DAY 29 Accepting Your Assignment It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. Ephesians 2:10 (LB) I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do. John 17:4 (Msg) You were put on earth to make a contribution. You weren't created just to consume resources-to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life. While many best-selling books offer advice on how to `get" the most out of life, that's not the reason God made you. You were created to add to life on earth, not just take from it. God wants you to give something back. This is God's fourth purpose for your life, and it is called your "ministry," or service. The Bible gives us the details. You were created to serve God. The Bible says, "[God] has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do." These "good deeds" are your service. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God and fulfilling one of your purposes. In the next two chapters you will see how God has carefully shaped you for this purpose. What God told Jeremiah is also true for you: "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work." You were placed on this planet for a special assignment. You were saved to serve God. The Bible says, "It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was his plan. "4 God redeemed you so you could do his "holy work." You're not saved by service, but you are saved for service. In God's kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value. It cost Jesus his own life to purchase your salvation. The Bible reminds us, "God paid a great price for you. So use your body to honor God." We don't serve God out of guilt or fear or even duty, but out of joy, and deep gratitude for what he's done for us. We owe him our lives. Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning, and our future is secured. In light of these incredible benefits Paul concluded, `Because of God's great mercy ... Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service." The apostle John taught that our loving service to others shows that we are truly saved. He said, "Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life." If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I'm only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve. Another term for serving God that's misunderstood by most people is the word ministry. When most people hear "ministry," they think of pastors, priests, and professional clergy, but God says every member of his family is a minister. In the Bible, the words servant and minister are synonyms, as are service and ministry. If you are a Christian, you are a minister, and when you're serving, you're ministering. When Peter's sick mother-in-law was healed by Jesus, she instantly "stood up and began to serve Jesus," using her new gift of health. This is what we're to do. We are healed to help others. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are saved to serve, not to sit around and wait for heaven. Have you ever wondered why God doesn't just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept his grace? Why does he leave us in a fallen world? He leaves us here to fulfill his purposes. Once you are saved, God intends to use you for his goals. God has a ministry for you in his church and a mission for you in the world. You are called to serve God. Growing up, you may have thought that being "called" by God was something only missionaries, pastors, nuns, and other "full-time" church workers experienced, but the Bible says every Christian is called to service. Your call to salvation included your call to service. They are the same. Regardless of your job or career, you are called to full-time Christian service. A "non-serving Christian" is a contradiction in terms. The Bible says, "He saved us and called us to be his own people, not because of what we have done, but because of his own purpose." Peter adds, "You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you. " Anytime you use your God-given abilities to help others, you are fulfilling your calling. The Bible says, "Now you belong to him ... in order that we might be useful in the service of God." How much of the time are you being useful in the service of God? In some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying "Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with." One reason why you need to be connected to a church family is to fulfill your calling to serve other believers in practical ways. The Bible says, "All of you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it." Your service is desperately needed in the Body of Christ-just ask any local church. Each of us has a role to play, and every role is important. There is no small service to God; it all matters. Likewise, there are no insignificant ministries in the church. Some are visible and some are behind the scenes, but all are valuable. Small or hidden ministries often make the biggest difference. In my home, the most important light is not the large chandelier in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up at night. There is no correlation between size and significance. Every ministry matters because we are all dependent on each other to function. What happens when one part of your body fails to function? You get sick. The rest of your body suffers. Imagine if your liver decided to start living for itself: "I'm tired! I don't want to serve the body anymore! I want a year off just to be fed. I've got to do what's best for me! Let some other part take over." What would happen? Your body would die. Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the Body suffers. You are commanded to serve God. Jesus was unmistakable: "Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life." For Christians, service is not optional, something to be tacked onto our schedules if we can spare the time. It is the heart of the Christian life. Jesus came "to serve" and "to give"-and those two verbs should define your life on earth, too. Serving and giving sum up God's fourth purpose for your life. Mother Teresa once said, "Holy living consists in doing God's work with a smile." Jesus taught that spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. Maturity is for ministry! We grow up in order to give out. It is not enough to keep learning more and more. We must act on what we know and practice what we claim to believe. Impression without expression causes depression. Study without service leads to spiritual stagnation. The old comparison between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea is still true. Galilee is a lake full of life because it takes in water but also gives it out. In contrast, nothing lives in the Dead Sea because, with no outflow, the lake has stagnated. The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles. Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we're more interested in "serve us" than service. We say, "I'm looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me," not "I'm looking for a place to serve and be a blessing." We expect others to serve us, not vice versa. But as we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift to living a life of service. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, "Who's going to meet my needs?" and starts asking, "Whose needs can I meet?" Do you ever ask that question? PREPARING FOR ETERNITY At the end of your life on earth you will stand before God, and he is going to evaluate how well you served others with your life. The Bible says, "Each of us will have to give a personal account to God."' Think about the implications of that. One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others. At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow: "I was too busy" or "I had my own goals" or "I was preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement." To all excuses God will respond, "Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand?" The Bible warns unbelievers, "He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves," but for Christians it will mean a loss of eternal rewards. We are only fully alive when we're helping others. Jesus said, "If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live." This truth is so important that it is repeated five times in the Gospels. If you aren't serving, you're just existing, because life is meant for ministry. God wants you to learn to love and serve others unselfishly. SERVICE AND SIGNIFICANCE You are going to give your life for something. What will it be a career, a sport, a hobby, fame, wealth? None of these will have lasting significance. Service is the pathway to real significance. It is through ministry that we discover the meaning of our lives. The Bible says, `Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body.” As we serve together in God's family, our lives take on eternal importance. Paul said, "I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less ... because of what you are a part of." God wants to use you to make a difference in his world. He wants to work through you. What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived. If you're not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses. DAY TWENTY-NINE THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE Point to Ponder: Service is not optional. Verse to Remember:"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) Question to Consider: What is holding me back from accepting God's call to serve him?