Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 10th February, 2019
There isn’t one Sunday morning – not one – that I don’t stand here and think, how did this happen? How did I end up being the Pastor of such an incredible church, full of amazing people, that continues to grow, one person at a time, one family at a time, one youth at a time – People from all walks of life who somehow have joined together to form Christ’s body – His Church – at Seacoast.
I can explain what happened. I can tell you the story. But for the life of me, I could never tell you “how” it happened.
It reminds me of the parable of the farmer and the seed.
Mark 4:26-29, “And He (Jesus) said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
We are all part of God’s kingdom being manifest before our very eyes.
I love it, actually, that the farmer sows the seed, then sleeps at night… I love it that I can sleep at night! I get to rest. I get to lay down without feeling the pressure and the stress of forcing the seed to germinate. I wouldn’t know what miracle of God’s kingdom causes a seed to germinate. I’m just not that clever!
And while I’m sleeping, the seed sprouts and grows. I don’t know how it happens, and what’s more – I don’t have to know how it happens. But I get up in the morning, and there it is.
All I have to do is make sure I keep sowing the seed – watering it – fertilising it – allowing the sun to shine on it. And the earth yields crops all by itself.
The most exciting thing about this parable is the end bit.
The grain ripens, the farmer puts in the sickle, and there’s a great harvest.
That’s ultimately why we are here – to see the souls of men and women reconciled to the Father – to see them receive an inheritance of eternal life.
Each one of you are farmers – just like the one in the parable. You have been given seed to sow – the seed is your life, your gifts and talents, your time, your passion, your unique purpose for being here.
And it’s incredible what God can do with a life that is sown into His kingdom – a life that desires to fulfil the purposes of God. They’re tied together – His purposes and yours… they are ultimately the same thing.
I’ve always been a bit reluctant to get too deeply into Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.” I have trouble getting past the title. It’s just me – I know that! Some of you choleric, high achiever type personalities would probably be drawn to it like a moth to a flame. But I’m not a fan of the word “driven.”
However… I’m all for finding and walking in our purpose for life.
The scripture that had the most impact on me realising I even had a unique purpose in life, was Jeremiah 29:11-13.
During one of my Sunday afternoon depressed states, many years ago… contemplating going back to work for another meaningless week, Venese brings me an open bible and says – Read this! Praise God for wives…
It was in the good old days when the The Good News Bible was all the rage.
I don’t have that version now, but the NLT translates this scripture in a similar way.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT), “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
That scripture turned my whole life around. I needed a future and a hope. I needed to know that there was a plan and purpose for my life. And as we sought God together, wholeheartedly, we found Him, and we found His purpose for us as a couple…
And in the end, it led me to quit my job, take up full time study… it led me and my young family to another city, to more study, to full time ministry, to eventually return to Ballina to lead this church… and here we are over 18 years later, still trying to wholeheartedly look for God and to navigate through the plans He has for our life, and the life of Seacoast Church. And we know we still have a lot to learn and grow into… but we’re on the way!
I’m convinced that the season we are entering now is going to be our most fruitful.
The personal, intimate question that God is asking each one of us this morning, is – what is the purpose for your life? Why are you here? Why are you living?
Is it to accumulate more and more stuff? A bigger bank balance?
The older I get, the more I realise that life is for giving… sowing… blessing…
It’s about diligently finding and walking in your purpose for living.
When we get to the end of the road, are we really going to be regretting that we should have done more overtime? That we should have bought that new car? That we should have actually shopped at Aldi all along, and waited in the line for that super cheap, super-sized TV?
To be honest, I don’t care whether you’ve got a super-sized TV or not. That’s not the issue!
I care that you have laid hold of that for which Jesus Christ has laid hold of you!
Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
If I’m sharing scriptures that Fiona shared last week, I’m not deliberately meaning to. I heard Fiona’s message on Running To It. And it flows beautifully with the themes that are coming through right now.
I have to share with you this Philippians 3 scripture from the Passion Translation.
