Every human being desires to feel needed and wanted. Feeling that we need to be in someone’s life or doing a certain job makes us feel important. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Sometimes just the fact that others rely on us can keep us going even when we want to quit. You may hate your job but you know that if you quit you can’t feed your family. They need you as the man or woman of the household to work to support them because they cannot support themselves. We see this in the empty nest syndrome that most parents, especially mothers, feel as their children leave home. Many times its not just your baby leaving that hurts and makes you sad but the fact that the whole reason you have lived for the last 20 years was to take care of that child/children. When they leave, even if you sometimes complained about having to care for them, you miss them and you miss your reason for living.
On the idea of purpose, there is a story about a rich man who wanted to buy his mother something she had never had and that only he could afford. He spent weeks trying to find the perfect gift when finally he heard about a bird which could sing opera, speak four-thousand words, and could even speak in different languages. This is the perfect gift for his mother. She spends most of her time at the house alone just watching TV. Now she can have a companion. He immediately bought the bird for fifty thousand dollars and express shipped it to his mother. After about a week, he became concerned that she hadn’t received the bird. He soon called her and sure enough she had received the bird. “What do you think of the bird, mom?” She replied excitedly, “Delicious!”
Today we start on the second train track that we will lay that will take us into the future as a church. The second track that we must lay gives purpose and meaning to our lives as children of the Lord. Today we will talk about spiritually gifted ministry. Romans 12:1 states “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” A good translation of this would be “because of all that God has done, we should serve him in the way that we have been given to serve Him.” How? With what are you and I supposed to serve God? Romans 12:3-8 give us the answer. (READ SCRIPTURE) In the body of Christ, everyone has a place to serve. God has gifted each and every one of us to have a place to serve Him. In God’s kingdom, the church, there is a place for everyone and everyone should find their place. Let’s look through the verses we have read and see how we can find our place in the body of Christ.
Start with a Servant’s Heart (Rom 12: 1, 3)
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
According to the grace given to Paul, in other words his apostleship, he gives everyone a command that they should understand. Each one of the Christians at Rome had been given a spiritual gift that they were supposed to use to edify the body of Christ. Knowing exactly how mankind works, Paul addresses the very first issue: pride. “Each individual member of the congregation is pointedly commanded by the apostle to be careful how he regards himself, lest constantly, habitually, he allow himself to have either too high an opinion of his own importance, or too low an estimate of his value to the congregation.” Neither being prideful nor being disdainful has any value or place in the body of Christ. Instead, the people judge themselves according to a better measuring stick; sober thinking. They must choose to think responsibly about where they belong in the body. Sober thinking never exaggerates nor depreciates the gifts God has given and no gift is necessarily better than another. The Romans needed to understand that if a gift was given to us by God then it is exactly what the body needs to grow strong. All the gifts given to the Romans were given to serve God while building up his church. A servant doesn’t wonder whether or not he can do anything for his master but does what he can to the best of his ability.
“In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target. But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter’s immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. "Perhaps most remarkable," writes Jaroff, "those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.’" The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.
So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits.” The very first ingredient need to find our place in the body of Christ is a servant’s heart; a willingness to do all that we can do and go above and beyond where we ever expected that we would go. When we first dedicate ourselves to serving God, just as it says in verse one, then we will begin to develop as a people group and as individuals. We must present our bodies as living sacrifices; i.e. since we don’t have to die for our sins we give up our right to our lives to serve God. Once our hearts desire to serve God, then he will use us as his instruments to reach the world. However this is only the first ingredient.
Add a dash of unity – and responsibility (Rom 12:4, 5)
The second ingredient and second step “ups the ante” a little bit. Paul only starts with this recipe for gift-based ministry with a servant’s heart and now he pours on a little corporate responsibility and a dash of unity. The human body has an incredible number of functions that it performs just to keep us alive much less active and out-going. Just the number of different types of cells that are produced which then in turn specialize themselves into our different organs is a the least amazing. The cells that make up your liver don’t argue with the kidney cells that they are better or more organized. Indigestion may feel as though your body is arguing with itself but it’s probably what you ate. Either the diversity of the cells and the unity of the body have to be harmonious or we will reap the problems. Why would the “body” of Christ be any different? Paul continues in verse five by saying “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” There is only one body of Christ and only those who love him, serve him, and follow him whole heartedly live as a part of it. However, that does not exempt anyone in the body from being accountable to the other body parts. Not only should the people be unified by they are also responsible to one another.
