A God Dream
by Sam Collier
I’m going to shoot straight with you. I love the church. I grew up in the church. I have basically served in one church or another since I was seven years old. I love the church! I love its vision. I love its mission. I love its faithfulness. I love its vibe. It’s possible I don’t love anything here on planet earth more than the church, the incredible bride of Christ. And yet . . . there’s also something I don’t love about the church.
It’s this: We as the church have failed in our efforts to teach people how to truly activate the new life they find in Christ. I love what a pastor friend of mine often says: “Salvation is only the door to the kingdom. Why would we just stop at the door and never actually go inside?” Unfortunately, we as a church have failed to help people step inside the life God has for them to live and use their specific gifts.
This is a problem.
Let me draw our attention for a moment to God’s words in the book of Jeremiah. Now admittedly, these words were spoken to a specific man—to Jeremiah. They weren’t spoken to you and me. What I want to do by looking at these words is not focus so much on the specific application but rather on the general approach we can find.
Jeremiah was going about his business in his day and age, following the laws of the rulers of the day, when God interrupted his personal story with a message from on high: The Lord gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1: 4–5)
“I knew you.”
“I set you apart.”
“I . . . appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Hang on to those thoughts for a moment. We’ll come back to them. First, Jeremiah’s response: “O Sovereign Lord,” Jeremiah said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” To which God replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (vv. 6–8).
The text says that God then reached out, touched the prophet’s lips, and literally put words in his mouth. “Today,” God said, “I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant” (v. 10). God showed Jeremiah a series of visions so that he could see himself executing this plan of God’s. Then, it was time to move. “Get up,” God told him, “and prepare for action” (v. 17).
Observing the fearful young man, God then offered a final word of encouragement: “For see,” he said, “today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land—the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (vv. 18–19).
God reminded Jeremiah who he was and still is, as well as what God had already done for him . . . I knew you, Jeremiah! I set you apart. I appointed you for a specific purpose in your generation, in your time. God put words in his mouth so that he could go change the world. God assured his beloved Jeremiah that he would take care of him until the end. Was this message directed specifically toward Jeremiah? It was. Are those three main tenets valid for you and me? One hundred percent.
During the No Losing years, I had an epiphany. Although I had heard various pastors teach that God had a purpose for me, I’d never been taught how to sort out what it was. By extension, I’d also never been taught how to sort out what it was not. This is why I felt like a failure, why I was losing during those years.
For the hundredth time, I came across that passage from Jeremiah. And between seeing God’s message to Jeremiah with fresh eyes and hearing a preacher I deeply respect speak on the topic of life purpose, my vision began to clear. That preacher was Bishop Jakes, and here is what he said: “Most of us spend only 20 percent of our time doing what we’re really good at and 80 percent doing what we think we’re good at. And people deal with the 80 just to get the 20.”
Twenty percent effectiveness. Eighty percent noneffectiveness.
Twenty percent God-breathed.
Eighty percent self-imposed.
Twenty percent grace. Eighty percent hard work.
“How do I discover my 20 percent?”
What is purpose? What is your purpose? How do we pursue our purpose in life? Once we find it, how do we stay on course? These are the questions I’m interested in answering together. Here goes: You discover purpose when PASSION, GIFTING, and PROVISION collide! In other words: Your purpose equals your passion, plus your gifting, plus God’s provision in your life.
Find three or four trusted loved ones. One by one, ask them, “What is special about me?” Let them get all their emotionally charged, lovey-dovey remarks out regarding how kind you are, how loving you are, how amazing you are, how beautiful or handsome you are, and so forth. Smile. Say thank you. Give them a hug. Then, write all of that down and circle the similarities. This will be the heart of the gift God has graced you in.
You are a great . . . Listener. Inspirer. Activator. Shepherd. Processor. Planner. Friend.
Then, ask this: “What special gifts or talents do you believe are most valuable in me?” Now you’ll hear some life-changing truth. My advice to you as these conversations unfold?
Lean in. Listen well. Take good notes. Then, get alone with God for an hour and do the same as you did following the first question. Write it down. Circle the similarities. Sort out what’s common in the input you’ve received. What are the breadcrumbs God’s asking you to follow? You’ll find your grace gift in the words circled multiple times.
For me, it was inspiration and speaking. For you it may be shepherding and preaching. Planning and administration. Creativity and cooking. Determination and basketball. Encouragement and explaining medicine.
Those clues will lead you to God’s provision for you.
Sam Collier, A Greater Story, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2020, Used by permission. http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com
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