Well, let’s get real practical now, and what I want to do is talk about how to discover your calling in life. And this is going to be like touching the mountain peaks, because it’s super, super practical. And on this one … Almost every one of these things, there’s a great resource out there. But I don’t want to make it so complicated.
I mean, I sat down this morning, literally, and, with fresh eyes, wrote down, underneath each one of these, my best understanding of me, so that I could say, “Okay, this is –” Thank you for coming to this weekend for me. It’s been very spiritually enriching.
Usually they have people come to a conference, and the speaker comes to serve them. Here, all you people came to serve me, and I just want you to know, and thank you. Because as I sat here this morning, I wrote this down, and I said, “God, this is the clearest I’ve ever had it in my life.” So, thank you very much.
So, to discover your calling, we’re going to examine your S.H.A.P.E. – the acronym S-H-A-P-E. And by the way, one of my gifts is, I’m not necessarily very original. There’s a great book by that name.
So, the “S” is for “spiritual gifts.” What are yours? And then – to me, it’s very important – what’s your primary, or motivational, gift? There are lots of ways to look at that. You might jot down, in the notes, Your Divine Design – [a Living on the Edge series].
I’ve been a pastor 25 years now, and even people that are solid Christians, when I ask them what their spiritual gifts are, my experience is, if they’ve studied it, or if they’ve taken a test, they give me this salad bar answer. “Well, my spiritual gifts are leadership, mercy, discernment, wisdom, and faith.” That’s like saying, “What do you want for dinner?” “Steak, chicken, seafood, a little shrimp, and …”
And then, I say, “And how does that help you really determine God’s will?” “Well, it kind of took it from here to here.”
But I’m convinced that there are many good ways to look at spiritual gifts, but when you look at Romans 12, there are eight core things that every Christian is commanded to do, and I see those as a primary motivational spiritual gift. And I would say, if you spent some time really studying them, you’ll discover, there’s one of those that really “bing” for you. And then, in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and Ephesians 4, you have roles and ministry gifts.
And then, when you do those things – the apostle Paul will say it in 1 Corinthians 12. It’s really neat. He puts the whole Trinity in the operation, and he’ll talk about how He gives gifts, and there are ministries, and there are effects, and then he talks about the motivations, and how it works.
But that series has been more helpful – I revamped everything I ever did on my way to India once, on spiritual gifts. And what I’ve realized is, over the years, I thought it was leadership, because I ended up leading. And then, I thought it was this. But I didn’t know my primary motivation. And until I discovered my primary motivational gift is prophecy ...
I want to make the comfortable, uncomfortable, and I want to comfort those that are hurting. I want the Church to be the Church. You can give me any text, and I’ll do my best to teach it through, accurately. But somewhere, I’m going to call you to live a holy life. Somewhere along the line, my passions are going to be about prophets – and I don’t mean “telling the future” prophets. I mean forthtelling God’s Word, in a relevant, applicational way, in the cultural context, to move people to act, and make a difference.
Basically, prophets were always saying, “Hey, this is what God says, and here’s where we’re at. Let’s get it on!” And sometimes you get your arm around them and say, “Let’s get it on, okay? Okay?” And sometimes you say, “Let’s get it on, and you get off your duff.” I try and balance those very carefully. But you need to understand.
And then, what I realized is, there’s a ministry set of gifts, for me, of leadership, and teaching, and discernment, that help me put those in a way where I use them the best. And then, when I use my gifts, God manifests gifts in people. People get wisdom about what to do in their lives. People write and tell me that, “Because of what I heard, I’ve started a ministry of mercy.” People begin to act on the faith, and do things. But that’s how it works.
But I would encourage you, do you know what your spiritual gift is? What’s your primary motivational spiritual gift? And I think you can listen to all that kind of stuff online, so I’m not trying to sell anything – and download notes, or something. But if you don’t know, I’d encourage you to study that.
