YOU! Your Story of Growth! Spiritual gifts enable you to serve!
Snickers commercial – Robin Williams is hilarious![i] Anyone else suddenly feeling loopy? Do you need a Snickers candy bar? That commercial isn’t exclusive to hunger only. Let’s see. You’re not you when you’re angry! You’re not you when you’re lonely. You’re not you when you’re depressed. AND You’re not you unless you’re using your spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is a special ability given to every person who has decided to follow Christ Jesus for the encouragement of others.”[ii]
Last week we tapped into parts of Ephesians chapter 4 and Paul showed us this. Each Christ follower is gifted. You have a gift. It might be teaching. It might be coaching. It might be singing or playing an instrument. (Introduce Shawn Theis) It might be dispensing wisdom, medicine or baking cookies. It might be displaying mercy or leading diligently. A little boy wasn't getting good grades at school. One day this little guy surprised his teacher by saying, "I don't want to scare you, but my Dad says if I don't get better grades, somebody is going to get grounded."[iii] That Dad has the gift of motivation but not communication! That boy is confused. You have a gift! Paul also showed us there are a variety of gifts. Our bodies have a variety of organs and they each perform different functions. I want to do something special next weekend but I need your help. Next weekend is the official start of the College Football Season. Do me a favor and come wearing your team’s colors. If you like OSU – wear scarlet and gray. If you like Michigan – wear a bag over your head. Not true! Wear maize and blue.[iv] Maybe you’re an OU grad or you like the University of Buffalo or you’re an Akron ZIP! Wear your team colors. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be in the same room cheering on different teams but still be ONE! OSU and Michigan fans worshipping the same God. Many people – many teams, but we all don’t root for the same team or have the same gift. Paul also showed us there are two purposes for using our gifts. I want to focus on Purpose #1! Open up your Bibles today to Ephesians 4:11. You can have this Bible I hold right here! If you need a copy of God’s word just raise your hand! Is today your first time ever to walk into this building? If it is I have as a gift for you - this information chocolate bar. Today is also Pizza & Pastors. Meeting at approximately 12N in the Fireside room we’ll gather to eat and then I’ll provide information concerning WCC. Childcare is provided. Central Park will be open. The pizza is free. Please be my guest.
Let’s read Ephesians 4:11 and 12. (to prepare God's people for works of service) Purpose #1: SP enable you to serve! The purpose of your special ability from God is to serve Him by serving others. Please don’t underestimate the power of service. What serving does for you, for others, the world and for God’s church! I was at curriculum Night for Big Walnut Local Schools. Teacher after teacher said how much they loved teaching. How they loved kids. If you know what you’re good at – serving will be a joy. But serving goes much deeper that than. Do remember Mhaka from the Mushayamunda Village in Zimbabwe? Dereck Mushayamunda just returned from the village. He sent me this email. “Pastor Mhaka's son (Shane) finally got out of the hospital on August 3. He almost died due to malaria. Mhaka also had an accident on his motorcycle. The person he hit now has a broken arm and is getting treatments. A few days after that accident, one of my uncles had an accident. He ran into a giraffe that was crossing the road.”
I almost burst out laughing when I read that. His uncle hit a giraffe? If you hit a deer that’s one thing, but a giraffe? That giraffe charged the bus and broke through the windshield. That email reminded me that our world is so big and so different. People live differently than we do. People think differently. Some folks have come to believe in God. Others want nothing to do with God. We seem to forget that. Drop down in Ephesians 4:17. (Read 17-19)
Tell me how easy it is to live in this world and be totally oblivious to God? I pulled into Turkey Hill Gas Station to pump some gas. The overhead loud speakers were playing music and Kid Rock came on singing “All Summer Long.” Of course, it’s about him a girl and he hanging out all summer long. Kid Rock sings, “We were trying different things, We were smoking funny things, making love out by the lake to our favorite song, sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking ‘bout tomorrow. Singing sweet home Alabama all summer long” That song captures the culture that most people live in. Maybe I can explain it better this way. Pretend that I have a door standing right here. Some people in this world do not believe in God. Maybe that best describes you. You’re not sure how you even got here today. But here you are. An atheist has made a decision. They have decided NOT to follow Jesus. They have closed the door on God. You know people who think this way. They have names. Your Dad. Your sister. Your co-worker. Your neighbor. Maybe even you. And you have your reasons NOT to believe. Please know this – you are welcome here. You are safe here. I pray that one day you’ll open the door to God just a crack because that’s all He needs to get to your heart. God is a relentless pursuer of hearts!
