Connecting With the Sweet Spot

 (Luke 9: 28-43)

Has anyone here ever had an encounter with God?

Well three of Jesus' disciples, Peter, James, and John had a highly personal encounter with Jesus on a mountain top. And as a result of their encounter they were changed forever.

As scripture tells us Jesus was praying on the mountain when suddenly "the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening." Then the disciples saw two more men appear next to Jesus, they were Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glorious splendor and spoke with Jesus. Then an amazing thing happened, "a cloud appeared and enveloped them." Then a voice was heard from the cloud saying, "This is my son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."

Because of what we refer to as Jesus' transfiguration the disciples were changed forever by what they saw and experienced that day. Their mountain top experience was unlike anything they had encountered before.

Has anyone here ever had what you would call a mountain top experience, an experience of God that was so remarkable that it was hard to describe or explain?

Well the day after this glorious experience up on the mountain a crowd grew at the foot of the mountain awaiting the arrival of Jesus and the three disciples to return.

When a man saw the men return he yelled out from the crowd, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes the boy and he screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. The man said I begged your disciples to cast out the demon, but they could not."

These were the same disciples that yesterday felt like they could do anything. But today each of them feels they can't do a thing.

Have you ever experienced this? One day you have an encounter with God, a mountain top experience that was so glorious everything seemed right, but then the next day you seem powerless, like everything had returned to same'ol, same'ol. You're depleted, worn out, exhausted, and have nothing more to give. You're overwhelmed by demands, expectations, busyness, and long to-do lists.

Is everyone here familiar with the expression "bad-hair-day?" Anyone ever had a bad-hair day? My boys say I have a bad-hair-day every day. Anyway, I suggest we also can experience bad spiritual days.

Now what do I mean by this? I mean we've been on the mountain top. We've had a glimpse or close encounter with God. We feel we've touched the spiritual and seen the glory. And God seemed so real to us.

Then the next day we come down from our experience and confront the pressures, demands, expectations, and requirements of our life, as if nothing changed. It's at this point we ask, where are you today? I had a close encounter of a spiritual kind yesterday, but where is God now?

Well a life of following Jesus can't be reduced to following some systematic process or a specific pattern of living. The reality of the Christian life is that we're up on the mountain top one day and we're down in the valley the next. It can be like a roller coaster ride sometimes, the ups and downs coming at us fast a furious.

The fact is following Jesus involves both escape and engagement. It includes time of solitude and time of service. It's both receiving and giving. And it can be full of things that just don't seem to fit together nicely. Following Jesus can be confusing and exciting all at the same time.

One way to even out the potential roller coaster ride, the highs and the lows, is to connect with the sweet spot. Now what in the world do I mean by this?

How many of you have played golf, baseball, softball, tennis, racquet ball, or something similar?

When you played did you ever hit the ball and it seemed to just fly, and it didn't even feel like the ball hit the club, racquet, or bat? Well that's because you hit the ball with the sweet spot.

Now hitting a golf ball with the sweet spot of my golf club happens so infrequently I can remember for weeks the specific shot I hit, where the ball went and how far it went. The ball goes flying and it doesn't even feel like I hit it. And the neat thing is I can actually find the ball when I walk down the fairway.

But what happens when you miss hit the ball? Well, it's also been my experience playing golf that when I miss hit the ball it ends up hitting a house or it fly's into the water. But what also happens is the club vibrates and sometimes hurts my hand because I hit the ball somewhere outside the sweet spot.

And the same thing happens if you're using a bat or racquet. If you miss the sweet spot vibration and sometimes pain will result, and who knows where the ball ends up.

In baseball you want to hit the ball just above the label, in racquet sports you want to hit it in the middle of the racquet. What a good feeling it is to nail the ball with the sweet spot.

I joined a gym a couple of weeks ago and I was intrigued by a brochure I read about a heart monitor you can buy to track your heart rate when you're using one of the treadmill's or bike's.

Anyway the brochure reads "finding your exercise sweet spot" meaning finding the heart rate that allows you to exercise at peak efficiency, while burning fat and improving overall fitness. So I got to thinking. What about our spiritual sweet spot, that point where we are working and living out of our center of passion and giftedness. Wouldn't it be great if we could connect with God through our spiritual sweet spot on a regular basis?

I'm convinced if we did we would experience more spiritual ups then downs, and our life in general would be more productive, abundant, and full.

Well we can, we can find that sweet spot, our center of passion and giftedness, and then learn to work and live from it, if we connect more fully with Christ and his call on our lives.

As faithful disciples we have this deep need to connect with Jesus and to be effective in our service in his name. This energy can be described as "living and working out of our sweet spot." And when we live and work from our spiritual sweet spot, we are connected to Christ in a unique way, which maximizes our personal potential for Christ's mission and continued growth in our relationship with him. It seems to me when Peter, James, and John experienced the transfiguration of Jesus they were connected to Christ in a unique spiritual way and their relationship with him changed and grew from that point on.