Philippians 3:12-14 (Passion), “I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus.”
What are we running too? We’re running with passion to reach our purpose.
If that’s what it means to be driven – then that’s what it is. But it’s not in our own strength – it’s with the Anointing of Jesus. It’s resting in His presence at night, and waking up in the morning to see what He has done – miraculously!
Purpose is very much tied up with vision. We need a vision for our lives. We need to have vision for other people’s lives – particularly when they have trouble seeing it for themselves.
Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint…;”
Other versions say, where there’s no prophetic vision, people quickly wander away… when people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild… if people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…
It breaks my heart when people wander away, when they run wild with worldly culture and pursuits, when they stumble all over themselves. These are hard hitting words… and we’ve probably all been there.
Having purpose and vision makes all the difference.
When you know your purpose, you can withstand the greatest of storms coming against you. You can stand against difficulties, challenges, obstacles…
We’ve had to stand up against all kinds of storms… but our vision and purpose has held us. The Anointing of the Holy Spirit has strengthened us.
The fact that we are all in this together, and as the body of Christ we can support and strengthen one another – this is what has held us.
When I say I don’t relate to the word “driven”, as I said, I realise that’s probably my own issue and my personality coming into to play. But I am passionate – and I will stand for what I believe in – and I will never deliberately compromise the Word of God.
And I do admire those of you who are the adventurous types. Those of you who jump off mountains with a tiny little piece of cloth on a few strings, or trek across the country with a propellor attached to your back…
I can admire people – from a distance – who climb mountains and forge through the wilderness…
We met up with Marshall, the pastor from Yamba, during the week. He’s preparing to do the Kokoda Trail in a few months.
Ps. Shane DeGraaf from Redbank Plains is off to PNG again soon.
I know there’s a sense of adventure and risk taking that God has placed in all of us. I can understand how thrilling it must be to accomplish extraordinary feats by pushing yourself beyond the limits of normal living.
But there’s pushing to be done, not only in the wilderness or the mountains. There’s a pushing in spiritually. There’s a pushing in to God to discover your purpose in life. There’s a pushing in with our relationships.
Surely our relationships are intimately and closely tied to our purpose for life.
There’s a pushing in to the Word of God.
Jeremiah’s prophetic word was that it’s those who seek God passionately and wholeheartedly that will find him, and hear His voice.
There’s an element in this message that’s saying – Dare to be different – Dare to change – Dare to trust God with what He desires for your life. Dare to have faith for the future – Dare to have hope!
There’s a good one! I dare you to have hope for your future! I dare you to believe that God has an awesome plan – that’s He thinks incredible things about your life! His thoughts toward you cannot be counted.
Just one little snapshot from Ps. 139 says:
Psalm 139:16-18, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”
Even before you were properly formed God knew you. He had incredible thoughts about your life. He even had a book with everything about you written in it. And it cannot be measured.
The womb is meant to be the most amazing place of nurture and growth, where precious new life unfolds according The the plans and purposes of our Heavenly Father. It’s supposed to be safe, secure, protected… it’s the place of miracles.
Tragically, it isn’t that place for many…
We get the opportunity and privilege to live out our Purpose – because many multitudes don’t.
Which brings me to another point.
If you are living your life on purpose – and living for the purposes of God – it doesn’t matter when death comes – because you will still be on purpose – God’s Purpose and plan.
I read this strange story this week about a British Prime Minister – Mr William Gladstone, who lived in the late 1800’s.
He had a young man approach him who couldn’t wait to tell him about his plans for his life. I guess he was looking for affirmation from this great statesman of the British Empire.
The young man said – I’m going to study law. Gladstone said, and what then?
The man said – I’ll gain entrance to the Bar of England.
And what then?
I hope to have a place in the House of Lords… the young man said – probably thinking how noble his plans were.
Gladstone said again: What then?
I’m going to do great things for Britain.
And what then?
I’ll retire – and take it easy.