Second, is, the “H” is for “heart.” What are you passionate about? What are your deepest desires? What do you dream about? What makes you come alive? What’s your personal mission statement? What role do you most effectively play in an organization? Who could come alongside you, in your journey right now, and help you discover what’s down deep inside of you? God gave you passions, but they get buried.
My passion is that the Church would be the Church. I grew up – and you’re going to learn, God gives you certain experiences. I grew up in a dead, non-Bible-teaching, filled-with-hypocrisy church, and I almost missed God. And then, I met a group of authentic believers, who lived it out so winsomely, and I was so attracted. And then, they gave me a Bible.
And so, somewhere along the line, my greatest passion is to see believers live loving, winsome, authentic lives, so people would ask about the hope that’s in us. And not legalistic, rigid, holy – as in big, black Bibles, dressing different, self-righteous, being down on everybody.
I’m talking about the kinds of Christians that you just say, “I’d love to have a marriage like that.” “I’d love to have a boss that treats people the way that boss does.” Where Christians live like genuine followers of Christ … That’s my personal passion.
My deepest desire is – this sounds crazy – I want to transform the face of Christianity. I long for the day when, in the media, people would see a Christian television program, or hear something on the radio, and instead of saying, “That is weird. Those people are idiots. I can’t believe anyone would believe that” – which is how I grew up. And when I turn it on now, about 80 percent of it, I think, That is weird. That is ridiculous. I can’t believe anyone would –
Do you understand who people out there think we are? If you want a dose of something to give you righteous indignation, and hopefully, deep prayer, for 24 hours, just watch Christian television. And it’s like, “Oh, my – Oh, good program. Ugh. Oh, good program! Oh, gosh …”
I mean, people telling people, “Send me a thousand dollars, and God’ll give you ten thousand dollars.” People saying, “If you have all these debts, send me all of your bills, and we’ll burn them on TV, and you won’t have to pay them.” Where did this nonsense come from? Think about this!
So, that’s one of my dreams. I pray for the day … And I want to partner, and build alliances, and find young communicators, until I die. I pray the day will come, when people would turn something on and say, by and large, “Wow.”
We went on TV, and then 10 days later, a guy named Boris, whom I’d apparently met – but I met a lot of Borises in Russia. And he’s in charge of TBN there. And he said, “We want to change the face of what’s happening in the Russian-speaking world. And we’ll do it for free. Will you send us your new TV programs, and we’ll put them out to all the Russian-speaking world, for free? It’ll just take a little money to translate them.” Again, you just poured fuel into me! “Of course! Of course!”
Abilities – what are you good at? What are your strengths, your natural gifts, your talents? Notice what it says, in Romans 12:3, in your notes: “For I say this through the grace of God to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but” – will you underline the phrase – “but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
If we had time to develop that, did you notice the word think happens? “Do not think …” “Think …” The word sober is the same word – four words for thinking, different forms, in 12:3. Basically, God wants you to look into the mirror, and not just the physical, but see who you are, and have an accurate view.
He wants you to see you, the way He sees you: good at this, good at this, gifted here, talented here, this kind of personality, this, this, this, this … And you go, That’s exactly who I am!
And these tendencies … We’ll struggle with this, tempted here, here – well, yeah – Strengths, weaknesses, gifts …
And no false humility … There’s a need. You say, “Excuse me, I’m very good at that.” When’s the last time you were ever in a Christian meeting, “We’ve got this big need,” and someone said, “Excuse me, I would love to do that. Actually, I’m gifted in that area. I’d love to help out”?
Well, why don’t we do that? Well, what would people think? Do they think I’m arrogant? Is it arrogance to be accurate about what you’re good at, and volunteer to get into the place where God could use you the most? I don’t think so.
There’s a book called Discover Your Strengths. There’s nothing like giving you the titles of books, without the authors and stuff, but … With Google, it doesn’t matter, right? Just Google it – Discover Your Strengths. But it’s a book.
We took a group through, and it’s by a guy that has developed an inventory, and you answer a number of questions on the thing that’s in the back, online, and it will really give you a profile of, “Your strengths are in these areas.” But discover what your strengths are.
