Discovering Life's Purpose

Part 4 of 4: "Becoming a Point of Light"

Discovering Life Purpose - Parts 1, 2, 3

I've been looking forward to today's message for several weeks now. The last three weeks as we've been looking at God's purposes for our lives, and we've spent a lot of time gaining insight into what God has created us for. Week one we learned that we are created to bring pleasure to God. In week two we learned that we are created to be part of God's family. And last week we learned that we are created to become like Christ.

Well today we take all of this insight we've gained and we look at how we can put it to action, because insight without action equals zero. And as we know God is a God of action, not just a God of insight and knowledge.

So the last two purposes for our life are, we are shaped for serving God and we are created for mission. I want to speak to these two purposes together since they're both action oriented and relate to one another.

It's good to understand why we were created, but for me, and I hope for you also, we need to ask the question, so what? So what do I do with this insight? I know why I was created, but God what do you want me to do now?

In all we've learned the past couple of weeks it's become clear that we have been created to make a contribution. We aren't created to just consume resources - to eat, breath, and take up space. But rather we've been created to add value to the world for Jesus sake.

While many profess the ideal of "how can we get the most out of life," God created us to add value to his creation, not just take from it. We are created to serve God. In other words we are created to be in ministry.

God also created us to be in mission. So what's the difference, the difference between ministry and mission?

Rick Warren defines each this way. Ministry is your service to believers, and mission is your service to unbelievers. This is an interesting understanding, but I don't completely agree with how Warren has defined each. His definition seems limiting to me, when both ministry and mission can be far reaching. I believe, ministry (serving God) and mission (going forth to serve others in the name of God) go hand-in-hand, and one should not be void of the other.

Back in January 2001, as a congregation we defined our purpose as a local church to be "we are growing in faith to grow God's kingdom." This purpose implies that if we are working to grow in our own faith, through study, personal piety, worship and service, we can't help but advance God's kingdom. And over the past couple of years we've seen this happen in different ways.

I know first hand of at least 9 people, and I'm sure there are more, who have received Christ as their Lord and Savior as a result of God using us to draw others to Christ, as we were growing in our own faith.

Over the past two years a number of you have become involved in new ministries. Some of you have clearly stepped out of your comfort zone and have done wonderful kingdom building ministry and mission work out of your love for Christ. And in turn, have become blessed yourselves. In other words, many of you have become "points of Light." And that's "Light" with a capital "L, " meaning you have represented Christ in what you do.

Back in what I believe was the elder President Bush's administration, or perhaps it was the Regan administration, the idea of "points of Light" became popular in speaking of volunteerism, and actually the phrase is still used today. But I use Point of Light, not to promote volunteerism, but to speak of service in the name of Jesus.

We all, are to be points of Light so that others might move to receive, see, and embrace Christ in their lives. And a point of Light doesn't have to be a huge bonfire; it can be a twinkle of an eye that gives joy and hope to another person. And this is important.

Our ability to serve God in ministry and mission is not defined by our age, physical or mental abilities, education, and so on. Our ability to serve God is based on our desire to do something in the name of God. It could be serving as a prayer warrior, it could be sending cards to the sick, it could be repairing homes in the community, or it could be staffing a hospital or digging a well in another country.

We can sometimes feel that we are failures in life unless we've accumulated a lot of things, are paid a lofty salary, or have a prestigious title. But as we heard in our reading from Acts this morning, Paul considered life worthless, unless it was used for God's work, unless it was used in ministry and for mission. Clearly Paul was focused on giving to this world in the name of Christ, not just taking from it. What Paul put into life was far more important than what he got out of it. Paul was serving as a Point of Light, a person who just shined with the glory of God. What's more important to you? What you get out of life, or what you put into it?

In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus is praying to God. And in this prayer we understand some important ideas. In verse 10 of our reading Jesus said, "All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them."

What did Jesus mean by this? Well, he meant that God's glory is the revelation of his character and presence. In other words the lives of Jesus Disciples reveal his character, and Jesus is present in the world through his Disciples.

We are Jesus' Disciples, all of us here. God is present to others through us. As with the original Disciples, our lives are to reveal the true character of Jesus, and we're to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We're to be in ministry and mission, we are to be points of Light, so that others might see the glory of God, and may come to know what Jesus is all about through how we live, speak, and serve.

