Created for a Purpose


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Created for a Purpose

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C reate d for a purpose

We are designed and equipped to serve God in a unique way.

It’s quite satisfying to go through life with a purpose. Unfortunately, not all of us experience that satisfaction. Worse, we may even look at others and wonder what their purpose is. Sadly, our culture often determines a person’s value by how much that person can contribute to society, or at least not be a burden to others. If an individual’s purpose is not quickly apparent, others may question his very worth as a person. But God never sees us that way. Every person has inherent value and purpose as a human created in the image of God. Jeremiah discovered his purpose from God. As we look at the call God placed on Jeremiah’s life, we discover principles that apply to all of us. Regardless of how the world sees us—or how we see ourselves—God has created us for a purpose.

Ron Edmon dson Ron Edmondson pastors Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., a church full of people whom God “fearfully and wonderfully” made and is using in incredible ways. He admits that his favorite church member is his wife, Cheryl. Together they have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and an extremely spoiled Yorkiepoo. Ron blogs on leadership, church, and culture at ronedmondson.com.

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SPECIAL FOCUS CREATED FOR A PURPOSE

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What’s the most valuable object you’ve touched? #BSFLcreated

QUESTION 1

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THE POINT

Before you were born, God designed you with great value.

THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE Our group was conducting a medical clinic and doing street evangelism in a very poor slum outside Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Unfortunately, several days of fighting between the police and the gangs in the slum had created an intense situation, and the people we came to help were afraid to leave their houses. We made an appeal to the police to allow us to continue our work while keeping those in our group safe. I will never forget the response of the police officers to our request. One of the officers sneered, “Why would anyone want to help those dogs in that slum?” I felt nothing but love for these people. But how many times had I harbored prejudice in my own heart toward someone in my own country who wasn’t exactly like me? Perhaps most sobering of all was the realization that I know what the Bible teaches. God loves everyone—and He has a unique plan and purpose for each life.

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WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? Jeremiah 1:4-5 (HCSB) The word of the Lord came to me: 5 “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

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Jeremiah was a prophet during a 40-year period of difficulty, about 626-585 B.C. Judah was at a low point as a nation, and Babylon ultimately overran them and took the Jews into captivity. Jeremiah is commonly called the Weeping Prophet because, throughout his ministry, he grieved over the sins of his fellow Jews. Why would Jeremiah continue to preach in the face of such difficulty? Jeremiah knew God had a plan and purpose for his life. We see this plan in verse 5, and the plan centers on God and what He was doing. ]]

“I chose you before I formed you in the womb” (v. 5). The Hebrew word translated “chose” comes from a root that carries the idea of knowing someone and establishing a relationship. Notice, too, that this choosing and knowing came before God ever formed Jeremiah. God was involved in the course of Jeremiah’s life and in his development before he was born.

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“I set you apart before you were born” (v. 5). Again, God set Jeremiah apart for a specific purpose even before anyone else could see that purpose.

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“I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (v. 5). God’s plan was specific. Even from before he was born, Jeremiah had a specific assignment from God.

God had a purpose for Jeremiah’s life, and He has a purpose for every life. More than ever, the world needs to understand that God has a plan for every life—from the unborn child to the very elderly. He even has a purpose for those with severe physical or mental needs who cannot function without the assistance of others. No human has any less value to God because of size or ability or age. Our purpose flows from God’s plan for our lives—even if that plan and purpose are not immediately apparent.

What makes us valuable as human beings?

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THE POINT

Before you were born, God designed you with great value.

Jeremiah 1:6-8 (HCSB) But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.”  Then the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. 8 Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. This is the Lord’s declaration.” 6 7

Sometimes God’s specific plan for our lives is clear like it was for Jeremiah. But even when God’s plan is not abundantly clear, He still has a plan for us. How does He reveal that plan? ]]

God’s plan is found as we seek Him. It all starts with having a relationship with Him. God is not hiding from us. He wants us to know His will for our lives. “The Lord is near all who call out to Him, all who call out to Him with integrity” (Psalm 145:18).