Now some of you have already cracked your door open just a wee little bit. You are best described as an agnostic. An agnostic holds the position that human knowledge is limited to experience. If you cannot experience God – see Him touch Him, than He must not exist.[v] Once again – you are welcome here. Your doubts are welcome here. And my prayer is that something you hear will push you to open the door to God even further. Some of you are right here in the middle. Your door to God is ½ open. But you have questions. Who made God? Wasn’t the Bible written just by men? What happened to the dinosaurs? Folks, you can get your questions answered. Who made God? No one. He is self-existent. A pre-requisite in being Almighty is that there is no one MORE MIGHTY than you! Wasn’t the Bible written just by men? Yep. It sure was, but not just any men. God spoke to people – those who heard from God and those who walked with Jesus. What happened to the dinosaurs? One guess is as good as another – my guess is that they drowned. But here’s what I’ve found in my life. Once you get one question answered you want another question answered. Your questions just keep coming. But approaching God is not a matter of eventually getting your questions answered. Truth is you will never get all your questions answered. That’s what makes faith – FAITH! Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. God is a mystery. Life is a mystery. We will never know everything than lurks on the bottom of the ocean or is a universe beyond our universe! Having faith doesn’t mean I’m stupid – I’ve simply made a choice to believe. Now some here have the door wide open. You have accepted Jesus. You trust God. The Holy Spirit is inside of you. You are going to heaven. Jesus is life and you are experiencing abundant life in Christ! I pray all of us eventually throw the door open wide to Jesus. Here’s a potential problem though for open door Christ followers. We think God’s in this world for us. We accepted him to make our lives easy or comfortable. NOT TRUE! If you know Jesus your responsibility is to help others open the door a little further. Help them go from here to here or here to here. Our responsibility isn’t to save them but to help them see The One who can save them. So here’s the BIG “so what” question. How do we best reach people in this world? Paul has told us in Ephesians 4 that one example is that the church should be ONE! We should treat each other as Jesus treated us. I’ll use verses 25-32. (25) Don’t lie. (26) Don’t get angry often. (28) Don’t be lazy. Work with your hands. (29) Screen what comes out of your mouth. (30) Listen to God’s spirit and not the urges of your body. (31) Fight bitterness. (32) Be kind. Be compassionate. Forgive. Find Ephesians 5:1. (Read 1-2) In one sentence tell me why Jesus came into this world. He came to serve. You’ve heard of Show and Tell, right? I’ll show you this and then tell you about it. The best way to reach people in this world is to show first and then tell. Go back to Ephesians 4:12. What Paul really said here was “Suck it up butter cup!” Use your gifts to serve! Underline prepare and service in verse 12. Prepare can also mean equip, perfect or train.[vi] Dr. Kenny Boles said, Service means “serving at a table.”[vii] Things like meeting the physical needs of those who are lonely, naked, thirsty or hungry. (U vs. Hunger) “The word service is used 66 times in the NT. 44 of the 66 references have to do with “meeting physical needs.”[viii] How many of you rode in last weekend’s Pelotonia? Why? Because you want cancer to end. You want to make a difference in this world. Do you realize that God allows us to help make a difference in this world and in the next? And it’s through serving! Where are you serving God? I bet you’ve never heard of Becky O’Connell. Becky is 65 years old and in the foster care world she‘s known as the Baby whisperer. Back in 1999 Becky lost her youngest son, Ian, in a car accident. His death broke her heart. She said she looked like a normal person but didn’t feel like a normal person. One day she read an ad in the paper from a local adoption agency asking people to become temporary foster parents for newborns. Becky said that sounded like her dream job. Since 1999 Becky has taken in 77 babies. That averages out to about 7 babies per year from one night to four months. These babies have often been abused or abandoned. So she gives them what they need - her undivided attention.[ix] I can only imagine what she might whisper to them. I wish you were my baby. You are loved. God said so and so do I! Becky has a gift and she’s using it to bless others.
God is whispering to you right now. I exist. I love you. I made a way for you to find me. Put your trust my son. Serve my Son. You’re not you unless you are serving. And when you serve your obedience often opens up doors for people to walk right through.
Come pray for someone you know to open the door of their heart to God. God didn't add another day in your life because you needed it; he added it because someone out there needs you! Who are you going to serve today?
[ii] Ken Boa, Conformed to His Image, 302
[vi] Logos Bible Software, Ephesians 4:12
[vii] Kenneth Boles, CP NIV Commentary, Ephesians, 277
[viii] Kenneth Boles, CP NIV Commentary, Ephesians, 278
[ix] www.preachingtoday.com Foster Mom is called “The Baby Whisperer”