Some of us have known what we wanted to be since we were very young. For most of us, however, our dreams have been changed over the years, maybe even much later in life than we expected. And for many of us, coming to know Jesus changed our dreams, too. As we’ve handed over things we’ve wanted or that we’ve done and relied upon, the Spirit has given us new desires and dreams. Some things you may already be putting into practice; others we’re still figuring out; and yet others the Spirit has yet to reveal to us because God knows we’re not ready yet.
Neil Cole makes a great observation in his book Search & Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference: “If we get to thinking that it is our best assets that make us most valued to the Lord, we are close to being useless. We must become acquainted with our weaknesses if we are to see him use us for great purposes.”
So, what are the next steps God might be preparing us for? What does God need to change in us first so these things can happen? And, how we can help clear the way to let God do that in our lives? Let’s dig into that today. Let’s start by looking at a couple different passages, including my favorite (first passage, second verse):
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:1-8, NIV).
• Practically speaking, what does it mean to be a “living and holy sacrifice”? How does it enable us to know God’s “good and pleasing and perfect” will—and actually do it?
• Look at verses 4 through 8 again. How does having a sacrificial attitude help us deal with those who are built differently from us?
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, NIV).
• How does it help for you to know that it’s God who makes us “qualified”? What, if anything, bugs you about that idea?
• Does that mean we do nothing and just wait until God’s ready give us our next task? Why or why not?
A great illustration of someone discovering their gifts occurs in the movie Walk the Line. Watch Johnny Cash (OK, Joaquin Phoenix) here, then think through these questions:
• What different emotions do you see Johnny go through during this scene?
• In one sense, Johnny was using his gift throughout this scene, but something changed. What was it, and what helped it to change?
• “All right, let’s bring it home”: Why is it easier to play “that same… tune”—at your job, with your friends, in your church, wherever—than to do “something different… something real”?
• What are the rewards to discovering and singing your “one song”? What are the risks? And in each case, what might that look like?
Here’s something else to think about, courtesy of Mark Driscoll (The Radical Reformission): “The trick to uncovering people’s values is to assess how they invest their time, energy, money, and passion…. Ideals are what you want; values are what you do. Ideals become values only if they are lived out.”
So let’s get down to the bottom lines here:
• What’s something you know God’s gifted you with—again, spiritually, materially, or both—that you wish God would tell you what he wants done with it?
• If there was one thing at all you could do for God right now, and knew for sure it’d work, what would you do?
• Be honest, then: Why aren’t you already doing it?
• What do you need to grab hold of—or let go of—so God can turn your “ideals” into “values”?
What ideal or dream have you been talking about—and doing nothing about—for way too long? Address it this week. Figure out who you need to talk to, or what other actions you need to take, and begin to make it happen. Don’t go in expecting you have to know everything—or maybe even anything—but expect that as you move forward, God will honor your steps of faith and guide you in the way you need to go. And may God give you the wisdom and courage to take the next steps He wants you to take.