Summary: This sermon offers resources for coping with discouragement and help in overcoming despair.
Ask the congregation to write a one sentence description of their life purpose. Instruct them to leave out any reference to their family or their job. Ask for volunteers to share their sentence.
Review: The past two Sundays we have been involved in a series entitled "Do Not Lose Heart.¨ The intent of the series was to encourage us as we face trials, at work, at home, at church, and in the world. It is not God’s will that we lose heart. However, it is God’s will that He be allowed to help us when we face trials. The past two Sundays we have looked at two resources that will help us overcome the battle against despair. First, we should focus on the goodness of God. God is a good, loving, and merciful God. Nothing will take away his goodness. Second, we should look for the work that God is doing in our hearts. God is at work to transform us into something wonderful. When facing tests it is human nature to focus on the trials. For instance, if I am building a bird house and ,in the midst of that project, hit my thumb with my hammer, what will I do? Am I going to sing and whistle with joy? Obviously not, I am going to cringe in pain and get all of the attention I can from Judy.
Focus matters! William H. Hinson tells us why animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions. They have their whip and their pistols are at their sides. But invariably they carry a stool. Hinson says it is the most important tool of the trainer. He holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal. Those who know lions maintain that the animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and it becomes tame, weak, and disabled because his attention is fragmented.
(quoted in Autoillustrator.com, PRIORITIES/FOCUS/PURPOSE, from Developing the Leader Within You, by John Maxwell) (Contributed to Sermon Central by Darren Ethier)
Sometimes we lose focus on our purpose. I once read a story that involved President Ulysses Grant that illustrates this point. When golf was first introduced in America a Scotsman came over to America and demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee the golfer took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President’s beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball rested on the tee. Again the Scotsman swung, and again he missed. The President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, "There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.¨ (Campus Life)
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Rob Culler)
When we lose sight of our purpose we are susceptible to any number of challenges. All of us have heard and read about the Great Wall of China. In ancient China, the people desired security from their enemies that were located to their north. To meet this challenge they built the Great Wall. It is 30 feet high, 18 feet thick, and more than 1500 miles long.
The Chinese goal was to build an absolutely impenetrable defense too high to climb over, too thick to break down, and too long to go around. But during the first hundred years of the wall’s existence China was successfully invaded three times.
It was not due to faulty workmanship on the wall. During all three invasions, the enemy never climbed over the wall, broke it down, or went around it; they simply bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right in through an open door. The wall failed because it was not able to fulfill its purpose. (James Emery White. "You Can Experience A Purposeful Life¨. Word, 2000) Sometimes life crashes because our purpose is not kept at the forefront.
When you and I are looking at a problem it is hard to focus on our purpose. However, when focused on our purpose we will not be crippled by our problems. It is inevitable that we face our trials; however, God wants to help us move beyond by focusing on our purpose.
The final truth in this series is: focus on God’s purpose and not our problems. Notice verse 1 "Since we have this ministry¡ we do not lose heart.¨ Paul had been given a ministry by God. He was a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After commencing his ministry Paul began to run into trials. Some of those trials are mentioned in verse 8 and 9 and in chapter 6 verses 4-6 (pressure, perplexity, persecution, beatings, and imprisonment). In spite of those difficulties Paul kept his eyes on his purpose. What a tremendous truth! Keep focused on God’s purpose and not your problems.