In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn’t. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus.
"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."
"Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can’t you guys get organized like that?"
The unity of the body comes second after a servant’s heart. How could we be unified together if some of us do not desire to serve God? Just as Lucy unified her fist into a “weapon that is terrible to behold” so through Christ we can also be unified into a body which creates awe. Just as our bodies are made of many members and we want all of them to work together, so Christ wants his many members to work together in His body. In the body of Christ, each member belongs to one another. I am not responsible to you because I am paid to be here. I am responsible to you because I am a part of Jesus Christ and so are you. The inverse is true as well. How much stronger could our church be if we unified by being responsible and accountable to each other for how we serve God? The first ingredient, a servant’s heart, now mixed with a bit of unity and responsibility creates a body of believers. Your place in the body of believers should begin to shape at this stage. You want to serve and now have a place where you find accountability to other men and women.
Flavor with Uniqueness (Rom 12: 6-8)
Finally, the last piece that will complete the puzzle we have been trying to unravel. You start with a willingness to serve God and then add yourself to a group of Christians who also seek to serve God. Finally, you flavor the group together by adding the uniqueness of each individual and their individual gifts. Each person in this collective group here has their own special talents and abilities that they can use to serve God. Having the desire to serve and gathering with believers on Sunday’s isn’t enough to help you find your position in the body of Christ. One further step must be taken. “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching , let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Paul lists a wonderful array of gifts the people might have shown aptitude in. Although, arguably, the spiritual gifts caused by the laying on of hands by the apostles, the miraculous gifts, have already passed Paul continues to list prophecy among the common gifts that each of us have from becoming Christians. I would define prophecy as “the ability to serve others by faithfully perceiving and proclaiming the will of God.” Those who would have this gift would be the eyes of the body or maybe the feet taking us where they can see and understand where God wants us. The others seem to be self-explanatory.
How do I know what I can do? There are many studies and tests you can take to figure out where you fit. I have one in my office called “Discovering My Ministry” which I would be glad to take you through so that it could help you identify your specific gifts according to the way you are wired. Since God has wired all of us differently, we can take a look at our preferences, where we work best, and how we work best to find where we can best serve God. If you are an out-going, out-spoken, person who doesn’t like to do the small stuff then you probably are not a servant. If you love to bring smiles to peoples faces, especially when they are down, you are probably an encourager just like Barnabas. We all have the capability to do every area of ministry but that doesn’t mean that we will be able to do our very best for God.
When God designed mankind, he knew from the very beginning that the church would need a diverse array of different types of people. Finding our place in the church so that we can serve the Lord with all of our heart isn’t always easy. When we serve the way we have been designed, we find purpose and meaning in our work. Whether it be here at the church or on the job talking to a co-worker. Our gifts can be our greatest personal strengths in reaching out to others who do not know Christ. When we become willing to serve Christ and find a group of believers to gather together with, we can then begin using our gifts for the glory of God. The last ingredient of a growing church and the final piece to finding how we can serve God comes from our uniqueness as individuals.
Many people spend their entire lives searching for their place in life. Places where they fit in and where they can grow, learn, and change. Places where they can be themselves and work for a cause greater than themselves. Places where they can impact the world and maybe even eternity. The church is that place. The body of Christ has a place for everyone and we want more than anything for you to find your place. “A place for everyone and everyone in their place.” To find your place you must have a willing heart, a group you can connect with, and utilize your unique gifts for the kingdom of God. Every single gift and every single person is needed. Maybe it should be said “a purpose for everyone and everyone finding their purpose.” God has greater things in-store for this church and each and every one of you if you will only seek him and his kingdom.
(note: Sermon subject is taken from NCD)