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How to Overcome Feelings of Futility, Part 2

From the series Breaking Through Life's Biggest Barriers

Chip continues this series with a message he calls, “How to Overcome Feelings of Futility.” If you need a God-sized shot in the arm, today's message is for you.

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Message Transcript

This is one of those sermons where we are the salmon of God seeking to swim upstream.  And do you know what?  The current’s coming at us.  But in your heart of hearts, you want to be significant and I want to be significant.  Now we’ve identified the problem.  Final question.  How can you move, and how can I move, from a success orientation to significance?

How can we align our thinking and our lives, and our priorities and our time, and our resources in such a way that we land well?  I did a funeral Friday afternoon and I buried a significant woman.  She didn’t have a lot of money.  She didn’t win any beauty contest.  She wasn’t well known, wasn’t visible.  She came to Christ in this church about four years ago, and she was a house mother for abused kids.  Kids that are taken out of their homes because of abuse, and tragedy, and drugs.  I mean the kinda kids that no one gives a rip… I mean, they’ve had more problems.  Some of these kids have experienced more in the first 6, 8, 10 years of life than any adult should ever, ever experience ever.

And we had a memorial service here Friday afternoon and I heard 6 year olds, and 8 year olds, and 10 year olds say, “Donna made me feel special.  When I didn’t think there was any hope in life, she cared about me.  She loved me.  Donna was always there.”  She has marked.  You talk about significance?  She doesn’t have any big retirement program.  She hasn’t written a book.  There are lives that will be marked with the imprint of Donna Meade for all eternity because she took what she had and she focused it on the things that matter most.

Let me give you three clear ways, from Scripture, to move from a life of success to a life of significance.  Number one, clarify your mission.  Clarify your mission.  Answer the basic question, why are you here?  Have you ever thought of that?  Do you realize how important that is?  Why are you here?  Until we start and say, “Why am I on this planet?”  You will never have a significant life.

Notice, there are two things that last forever.  I told you, the two buckets.  There are two things that as you follow them, and you get to the bucket, and look down inside instead of it being empty you can always know they’re full.  Number one is God’s Word because it’s eternal.  God says His Word will never return void and He says it’s eternal.  Every time you invest in God’s Word, anytime you take it in, read it, apply it, pass it on, share it with anyone else, you’re investing in something that will never, never fail.  It counts and it lasts.

The second bucket that will always be full are the souls of men and the souls of women.  Every human being on the face of this planet eternally matters to God.  Anytime you invest in a relationship, any time you love a person, pray for a person, care for a person, provide the needs of a person, encourage a person, you’re marking into something that’s eternal.  And by the way, remember there is a resurrection coming.  And everyone gets resurrected.  You’re aware of that.  Scripture says some, a resurrection unto life and others – what?  a resurrection unto death, some to be with the Lord forever, some to be separated for all eternity.  You need to know your mission.

Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 28.  “As you go (or) go therefore make disciples of all ethnos.”  All people.  All people groups.  All nations.  Make disciples.  Make followers of Me.  Baptize ‘em.  Identification in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And all the things that I’ve taught you pass on to them in order that they could not just learn ‘em, but obey them.  Put them into practice.  And by the way, I’ll be with you.  I know you can’t do it on your own.  I’ll be with you always.

See, in a nutshell here’s your mission in life.  If you’re a housewife, this is your mission.  If you’re a carpenter, this is your mission.  If you’re a businessman, this is your mission.  If you’re a musician, this is your mission.  If you’re a student, it’s your mission.  If you’re a woman, it’s your mission.  If you’re a man, it’s your mission.  Your mission is to know Christ and to make Him known.  That’s why you were placed on this planet--PERIOD.  That will come through your personality, your desires, your backgrounds.

And you can do it in San Jose or you can do it in San Juan.  And you can do it in Brazil or you can do it in New York.  And you can do it by workin’ with your hands and you can do it by workin’ with your head.  Your mission, your reason for existence is to know Him.  And then, out of the overflow of your relationship, to make Him known.  Your mission is not to own a home.  Your mission is not to be comfortable.

