody to raise their hand and tell us that we were all commissioned to go out and greet for one month. And that’s all it took for me, and I’ve been out greeting ever since, and that was nine years ago.
Couple I prayed that we could have a ministry together to outreach to some of the low-income motels where people are basically homeless. They live in the motels, and so we go down there on Sundays and serve breakfast and have a Bible study. It’s just been really awesome to see how God has used us and to see how God gets in society and uses the people that go to church. You know, He has a purpose for us and I think it’s just a matter of giving yourself up to Him to find out what that is.
Woman I saw an ad in the bulletin asking for people to volunteer who were organized. And I thought, “Well I can do that.” So, I volunteered and started serving meals, and then I was stricken with cancer, and then the tables were turned. I said “No, no, no. Don’t bring me meals!” The volunteers all wanted to bring me meals, and I said, “Don’t bring me meals. Give them to somebody who needs them more.” I was so sick that I really had to accept the meals. And when I did I saw how God can use you to serve other people, and I really believe that God healed me so that I could serve others in the same way.
Pastor Rick Warren
If you want to learn to serve like Jesus, you have to learn to serve gratefully with a generous heart. You make yourself available. You make yourself grateful. There’s a third thing. Serving like Jesus means being faithful. Faithful. Now what does that mean? It means you don’t give up. You keep on going. You don’t quit in the middle of your assignment. At the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Jesus said this in John 17:4, He said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work,” circle that “completing the work”, “that You gave me to do.” I want you to be able to say that when you get to heaven. You completed the work that God gave you to do. Jesus was faithful in fulfilling His service. He didn’t give up. He didn’t give in. He was persistent. And if you’re going to be like Jesus it means you’re going to serve as long as you’re alive. Now you may retire from your job someday, but you’re never retiring from ministry. You’re never retiring from service. Because God wants you to serve the rest of your life. As I’ve said, nobody just gets to coast on through life. God wants us to be giving out.
So what motivates us to keep on going? The Bible says, (1Cor. 4:2) “The one thing required of servants is that they be faithful.” How do we be faithful? What motivates us to stay faithful in serving God over the long haul? Well there are two or three things. Well, there are a lot of things. What Tom just talked about, being grateful for all the past that God’s forgiven in our lives. If God never did another thing for me, I owe Him the rest of my life for what He’s already done for me. And then I think of trust and faith in future rewards. He said, “You’re going to be rewarded forever and ever and ever and ever in eternity for what you do here on earth in serving Me by serving others.” You’re going to be rewarded. So we have gratitude for the past and we have faith in the future reward. We also know that what we’re doing really matters. Now let’s be honest folks, most of what we do in life doesn’t matter. It isn’t going to matter next week much less next year or next decade or in eternity. But any time you’re serving in Jesus’ name, no matter how small, it matters. The Bible says this in 1Cor. 15:58, let’s read it aloud, “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effor.t” Notice “nothing”: that means it all matters, even the little stuff. Why? Because in God’s book, there is no little service. He said, “Even if you give a cup of cold water in my name to a child, that counts.” In God’s eyes, there is no little service.
Now if you’re going to learn to be a servant of God, you must learn the difference between significance and prominence. They are not the same thing. On my body, my nose is quite prominent. But I could lose my nose and still live the rest of my life, because while it’s prominent, it’s not significant. On the other hand, if I lost, you know, my liver, or if I lost my heart, it’s not very prominent. You don’t see it. But if I lost it, I’d be dead. And a lot of people think that if something is given a lot of visibility, it’s the most important. No, that’s not true. In fact the stuff behind the scenes is more important, God says. He says the parts of your body that you don’t see are more important than the parts you do see! And the same is true in the Body of Christ. It all matters. You see the fact is with our limited perspective, we can’t see how our small acts have big consequences, but they do!
Several years ago two teenage boys tried to come into a church service at night, much like this, only it was packed out and they couldn’t find any seats. So they turned around and decided to leave because they couldn’t find a seat. But one usher said, “Come on, guys. I’ll find you a seat.” And that usher personally escorted them down to the center and set them in the middle and found them two seats. That night both of those boys accepted Christ and became Christians. One of them was Billy Graham who has now led millions and tens of millions of people to Christ. Do you think that usher is going to get any credit in heaven? I’ll say! We have no idea of the significance of small acts. So never, you know, belittle the little because it’s all important. Real servants do every task with equal dedication because they know it all matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing something important that is well known or if you’re doing something important that’s not well known. It’s all important. Would you write this down? Don’t mistake anonymous with insignificant. Don’t mistake anonymous with insignificant or even unnecessary. Just because it’s not known doesn’t mean it’s unnecessary.
