A couple of weeks ago was the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. August 16, 1977.
His influence is pretty amazing. He’s still as popular as ever. Still selling thousands of records. The most impersonated singer of all time.
At Parkes, where Craig and Sonya Bland are, there’s an annual Elvis festival. There’s Elvis’s everywhere! Craig was telling me they had a combined churches gospel music service this year – The Music Elvis Loved!
But despite his enormous success, Elvis was an unfulfilled and unhappy man. He died of obesity and drug dependency at 42. (Or else he’s alive and living in Parkes).
And his wife, Priscilla, 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.”
What a sad story. The whole world at his feet, the potential to do so much GOOD. To make a REAL DIFFERENCE. But Elvis didn’t have a clue where to begin looking. How to find his significance.
We’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about OUR PURPOSE. What on earth we’re here for. Because God DID made us for A REASON.
So far, we’ve seen your first THREE purposes. You were planned for God’s pleasure – that’s WORSHIP. You were formed for God’s family – that’s FELLOWSHIP. And you were created to become like Christ – that’s DISCIPLESHIP.
Called to full-time ministry
Today we’re looking at your FOURTH purpose – you were shaped for SERVING GOD. Which is about MINISTRY.
You may not know it, but EVERY ONE of you has been CALLED to FULL-TIME MINISTRY. Let me explain what I mean.
First, everyone’s been CALLED. Look at the start of Eph 4. Paul’s writing to the whole Christian church at Ephesus. V1.
I urge you to live a life worthy of the CALLING YOU HAVE RECEIVED.
And then, a bit further down in v4.
4 There is one body and one Spirit- JUST AS YOU WERE CALLED TO ONE HOPE WHEN YOU WERE CALLED-
To be CALLED means you’ve been CHOSEN and SELECTED. That’s how it ALWAYS works when you become a Christian. You might think YOU’VE chosen GOD. But the reality is it’s God who’s chosen YOU, and who’s worked a whole range of people and circumstances to bring to him.
God’s picked you personally. Simply because of his grace. With a special purpose in mind.
He’s planned the works
Which is what this whole series is about. Finding your purpose. Finding GOD’S purpose for you. And you can see what THAT IS back in Eph Ch 2. Just on the previous page. Ch 2 v10. Let me start reading from v8.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
That’s everything that’s involved in God’s CALL. He gave you the free gift of salvation through FAITH. Never something you can EARN. But look at the NEXT verse. Here’s God’s PURPOSE in that.
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Why were you created? To do good works.
WHICH good works? ANY OLD good works? No. Specifically, the ones God’s PREPARED for you to do.
Everything planned and chosen by God himself. God didn’t just CALL you, but he PLANNED OUT what you’d spend the rest of your life doing – your life as A CHRISTIAN, offering your body as a living sacrifice.
Those good works are what we call your SERVICE. Or your MINISTRY. Servant and minister translate the same words in Greek. That’s all a minister is – a servant.
A servant of GOD. And a servant of HIS PEOPLE.
That’s your fourth purpose. Called to be a full-time MINISTER!
Which we NORMALLY think of as someone who does what I do. Who’s full-time TEACHING about Jesus, or LEADING the church, or TELLING OTHERS about Jesus. But that’s not the only sort of full-time ministry. The reality is if you’re a FULL-TIME CHRISTIAN, then you’re a full-time MINISTER. Whatever you do for a living.
You never clock off being A Christian. Which means you never stop being a minister.
He’s planned the tools
You see, there’s LOTS of different sorts of ministry. As many different combinations as there are Christians. Because there’s countless different JOBS that need doing.
Have a look at how God’s organised things. Back over in Eph 4. V7. He doesn’t just give us the WORKS to do, but he gives us the TOOLS to do them WITH. v7.
7 But to each one of us GRACE has been given as Christ APPORTIONED it.
(That’s talking about gifts for the job). Handed out exactly was Jesus WANTS them. And then, jump down to v11 to see what we’ve been GIVEN.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
That’s the sorts of people we NORMALLY think of as being ministers. And they’ve been given GIFTS of teaching and evangelising and prophesying.
