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About this series
Discovering God's Calling on Your Life
The word purpose is defined as 'the reason for which something is done.' So what is your life's purpose? The fact is we all long to know why am I here? Join guest teacher Ryan Ingram for this new series “Purpose FULL – Discovering God’s Calling on Your Life.” Ryan unpacks how we can not only discover our God-given purpose, but live it out even when difficulty, hardship, and conflict come. You’re not gonna wanna miss a single message!More from this series
I want to highlight three incredibly important areas for us if we are going to really live a purpose filled life where we need to redefine success in our lives. The first is simply here. Here’s what we learn from the apostle Paul in redefining success: Be present where God has placed you. Be present where God has placed you. The apostle Paul had no intentions of going to Athens. It was not part of the plan.
He had a plan and it got completely messed up. He had a plan to follow this road and actually work his way all the way to Rome. Eventually, Rome got closed off. I don’t know if you know, but Nero expelled all the Christians at one point and he wasn’t able to go to Rome even that way.
But because of persecution, because of what was happening, his plans got changed. He finds himself, he’s not even with his team anymore. Silas and Timothy are still in Berea.
And here’s what he didn’t do. He didn’t go, “Well, you know,” throw himself a pity party. “This sucks. This is terrible. I’m stuck in Athens, look at all these idols, I don’t even have my team.” He didn’t go, “Well, whatever. You know what? I’m just going to take a vacation. It’s been long. It’s been hard. I’m just going to, I’m just going to vacation for a while.”
What did he do? He did what he did everywhere else. He did what God had called him to do. And everywhere he went, he began to speak with people about this Jesus who changes life. He couldn’t help it. He just went to, first to the synagogue, then to the God-fearing Greeks, and then into the marketplace. Anyone who would hear him. He just did what he always did wherever he went. He was fully present where God had him placed.
He didn’t choose that place, he wasn’t intending to go to that place, that wasn’t the place he really ever wanted to go, but he said, “Since I’m here, I’m going to be present and do what God has called me to do in this place.”
I think some of us are missing out on what God has for us because we are complaining about the place we’re in. We are complaining about, “I want to be in a different place. I want to live in a different place. I want to work at a different place. I want to have a different spouse.”
Oh wait, did I just say that out loud? Some of you thought it. And you’re complaining about your place. And redefining success is actually – no, no, no – here is the place. My work. I may be looking for another job, but as long as I’m here, I’m going to be present where God has me placed. Your location.
How about as a parent? I think so often, especially you have kids and you realize there are so many things you can’t do anymore! You’re like, “Oh my gosh! It’s so fun to watch everyone else live their best life on social media and Insta and we can’t go anywhere because if we go anywhere it’s just a hot mess and nap time and all those other things.”
And God says, “Be present in that place.” You know one of my biggest regrets? My kids, I have three kids. One of by biggest regrets is I was so focused on what I thought was success of being a somebody in my younger years that I was not present in my home with my kids. I look on my phone all the time. I love those highlights that they have of pictures on the iPhone where it just shows you. Oh, there’s a beautiful picture of my daughter when she was, like, four.
And I go, I wish I would have been present of what I missed. I don’t take it for granted now. Be present where God has you placed, students. We are always wanting to be in the next thing ahead.
See, many of us, our version of success goes something like this: “When I get blank, then I’ll be…” When I get, then. And we live in the when/then and we are never present because we never arrive.
See, what happened for the apostle Paul was his circumstances changed, but his calling didn’t. His purpose, his plans changed, but his purpose didn’t. See, you go, Okay, God, You have me placed here. I am here for a purpose in this season and so, I’m going to be present to it and You have the freedom to work through me in this moment. You have made me a mom, You have made me a dad. I am going to be present with my kids and work through that. You put me at this job. I’m going to be present here with what You have for me to do.
And here’s what’s amazing. This is so cool. The apostle Paul had the great opportunity to preach the gospel to the world-renowned supreme council of Athens. Had he not been present in that moment, he would have missed out on one of the greatest opportunities of his entire life. I just wonder, I just wonder if a few of us are missing out on incredible opportunities because we are just looking and living in the when/thens of life.
First in redefining success, be present where God has placed you. Second, only a holy God can wholly satisfy. Only a holy God can wholly satisfy. I want you to notice Paul’s sermon. And, remember, the city is filled with idols and he finds one and he talks about, “To the unknown God.”
And we are, all of us are searching for someone or something to fully satisfy our soul. We are pursuing. It’s that if I have this, then I’ll have meaning. If I have this, then I’ll finally feel valuable or significant. Only a holy God can wholly satisfy.
Holiness, he begins to talk about the holiness of God, not using that word but his Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father. And he says, “God did this so that they would seek Him and reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him, we live and move and have our being.”
Like, there is something set inside of you that longs, that has this longing and searching, “Will you satisfy me?” And it is put inside your soul and my soul so that we will actually reach out and discover that no thing and no person will ever fully satisfy. We were created for a God who can only satisfy our soul.
I like how John Stott talked about Paul’s sermon. He says, “He proclaimed God in His fullness as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father, and Judge.” Only a holy – that means completely other, set apart, fully good, all-powerful God, that is intimate, personal, relational – can fully satisfy your soul.