And what then?
The young man said – I suppose I’ll die!
And what then?
Well, I haven’t thought beyond that.
Mr Gladstone looked at the young man and sternly said – Young man, you are a fool! Go home and think life through!
You see, if our Purpose does not have eternal value – if it is not tied up with heaven’s plans… if it isn’t about our legacy, our faithfulness to all the thoughts and plans that God Himself has towards us – then what’s it all about?
Because it’s only when we consider all of those things, that we can be confident that whenever death comes – it won’t hinder our purpose in life.
I want to tell you how much it blessed me to see Marion sitting up in the middle of about 16 or so people in the Connect Group on Wednesday. This was the first Connect Group without her husband Geoff by her side.
I could easily feel very sad and emotional about that… but if I look at the bigger picture, I think… good on you Geoff! You didn’t leave until you’d finished up the group just before Christmas – thanked everyone for their part in the group – and then you set a few fine men in place to continue on… and in the perfect purposes of God, you went home and left us all to it.
And I bet he’s up there somewhere saying, come on Marion. You can do it. I’m still alive! I’m still loving God. I’m still walking in His purpose for my life!
I don’t think I’m too far off the mark saying that!
This is about the meaning of life – it’s about the purpose of living.
I think I’ve mentioned before that the only thing that got me part way excited at Uni, was when I discovered Existentialism… It’s all about taking responsibility for our own lives and living according to what we believe to be true – what we believe is the meaning of life for us personally.
It’s the closest thing I could find to being authentic about my Christian walk whilst studying in a secular Uni environment.
But it brings me back to thinking about my eternal purpose as part of an eternal life. And it taught me that I am responsible for how I live my life.
We have to make some decisions. We have to actually make a start with living on purpose.
We need a bit of that Joshua spirit…
Joshua 24:14-15, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord ! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord .”
It’s about making a decision – others may choose to serve the gods of this world. They may choose to water down their faith to such an extent that anything goes!
But what do you choose! Do you choose God’s purpose for your life? What is it? Have you earnestly and wholeheartedly sought Him to find out? Are you willing to live a righteous, pure life in the process?
Do you want to stay right where you are now? Where do you want to be?
Take responsibility for your own life. If you are living in sin, do something about it. If you are living with a victim mentality, start taking accountability for yourself… stop blaming others, stop blaming your circumstances… You have a Healer and a Restorer, a Reconciler, an Advocate, a Comforter, just waiting to help you.
Paul sums up this whole message really well.
He says: Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
What does “For to me, to live is Christ” mean? Well, it’s clarified in the next verse where’re it says, (v22) “this will mean fruit from my labour.”
In other words, it’s living a fruitful life. Fruitful in loving, serving, exalting and honouring Jesus.
If you want to discover your purpose, start serving somewhere. Start doing something that sows seeds of life and hope into the kingdom…
If you’re not sure where to serve or how to serve, come and talk to me.
The second thing that Paul is talking about comes a few verses later, when he says: Philippians 1:25, “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,”
So Paul not only desires to live a fruitful life to honour Jesus, he also desires to help with the progress and the joyful faith of his brethren.
It reminds me of the two greatest commandments – to love Jesus with all our heart – and to love others…
And love is practical. It’s serving. It’s fruitful. It’s honouring, exalting…
This is our purpose… but how you express that uniquely in your life is your quest to understand and put into action, if that’s not already happening.
Go to God in prayer, dig deep into His Word… He has spoken to me the clearest and most specifically through His Word.
Discover your passion and gifts. We have tools that can help you do that. All those who have been through the Activation course have discovered their gifts and passion.
Involve others in the process… godly people who will stand with you and speak into your life.
Take some time out to seek God… and trust Him that He will lead you forward.
To live is Christ… to live eternally, we must have Christ at the centre… but to live fully in this life here, we also need His life within.
Our Purpose is intimately connected with our identity as one’s who love Jesus and want to live for Him.