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God’s plan is found as we follow His Word. So much of what God wants us to do is already revealed in Scripture. God’s will concerning our character is very clear and explicit, and the Bible guides us in how we are to live. When we follow His Word, the details of God’s specific plan for us will fall into place.

Just when we begin to get a clear picture of what God wants us to do, an “excuse machine” often roars to life inside our minds. We find a hundred reasons why we cannot do what we learn God wants us to do. This happened to Jeremiah. He countered God’s plan with two excuses: he didn’t know how to speak and he was only a youth. The Hebrew term for youth covers a broad age range, from a newborn infant to a young man of about 20. Jeremiah was probably in his late teens when God called him. God would not accept these excuses. God knew what He could do through Jeremiah; therefore, the Lord simply repeated His commission to Jeremiah and encouraged him to “not be afraid of

What are some excuses we use for not doing what God has called us to do?

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What are some things all Christians are called to do?

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anyone” (v. 8). To know God had called him to a specific purpose should be enough to not be afraid, but God offered something even greater: His own presence. “I will be with you to deliver you” (v. 8). Just as God promised to be with Jeremiah, God will be with us to carry out His purpose. God’s Holy Spirit dwells inside each of His followers. We are not alone. Jesus promised that His Father would send “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit” (John 14:26) to help us. The Holy Spirit—the same power who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11)—lives in us.

Jeremiah 1:9-10 (HCSB) Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: “I have now filled your mouth with My words. 10 See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.” 9

Because we tend to think people are alike, we may be tempted to categorize people based on traits such as skin color, hair color, ethnic background, physical or mental abilities, and so on. We know, of course, that people are not alike, and the more we learn about DNA, the more we learn just how unique we are as individuals. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE

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THE POINT

Before you were born, God designed you with great value.

In Psalm 139:14, the psalmist expressed it this way: “I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.” God uniquely designs and makes each one of us—and God makes no mistakes. God took plenty of time crafting each of us just the way He wants us to be! Even with whatever challenges and limitations we think we have, God has crafted us and equipped us with what we need to bring glory to Him. Jeremiah saw himself as limited: he couldn’t speak. But Jeremiah said, “The Lord reached out His hand [and] touched my mouth” (v. 9). God chose Jeremiah to be His prophet; then He equipped Jeremiah with both the words and the ability to speak those words. God equips each of us as He chooses. Some of us wish we could speak as Jeremiah did (but without all the challenges he faced). Some of us wish we could lead like Moses. Or write like David. Or do such-and-such like so-and-so. But the world only needed one Jeremiah, one Moses, and one David. God gave the world only one Jeremiah. And He has given the world only one you!

How has God equipped you to fulfill your purpose?

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Just as God called Jeremiah in a unique way, He equipped Jeremiah in a unique way. God works the same way today by giving each of us a distinct way and place to serve and glorify Him in the kingdom of God. He will use you and me for specific purposes and plans—things He has designed and designated for only you and me to complete. Many times we become frustrated when our success in life does not look like someone else’s success, but God’s assignments are unique to everyone. We will live more purposeful and fulfilled lives when we avoid comparisons and submit to His purpose for our lives. No matter how others see us—or how we see ourselves—God continually shapes us and equips us for His purposes and His glory. No matter who we are, or what we’ve done, in Christ we can bring Him glory. We were created for a purpose.

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"Go d contin ually shapes us an d equips us for His purposes an d His g lory . " RON EDMONDSON

SEND ME God speaks in a number of ways, guiding and equipping us to know and follow His will for our lives. What has God spoken to you through the following ways?

His Word Prayer

Other Christians Circumstances

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THE POINT

Before you were born, God designed you with great value.

LIVE IT OUT Every life matters because God designed each person for a unique purpose. How will this truth be evident in your life? ]]

Ask for God’s direction. Pray and ask God to show you something specific He wants you to do. It may be as simple as inviting your neighbor to church or Bible study group. Then watch for Him to provide an opportunity.

