Sunday School Series:Living a Purpose

16 01 2017

Today’s scripture comes from Jeremiah 1:4-10.  This is actually my Sunday school lesson from yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you.  So go ahead, and get comfy.

When we start talking about purpose of life, then we start thinking about the value of life.  The “Sanctity of Life” Sunday in the American Church is the upcoming Sunday.  We cannot look at the value of a human life without seeing what the purpose behind that life.  Yes, every life is valuable.  Absolutely.  I’m not protesting or disagreeing with that fact.  But before we talk about how valuable life is, we must first examine the purpose of life, the why life exists, what that life is for.

Section 1:  Jeremiah 1:4-5:  “The Word of the Lord came to me:  I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.   I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Now, let’s delve into a little bit of background and context.  Jeremiah was a prophet to the people of God during a 40 year period of great difficulty.  Judah is in peril, and Babylon will eventually overrun them and take the Jews into captivity.  Enter Jeremiah, God spoke to him and he told him several things.

  1.  You have been chosen.  From God to Jeremiah, Jeremiah had been chosen.  He had been chosen before any formation of himself was made in his mother’s womb.  He had been chosen to deliver a message to the people of God, to carry out a purpose of his life.  Thankfully, God is no respecter of persons, and God demonstrates this because he says that he was chosen before the womb.  There was nothing that Jeremiah did or said to earn this, God chose.  In the same way, we are all chosen to live out our purposes.  We have a purpose.  I have a purpose for my life.  You have a purpose for your life.  We all have a purpose.  You were chosen.  If God has moved in you, you have certainly been chosen.  The cool thing is that we all have different purposes in life, different reasons that we are alive and on this earth, but I’m almost certain they all have the same theme:  To serve God.
  2. God has set you apart.  Now to be set apart means to be special or reserved for something specific.  Again, Jeremiah was set apart by of no means of his own, but was set apart only because God chose him and God set him apart.  My grandmother has a special tablecloth that she uses when fancy company is coming, as she calls it.  The other tablecloth is one that we use all the time, but the other one, has a special place and is only used on special occasions.  In that same way, we are all set apart.  We all have been set apart to be different, and to accomplish something in our lives.
  3. God has appointed you.  In Jeremiah’s case, God had appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations.  Always, there is a reminder that our purpose, like Jeremiah’s is not only to the church and the other believers, but to the world at large.  We have a purpose that not only is about serving God and God’s people but impacting the world through our relationships and how we share the story of Jesus.  Have you ever been appointed to do something before?  I have, and it’s an unique experience.  Whomever has appointed you did so because they knew you were the perfect person for the job/task.  Not because you asked for it, and not because you wanted it, but because they knew you’d be the greatest person for that job.

Section 2:  Jeremiah 1:6-8:  “Oh, no Lord, God!  Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.  Then the Lord said to me:  Do not say I am only a youth, for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you.  Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you.  This is the Lord’s declaration.”

A lot of people like to pick on Jeremiah because he started to throw these excuses to God.  Honestly, that’s not fair.  If we are honest, and if I am honest, I give God a lot of excuses as to why I don’t obey commandments or share my faith.  But if we look at this without the excuses and look at his heart, we discover a few things about Jeremiah.

  1.  Jeremiah understood the gravity of his call.  He understood that to communicate God’s words was an awesome responsibility.  Perhaps because he was young, or he hadn’t spent as much time as his elders, in studying the scriptures and getting to know God, he didn’t feel prepared.  I honestly don’t think he was running from the responsibility because he didn’t want to do it, I honestly think he was aware of how great the responsibility is.  To be his hands, his arms, his feet, his voice….it’s a very large responsibility.  Please, don’t discount the gravity of this call, but let us be aware of the responsibility that we are given!
  2. God is no respecter of persons, he uses whom he wants to use.  I think it’s very interesting that God doesn’t fuss at or chastise Jeremiah for his inadequate feelings of preparation.  Instead, he disagrees with him, and says that his excuse is invalid.  God will use Jeremiah anyways, regardless of how prepared Jeremiah feels.  And we’ll get to more of that later.
  3. If God instructs us to do something, we have no need to fear.  By telling Jeremiah that he was going to use him anyways, he reaffirms the facts he has spoken to Jeremiah previously, that he is chosen, he is set apart and he is appointed.  And he tells him that he will be there for him.  When we are told to go do something, then we have no reason to fear, because in his own words, when God calls us he will be with us to deliver us from all that we face.  It doesn’t matter what we face, the promise is that God will be there for us.  That’s good enough, and that’s all we need to know.  Yes, there may be consequences that we would rather avoid when we obey God, but God is there, and we have nothing to fear.  When we are in God’s presence, then we are empowered to go out with boldness!