Your mission is not as important as it is that all your kids turned out right.  Your mission is not you being happy.  Your mission is not to save up enough money, as though you know the future, so that your retirement years will be secure--that’s not your mission.  Your mission is not to put up relational walls to make sure no one gets inside or gets too close so you don’t get hurt again.  That’s not your mission.  That’s a dead end.  Your mission is to know Christ and to make Him known.  Knowing Christ, the Word, prayer, God’s people, make Him known.

Every person you walk by, believers to be encouraged, unbelievers.  The average unbeliever grew up like me.  I never met a real Christian until I was 18,….17.  I mean, I met church people and I saw a bunch of junk that happened in churches.  I never met a real one.  I mean one that lives out, one whose life and words matched up and told the same story.  One who would listen instead of talk at me.  One who cared, one who lived it out, one who had a radical lifestyle.   One who said, I’ll give up two weeks of vacation and go to El Salvador or to Mexico.

Or would stop in the middle of their busy day and say, “I’ve got time to talk to you.  And I know it’s not politically correct, but let me tell you what Jesus has done in my life without judging where you’re at in your life.”   See, you want to be significant instead of successful?  One, first and foremost, clarify your mission.

Secondly, embrace your mission field.  You need to know where you’re going, but you need to know where God wants you to know Christ and to make Him known.  We get this idea that your mission field, oh, it’s got to be in Africa.

I’m tellin’ you, I hope some of you go, but I’m gonna tell you 99% of you probably will never go to Africa.  But we think, well, that’s the mission field and since you’re not goin’ there…If you’re like me you unconsciously slide into the fulfilling the Silicon Valley agenda, and buying the commercials, and lookin’ to be happy, comfortable, prosperous, well off, with a dash of Jesus on the side.  Embrace your mission field.  Where are your greatest spheres of influence?

Jesus said not to become salt and become light.  What’d He say?  You are salt.  You are light.  You’re going to reveal.  You’re going to flavor.  You’re going to challenge.  You’re going to change.  You’re going to have an impact, unless you’re under a bushel, unless you’ve lost your saltiness.  Let me give you the three areas where it is clear that you need to sprinkle the salt of Christ, the love of Christ, and the holiness of God.

First, your home.  That’s your first mission field.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.  These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  (Now get this).  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Do your kids, if you’re married, or does your family network, in-laws, if you’re not, do they see that your number one concern and mission field is them?  Spend time in the Scriptures in your home?  Do they catch you praying sometimes?  Oops, sorry mom, sorry dad.  Do they see the integrity that you talk about and this stuff about God lived out in your life?  That’s your mission field.  If it doesn’t work there, don’t export it.

Some of us are thinking, God, what do you want me to do with my life?  Start right where you are.  Love your wife, love your husband, care about your kids.  Turn the stupid TV off and spend some time together.  Find out who their friends are.  Ask ‘em questions.  Go on walks.  Put your arms around them.  Don’t assume everything’s really ok.  Face the hard issues.  Be God’s man; be God’s woman.

The second field that God wants you to make an impact in, your sphere of influence.  The second mission field is your work.  Do you ever realize that the great majority of your time is spent not at home, not at church, not praying, and not reading the Bible?  Do you realize that what most of us do is we get up every day and we put in, I don’t know anybody who works a 40 hour week, but God bless you if you figured out how to do that.  Right?  Most of us it’s about 55 or 60, then you’re getting kinda revved up, and if you’re under pressure some of us do the 70 or 80 hours.  Don’t do much of that, but it’s life.

Now think of about, multiply that out over all the years that you live.  Where do you spend the great bulk of your entire world?  It’s working.  Whether that’s at home, or whether that’s at an office, or a jobsite.  That’s where you spend the great bulk of your life.  Do you think that God has a plan for your life, for your family, for church, for the spiritual little wedge or window, and over here your work life is like, well you’re on your own.  You know, like God in the morning says, “Well hey, have a good day, catch you later.”  We live that way.

Notice what the Scriptures say.  Colossians 3:22-25, the application there is to slaves in this culture.  I think we can make it to ours.  “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything.”  Now, basically they had some terrible earthly masters.  This is a tough command.  “And do it not only when their eyes are upon you to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”  Now, is the Bible actually saying that I go to work and I do my job as though I’m doing it for God as an act of worship?  With a good attitude?  On time?  With excellence?

