Created For A Purpose - Week 1: "Armor"
Today we're going to be launching a brand new sermon series entitled Created For A Purpose: God's Great Plan For Your Life
What does it mean to be "created for a purpose?"
In our culture, discovering your purpose is a billions dollar industry. I did a quick search for the wealthiest self-help gurus in America today and there were at least a dozen who made $15 million or more a year---giving people advice on how to discover their purpose.
Here's a sample of the kind of advice that landed some of these gurus on that list:
Write down your values every six months. Compare them to the ones you wrote down six months ago. And... And... create a personal purpose statement.
Passion + Action = A Purposeful Life.
Get out of your personal bubble. Stretch yourself.
If you want to be be successful. Do successful things.
I am not making this up. You can take your pick from a plethora of people who are coming up with stuff like this---and people are basically telling them, "shut up and take my money!"
Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr Laura, Dr. Google, Deepak, Oprah, Tony Robbins... Shia LaBouf... there's a lot to choose from.
But lots of Christians don't want to listen to those secular self-help gurus, so in the way that Christian culture loves to mimic the dominant culture around it, they create their own self-help gurus...
Seriously, all you have to do is walk into a Christian book store, any Christian book store and gaze upon the best seller shelves--you'll find scores of books on how to be a better Christian mom, dad, grandparent, boss, co-worker, student, wife, husband, church member, fill-in-the-blank...
And most of these books---if we're being honest---take stuff like "Passion + Action = Purposeful Life," attach a few Bible passages to it, and there you go.
But... but... there is one book that got it right. And it got it right in it's very first lines. If it was possible to just publish a book that had just a couple of lines of text---those first few lines could have just began and ended with what Rick Warren wrote at the beginning of the Purpose Driven Life.
"It's not about you."
It's not about your search for your purpose. It's not about the fifteen steps to a better life--for you. It's not about the five sure-fire ways that you can positively think yourself into your life's purpose.
Because it's not about you.
You were created for a purpose, but the purpose that you were created for isn't yours---it's God's.
But get this... And this is super important and what I am about to say is the foundation of this series that we'll be working on for the next several weeks...
You are uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose.
This week we're going to explore the first way that you can know this important truth---that you are uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose.
Today we're going to be exploring a truth that is incredibly simple, and yet it is one that so many of us don't really get at all. Some people live their whole lives not getting this simple truth, and as a result they never live into the purpose that God intends for them to fulfill.
Here it is: You are uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose because: God made you to be you. God made you to be you and only you---and... and... you are uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose.
There's a story in the Bible that illustrates this truth so beautifully, and it also happens to be a story that almost every one of us in here knows pretty well--the story of David and Goliath.
Most of us here today have heard this story before--maybe more than a few times. And we typically interpret it as a classic underdog tale--A young shepherd boy armed only with a sling, a stone and the power of God defeats a big bad giant. You know this one, right?
But today I want to take a different approach to interpreting the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17.
I think what this story reveals is that not only was David uniquely positioned and prepared to defeat Goliath, but when David stepped on to the battlefield against him, the giant never had a chance.
1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
The Philistines were sea people who came from the Greek islands around 1400 B.C. They attempted to conquer Egypt, but were repulsed and eventually began settling on the coast of modern Israel. They began making incursions into the hill country, which was Israelite territory. The Valley of Elah is a famous battleground--it's were Sal-aladin defeated the Crusaders.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
The subtext here: The dude was big. Like 9 feet tall big.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
It was pretty common for warring tribes to elect to have their great warriors go out on to the battlefield and fight as champions.
So at this point, David shows up. He was sent by his father Jesse to bring their required allotment of supplies to keep the troops resourced. When he arrives at the camp, he is incensed to see that Goliath is talking so much trash about Israel, and no one wants to go out and fight him.
David keeps wondering why no one will do anything about Goliath, and finally King Saul, who is the tallest Israelite, literally head and shoulders above all the others, sends for him:
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
Okay, so there is some subtext going on here that we have to pay attention to. The reason why the people have a king in the first place is because they wanted to be "like all the other nations," even though they weren't. In this moment, Saul tries to dress David in armor that is the kind of armor you would use to fight a battle like all the other nations. Only David refuses to wear it. It doesn't fit him. He's going to fight like an Israelite.
Or more precisely, David is going to fight like a Benjamite because he is from the tribe of Benjamin. In the book of Judges, there is verse that describes how accurate and deadly the Benjamites were with their slings. They could hit a target within a hair's breadth at 100 yards.
So David goes out to meet Goliath armed with his sling. He's literally been preparing for this moment his whole life. He's spent hours and hours practicing with his sling. It is a deadly weapon that he's used to kill lions and bears as he protected his sheep.
And at this point your are thinking, "Seriously? As deadly sling shot?" Well not exactly. This sling that David was using would be whipped around at a furious speed--some 6-7 revolutions per second. When David let the sling go the stone projectile would have travelled at 100 MPH.
Imagine standing still and having a major league baseball pitcher throw a 100 MPH fastball at your head, only it wasn't a baseball it was a rock, probably made of some kind of iron ore.
David most likely hit Goliath right in the forehead, his weakest spot. The rock would have imbedded into his skull. If he wasn't dead before he hit the ground, he would have almost assuredly died shortly thereafter.
It wasn't even a fair fight. It was like David went at the guy with a .45 caliber pistol at 100 yards and shot him in the head.
Saul was trying to get David to fight like everyone else. But fighting like everyone else wasn't ever going to get the job done. David was uniquely prepared and positioned to fulfill God's purpose in this moment to rout the Philistines and to set him up to one day be the greatest king in Israel's history--a man after God's own heart.
So... what does this mean for you and me?
It's a game changer. Because most of us think that we aren't good enough, we aren't prepared, we aren't positioned, we don't have what it takes to fulfill God's purpose. And all because we've been wearing ill-fitting armor and trying to be someone we're not.
What is it that makes you want to keep trying on armor that doesn't fit? What is it that makes you think you can't be used by God, that you aren't enough just as you are?
Is it self-doubt? Busy-ness? Lack of Faith? Peer Pressure? Fear?
Everyone pay attention because I am about to tell you something so true that it could very well change your life if you choose to step into this...
The reason we keep trying on the wrong armor... the reason we keep trying to be like everyone else... is because we start off by asking the wrong question. We keep asking, "What is MY purpose?" We keep trying to find ourselves, to figure out what will bring us happiness, joy, fulfillment, success, contentment...
When what we should be asking is, "God, what is YOUR PURPOSE for my life? What would YOU have me do?"
David didn't come into the camp that day seeking glory. He wasn't interested in punching his own ticket. He didn't care about the reward that Saul had set up for anyone who would defeat the giant. His only concern was doing what God wanted him to do. And he knew that if that was his only concern, than any and all other concerns were a distant second.
David was uniquely positioned and prepared to fulfill God's purpose and because he stepped into that moment, the giant fell.
There is a wonderful quote from Fredrick Buechener---he says that your true calling is where the world's greatest needs and your greatest desires intersect. If you live your whole life searching only to fulfill your greatest desires, you'll miss the intersection point where God means for you to fulfill God's purpose---a purpose only you can fulfill.
You are no different than David. You have been uniquely prepared and positioned to fulfill God's purpose because God made you to be you... and the world needs you to be you. The world needs you to step into God's purpose with boldness.