I like how C.S. Lewis said it. He said, “If I find in myself a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
We kind of tend to think that idols are – you think about way back then, right? We don’t have graven images, oh wait, we have bank accounts. We don’t have graven images, oh wait, it’s that plaque on the wall. For some, it’s your fantasy football trophy.
See, an idol for us is anything that we are pursuing that we hope will actually fully satisfy our soul, other than God.
I like how Tim Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods defines an idol. He says, “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give, anything that is so central and essential to your life that should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
Isn’t that why when we’re talking about those definitions of success, success was so fragile? Success didn’t, lacked its substance. Because once it, once that thing got pulled away, for many, you felt like your purpose was on pause or you lost it all together. See, only God, only God, only God can fully satisfy. Only Jesus can satisfy the deep longing of our soul. And for some, you get that intellectually, but you’ve got to get it practically in your bones.
I have sat with someone that I love dearly who would say over and over again, “Oh, my values, Ryan. It’s faith first. It’s God! It’s family and friends.” I’ve had this conversation, but you know what? We live in such a driven, success-oriented culture, practically you know what it is? Upward mobility. Practically, you know what it shows by how you spend your time, your energy, where you give your best effort.
For this person, he sacrificed it on the altar of his work. And so many of us are sacrificing our lives on the altar of something, hoping that it will satisfy us, and I have just had the vantage point of being a pastor and talking to so many people who are “successful” but yet empty.
And where you get to the spot, Okay, God, okay. I have been searching. That search reveals something in my heart. Those things aren’t necessarily bad, they just can’t be ultimate things. In fact, God, You’re the only One who will fully satisfy.
When we’re redefining success, first, be present where God has placed you. Second, recognize only God can wholly satisfy. And then finally, abandon outcomes to God. Abandon outcomes.
Dallas Willard, in his book Renovation of the Heart, I like, he says this, “We are not meant to live under the burden of outcomes.” Oh that our lives would be so different. If we didn’t live under the burden of outcomes.
I think, I don’t think the apostle Paul walked away from Athens and Mars Hill, I don’t think he walked away discouraged. I don’t think he walked away disappointed. We have no indication that he somehow thought this was a failure, though other people looked at it and just said, “Hey, by the numbers, you just didn’t quite meet your quota. You didn’t just quite hit what you had in Berea. I mean, man, you were cooking there, but over here, ehhh. I mean, you had your chance in front of the big hotshot philosophical council. Missed it!
“There’s going to be recorded for all of time just some of the people became followers.” He left the outcome and results in God’s hands. See, we have to be clear on our responsibility. This is not saying, “Don’t work hard. Don’t do your best.” Here’s what this is saying: I can’t live under the weight of what the out, of outcomes. I can’t live under. If I’m trying to raise my kids, here’s what I do, I’m going to – I’m called to raise them, help them know Jesus. I can’t live under the outcome of raising perfect kids, raising godly kids. That’s God’s part. That’s their interaction.
And for some, how would it change your parenting if you didn’t live under that outcome? Because isn’t it true that when they act out, didn’t you feel like it’s a reflection of you? And so, instead of helping guide them, helping them grow, we often punish them or discipline them in a way because it made us look bad.
I know for me, even preaching. My job. I can’t be married to outcomes. When I am, I’m preaching for your applause instead of God’s approval. I like how Dallas Willard says it. He says, “The secret to peace as great apprentices of Jesus have long known is being abandoned to God. We accept that we do not have in ourselves in our own heart, soul, mind, and strength the wherewithal to make this come out right, whatever this is.
Instead, let us entrust our souls to the faithful Creator and doing what is right.” See, redefining success means I’m going to be present where God has placed me. I’m seeking Him as my sole satisfaction. And through that, I’m going to entrust to Him the outcomes. I’m going to entrust to Him people that I love in my life.
I like how John Ortberg tells a story of Dallas Willard. And Dallas Willard had just gotten done preaching at Ortberg’s church up in Menlo. And I like how John says it. He’s like, “It wasn’t his best. You know? But he’s walking out so light and so free.” And he gave this picture and it has always stuck with me. “And he was just humming an old hymn as he was walking to the car.” And he said, “It was like, as if like he preached and he did his thing and it was like a helium balloon and then he just let go of it and let it float up.”
I just wonder what would change in your life instead of living under the weight and under the pressure and feeling like everything rests on your shoulders, instead, abandoning it to God and just going, “I’m just going to, God, I’m becoming who You made me to be. And I’m doing what You called me to do. And I’m going to entrust the outcomes, the results, to You.”
Jesus told us, like, the fruitfulness, impact, success if you will – it actually comes in John chapter 15, He would explain, by abiding in Him. Resting in Him. Remaining in Him. Staying deeply connected to Jesus and He will take care of the results, He’ll take care of the fruit. The fruit will come, the fruit will happen. You’re not tied to the outcome. Let Jesus be tied to it.
Go, Okay, Jesus, what do You have for me here? Would You speak to my heart and my soul, my mind? Would You lift the burdens that are Yours?
May we bring the things that we are carrying to You. Would You reorient our lives around You and Your ways? In Jesus’ name, amen.