But notice, that’s only the BEGINNING. Here’s what the purpose of all THEIR jobs is. V12
12 to prepare God’s people for works of … SERVICE (that’s MINISTRY)
Who’s to do the MINISTRY? It doesn’t actually say the teachers and leaders. It says ALL GOD’S PEOPLE. Using the tools that God’s given to EVERYONE. The teachers and leaders do the EQUIPPING. They put the tools into the HANDS of the ministers. Which is mainly to do with GOD’S WORD. Explaining it, helping people to see God’s plans and purposes, and how they fit in to them. Showing and training people how to put it into practice.
That’s one of the major parts of my job – EQUIPPING you to do ministry.
And then it’s YOUR job to get out there and DO the ministry. Serving people in a whole range of ways.
I reckon we do pretty well as far as people serving. For a church our size, our roster is pretty full. But can you do MORE?
There’s a list on the inside of the news sheet I want you to spend some time looking at, and praying about, over the next week.
How can YOU serve God’s people?
I’d love to know your ideas as well for how we might be able to do MORE ministry. Outreach in the area, or things WITHIN church.
I’ll reprint it next week, and I’d love you to fill them out, and hand them in. If you WANT to do something, I want to HELP EQUIP you to DO it.
He’s planned the reason
But not only has God planned the works, and the tools. But he’s also given us the REASON. What’s the PURPOSE of that ministry? That SERVICE?
so that the body of Christ may be BUILT UP
To be built up is to be STRENGTHENED. To be MADE MATURE, or COMPLETE or SECURE. To have SOLID FOUNDATIONS. Look at how the whole church is described from v13.
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become MATURE, attaining to the WHOLE MEASURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST.
14 Then we will no longer be INFANTS, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE, we will IN ALL THINGS GROW UP into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, GROWS AND BUILDS ITSELF UP IN LOVE,
It’s a wonderful picture. Of individual, as well as GROUP, maturity. It’s a picture of VITALITY – of energetic LIFE. Of HEALTH. Of stability. Of solid maturity. Of loving, truthful, serving involvement in each others lives.
Earlier this year you might remember, the presbytery sent a committee to visit our church. To check our progress. And the Leadership Team had to fill in a questionnaire. And one of the questions was “Where do you want to see the congregation in 5 years time?” GREAT QUESTION!!
But we didn’t want to answer in terms of size. Numbers. Or buildings, or budget. So, after some thinking, and I guess some input from passages just like this one in Eph 4, here’s what we came up with. A goal, if you like.
What do we want WBPC to be in 5 years?
“To be a vibrant, energetic, and active, loving, outward-looking, Bible-saturated, joyful, godly, generous, mutually encouraging, and prayerful body of believers, who long for heaven, and who follow Jesus courageously as individuals, families and a congregation.”
Is that something YOU’D like to be working towards? If we’re going to GET there, we’re going to need YOUR help. It’s God’s PURPOSE for YOU as PART of his church. Notice how the description in Eph 4 finishes. The end of v16.
AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.
Church is not a spectator sport. It’s a team sport. It’ll only begin to RESEMBLE that if YOU are doing your bit.
Which is the lesson from the OTHER Bible reading we had. Matthew 25 v14. If you can flip over there please. P 702. Each part MUST do its work.
It’s one of the stories Jesus told as he taught the disciples about THE END OF THE AGE. What it’ll be like when he returns. Judgment day. For example, have a look at Ch 24 v42.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
And then, at the start of Ch 25, he begins,
25:1 “AT THAT TIME the kingdom of heaven will be like..
And then, down where our passage begins in v14.
14 “Again, it will be like A MAN GOING ON A JOURNEY, who called HIS SERVANTS and entrusted his property to them.
The MAN represents Jesus. And the servants are US. So this is a story about NOW. It might only be a short story, but it covers a huge period of time. A story about life for the servants of Jesus IN BETWEEN his going and his coming back. Between 33 AD and NOW, and then ON INTO THE FUTURE.
Until Jesus comes back, this parable describes the WHAT and the HOW and the WHY of your life.
Jesus entrusts his property to his servants.
And the first thing we learn is that JESUS ENTRUSTS HIS PROPERTY TO HIS SERVANTS. V14, and 15.
He ENTRUSTED HIS PROPERTY TO THEM 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.
The word “talent” used to refer to a unit of WEIGHT. About 35 kg. Then it referred to a unit of MONEY. But, at some stage, simply as a result of THIS PARABLE, it came to refer to an ability or gift.