I discovered, I’m an entrepreneur. My strengths are speaking, and simplifying things, strategic problem solving, building teams, and discerning what’s going on in people’s hearts. Those are my strengths. And so, that’s what I need to do.
And part of it – look backwards. If you wonder, get the rearview mirror, and look backwards. It will help you discover who God made you to be. Because God did not start, at 62, or 23, or 19, or 15, preparing you for what you’re going to do in the future. This is in your DNA! This is who He made you to be!
By the time my grandkids were six months, I could already tell you parts of their personalities. I mean, this one kid just smiled. He’s going to be a counselor. Nice ... And there was one that just cried, and always wanted her own way. She’s going to lead somebody, somewhere – who knows where.
But you look at, where have you been? What did you enjoy? What did God do?
And I remember looking back: Why did I, at eight years old, cut my first lawn? Why, at 10 did I have 10 lawns? Why did I buy my first riding lawnmower at 13? Why did I have two paper routes? Why did I buy candy at the store, and at Halloween, run as fast as I could so I could fill a bag, in a big pillowcase, like this, and store it for months, and take it to school, and sell five-cent candy bars for a quarter? Why was it, when I was fifteen years old, I lent my parents 3,000 dollars to buy a piece of land, and I only charged them six percent interest?
God made me an entrepreneur! I mean, at eight, I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was! I just knew, that’s how you ought to do things.
And so, if you want to get big things done, you find partnerships. And then, you always find people that are better and smarter than you, and then you partner with them, and you do what? You make win/win propositions.
So, who did God make you to be? You look back, in the rearview mirror, at some exciting things, and what you did, and you’ll just find, Huh … Because He’s not starting to connect dots – you know, Well, I’m 67 years old. Wow, you’ve got a lot of dots to look back on. And dot, dot, dot, dot, connect, connect, connect, connect …
And what you’ll see is – just like you’re charting a graph – you’ll see the trajectory of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and what God wants you to do in the future. And you can discover your design – your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, and then your personality. How are you wired, as you relate to people? Are you an introvert? Extrovert? What recharges your emotional battery?
Psalm 139 – God says it wasn’t an accident: “O, Lord, You search me; You know me. You know my sitting down, my rising up. You understand my thoughts from afar. You comprehend my path, my lying down.” Look at this: “You’re acquainted with all my ways, for there’s not a word on my tongue, but behold, O, Lord, You know it all –” He knows your ways. He made you a certain way.
I married an introvert. She is being restored right now. How do introverts get restored? By getting talkative, extrovert husbands out of the house for four days ...
This weekend is a double blessing! I come, and get around all you people … [Sucking noise] I get done teaching, and then, I just can’t resist. I make eye contact with everybody. And I sat down and talked with a guy in seminary, and I talked with a young couple and what’s going on in their lives, and …
You know what? Everyone goes, “Oh, thank you.” One of the workers here – “Thank you so much for taking time to be with the people that came. All the speakers don’t have time to do that.”
I didn’t do it because I had time. I did it because I wanted to. I’m an extrovert. When I rub up against you, you pour life into my soul. Introverts get renewed by doing what? Getting alone. Now, do I need alone time? Sure.
But what’s your personality? Take the DISC test, or take Myers-Briggs. I mean, there are all kinds of great tools. But get a picture of who you are.
And then, finally, experience – what have you done? How has God been preparing you, and your life, so that you can look in the rearview mirror for what He’s called you to do?
I encourage you, now that you’re going to make that huge investment, that spiral notebook – you know, $4.99 – sit down, list the things you’ve done, not simply occupation or jobs, but accomplishments, milestones. Think of some of the trauma you’ve been through. Think of some of the hurts.
Is it any wonder that people that have been abused minister to those who are abused? Is it any wonder that people who have gone bankrupt a couple of times are counselors to people going through financial struggles? Is it any wonder that people that have been through a very difficult marriage that didn’t work out now have a ministry to people who are going through difficult times? Is it, “Aha, gosh, I have a heart for people with cancer. My wife died of cancer”? “We have an autistic child.” You think there’s a reason why you have compassion for those people?