What an awesome responsibility. I know for me it's sometimes overwhelming and humbling to think that God has chosen me, the sinner I am to be his representative, his point of Light here in this place. And we are all chosen by God and set apart for Kingdom work. Yes, God has tapped you on the shoulder too and said, "Be a point of Light, show others the glory of God."

It's also important to realize that although we have a great responsibility, the ministries and missions we engage in don't have to be some grandiose made for TV event. If you call someone out of concern to see how he or she is doing, you're in ministry; you are a point of Light. If you send someone a "we miss you card," you're in ministry; you are a point of Light.

If you visit the nursing home and sing later today with the residents, you're in ministry, you are a point of Light. If you stock the food bank, repair a home, build a school in another country, help those ravaged by the recent hurricane, you're in ministry, you are a point of Light.

There are so many ways we can be in ministry and mission, and I'll bet everyone here today is engaged in some sort of ministry or mission effort, we just don't see it that way because of what we've come to understand to be ministry and mission.

For the longest time we've been taught that ministry was something a pastor did, but not so. We are all called to be in ministry. A pastor is just one form of ministry. If you're baptized you are called to be in ministry. By virtue of your Baptism you are called by God and set apart to be a point of Light.

We've also been taught that mission meant going overseas, or to some other part of the country, to help others. Not so, yes this is a form of mission, a very important mission, but mission work can be done right in our own neighborhood. Reaching out to others in the name of Jesus Christ, and making Disciples is what our mission is, regardless of where. Some folks are called to work locally, others are called to work abroad, and both forms of work are equal, in that the work is being down in the name of Christ.

Being a point of Light, bringing the love of Christ in whatever form, whether it be food, shelter, or medicine is ministry and mission.

As I stand here and look out into the congregation this morning I see many points of Light looking back at me. Many of you have served as a point of Light for me personally, perhaps you've offered an encouraging word when I needed it most, a prayer, or just by saying yes when asked to serve. Yes, I see many points of Lights here today, and pray that your light will grow even stronger.

Now what happens when points of Light come together in Christian harmony? The place becomes all the brighter doesn't it, there's a divine glow about the place, you just know Christ is present, you can feel it, and you can just sense the glory of God is shining all around us. When there is a great light, some great things can happen.

As a community of faith, we have opportunity to be in ministry and mission right here where we live, and we have opportunity to go beyond the town limits to reach those in far away places. And whether speaking of ministry or mission, the catalyst, which moves us to action, is our willingness to serve.

For many to become a Point of Light requires a change in the way we think, a change of attitude if you will, a move from consumer to servant.

Know that God is always more interested in why we do something, rather than what we do. Intent or motive becomes God's key barometer when judging us, and this is a point I've been making the past couple of months. Intent or motive is so important.

To serve God effectively God requires that we: " place others before ourselves, " think like stewards not owners, " remain focused on our work and not what others are doing, " base our identity in Christ and not try to prove ourselves worthy, " and view ministry and mission as an opportunity not an obligation.

Now being a servant isn't easy. The Disciples struggled with this. This is one reason Jesus prayed to God asking for help with his Disciples. Jesus didn't want to leave them hanging after he was gone. So God sent us the Holy Spirit to help us and be with us as we strive to be faithful points of Light.

In his prayer Jesus prayed for his Disciples, which includes us today. He prayed that God would keep his faithful believers safe from Satan's power, setting them apart and making them pure and holy, uniting them through his truth.

When we engage in ministry and mission, more than at any other time, we can feel Satan's power all the more fierce. Satan is always trying to blow out our light, to move others and us away from the light.

We wonder sometimes why it seems so difficult to get through to people, why they can't or don't want to get to know Christ. Well one reason is Satan, don't underestimate the power of evil and deception, it's there, it's all around us.

The power of Satan is at its strongest when we are depressed, down and out, and it seems like no one cares. Satan can get into our heads and begin manipulating our thoughts, turning us away from God, convincing us that God doesn't care about us. But God does care, God cares because he created us and we are part of his family. We mustn't let Satan blow out our light, and we mustn't let Satan keep us from bringing the light of Christ to others through ministry and mission.

Being a Point of Light isn't always easy, but I have found there is nothing more rewarding.

You know God has great plans for your life, seek his purpose and allow his light to shine through you, become a point of Light for Jesus sake.


Read the full series of Pastor Wade's Discovering Life's Purpose