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We are made for a Mission
The passages below are taken from the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. It was published in 2002.
Made for a Mission
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world. (John 17:18 Msg)
The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me. (Acts 20:24 NCV)
You were made for a mission.
God is at work in the world and he wants you to join him. This assignment is called your mission. God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world. Your ministry is your service to believers,1 and your mission is your service to unbelievers. Fulfilling your mission in the world is God’s fifth purpose for your life.
Your life mission is both shared and specific. One part of it is a responsibility you share with every other Christian, and the other part is an assignment that is unique to you. We will look at both parts in the chapters ahead.
Our English word mission comes from the Latin word for “sending.” Being a Christian includes being sent into the world as a representative of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”2
Jesus clearly understood his life mission on earth. At age twelve he said, “I must be about my Father’s business,”3 and twenty-one years later, dying on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”4 Like bookends, these two statements frame a well-lived, purpose-driven life. Jesus completed the mission the Father gave him.
The mission Jesus had while on earth is now our mission because we are the Body of Christ. What he did in his physical body we are to continue as his spiritual body, the church. What is that mission? Introducing people to God! The Bible says, “Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.”5
God wants to redeem human beings from Satan and reconcile them to himself so we can fulfill the five purposes he created us for: to love him, to be a part of his family, to become like him, to serve him, and to tell others about him. Once we are his, God uses us to reach others. He saves us and then sends us out. The Bible says, “We have been sent to speak for Christ.”6 We are the messengers of God’s love and purposes to the world.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR MISSION
Fulfilling your life mission on earth is an essential part of living for God’s glory. The Bible gives several reasons why your mission is so important.
Your mission is a continuation of Jesus’ mission on earth. As his followers, we are to continue what Jesus started. Jesus calls us not only to come to him, but to go for him. Your mission is so significant that Jesus repeated it five times, in five different ways, in five different books of the Bible.7 It is as if he was saying, “I really want you to get this!” Study these five commissions of Jesus and you will learn the details of your mission on earth---the when, where, why, and how.
In the Great Commission Jesus said, “Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you.”8 This commission was given to every follower of Jesus, not to pastors and missionaries alone. This is your commission from Jesus, and it is not optional. These words of Jesus are not the Great Suggestion. If you are a part of God’s family, your mission is mandatory. To ignore it would be disobedience.
You may have been unaware that God holds you responsible for the unbelievers who live around you. The Bible says, “You must warn them so they may live. If you don’t speak out to warn the wicked to stop their evil ways, they will die in their sin. But I will hold you responsible for their death.”9 You are the only Christian some people will ever know, and your mission is to share Jesus with them.
Your mission is a wonderful privilege. Although it is a big responsibility, it is also an incredible honor to be used by God. Paul said, “God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him.”10 Your mission involves two great privileges: working with God and representing him. We get to partner with God in the building of his kingdom. Paul calls us “co-laborers” and says, “We are workers together with God.”11
Jesus has secured our salvation, put us in his family, given us his Spirit, and then made us his agents in the world. What a privilege! The Bible says, “We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God.”12
Telling others how they can have eternal life is the greatest thing you can do for them. If your neighbor had cancer or AIDS and you knew the cure; it would be criminal to withhold that lifesaving information. Even worse is to keep secret the way to forgiveness, purpose, peace, and eternal life. We have the greatest news in the world, and sharing it is the greatest kindness you can show to anyone.
One problem long-term Christians have is that they forget how hopeless it felt to be without Christ. We must remember that no matter how contented or successful people appear to be, without Christ they are hopelessly lost and headed for eternal separation from God. The Bible says, “Jesus is the only One who can save peop1e.”13 Everybody needs Jesus.
Your mission has eternal significance. It will impact the eternal destiny of other people, so it’s more important than any job, achievement, or goal you will reach during your life on earth
The consequences of your mission will last forever; the consequences of your job will not. Nothing else you do will ever matter as much as helping people establish an eternal relationship with God.
This is why we must be urgent about our mission. Jesus said, “All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end.”14 The clock is ticking down on your life mission, so don’t delay another day. Get started on your mission of reaching out to others now! We will have all of eternity to celebrate with those we have brought to Jesus, but we only have our lifetime in which to reach them.
This does not mean you should quit your job to become a full- time evangelist. God wants you to share the Good News where you are. As a student, mother, preschool teacher, salesman, or manager or whatever you do, you should continually look for people God places in your path with whom you can share the gospel.
Your mission gives your life meaning. William James said, “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” The truth is, only the kingdom of God is going to last. Everything else will eventually vanish. That is why we must live purpose- driven lives---lives committed to worship, fellowship, spiritual growth, ministry, and fulfilling our mission on earth. The results of these activities will last---forever!
