Have you ever wondered where you fit in the family of God? Have you ever questioned if believing in Jesus is all there is to life with God? Have you found more purpose pursuing success in this life than in the purposes and plans of God? Be honest with yourself. For many in the church the answer to all of these questions is yes.
This tragic yes likely comes from feeling like a bystander in the kingdom of God. It comes from being left watching a few who seem to know what they are doing while the masses just observe, occasionally being asked to participate in a small, fleeting way while being told it is super important. This only further convinces the bystander no purpose can be found in the plans of God.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
These experiences of observing rather than participating often leave us wondering if there are only a certain few who can gain a clarity of call and function in the kingdom of God. We wonder, if only on a subconscious level, if observing the purposes of God is all there is for us. God’s response to this is unequivocally NO!!!
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. – Colossians 1:16
Paul makes it painfully clear we were all created by and for Jesus in his letter to the Colossians. Every man and woman was created with intention by God with a purpose and a function in the workings of his eternal plan along with every other created being. Look no further than the care with which he made all creation work together to reproduce and maintain life and the even greater care with which he purposed us who possess an eternal soul.
The reason we stall is because we are unaware of our function in the eternal purposes of God. The few in scripture we see who gain great clarity of their function, we excuse as the exception. Paul wrote from a place of clarity. His function in the Kingdom of God was revealed to him and he operated with great conviction as a result. He didn’t receive this pronouncement in a moment of isolation. God gave Ananias the message of who Saul was to be.
Saul (soon to be Paul) didn’t instantly step into the fullness of his function. He was discipled and matured until the point of his commissioning by the laying on of hands in Antioch. This practice was fundamental in the early church. There were many reasons for the laying on of hands:
- Healing the sick
- Filling of the Holy Spirit (usually immediately following baptism)
- Release into the ministry of the Church
Although one’s kingdom function was determined before birth, the laying on of hands (#3) to release into the ministry of the Church gave freedom to operate, albeit still under authority. From this moment, they didn’t need to wait for any external prompting. The Holy Spirit gave desire to engage and the disciple acted.
Paul, knowing his call to go before kings, petitioned Rome when given the chance, aware this might hinder his chance of release. He knew he was to bring the gospel to the gentiles and kings. He saw the opportunity and fulfilled his call.
I am so thankful for my own call to teach and disciple others. I am able to walk into a situation without second guessing an opportunity. If I see the opportunity to call someone to repentance or encourage them in an area of growth, I quickly jump in when I know there is grace for it. I don’t need to wait, for I know my role in warning and teaching in the Kingdom of God.
I love the story of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the greatest man born to a woman (Luke 7:28). I have rarely heard this quote of Jesus spoken of. What makes John so special? Many of John’s attributes drew chastising by the religious groups, but Jesus saw something special.
Why did Jesus speak such praise of John the Baptist? Was it because they were cousins? Surely not, since Jesus disregarded his own mother and brothers when he made them wait. (Matthew 12:46-50) Here Jesus defines family, however, as those who do His Father’s will. John definitely fits that bill!
John carried an incredible clarity and confidence in his calling, only questioned in a moment of imprisonment. Where did this clarity and confidence come from you may ask.
The story of John’s conception and birth was known and spoken of all over the region.A barren woman conceiving a child and a priest (the father) stricken mute by the Lord during the pregnancy was the kind of gossip that got around. In all likelihood, everyone John met would have immediately known who he was and how he received his name.
“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”” – Luke 1:14-17
Imagine from birth having these words repeated to you over and over again. “John, this is who you are…” This was not a private revelation. It was made very public by the Lord. Everyone clarified the call and spoke it to him. There may have been moments when he felt he couldn’t measure up, but never could he escape the awareness and affirmation.
One of these moments of insecurity came when John sat in prison. He asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Despite all that surrounded the revelation of his identity and function, John had a moment of doubt. “Was I wrong? Was I supposed to prepare the way for you?” he asks of the one who both created his identity and function. John needs a refresher, an encouragement to regain his clarity and confidence. We will all need this at times from the Lord and the body of Christ to regain our confidence.
A clarity of our God-given identity and role in the kingdom is not like our identity in the world. I have often experienced feeling trapped as a result of taking on an identity or function in opposition to what God has intended for me. You could call it double-mindedness. At times it even happened as a result of the body of Christ calling me to something for which the Lord had not intended.
We were made by God and for him. To inherit an identity from elsewhere is false. It is like fitting a square peg in a round hole.The identity from Jesus is one made for the vessel. It fits perfectly. It provides peace to the one who receives it no matter what earthly end they meet. It was why Stephen finds peace in the moment he is stoned. He has walked out obedience and rests even in that moment in the joy of the Lord.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1 Timothy 4:12-16
This clarity John had was the same found in Paul. It is the same clarity Paul intends for Timothy as we see by the encouragement in his letters. Elders or leaders in the church have an important role to provide the same clarity and encouragement. This requires listening to God for those in their care to identify and call out the purpose God has placed and reveals. Scripture is clear. We were all intentionally formed by and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16 amongst others).
No one is called to be an observer or a bystander to the purposes and plans of God. We have all been called, only to different functions so the church can move in the fullness of the plans of Jesus. We must all mature into the purposes Jesus intended for us and understand the tragedy it is for the church if any one believer fails to attain this release. John was constantly reminded of who God intended him to be. Likewise, let us encourage and help one another, both before and after our commissioning, to mature through continued sanctification into the fullness of our calling.