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In one sentence, write out a purpose statement for your life. What do you sense God calling you to do? How has He gifted you to serve Him? If you’re unsure, spend some time in the coming weeks seeking God on this matter. In the meantime, make it your goal to pursue God and His Word daily.

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Work to help others fulfill their purpose. Find an organization in your community that works with those who are often overlooked—the unborn, the aged, or those with physical and/or mental challenges. Volunteer one Saturday to help this group live out their purpose and worth in Christ.

Our worth isn’t measured by our socio-economic position, our abilities, or even our level of faith in God. Because we’re created in God’s image, we each hold immeasurable worth. We also have a God-given purpose for our lives. You could say we’re each designed and equipped to serve God in a unique way.

My thoughts

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Share with others how you will live out this study: #BSFLcreated

WALKING WITH CHRIST BY MICHAEL KELLEY

One of the primary terms the Bible uses to describe our relationship with Jesus is the word “walk.” It’s a good word; it has the connotation of a forward progression. We aren’t meant to have a stagnant relationship with our Lord; instead, we’re making forward progress in intimacy and obedience. But there are certain characteristics of our culture that make this walk seem like it’s going uphill. These are attributes that are so infectiously true of the environment we live in that they inevitably work their way into our own lives, just because we’re humans at this given place

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and at this given time. Unfortunately, though, these cultural characteristics are also obstacles to discipleship—this long walk in the same direction with Jesus. It’s important, then, for us, to recognize some of the factors that make this walk so arduous sometimes. The craving for immediacy. We live in the culture of now, and because we do, we’re the people of now. My children’s generation is the first generation to not know a life without the Internet. They don’t know what it means to have to do slow research in paper books, or even wait for the regularly scheduled time for a television program. We’re a microwave people living in a microwave world. And that craving for immediacy in all things runs against discipleship, which is by its very nature a long, long road.

Advers ity is one of God's most effective crucibles for spi ritual g rowth . The avoidance of adversity. We live in a culture that will do almost anything to alleviate pain, difficulty, or adversity. When we meet with things like adversity, we simply leave the relationship, we quit the job, or we walk away from the challenge. We like to be really good, really quick, and if we don’t have that instant gratification, we’re likely to turn the other way and try to escape.

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But adversity is one of God’s most effective crucibles for spiritual growth. Indeed, James said that without adversity, we’ll never truly grow into maturity: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). The stance of rejoicing, instead of escaping, is counterintuitive to most everyone in the world today. But for those individuals that are committed to the walk of spiritual growth, it’s absolutely essential. The crowding of messages. Whether you know it or not, you’re constantly being marketed to. Television, billboards, radio—these are only the obvious ones. But everywhere, all the time, someone is trying to get a message to you. That’s OK because we have conditioned ourselves to be able to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. But this division of focus runs contrary to the single-minded disciple who is seeking the kingdom of God. There is the sin that easily trips us up, of course, but there are also apparently other things that might not necessarily be sin. Nonetheless, they can serve as weights around our ankles in the walk of discipleship. Whether a seemingly innocent distraction or a downright sin, they both must be thrown off so that we might have an uncrowded pursuit of Him.

The complicating of process. We love processes in our culture, don’t we? And many times, the more complex the process is the better. It seems that the more complicated we make something the better we feel when we finally accomplish it. That’s also true in church many times. We have all kinds of metrics, all kinds of measures, and all kinds of processes to go through—all designed to produce and measure spiritual growth. While many of these might have their merits, it does seem that we have, at times, very much complicated the issue. Discipleship is a matter of seeking to know God through prayer and His Word and doing what He says. Know Him and follow Him. That’s it. Everything else is an aid to that simple, core message.

Know Him an d follow Him . That's it. Everyth ing else is an aid to that s imple, core message . We live in a culture that is immediate, adversityadverse, crowded, and overcomplicated. Here, too, as disciples of Jesus, we’re meant to be salt and light. We’re meant to stand distinct from this pattern as we walk with Him, even if that means we are going uphill for a while.

Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, Tenn., with is wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. This article originally appeared in the May, 2016 issue of HomeLife magazine.

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