Because that’s what the talents – the MONEY – REPRESENTS in the parable. Gifts.
That’s what Jesus gives to his servants, so that they can go about their Master’s BUSINESS. It’s exactly the way Eph 4:7 described it.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
So, not only does Jesus ENTRUST his property to his servants. But he DECIDES how it gets distributed. In the Eph passage we see that different PEOPLE get different GIFTS. Divided up just as Christ sees FIT.
In the PARABLE, that’s described in terms of the three servants receiving different AMOUNTS of money. Distributed according to ABILITY.
God’s wired you up to be AN INDIVIDUAL. You have a special skill-set that fits like a glove with the sorts of GIFTS he gives you.
You might have a LOGICAL brain, or you might be better at FEELING. You might love ORGANISATION, or you might be better at meeting with PEOPLE. Your fingers might work better on a computer keyboard, or a guitar, or under a bonnet. You might be better at TEACHING out the FRONT, or perhaps you’re better at ENCOURAGING from the BACK.
But whatever your ABILITIES. Your personality. And whatever your GIFTS. Your responsibility as a SERVANT, is to USE them for the Master’s business. V16.
16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and PUT HIS MONEY TO WORK and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more…. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
It’s not good enough to say, “But I haven’t been given much. I don’t need to do anything WITH it.” Jesus distributes things exactly as he wants them – who are you to say, “He’s botched it up?”
Your responsibility is simply to do the MOST with what you have. To promote your Master’s business with the best you’ve got.
John Wesley, the hymn-writer and great English evangelist had THIS as his 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.”
How well does YOU LIFE measure up TO THAT? Or are you just passing time? Treading water? Making excuses?
We can sometimes think that nobody will NOTICE what we do. Or that we’re not that IMPORTANT. But that’s confusing PROMINENCE and SIGNIFICANCE. I’ve got a NOSE that’s prominent. Everyone can see it. But it’s not that SIGNIFICANT. You’d notice if it wasn’t there. I’d look pretty funny I reckon. But I’d LIVE. A nose is prominent, but not significant.
Whereas MY LIVER on the other hand. Isn’t prominent AT ALL. But I could never live without it. It does so many things in the body, I’d die within a few days without it. SIGNIFICANT, but not PROMINENT.
And it’s the same with much of the ministry that happens. Just because a ministry isn’t PROMINENT doesn’t mean it’s not SIGNIFICANT.
Every member of the body is needed. That’s the way God’s designed it. And every part MUST do its job.
It’s not up to YOU to worry about how PROMINENT your ministry is. Do it for no one else than JESUS. Serve, for an audience of ONE.
Because the reality is one day the Master will COME BACK. And he’ll call you to give an account for how well you’ve INVESTED the talents he gave you. He’ll want to see A RETURN. Look at v19 of the parable
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
The servant with TWO talents does the same. And look at the Master’s response to BOTH. Exactly the same. Because even though they both had different ABILITIES, and were given different TALENTS. They made the most of what they’d been given. They’d been FAITHFUL. V23.
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
What incredibly wonderful words!
But listen to what awaited the THIRD servant. V24.
24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
In other words, you WASTED YOUR LIFE!
And down to v28.
28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Don’t waste your life!! That’s the title of a book by John Piper – one of my favourite authors. “Don’t Waste Your Life”. And he writes this.
I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, about a couple who ‘took early retirement … when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in … Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot boat, play softball, and collect shells.’ At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke… But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream:
Come to the end of your life–your one and only precious, God-given life–and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.
Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.
You know, I started this message talking about Elvis.
A curious fact about Elvis… The only Grammy award he won for any album out of 250 million albums sold, was for a religious album that he recorded called, He Touched Me
(I’m going to play you part of it now.)
I wonder whether they sung THAT one at the Parkes combined churches gospel music service. It would have been a GREAT one to do.
Did you catch some of the words
“After the lightning and thunder, After the last bell has rung, I want to bow down before him And hear Him say, “Well done”
He is my reason for living, He is my King of Kings. I long to be in His possession. He is my everything.”
The question is, is that going to be YOUR song? Is Jesus YOUR reason for living? Are YOU his possession? His instrument? Is he your EVERYTHING?
After the last bell is rung, is Jesus going to say that to you? ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’