God deserves your best!
“Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be.” Romans 12:5 (MSG)
He shaped you for a purpose, and he expects you to make the most of what you have been given. Don’t let another day go by. Start finding out and clarifying what God intends for you to be and do.
Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. The best way to discover your gifts and abilities is to experiment with different areas of service. Until you’re actually involved in serving, you’re not going to know what you’re good at.
Consider your heart and your personality. This is simple – Paul advised, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.” Galatians 6:4b (Msg)
Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you have learned. Review your life and think about how it has shaped you. Moses told the Israelites, “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.” Deuteronomy 11:2 (TEV)
Forgotten experiences are worthless; that’s a good reason to keep a spiritual journal. In heaven we are going to serve God forever. Right now, we can prepare for that eternal service by practicing on earth. Like athletes preparing for the Olympics, we keep training for that big day: “They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 (Msg)
Only you can be you!
“You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (Msg)
God designed each of us so there would be no duplication in the world. No one has the exact same mix of factors that make you unique. That means no one else on earth will ever be able to play the role God planned for you. If you don’t make your unique contribution to the Body of Christ, it won’t be made. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts … different ways of serving … and different abilities to perform service.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (TEV)
Your abilities are the natural talents you were born with. One of the most common excuses people give for not serving is “I just don’t have any abilities to offer.” This is ludicrous. You have dozens, probably hundreds, of untapped, unrecognized, and unused abilities that are lying dormant inside you.
Like stained glass, our different personalities reflect God’s light in many colors and patterns. This blesses the family of God with depth and variety. It also blesses us personally. When you minister in a manner consistent with the personality God gave you, you experience fulfillment, satisfaction, and fruitfulness.
You will be most effective when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart’s desire, and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences. The better the fit, the more successful you will be.
You were shaped to serve God!
“Your hands shaped me and made me.” Job 10:8 (NIV)
Before God created you, he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry. Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others and shape you for your service to him. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
God’s custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:
Spiritual gifts are special God-empowered abilities for serving him that are given only to believers. Have you taken time to discover your gifts? An unopened gift is worthless.
Another word for heart is passion. People rarely excel at tasks they don’t enjoy doing or feel passionate about. God wants you to use your natural interests to serve him and others. Figure our what you love to do – what God gave you a heart to do – and then do it for his glory.
You were put on earth to make a contribution!
“It is God himself who 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)
You were created to serve God. “God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10b (TEV) These “good deeds” are your service to the world. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God and fulfilling one of your purposes.
You were saved to serve God. Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept his grace? 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. The Bible says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT) Each of us has a role to play, and every role is important.
You are commanded to serve God. 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? One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others.
There are no shortcuts to maturity!
“I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” Philippians 1:6 (LB)
It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time.
While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow. Today we’re obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability than swiftness.
When Habakkuk became depressed because he didn’t think God was acting quickly enough, God had this to say: “These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Habakkuk 2:3 (LB)
A delay is not a denial from God. Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be. God isn’t finished with you, so keep on moving forward. Even the snail reached the ark by persevering!
There is always a way out!
“Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” 1 Cor. 10:12 (Msg)
You may sometimes feel that a temptation is too overpowering for you to bear, but that’s a lie from Satan. God has promised never to allow more on you than he puts within you to handle it. He will not permit any temptation that you could not overcome. However, you must do your part too by practicing four biblical keys to defeating temptation.
Refocus your attention on something else. Ignoring a temptation is far more effective than fighting it. Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. So when temptation calls you on the phone, don’t argue with it, just hang up!
Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. Authentic, honest fellowship is the antidote to your lonely struggle against those sins that won’t budge. God says it is the only way you’re going to break free.
Resist the Devil. Without Christ we are defenseless against the Devil, but with “the helmet of salvation” our minds are protected by God. Remember this: If you are a believer, Satan cannot force you to do anything. He can only suggest.
Realize your vulnerability. Given the right circumstances, any of us are capable of any sin. We must never let down our guard and think we’re beyond temptation.
Don’t carelessly place yourself in tempting situations. Remember that it is easier to stay out of temptation than to get out of it.
Every temptation is an opportunity to do good!
“Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love him.” James 1:12 (LB)
On the path to spiritual maturity, even temptation becomes a stepping-stone rather than a stumbling block when you realize that it is just as much an occasion to do the right thing, as it is to do the wrong thing.
While temptation is Satan’s primary weapon to destroy you, God wants to use it to develop you. Every time you choose to do good instead of sin, you are growing in the character of Christ. To understand this, you must first identify the character qualities of Jesus. One of the most concise descriptions of his character is the fruit of the Spirit: “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
Character development always involves a choice, and temptation provides that opportunity. Temptations keep us dependent upon God. Just as the roots grow stronger when wind blows against a tree, so every time you stand up to a temptation you become more like Jesus.
Instead of giving in or giving up, look up to God, expect him to help you, and remember the reward that is waiting for you: “When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever.” James 1:12 (NCV)
God has a purpose behind every problem!
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)
He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible. The reason is obvious: You face circumstances twenty-four hours a day.
Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days—when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great—and you turn to God alone.
Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything! Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) explains why: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.”
You see, every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fiber. Paul said, “We know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.” Romans 5:3-4 (NCV)
What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you. Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last forever.
The truth transforms us!
Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 (NIV)
Sanctification requires revelation. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word. The Bible says, “Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” 2 Timothy 3:17 (Msg)
Jesus called it “abiding.” He said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” John 8:31 (NASB, 1978 Edition) In day-to-day living, abiding in God’s Word includes three activities. You must accept its authority. You must assimilate its truth. And you must apply its principles.
The best way to become a “doer of the Word” is to always write out an action step as a result of your reading or studying or reflecting on God’s Word. Develop the habit of writing down exactly what you intend to do. This action step should be personal (involving you), practical (something you can do), and provable (with a deadline to do it).
What has God already told you to do in his Word that you haven’t started doing yet? As D. L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.”
God wants you to grow up!
“God wants us to grow up … like Christ in everything.” Ephesians 4:15a (Msg)
Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you is to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ. Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up. They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is that they never intended to grow.
When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: decide to become a disciple. Christ-likeness is the result of making Christ-like choices and depending on his Spirit to help you fulfill those choices. Once you decide to get serious about becoming like Christ, you must begin to act in new ways. You will need to let go of some old routines, develop some new habits, and intentionally change the way you think. You can be certain that the Holy Spirit will help you with these changes.
The Bible says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)
The Christian life is far more than creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Our deeds must be consistent with our creeds, and our beliefs must be backed up with Christlike behavior.