See, God’s going to use all these things. Those weren’t random things that happened to you. He has been working all things to work together for your good, for you who are called according to His purposes, because He loves you.
And it’s all a part of that tapestry, that written poem, or that picture of the tapestry that is His workmanship that is you, that He prepared before the foundations of the earth that you should walk in those good deeds. And so, you look at your experiences.
There’s a reason why I look back, and I think – I was a pastor of a church of 35 people, in the country, way in the country. And then, gosh, that grew to, I don’t know, four or five hundred. And then, super conservative, I’m a pastor of eight or nine hundred people, in Santa Cruz, California, and they think Berkeley’s too far right. And it’s weird. And if you’re not pierced, or tattooed, or living with someone of the same sex, you’re weird. What am I doing here? So, from a church of 35, to 100, to 300, to 500, and then a thousand, and several thousand …
So, God let me experience… so when I talk to a pastor who’s a solo guy, out in the country, where everyone’s related, and he’s going, “Man, this is hard.” And I’m going, “Boy, I’ve been there, done that.” When I meet a pastor who can’t break the 200 barrier, and can’t figure out why he’s worn out – “Man, I did that. I ended up in the hospital. Let me tell you about that one.” All those experiences … “Hey, so your church is stuck at 2,500? Boy, I remember what that was like,” and, “You’re probably doing this. What you need is to hire a staff person in this area.”
Well, why? Because God wants me to love pastors, at all, various levels. It wasn’t so I was famous. It’s not so – You know what? I’ve met so many pastors that are way smarter than me, way smarter, and way more gifted. But God’s been preparing me for what I’m supposed to do. And if you’re going to help pastors of a large range of things, God gives you a platform so you get to know them. It’s just a stewardship.
What’s He prepared you to do? Are you getting it? What’s He prepared you to do?
Second, not only do you look at your S.H.A.P.E., you get wise counsel about who you are – your gifts, and your abilities, where you fit, and how to move forward. Proverbs 22:17 and 18 says, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to knowledge.”
One of the greatest things you can do is, you get around some people who know you well, that are mature, and you say, “I’m working through a process to discover who God really made me to be. What do you think my strengths are? What do you think my spiritual gifts are? What do you think?” And you’ll get great counsel.
When I went through this process of rediscovering, I talked to my wife; I talked to my kids. I talked to pastors that I’ve known. I talked to the board. I got all the wisest counsel, before I pulled the trigger and said, “I’m going to focus on teaching, and Living on the Edge, and do what God wants me to do. And, Lord, I feel like Abraham. The ‘leave’ part I’ve got. What I’d like a little more on is the ‘to where.’”
And God says, “I’m the ‘to where.’ I’ll show you where to teach. I’ll take care of the needs.” But you’ve got to get wise counsel.
I needed people that knew me well to say, “Chip, this is a no-brainer. In fact, now that you ask, I think you’ve been pretty stupid the last couple of years, to tell you the truth.” I mean, literally. Those are not made-up words. Those are guys that know me really well. “What are you doing, running an organization?”
I remember when the church kept growing and growing. I worked with a guy 18 years, went to California, sat down with him and his wife. And he’s very blunt, and that’s why we really get along. He just looked at me, he goes, “Man, you’re just stupid.” “Could you go over that again, a little more spiritually?” “Yeah. I love you, man. You know I’d never – I mean, you’re just stupid. Your strengths are here, and you’re trying to do this over here. There are a hundred people that can run that thing better than you. Get out of that, and do what God made you to do.” I needed that! I just needed that.
The third thing to do is, be willing to move out of your comfort zone to fulfill your divine purpose on earth. Comfort zone …
And somehow that was printed Hebrews 11:16, and if you read that ,and you think, I just can’t quite get the deep, spiritual meaning out of that verse, it’s because it’s the wrong verse. It’s Hebrews 11:6. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it’s impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must believe that He is” – and here’s the part we miss – “that He exists, and He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
See, the fact of the matter is, I’m scared. I mean, there was security in my last job. There were finances related to that job. There was platform related to that job. Now I’m supposed to do this, and I’ve got to rebuild, and I’m back in the startup, and I don’t know how God’s going to pay for it, and I’ve got all that stuff.