Section 3:  Jeremiah 1:9-10:  “Then the Lord reached out his hand, touched my mouth, and told me:  I have now filled your mouth with My words.  See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.

This passage is a response to Jeremiah’s response to his command.  Not only will God be there for us, but he will do something special for us, something that equips us.  I honestly deeply believe that we will all experience some sort of special moment where we realize that God is there, and he has called us to do something special through his moving and working.  For Jeremiah, it was a touch.

  1.  God will equip us precisely for what he wants to use us for.  Truly, truly, there could be no better way for God to have quieted Jeremiah’s fears, other than the touch of God.  God  reached out of heaven, I believe, and touched Jeremiah’s lips, and doing so, transferred God’s words to Jeremiah.  I truly believe that God does that same reaching for those whom are presented with the task of God.  I believe that every person God is using, just like Jeremiah, God touches in some form or another.  He, in a sense, “anoints” his beloved ones to fulfill his purpose on this earth.  I remember when I was appointed a task by God, and God did give me that touch of inspiration.  And then, I was equipped.  We are merely the vessel for God to move people, mountains, and God is the one providing the words.
  2. God will give us a specific instruction for us to do.  Jeremiah received specific instructions here.  He was to be a prophet to the nations and kingdoms.  Notice it wasn’t just for the ones who already knew God, but it was to all people.  Again, we are not called just to speak to the church and minister to the church, but to all people that God calls us to work with.  The message Jeremiah had for those outside of Judah would sadly be a message of judgement, but it was a message nonetheless.  Remember in the last section, my #2 said we’d get to something later?  Here it is.  We are called, and we have a specific call, and there is no one who can fulfill God’s call for your life than you!  Jeremiah was called at a specific time and given specific instructions, just as you and I are called in the same specific ways.  My call is different from yours.  Right now, I know that my call is to wait on something, and to write these Sunday School lessons for you.  I don’t know why, but your call will also be specific.
  3. When we follow God’s instructions, then our ministry will have an impact. But let me forwarn you, if you’re looking for visible, automatic signs of impact, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because the work of God sometimes takes a very long time to accomplish.  Jeremiah told him that he would uproot and tear down kingdoms, that he would destroy and demolish.  This probably was a prophecy that told us that the temple would be destroyed.  Jeremiah’s words would be a warning.  Jeremiah was also told that his words would also build and plant.  I like to think that he would build up the faith and the presence of God in the community of the people of God, that he would plant seeds of faith in the lives of those that he encountered.  I don’t know if this was reality, or what was meant in this scripture.  But, likewise, our ministry, if effective, will be the way that God sparks life into someone who doesn’t know God.  And sometimes, that’s a long journey.  More often than not, it’s not an immediate change, but a slow-growing process.  But if we do follow those specific instructions, then we can rest assured that it is not for nothing, and it is not fruitless.  Obedience is never fruitless.

Conclusions

First, I hope that you feel encouraged.  I hope that you feel empowered by the words of scripture to have courage and to not be afraid of whatever it is that God has called you to do!  He will not abandon you!  I hope that you feel encouraged to go forth into your ministry that we call life, and seek to fulfill whatever purpose that you have in life.  Are you still searching for your purpose?  That’s okay.  Sometimes that happens.  Instead of being downtrodden about it, here’s what I want you to do, I want you to go to a quiet space, a space where there is no distractions, and I want you to pray a simple prayer, a request, “What is it you would have me to do, Lord?”  The answer may not come immediately, but sit there for a bit.  If it doesn’t work the first day, then repeat it until you do.  Chances, God will tell you what to do.  So do it.  In the meantime, may I encourage you to do a few things?

  1.  Read the word.  Unless we know the scriptures, we have no idea what they’re about.
  2. Pray for understanding of the scriptures and your purpose.
  3. Find a prayer partner about this purpose, and ask them to pray for your purpose.
  4. Live out your purpose.  Don’t ignore your calling!  You were chosen for this purpose.

Peace and Love to you all

MB

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