If you fail to fulfill your God-given mission on earth, you will have wasted the life God gave you. Paul said, “My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus---the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love?”15 There are people on this planet whom only you will be able to reach, because of where you live and what God has made you to be. If just one person will be in heaven because of you, your life will have made a difference for eternity. Start looking around at your personal mission field and pray, “God, who have you put in my life for me to tell about Jesus?”
God’s timetable for history’s conclusion is connected to the completion of our commission. Today there’s a growing interest in the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. When will it happen? Just before Jesus ascended to heaven the disciples asked him this same question, and his response was quite revealing. He said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”16
When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that!”
Speculating on the exact timing of Christ’s return is futile, because Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”17 Since Jesus said he didn’t know the day or hour, why should you try to figure it out? What we do know for sure is this: Jesus will not return until everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it. Jesus said, “The Good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come.”18 If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.
It is easy to get distracted and sidetracked from your mission because Satan would rather have you do anything besides sharing your faith. He will let you do all kinds of good things as long as you don’t take anyone to heaven with you. But the moment you become serious about your mission, expect the Devil to throw all kinds of diversions at you. When that happens, remember the words of Jesus: “Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”19
WHAT IT COSTS TO FULFILL YOUR MISSION.
To fulfill your mission will require that you abandon your agenda and accept God’s agenda for your life. You can’t just “tack it on” to all the other things you’d like to do with your life. You must say, like Jesus, “Father,... I want your will, not mine.”20 You yield your rights, expectations, dreams, plans, and ambitions to him. You stop praying selfish prayers like “God bless what I want to do.” Instead you pray, “God help me to do what you’re blessing!” You hand God a blank sheet with your name signed at the bottom and tell him to fill in the details. The Bible says, “Give yourselves completely to God---every part of you... to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good purposes.”21
If you will commit to fulfilling your mission in life no matter what it costs, you will experience the blessing of God in ways that few people ever experience. There is almost nothing God won’t do for the man or woman who is committed to serving the kingdom of God. Jesus has promised, “[God] will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of
God your primary concern.”22
ONE MORE FOR JESUS
My father was a minister for over fifty years, serving mostly in small, rural churches. He was a simple preacher, but he was a man with a mission. His favorite activity was taking teams of volunteers overseas to build church buildings for small congregations. In his lifetime, Dad built over 150 churches around the world.
In 1999, my father died of cancer. In the final week of his life the disease kept him awake in a semi-conscious state nearly
twenty-four hours a day. As he dreamed, he’d talk out loud about what he was dreaming. Sitting by his bedside, I learned a lot about my dad by just listening to his dreams. He relived one church building project after another.
One night near the end, while my wife, my niece, and I were by his side, Dad suddenly became very active and tried to get out of bed. Of course, he was too weak, and my wife insisted he lay back down. But he persisted in trying to get out of bed, so my wife finally asked, “Jimmy, what are you trying to do?” He replied, “Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus!” He began to repeat that phrase over and over.
During the next hour, he said the phrase probably a hundred times. “Got to save one more for Jesus!” As I sat by his bed with tears flowing down my cheeks, I bowed my head to thank God for my dad’s faith. At that moment Dad reached out and placed his frail hand on my head and said, as if commissioning me, “Save one more for Jesus! Save one more for Jesus!”
I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life. I invite you to consider it as a focus for your life, too, because nothing will make a greater difference for eternity. If you want to be used by God, you must care about what God cares about; what he cares about most is the redemption of the people he made. He wants his lost children found! Nothing matters more to God; the Cross proves that. I pray that you will always be on the lookout to reach “one more for Jesus” so that when you stand before God one day, you can say, “Mission accomplished!”
Sharing Your Life Message
Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them. (1 John 5:10a GWT)
Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word. . . . The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore---you’re the message! (Thessalonians 1:8 Msg)
God has given you a Life Message to share.
When you became a believer, you also became God’s messenger. God wants to speak to the world through you. Paul said, “We speak the truth before God, as messengers of God.”23
You may feel you don’t have anything to share, but that’s the Devil trying to keep you silent. You have a storehouse of experiences that God wants to use to bring others into his family. The Bible says, “Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them.”24 Your Life Message has four parts to it:
• Your testimony: the story of how you began a relationship with Jesus
• Your life lessons: the most important lessons God has taught you
• Your godly passions: the issues God shaped you to care about most
· The Good News: the message of salvation
Your Life Message includes your testimony. Your testimony is the story of how Christ has made a difference in your life. Peter tells us that we were chosen by God “to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you.”25 This is the essence of witnessing---simply sharing your personal experiences regarding the Lord. In a courtroom, a witness isn’t expected to argue the case, prove the truth, or press for a verdict; that is the job of attorneys. Witnesses simply report what happened to them or what they saw.
Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses,”26 not “You will be my attorney.” He wants you to share your story with others. Sharing your testimony is an essential part of your mission on earth because it is unique. There is no other story just like yours, so only you can share it. If you don’t share it, it will be lost forever. You may not be a Bible scholar, but you are the authority on your life, and it’s hard to argue with personal experience. Actually, your personal testimony is more effective than a sermon, because unbelievers see pastors as professional salesmen, but see you as a “satisfied customer,” so they give you more credibility.