When we are in tune with our sweet spot and work from it, we love what we do, and we seem to have an abundance of energy and joy, and we too are then connected to Christ in a unique spiritual way. Conversely is we are constantly doing things we're not passionate about or are gifted to do, we become drained and depleted more easily.

I find I'm energized by our worship experience and celebration together. I love to preach, I love to share God's love and hope. I'm never more in my sweet spot than I am when we worship together. This is when I feel I'm fulfilling God's purpose for my life, more so than at other times during the week.

Now as a pastor I have many different responsibilities, all of which I feel are important, but worship is what I do best, and preaching is something I'm passionate about and really enjoy.

Let me share with you another example. One of the tasks a pastor is called upon to do is tend to the details of specific ministries. For me, managing a lot of the details is not what I am gifted to do. When I engage in the details of a ministry activity I draw from my previous experience and strive to make everything workout with no glitches.

Now I can manage ministry details, but only with a great deal of effort and energy because it's not my passion, it's not what I enjoy doing, and it's not what I'm gifted to do.

On the other hand casting a vision and thinking about ways to improve and enhance existing ministries, or developing new ministries, and exploring new ways to reach people with the gospel, really juices me up and energizes me. That's how I know I am connected with my spiritual sweet spot, when I'm feeling energized and pumped about what I'm doing.

Now we all have things we can-do, or are suppose to do by virtue of our vocation or circumstance. Mother's and father's have things they can-do as parents whether they're gifted for it or not. Those in supervisory positions at work have things they can-do by virtue of their positions whether they like to or not. And I'm sure each of you can give me an example of something you may not be passionate about or feel gifted to do, but you do it and can-do it, then at the end of doing it you just feel drained or perhaps unfulfilled.

Now I'm not suggesting we stop doing the things we're not passionate about or gifted for. I'm suggesting we know the difference between those things we can-do and those things we are passionate about doing so we can draw a good balance between the two.

How many of you know your passion and what you're gifted to do?

Well if you want to verify what you think, or if you're not sure but want to find your passion and giftedness, all you need to do is ask someone who knows you well.

You see often times its easier for someone else to recognize what our sweet spot is then it is for us too. So I encourage you to ask a friend, colleague, mentor, or spouse to describe for you what their observations of you are; what motivates you, what your passion is, what energizes you, where are you fruitful. And if you're really bold ask your kids or grandkids to tell you what they observe to be your passion. You might be surprised by the response.

I'm absolutely convinced that if we can spend the majority of our time working from our spiritual sweet spot we will be more effective, in our lives, in our places of work, in our ministry, and in our relationship with Christ.

So if you're spending more than half of your time doing things your not passionate about than I suggest you come up with a plan to change that.

What I've found from my own experience is that if we work from our sweet spot good things happen, and life seems more abundant and complete. When we don't, life seems more difficult and unfulfilling. When we work from our spiritual sweet spot we can't help but honor and glorify God, bless other people, and in turn bring joy, contentment, peace, and hope to our lives.

So we need to be able to identify our center of passion and giftedness and look for ways to work from that center, and everything we touch will be multiplied for the kingdom of God.

Now your sweet spot is probably different than mine and different from the person sitting next to you. This is why we need each other; this is why the Apostle Paul speaks so much about the body of Christ. Not one of us has every gift God has created. We need one another to truly be whole.

I know that about an hour after I've worked out, assuming I was exercising at the appropriate exercise sweet spot, I feel as if I have more energy than I did before I started. Same is true when we're working from our spiritual sweet spot. When we work from our passion and giftedness we become energized, our outlook on life is positive, and our ability to stay faithful to God is enhanced.

In our Bible study this past week we discussed what it means to live fully, and specifically what it means to live more fully as children of God. I'm convinced to live more fully, as God desires we do, we need to spend more time on those things we're passionate about and are gifted for. If we don't, we become cynical negative people, and my goodness who wants to be around a sour puss all day.

So one key to living a full and Christ-like life is finding that place; that center of our passion and giftedness, because that's God's call on our life.

God wants us to live in a way that allows us to use our gifts. And when we do we honor and bring glory to him. After all we were created to be passionate for God. So don't spend your life doing things out of your can-do or must-do list. Allow God to work through your spiritual sweet spot to create a fulfilling and abundant life.

I'm persuaded that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has shared the gift of passion with every person here today, and God has gifted each one of us with a special purpose in mind. So I encourage you to discover that passion, to explore your giftedness, and to fan the flame of spiritual fervor within you, so that God's kingdom might shine bright, lives will be changed for Jesus sake, and so your life will be abundant and eternal. Amen.

Resources used the preparation of this sermon (in part or for inspiration) in addition
to the Holy Bible include: Unlearning Church by Michael Slaughter

Read other messages by Pastor Wade