Let me give you a little quiz. Let’s see if you know these. Do you know the name of the person that helped you find a parking spot when you were coming in? Do you know who is teaching your children right now? Do you know the names of the musicians who were here on this stage a few minutes ago? Do you the people who are producing this video image right now? Do you know the people who restocked the restroom before you got here? You should thank God for them! Do you know the people who stuffed the bulletin you’re holding? Do you know the person who cleaned the seat, wiped it down, that you’re sitting on, before you got here? The truth is ,all of them were done by anonymous volunteers. And it’s all important. It’s all important.
Real servants do every task as if it matters. Let me give you a little taste of hidden heroes. I just started making a little list today. How about Carl Cadell in our church. Carl realized that somebody needed to do the shopping for the weekly Celebrate Recovery BBQ. So every Friday he makes a run to Costco, Smart & Final and Ralphs. He brings it all back here, unpacks it and stores it. Imagine shopping for 300 for dinner every single week. He’s done it for over five years. You don’t know this guy. He’s a hidden hero. How about Sam Lewis? Sam is paid by the hour as a staff member here, but he takes himself off the clock, most people don’t know this, at least two hours every day six days a week and volunteers in building that Ministry Center over there in order to save the Lord money. Doug Hart installed all the computers and phones in the Children’s Ministry Center, a volunteer. Annie Swinglish set up the paging system for babies, a volunteer. For years Steve and Shawna Berkhart have volunteered to help with baptism, checking people in, answering questions, taking pictures, cleaning the baptism pool. Thank God! By the way we’re baptizing at every service this weekend. Go out and use it! Cindy Allen volunteers to scan names of teenagers into the database every Monday morning so we can contact the kids who have been missing the previous week. She’s done it for over five years. Craig Offenberg, a mechanical engineer, volunteers countless hours each week keeping the air conditioning maintained in this church. We don’t pay for it. He just maintains it. Dan and Kathleen Hamer are one of 20 families who open their homes to 50 to 70 teenagers every week. They’ve been doing this, including buying the pizza every week, for eight years. For the past three to four years Steve Edwards and Gary Gibson have volunteered three hours every Saturday morning to come and work on the landscaping on this campus. I could give you thousands of examples like this. Right now, Glen told me today we have, I want to get this number straight, 9,530 adults serving in a ministry at Saddleback, doing 9,530 different things. Not only that, this blew my mind, 959 youth are involved in a ministry. That’s good for the next generation. They’re serving.
Now I know what some of you are saying. “Well you know, a church this size, it doesn’t need my help.” Are you kidding? Spend a day with me. I’ll show you a couple thousand unmet needs in about seven hours. Because there are always more needs to be met than people willing to get up off their seat and say, “I was shaped to serve Christ.” Have you ever wondered why you’re here at Saddleback Church? I’ll tell you why. You’re here at Saddleback because God knew you had something to give back. He did not bring you here just to sit and soak and enjoy. He brought you here to serve. And He knew that you have something – background, talent, skill, ability, contact, network, or whatever, interest, hobby, whatever. You know we have a group of women in this church who have a quilting ministry. And when we built this new Children’s Ministry building over there, they made hand-made quilts for all the babies. In fact they made me one. I want to show it to you. This is really cool. It’s got little Hawaiian shirts on it. OK? So I’m ready for a grandbaby! You know, you would have thought, how can God use my sewing? You know what? People take their babies into that beautiful new building over there and they’re wrapped up in hand-made quilts. God brought you here for a reason.
I want you to listen to what people said keeps them going in ministry. Listen to this:
Man It’s a joy. I would say it’s the absolute joy that you get
from being in a ministry. It’s a fulfillment that you can only
experience. You really can’t talk it out. You’re doing God’s
work. It’s a joy.
Woman I continue to allow God to use me every time that I get up on
stage and lead worship with the All Stars ministry. I just feel
so many blessings, and I just feel so good about the work that
I’m doing. Initially it was more if I could be a positive role
model in a child’s life. That was really why I wanted to do it.
And I had no idea of the blessings that would come back to me.
Man I think it’s all about changed lives, and it’s real important to me
in the Greeter ministry that we make people feel accepted and
welcomed here at Saddleback Church. By making people feel
welcomed, no matter what path they’ve been down, it helps them
to relax so that when they’re there in the church they get to hear
what Pastor Rick’s message is to them, that God is telling them,
and that their lives are changed forever.
Woman I continue to allow God to use me because I have just grown so
much spiritually since I’ve been volunteering here at Saddleback.
