Summary: Using Rick Warren’s SHAPE acronym to help understand how God gives positive and painful experiences in our life to shape our ministry.
We are in the last week of our series “Created to be God’s Masterpiece.” Our key passage has been Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
We have been exploring over the last four weeks how God has beautifully and wonderfully created each us to be a Masterpiece, his work of art. You are not just some random genetic hodgepodge of your parents, but rather as the Scripture reminds us, God has intentionally planned for you to be who you are. God has been molding and shaping you from conception until our born again experience of faith in Christ until today. One of his purposes in doing this is so that we might be shaped to do good things, by serving the Lord and one another.
With each week we have been exploring the unique S.H.A.P.E. in which God has created us. The “S” stands for Spiritual gifts. God has given each Christian believer special abilities called spiritual gifts. Some of the gifts are listed in 1 Corinthian 12 and Romans 12. The “H” stands for Heart or passion. God has ignited a flame within each of us, something we feel strongly about. It may lie dormant, but the closer you get to God the closer our heart becomes passionate about something God is passionate about. It usually includes a desire to help someone or some cause within the church, community, or the world. When we serve in the area where we are passionate, we are more effective in ministry and it becomes enjoyable. The “A” for Abilities or natural skills. God has equipped each of us with natural abilities from birth. There are some things we are better at than others. Some are better at music, others at math and science, others at construction, cooking. However we must continue to grow and learn if we are maximize our natural abilities. The raw potential is there but we must grow and learn to put it to use. The “P” stands for Personality. God has given us different personalities or temperaments to serve him in different ways. Some people are more outgoing and do the up front ministry, others are more shy and do behind the scenes ministry, some are more people oriented others tend to be task oriented, some love variety others love routine. It is not about right or wrong, just different. Today we are looking at the last letter in SHAPE, “E,” which stands for Experiences.
We all have different experiences as we go through life, both good and bad. Even if you grew up in the same family you had different experiences because you had different relationships with your family members, you had different friends growing up, you went and did different things. No two people have gone through the exact same experiences in exactly the same way. Take a car accident for instance with many observers around, perhaps in a large city. Each person shared in the same experience. Yet, when interviewed by the cops each observer gives different response based on where they were and what they saw. In other words they shared the experience but in a different way. You may go through the same experiences with others but it effects you in different ways. Your experiences are unique to you. Some experiences are positive, others are neutral, and still others can be very painful. Why have you had the experiences? Is it just coincidence? I believe Scripture reveals to us that one of the reasons God allows us to have these experiences, whether positive or painful, is to shape us into the persons he wants us to be to serve in the way he has called. Sometimes we need to go through the fire to be refined.
God Works Our Experiences Out for Good
One of the great passages of Scripture which reminds us that God uses our experiences in a positive way is Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
In other words God takes all things, including all of our experiences, whether they are positive or painful, whether they occurred through our intentional effort or by accident, whether it was a byproduct of our actions or someone else’s, and God somehow, mysteriously works all of these experiences out for the good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose, or who follow his plan for their lives.
A Biblical example of this would be the OT character Joseph. Joseph was his father’s favorite son, and out of jealousy his brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph became the slave of an Egyptian captain of the guard named Potiphar. Joseph served him faithfully and rose to be his favorite servant, and he placed Joseph in charge of his entire household. However Potiphar’s wife desired Joseph and made a pass at him, but because he refused her, she falsely accused Joseph of rape, and he found himself in prison for many years. Joseph again served faithfully in prison until he was put in charge of the entire jail, as a prisoner. One day Pharaoh had a dream which no one could interpret for him. His cupbearer finally remembered how Joseph had interpreted his dream during his brief stint in jail. So they brought Joseph before Pharaoh, and Joseph correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh placed Joseph second in command of all Egypt, his job was to store up grain for the years of famine. Years later Joseph reconciled with his brothers, yet after their father Jacob died they were still worried that Joseph was going to try to get even with them for all the harm they had caused him, but this was Joseph’s response: