RPM, Volume 17, Number 48, November 22 to November 28, 2015

MGod's Mission for You

Luke 10:25-37

By D. Marion Clark


Last Sunday I introduced on behalf of the church Session a mission statement for Faith Church. You will find a copy in your bulletin. It presents a brief statement of who we are, then our three-point mission, and finally a list of our core values. I encourage you to keep it in a place where you are likely to see it and review it. Perhaps keep it in your Bible.

I focused on the implications of the statement for our church as a body. This morning I want us to consider God's mission for each of us as individuals. How are each of us to contribute to God's kingdom as members of Faith Church?

The Text

To help us in thinking this through, we will consider Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable competes only with the parable of the Prodigal Son in being the most well known and best loved. This is not surprising, not only because both are powerful stories, but they have basically the same moral — be merciful. As the father was merciful to the son and the Samaritan to the anonymous victim, so we are to be. Jesus' mission was a mission of mercy; so our mission in his name should be.

Note some of the elements in the story. First, the Samaritan did not choose his mission for that day. He is merely traveling along the road minding his own business, just like the priest and the Levite. He was not looking for stranded travelers. The difference between him and the other two men is that he met a need when the opportunity presented itself.

Why did he? Jesus' message is that he was a good neighbor, i.e. he was conscious of the need of his neighbor and cared enough to help. This was an unusual man in that he did more than the minimum. Others, out of a sense of human decency, may have carried the man to a place of refuge. This man went beyond that. He nursed the man. He paid for all his expenses. He even put himself at financial risk by promising to pay any extra expense to the innkeeper.

He was a man with an outwardly focused attitude. He looked for who to help and how to help. Instead of letting an opportunity pass by or passing by an opportunity, he took it when it was at hand. Jesus' mission for us is to do the same.

Our Mission

One of the core values listed for Faith Church is: A healthy and mature church must be an outwardly focused church: focused upon glorifying God, serving and nurturing one another, and reaching out to the world.

Let me clear up a possible misunderstanding at the start. There are churches and individuals who are very outwardly focused. Such churches turn every event into either an outreach service or an outreach training session. The primary weakness in such an approach is that little true worship and mature nurturing takes place. The emphasis on worship becomes the worshippers and visitors, and the emphasis in education and Bible study is placed more on the milk of the basics, rather than the meat of God's Word. There also is generally greater attention given to programs and church operations rather than to personal relationships.

What we mean by being outwardly focused is simply what Jesus taught as the greatest commandment — to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). In order to love God and neighbor, we have to give them our attention. We have to make their concerns our concerns.

Thus, when we worship publicly, we have to give consideration to our neighbor as we worship God. We have to think about how our very behavior in worship affects our neighbor. Have you thought about that? Have you considered how your withdrawing from singing discourages your neighbor from singing, or how singing with glum faces a joyful song takes the joy out of the song for others? An outwardly focused worshipper considers how to enhance worship for his neighbor as well as for himself. That is called loving your neighbor.

How then do we do this focusing? We need to focus in three ways:

- Focus on who and where: who God has brought into our lives and where he has placed us.

- Focus on what God has given us: spiritual gifts, talents, and experience.

- Focus on the larger picture: how we fit in with what God is doing.

Focus on who and where — who God has brought into our lives and where he has placed us.

To my relief anyhow, being outwardly focused does not necessarily mean that I approach strangers with a gospel pitch. When I was in college "real" evangelism was walking a stranger through the "Four Spiritual Laws." I don't remember who was the speaker or who he was talking about, but he held up as an ideal some man who never went to sleep without having presented the gospel to someone that day. I have always had a fearful response to evangelism classes because I assumed that meant I would have to witness to strangers.

Some people do have such a gift. Some people can strike up conversations with strangers in the grocery store checkout line. Some have a knack of naturally bringing up the gospel with persons they've known for five minutes. What a wonderful gift to have! Probably most of us don't have that gift.

Whew! We are off the hook! Not so fast. Though we may not be able to easily present the gospel to strangers, there is a question we all need to ask God — Why have you placed me where I am?

Why, for example, do you live in the neighborhood you do or the apartment complex or the dormitory? Why do you work with the people you do or attend classes with certain persons? Why the barber or hair stylist you have, or lawn caretaker, or the auto mechanic? An outwardly focused person, especially a Reformed outwardly focused person, assumes that it is God's providence and that he intends to use you to minister to these persons who are a part of your life.

How? I don't know. All I do know is that you are the link to Jesus, if your neighbor does not know him. You are the link, and you are only as strong of one as the maturity of your faith and the strength of your love. If you love your neighbor — the one next door or the colleague or the fellow student or the person who empties your trash or cuts your hair — if you love your neighbor and he sees in you also a mature faith, you will have more influence in his coming to know the Savior than any preacher or evangelist will.

The same principle holds true in ministry to our church family. Why are you here at Faith Church? You have received blessing here, but how has God intended for you to be a blessing to your brothers and sisters here?

I should note here that many of you are ministering and you don't even know it. You greet your fellow worshippers as they come in and uplift their spirits. You greet the visitors and make them feel welcome. Some of you will call someone else this week and check on them, maybe get together. Some of you will send a note to cheer someone up. Some of you will hang out together and end up talking about things that really matter. And all the while, because you naturally enjoy those things, you will not have known of the vital ministry you were carrying out.

Focus on what God has given us — spiritual gifts, talents, and experience.

One of the major hindrances to people getting more involved is their not knowing what they are good at doing. "I want to help, but I don't know what I can do," is a common comment.

There are two approaches you can take: one is to find out where help is needed and jump in; the other is to examine your abilities and experience and come up with a way to help. Consider finding where to help. The quickest and easiest way is to read the weekly announcements insert. Within one month you will become aware of every ministry in the church. By contacting me or Ty or any officer, you can find out what you need about the ministry. Another simple way is by checking the Min-O Board. There is usually a new opportunity listed each week. You can meet with me or with Ty. You can meet with an elder or deacon. If you want to be involved, we will somehow get you connected.

The other approach is examining what you have to offer. Do you like to teach? Are you good with your hands building or repairing things? One person at Tenth Church would drop by once a week and do small repair jobs. Do you enjoy children? I could list easily twenty possibilities for you helping out with kids. Do you like to cook? The list can go on and on. Ask yourself what you like to do, then figure a way to connect it with a ministry. If there is no ministry where it fits in, figure a way to create a way for it to be used.

What about spiritual gift? We are taught in 1 Corinthians 12:7, Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. A number of you have taken, and if you are in the Inquirers Class, you will take a "Spiritual Gifts" inventory. This is a helpful questionnaire to assist you in discovering what your gift may be. I recommend everyone of you take it, and we will make copies available next week to be picked up. Nevertheless, the best way to discover your spiritual gift is to jump in and get active doing something. The worse that could happen is that you learn you don't have a particular you thought you did, although the more likely case is that you are using it in the wrong ministry. You may, for example, have the gift to teach, but you don't necessarily teach well all ages.

Even then, you may find that what you really need is time to gain experience and develop your gift. The point is that you don't know what God has gifted and called you to do if you do not try something. That is why you need at times to do something new, something that stretches you. Many Christians who are happy in a ministry will testify that they were first unsure if they could do what they are doing.

Focus on the larger picture — how we fit in with what God is doing.

Those people who are most effective and most content see themselves as playing their roles in a much larger drama. You and I are doing our part in the kingdom of God, a kingdom that encompasses the ages and the world. This is important to grasp because it keeps us from both becoming prideful and discouraged.

Dr. Boice was a good model for me in this regard. He was a famous preacher and leader in the church at large. And he knew his place. He understood the significant work that he was doing. But he also understood that he was merely doing what God had determined for him to do. He knew that in the grand scheme of God's work, his contribution was no greater than the humblest work of God's servants. He believed that most of the pictures in God's "Hall of Fame" would be of men and women whose works were not well known, but in God's plan were truly significant. That is one reason I think he handled his own dying well. One question that did not plague him was why God would remove a servant so valuable to his kingdom. He had done the work given to him, and now God had plans for others to fill.

No work that God gives you to do is too small; no person or persons you minister to is too insignificant. The sermons I preached in one of the most well known and influential churches in America were no more significant to God than the ones I preached to a handful of patients in a mental health institution. They were but different assignments, and God gives me no more credit for what appears impressive or for what appears humble. What matters is that I do what I am called for.

Get this down. For a Christian to take pride in a work that seems impressive, he is belittling his call to be a servant. And for a Christian to be discontented or discouraged by what seems to be a humble work is to do exactly the same. Both are a way of saying to God that he ought to take special notice of us. There are many ways I am sure to compare the Christian life to a football game, but this is not one them. God is not the coach who is proud of out-recruiting his rival to get star players like us. Nor is he the coach, who if would just us the chance, would find out we are much better than the little role he has given us on the team. In the "Great Football Game of Life" God has assigned for each of us the perfect role to play, no more and no less. Our work, whether it seems like it or not, is that exact work we need to do.

Be people, not project, focused.

One trouble workers get themselves into is when they become more project focused than people focused. It is an easy trap to fall into. We get involved in a project or organization to help people, only to find ourselves more invested in the activity than in the persons we are helping. The only purpose for starting a project or running a ministry is to enhance what we can do for persons. As a school principal I would be reminded of that. Do you know that a school operates much more easily and efficiently if you don't have students? They create so much trouble! It was easy to fall in the danger of measuring how well the school was doing by how well students were being kept under control. I needed to periodically walk around to classes and observe teaching going on to remind me what school is really about.

The same thing with church. A good church is not measured by the number of ministries, nor for that matter, how little amount of damage or hassles the ministries cause. A good church is measured by the maturing of its people in worship, nurture, and service. Are people entering God's kingdom? Are people growing in grace? Are they maturing in their love for one another? That is a lot harder to measure, but that is what matters.


I understand that we have covered a lot of ground and it can all seem overwhelming. There seems like so much you are being asked to do. It can seem like you are never doing enough. You are suppose to examine yourselves and research the ministries in the church (and by the way, I haven't touched too much on local ministries outside the church). And you are all different. Some of you are very young and some old. You can't do as much as you once did. Some of you have a lot of responsibilities already.

Here is the one thing I will leave you with. It is the most important instruction I can give, and I can guarantee that it will clear up much of your personal confusion as to what you each ought to be doing.

Pray. I guarantee you that if you will pray daily asking God to reveal to you what he wants you to do, you will get your answer. I guarantee that if you pray about each ministry by name, your answer will come. I guarantee it. You cannot consider the matter in prayer to God for a long length of time without God moving you in some direction. You will feel compelled in some direction. You might be confirmed in what you thought would be right for you or you might be amazed at what you attempt. But the Holy Spirit will move you, and it will be sooner than later. If you ask for prayer and you pray with others, all the more I can assure you of an answer.

This is not a formula. I am simply passing on Christ's command, You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14:14). Ask the Head of the Church how you may serve his Church, and he will answer you. I cannot promise whether his calling for you will relieve you or unnerve you, only that he will answer and you will be blessed. Happy? A good part of the time, yes. But more than happy — you will receive the commendation of your God. What more could any of us want in life? Is this what Jesus meant when he said that if we "give it up," if we give up our lives to him then we will gain our very souls? Did he mean more than getting heaven insurance? Perhaps he meant also that we get back our true selves that were lost in self-centeredness. That is not a bad bargain.

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