You know, everyone’s wearing these little bands, WWJD?  What would Jesus do?  I got one for ya.  Put that band on your wrist and get up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and if you work on Saturday, Saturday morning and say if Jesus was inside your body going to your job, how would He do your job?  When would He leave?  And what kind of work would He do?  And you know what?  Some of us feel like God could never use me.  You start working like that with that kinda attitude, you will have people lined up at your desk saying (1),  “Could you come work for me?  Or (2), “What is with you?”

And by the way, you will take flak.  Because the work culture is - what?  The work culture is how can you do as little as possible and get as much as possible.  The Christian culture is how much do you get to do and do it unto God?  Notice Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.”  Can you imagine walkin’ in and someone saying, “Hey, knock it off here.”  “No, I’m doing this for God.  I don’t work for IBM.”  I don’t work for Hewlett-Packard.  I don’t work for Plantronics.

You know, I’m doin’ these dishes, I’m changing these diapers, I’m landscaping this lawn, I’m gonna do it in such a way that it honors God.  Can you fathom the impact the body of Christ would have if we worked that way?  See, too many of us have bought a car from someone out of the paper and it has a little fish on it, and what do we immediately think?  Uh-oh, are they really telling the truth about this?  See, a lot of people put a Bible on their desk, or they want to tell everyone to come to a Bible study, and they don’t show up on time.  They don’t do their homework.  They’re not prepared.  You know what they’re doin’?  They’re disgracin’ the name of Christ.

Martin Luther put it well.  He said, “When a milkmaid goes out and milks a cow and does it as an act of worship unto the Lord, she is in a more holy state and holy ground than when a priest or a pastor does not take care of the Word of God and doing that job in a way that honors Him.”  I got news for ya.  There aren’t two sets of scales.  See, people sometimes, especially if I travel some, they always get around to what do you do?

And I’m always a little uncomfortable in my mind’s eye I still don’t think of myself as a minister.  You know?  Or, like, clergy or even pastor.  See, I didn’t grow up around people like that.  The bricklayer helped me.  You know what I knew?  He was a bricklayer that was gonna make disciples.

I think of myself as a coach.  It’s just a different team.  I am.  I’m just a coach.  And when I stand before God, He doesn’t say, oh, this is what I expect of Chip and then all these lay people.  Baloney!

I’ll tell you what He says.  Now the ruler and it’s going to be a little different because I teach the Word, James tells me, but He’s going to evaluate what I do is no more spiritual than what you do.  And most of you don’t believe that.  But you need to believe it, because what you do at work, that’s your sphere of influence.  Can you imagine the impact?  And some of you are making it.  Some of you are my heroes. As I put this point down, a number of people just came to my mind.  I thought, wow.

The third, sphere of influence is your network.  Colossians 4:5 & 6 notice what it says.  “Be wise in the way you act toward non-believers making good use of (how many opportunities?) every opportunity you have.  Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.”  See, you have a network.  And probably in our day, it’s not your neighborhood.  It’s probably the other moms or dads on the little league team or the soccer team.  You know, every week some of you go to the dry cleaners. Are you building a relationship with that person?

Some of us pick up coffee at the same place almost every morning, right?  Have you ever thought that this relationship could begin from where you are, and you could love them, and build a relationship into the kingdom?  Some of you have your cars repaired at the same place.  Did you realize God has brought that mechanic into your life for a reason?  Some of you play bridge, some of you have hobbies, some of you crochet, some of you play softball.  What’s your network?

We always are thinking, who am I going to share with, you know, Christ and build this evangelistic relationship with?  Here’s the secret.  How about all the people you already know?  I mean, I’ve been sharing the Lord with a guy at the coffee shop for close to 7 years.  I just made a major breakthrough after about a year with the lady at 7-11 and she saw my Bible, asked what I did, I found out her son’s a Christian who’s sharing Christ with her, and now we have 30 to 2 minute conversations about the Scripture.  My next step will probably be to give her something or give her something to listen to.

