Aug
25

Finding Your Place

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Text: Romans 12:1-8

 

[podcast]http://www.zion-umc.org/home/audio/sermon_08212011.mp3[/podcast]

 

In God’s Kingdom, Everyone Has a Place

Let me ask you about your satisfaction level in life.  Do you know that you’re in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing? Or, are you getting through life doing things that you are able to do but don’t experience much joy in doing them?

If you’re feeling the latter way, you’re not alone.  There are a lot of people who appear to feel the same way.  There was a report in business news early this year saying that more than 80 percent of people who are now employed intend to look for a new job – in a job-crowded market – in the upcoming year. 1,400 people were polled – and 84% of them intend to look for a new position in the coming year.  For whatever reason, they don’t think they’re in the right place.  Perhaps they’re in a job which doesn’t match up to their skills.  Or, it could simply be that there is no joy in doing what they’re doing.  They may be perfectly capable – but there’s no love for the work.

This happens in the church, too.  We all know someone (and it might even be yourself!) who has agreed to serve in an area of the church’s ministry which they aren’t good at or have no passion – but because of their love for Christ and His Church, they serve as best they can.

Everyone has a place in God’s Kingdom.  When you find your place, you do experience the joy and satisfaction of being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.  You find your place by understanding what abilities God has given you, so you know where to go!

God’s Gifts Combine Ability and Enjoyment

We all have a job in the Church. In writing to the Romans, Paul speaks about members having different “jobs” – though he calls them “gifts” – and he says that all belong to the same body, one that’s meant to work together in a healthy way. That means that each member should do the work in the church that he or she is equipped and called to do.

The Message, Eugene Peterson’s biblical paraphrase, helps us hear Paul’s point clearly: “So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

The idea is that our gifts are not just what we are capable of doing or just those things that we enjoy, but a combination of the two. We all know people who, for example, love to perform music but who are hard to listen to. They fulfill the enjoyment side but not the ability side. Likewise, you probably know people who when pressured to lead a group can do so brilliantly, but who absolutely hate the experience. They fulfill the capability side of leadership but not the enjoyment side.

Every Christian needs to take the time to learn about how God has graced them for service. The distinction between talent and gift is not ability level, but the use to which the skill is put. Paul said as much when he wrote about this same topic to the Corinthians: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” he said (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Spiritual gifts include some things that aren’t immediately visible. In addition to obvious gifts like musical skills, teaching talent, leadership prowess, financial ability, building and repair skills, things like prayer, faith, hopefulness, hospitality, kindness and mercy are also spiritual gifts. So are discernment and wisdom.

Wisdom is a spiritual gift the church needs in abundance because above all, what we do is for the good of us all so we can be effective for the good of the Kingdom.  Without wisdom, we can easily find ourselves divided and caught in problems.

In other words, one way the Spirit of God shows itself in the church is through people putting their skills to work for the congregation’s missions and ministries.

Living in God’s Kingdom is a Team Effort

Christianity is group work. It always has been. Even 1,700 years ago in the deserts of Egypt, where Christian devotees moved when our old-time religion got too easy after the Roman authorities quit tossing believers to the lions — even then — faith was a group effort. Out there, under the hot sun, they had holy communities, who gathered for worship. They also had spiritual directors, the leaders of those communities, who were called Abba or Amma, father or mother.

It is essential for Christians to have a faith community. Paul preached it. The apostles believed it. Jesus knew our faith is strongest when we are together.

You May Already Be in Your Place!

God really does implant talents in us to use in ways that make them gifts. In 1981, George Ewing, a United Methodist layperson worked as a food engineer with General Mills in Minneapolis to develop foods that would help to make America the “land of plenty.” But it bothered him that outside of the land of plenty, were millions of people who, far from having access to engineered foods, were starving. They’d be happy to have any kind of food to put in their stomachs.

It occurred to Ewing that he and his fellow engineers comprised a sizable think tank in the food industry and that they ought to be able to do something about world hunger. Eventually, Ewing and nine other General Mills scientists, engineers and executives, all of whom were church people, organized a nonprofit organization called Compatible Technology to research and develop foods and equipment to be used in food production in hunger-stricken Third World countries. They aimed for products that would actually be compatible with the meager resources those countries possessed and with the know-how of the people there.

The first project, back in 1981, was a cookie mix, high in protein and vitamins that could be used as a supplement for deficient diets in India. Compatible Technology is still going strong today, sending products and volunteers to poverty-stricken areas of developing countries. Over the past 30 years, thousands of low-income people in those areas have benefited from the dedication, creativity and ingenuity of Compatible Technology.

Here’s how Ewing explains the group’s motivation: “Jesus told us, ‘Feed my people,’ and if you work in the food industry, that’s a loaded command. We were all aware that we weren’t using our talents to do anything about world hunger.” When they began to do that, however, those talents became gifts.

If you’ve never taken the time to discover the spiritual gifts and abilities God has given you, why not start today? If you’re not sure about how to do that, come see me and I will be glad to help you – it’s one of the things I love to do!

Paul said Christ’s followers should use their skills for the common good. That means that each of us, as we come before God, should pray, “Here I am, O Lord, with all that I am. Use what you wish.”

Sources Consulted:

“Don’t Change Your God Job!” Homiletics, August 2011

“Outsourced Spirituality,” Homiletics, August 2002

Morris, Leon. The  Epistle to the Romans. IVP, 1989