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of people who I have met
that I know are going to be lifetime friends of mine. It’s just an
extremely rewarding job. I love every minute of it and I’m sure
that I will be here for many years to come.
That’s the question. How will God use you? Well let’s just get real practical. Let’s take out this little brochure called, “You Were Shaped For Serving God”. I want you to take this home this week and I want you to look at it and I want you to study it and I want you to say, “Where might my niche be in my church family?” And I want you to right now in the back take out this little form that says, “SHAPED for Serving God”. Notice it has a place for Talents, Time, Team. What I’d like for you to do is to fill this out in a minute and I want you to turn it in today so that we can know what you’re good at, so that we can know you’re here in the family, you have something, God brought you here, where you could find serving possibilities. You can turn this in today or you can take it out to the Ministry Fair and turn it into one of the tables out there. The fact is, God wants to use you. He really does. And I want you to see just some of the faces. You have no idea what goes on beyond the Sunday services here. Some of the faces of the ministries that happen here at Saddleback – look up here on the screen, look at these faces.
Now listen, when you boil it all down, you can do two things with your life. You can waste it, or you can invest it. The best use of life is to invest it in that which is going to outlast it. It’s going to pay dividends over the long haul. I don’t know if you’ve realized this or not, but not every investment here on earth pays off. Has anybody figured that one out? If you hadn’t, let me give you a little advice. For instance, if you had bought $1,000 worth of stock in Nortel a year ago, it’s now worth $40. If you had bought $1,000 worth of Enron stock a year ago, it’s now worth $11. If you had bought $1,000 worth of Worldcom a year ago, it’s now worth $5. However, if you bought $1,000 worth of Diet Coke, not the stock, I’m talking about the drink, and then you drank it, and then you turned in all the cans for recycling deposit, you’d have $214. So here’s my investment advice: drink a lot of Diet Coke and recycle! You don’t have to pay me for that. That was free!
One day you’re going to stand before God and He’s going to say to you, “What did you do with what I gave you, the talents, the abilities, the background, the experiences, the freedom, the education, the family experiences? What did you do with your SHAPE?” “Well, God, I was a little busy with my ambitions and plan. I never got around to serving You.” And God’s going to say, “Wrong answer! What were you thinking? Do you think I put you on earth to live for yourself? I put you here to serve Me by serving others.” Now you may be thinking nobody’s watching you, and nobody’s noticing what you do, but God’s watching. Look at this verse, Heb. 6:10: “He will not forget how hard you’ve worked for Him and how you’ve shown your love to Him.” How? “By caring for other Christians”. And God keeps His promise. You know on earth they give awards for 10 years of faithful service? In heaven you’re going to get eternal rewards. Look at the next verse (Matt. 25:21). “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.” You know, family, more than anything else, I want God to be able to say that about you. I have dedicated my life so that when you stand before God one day, that God will look into your eyes and He’ll say to you, “Good job! Well done! You did what I put you here on earth to do. You worshiped me, you fellowshipped with other believers, you grew in character to be like Christ, and you served Me, the way I shaped you. Well done! Good job! Come on in and enjoy eternity and all the rewards I’ve planned for you.” I want God to be able to say that about you, because you were shaped for serving God. Well done!
You know, I started this message talking about Elvis. A curious fact about Elvis…the only Grammy award he won for an album out of 250 million albums sold, was for a religious album that he recorded called, “He Touched Me”. And a song on that album expresses this very verse. It says this:
After the lightening 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 Kings.
I long to be in His possession.
He is my everything.
Question: Is God going to be able to say “well done” to you? “You spent your life in serving Me. Well done!” Is there anything in your schedule where you’re giving back unselfishly, or are you too busy? Are you waiting for things to slow down? Or do you have other priorities? One day Napoleon pointed at a map of China and he said, “There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up it will shake the world.” Every weekend I look at the Saddleback Church family and I say, “There is a sleeping giant. If everybody who came here served here, what kind of enormous, spiritual, nuclear reaction would we see in Orange County and California and the world?” I make no apology in saying to you that the most important thing you’ll ever do with your life is serving God in ministry. It’s far more important than your career, it’s far more important than your hobbies, it’s even more important than everything else you can think of because they aren’t going to last. But this is. You were put here on earth to practice serving.
Let’s bow our heads. Would you pray this?
Father I realize that I was shaped to serve You by serving others. Forgive me for the times I’ve 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’ve been so good to me. I want to give something back. I want to serve You freely and gratefully and faithfully, and I want to practice before I get to heaven so one day I can hear You say “Well done, good and faithful servant”. In Your name I pray, Amen.