I have a neighbor that I’ve been praying for, for eight years, and I can’t get to first base.  And one day I just had an impulse from God, He brought a verse to my mind, “Let your light so shine before men that they can see your good deeds, and glorify your Father in heaven.”  And just on an impulse I went over and cut her grass.  She’s a single mom.  And I’m thinking no big deal.  I mean yards here.  Where I grew up when you cut grass it was an hour.  You know, here it’s 12 minutes, you’re done.  And I mean you would think I was passing out bags of gold to this lady.

She’s a sweet lady.  She’s a great lady, and I don’t know really where she’s at spiritually, but, you know, I live close to her, but I’ve never really connected.  I came home last night and there were two cartons of eggs and two things of jam on our front door from her saying, thanks.  What’s your network?  It’s not some way, some day, some how, when you.  It’s right now where you’re at.  Let me give you number three, because you need know how to do this.  There are six steps.  I call it “everybody evangelism.”  You move from success to significance by: One, clarifying your mission.  Why am I here?

Two, embrace your mission field.  Where are my spheres of influence?  The home, work, my network.  Three, engage in the harvesting process.  1 Corinthians 3 says that we can’t make anything grow.  Only God can do it.  But some water, and some plant, and we all work together.  I have only a handful of relationships where I build a relationship, I water, I do this, I do this, I do this, and six months or two years later I lead that person to Christ.  There are people I meet that people have been working on for 20 years and I get to lead ‘em to Christ.

There are other people that I build relationship with and, you know what, boy I sure hope God does something because I haven’t seen anything.  But I’m not discouraged about that anymore.  In fact, I took the gun away from my head.  I don’t have to do it.  See, I am not and you are not a prosecuting attorney.  You know what we are?  Witnesses.  You know what witnesses do?  Witnesses step up on the plate and say, this is what’s true of me, this is what Jesus did in my life.

Now, let me give you a way to get involved in this.  Notice the little chart.  I took this out of a book called “The High Impact Church.”  Linus Morris did this and he ministers in Europe.  Notice, there are about six steps.  First, look at your network.  Make contact with the unchurched as your goal.  Action step: establish visibility in the community, identify and pray, and contact people in social networks.  It’s like helpin’ out with a little league team.

Two, after the network, befriend people.  The goal, build trusting relationships, like really care about ‘em.  The action:  build bridges socially, show love and care, look for divine appointments.  Just start serving people.  Step three, identify.  Look for a felt need.  You know, it took me eight years, I mean, like, I must be slow of speech, slow of tongue, and way low on brains.  Took me eight years to figure out a felt need in my neighbor’s life was cutting the lawn?  So simple.

What are the felt needs of the people?  Going through divorce?  Have financial problems?  Struggle with aging parents?  Pressure in their marriage?  Here’s the action step:  listen attentively, show concern.  You don’t have to jam Jesus down their throat and give them five Bible verses.  Just listen.  You will be a minority.  Just listen.  Network, befriend, identify, then share.  Share your story.  Action step:  look for receptivity and sensitivity to share your story.  This takes most of you off the hook.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  Just, this is what Jesus did in my life.  This is what Jesus did in my marriage.  This is what Jesus did in that relationship and I’m still struggling with it.  Just share your story.

And then when they ask that real hard question that’s so hard and the reason why we don’t share, here’s the answer.  I’m going to tell you in advance.  They ask us, what about dududududu?  Right?  The real hard question.  Here’s your answer.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  Here’s what I know He did for me.  But you know what?  The way I’ve learned is through the New Testament and I’d like to give you one if you want to start reading it as you have questions.  I’d be glad to talk with you and that’s a good question.  I don’t know that one, but I’ll go do some study.  Would you like to go get a cup of coffee and talk about it later?

You’re not under pressure.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  Just share your story.  Fifth, invite.  The goal is to expose them to the Gospel.  Action step:  bring an unbelieving friend or a contact to a weekend service, or to a Tuesday night, or to a small group.  Invite them.

Finally, harvest.  Encourage commitment to Christ and assimilate them in the life of the church.  There’s a point in time where people get ready and you need to cross over the line and say, would you like to receive Jesus as your Savior?  Would you like to have your sins forgiven?  And I’m always amazed ‘cuz I have this unbelieving mind, how many times people will look at me and say, “Yes, I would.”  And you know what kept them from it?  No one’s ever asked.