But without faith, it’s impossible – what? – to please God. I’ve got to believe that He is. If He spoke, and created all the worlds, I think He can take care of Living on the Edge and my family, right? He’s God.
But He’s a Rewarder of – what? Those who diligently seek Him. God gets excited. He’s a Person. He gets happy. When He sees someone like me, in all my fears, and all my struggles, get back into my calling, and then go, “Oooooh – okay, here I go …” And I’m thinking, Ughhh, how’s it going to happen? I think heaven roars! “Wow, Chip’s going to get to see Me, like never before.” You’ll get to see Him, like never before.
But you can’t be in your calling, and your comfort zone, at the same time. I will guarantee, part of it will be, “Oh, my, Lord, do You really want me to do this?” And the answer is “yes.”
And you’ll have practical people try and talk you out of it. And you will probably be the most practical person. “Well, I would really love to do this, Lord, but it’s just not very logical, practical, and reasonable, at my age, or my stage of life, or the group that I’m in, and – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I spent a few weeks with Him on those. He doesn’t listen to that stuff. He wants something better for you.
Finally, here, make a personal commitment to discover God’s calling on your life, so you can honor your Creator and Designer, and impact your world, and beyond. And we’re back to that same verse. You are – you are – you are – you are – you are – you are His divine workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for a good work – for a good work, a unique good work, that He prepared before the foundations of the earth that you would walk in it.
And when you do it, you’ll love it, and you’ll lose track of time. And it’ll be so – Here’s the deal. When you’re doing it, when you’re in that, you’re thinking, This is no big deal. Anybody could do this. Because it isn’t something you do. It’s the very glasses that you wear.
You counsel people and say, “Oh – Oh, I’m a good listener, but I’m not really doing anything,” and everyone’s going, “Could I meet with you?” “Could I meet with you?” Or I work with a guy who – “It’s not really a big deal, it’s just putting a few details together, and organizing,” and he’s the most gifted administrator I’ve ever been around.
When you’re doing it, you’ll think, This is illegal. You don’t really get paid for this, do you? Yeah. In fact, you were made to do it. But would you be willing to make a personal commitment?
Did you notice, I actually – I did this real purposefully. Notice, it says, “I [blank] [blank] ...” In mine, it says, “I, Chip Ingram, commit to discover God’s calling for my life, so that I might fulfill His highest purposes in me, and through me, for His glory, and my joy.” And what I want you to know, in your notes, it should not say, “I, Chip Ingram ...” I mean, I know some of you are a little obsessive/compulsive, and want to make sure you get it right. But it should say, “I [your name] ...”
And we’re going to close things up, and I really want you to discover your calling. And, by way of review, it’s, examine your S.H.A.P.E., get wise counsel, be willing to move out of your comfort zone, and then make a commitment.
I want you to know, God will show you. This is not like, Oh, gosh, this is going to be so hard. I wonder if God would show an ordinary, regular, eenie-weenie person, like me. He’s on the edge of the throne of heaven, going, “Come on! Come on! Mm-hmm, come on, baby! I’ll show you!”
Psalm 32:8 – a great verse I love, about God’s will: “I will lead you and instruct you in the way in which you should go. I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” “I’ll lead you. I’ll instruct you.” He wants you to find it!
You discover your calling – go back to the quote, the very first quote: “It takes great courage for men and women to discover their calling” – great courage, why? – “After all, it may not be what you’re doing right now. And to face your calling squarely may cause some significant disruption in your life.” And I would add, in your finances, in your relationships, possibly in your location, your vocation … But you’ll never be sorry you did.
Has anyone had just a mild – just mild – intuition that I might be enjoying myself up here? I’m doing what God made me to do. His heart’s desire is that you do what He made you to do.