Personal stories are also easier to relate to than principles, and people love to hear them. They capture our attention, and we remember them longer. Unbelievers would probably lose interest if you started quoting theologians, but they have a natural curiosity about experiences they’ve never had. Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to theirs.
Another value of your testimony is that it bypasses intellectual defenses. Many people who won’t accept the authority of the Bible will listen to a humble, personal story. That is why on six different occasions Paul used his testimony to share the gospel instead of quoting Scripture.27
The Bible says, “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect.”28 The best way to “be ready” is to write out your testimony and then memorize the main points. Divide it into four parts:
1. What my life was like before I met Jesus
2. How I realized I needed Jesus
3. How I committed my life to Jesus
4. The difference Jesus has made in my life
Of course, you have many other testimonies besides your salvation story. You have a story for every experience in which God has helped you. You should make a list of all the problems, circumstances, and crises that God has brought you through. Then be sensitive and use the story that your unbelieving friend will relate to best. Different situations call for different testimonies.
Your Life Message includes your life lessons. The second part of your life message is the truth that God has taught you from experiences with him. These are lessons and insights you have learned about God, relationships, problems, temptations, and other aspects of life. David prayed, “God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.”29 Sadly, we never learn from a lot that happens to us. Of the Israelites, the Bible says, “Over and over God rescued them, but they never learned---until finally their sins destroyed them.”30 You have probably met people like that.
While it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser to learn from the experiences of others. There isn’t enough time to learn everything in life by trial and error. We must learn from the life lessons of one another. The Bible says, “A warning given by an experienced person to someone willing to listen is more valuable than . . . jewelry made of the finest gold.”31
Write down the major life lessons you have learned so you can share them with others. We should be grateful Solomon did this, because it gave us the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which are filled with practical lessons on living. Imagine how much needless frustration could be avoided if we learned from each other’s life lessons.
Mature people develop the habit of extracting lessons from everyday experiences. I urge you to make a list of your life lessons. You haven’t really thought about them unless you have written them down. Here are a few questions to jog your memory and get you started:32
• What has God taught me from failure?
• What has God taught me from a lack of money?
• What has God taught me from pain or sorrow or depression?
• What has God taught me through waiting?
• What has God taught me through illness?
• What has God taught me from disappointment?
• What have I learned from my family, my church, my relationships, my small group, and my critics?
Your Life Message includes sharing your godly passions. God is a passionate God. He passionately loves some things and passionately hates other things. As you grow closer to him, he will give you a passion for something he cares about deeply so you can be a spokesman for him in the world. It may be a passion about a problem, a purpose, a principle, or a group of people. Whatever it is, you will feel compelled to speak up about it and do what you can to make a difference.
You cannot keep yourself from talking about what you care about most. Jesus said, “A man’s heart determines his speech.”33 Two examples are David, who said, “My zeal for God and his work burns hot within me,”34 and Jeremiah, who said, “Your message burns in my heart and bones, and I cannot keep silent.”35
God gives some people a godly passion to champion a cause. It’s often a problem they personally experienced such as abuse, addiction, infertility, depression, a disease, or some other difficulty. Sometimes God gives people a passion to speak up for a group of others who can’t speak for themselves: the unborn, the persecuted, the poor, the imprisoned, the mistreated, the disadvantaged, and those who are denied justice. The Bible is filled with commands to defend the defenseless.
God uses passionate people to further his kingdom. He may give you a godly passion for starting new churches, strengthening families, funding Bible translations, or training Christian leaders. You may be given a godly passion for reaching a particular group of people with the gospel: businessmen, teenagers, foreign exchange students, young mothers, or those with a particular hobby or sport. If you ask God, he will burden your heart for a specific country or ethnic group that desperately needs a strong Christian witness.
God gives us different passions so that everything he wants done in the world will get done. You should not expect everyone else to be passionate about your passion. Instead, we must listen to and value each other’s life message because nobody can say it all. Never belittle someone else’s godly passion. The Bible says, “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.”36
Your Life Message includes the Good News. What is the Good News? “The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself---that it begins and ends with faith.”37 “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.”38 The Good News is that when we trust God’s grace to save us through what Jesus did, our sins are forgiven, we get a purpose for living, and we are promised a future home in heaven.
There are hundreds of great books on how to share the Good News. I can provide a list of books that have been helpful to me (see appendix 2). But all the training in the world won’t motivate you to witness for Christ until you internalize the eight convictions covered in the previous chapter. Most important, you must learn to love lost people the way God does.
God has never made a person he didn’t love. Everybody matters to him. When Jesus stretched his arms out wide on the cross, he was saying, “I love you this much” The Bible says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all.”39 Whenever you feel apathetic about your mission in the world, spend some time thinking about what Jesus did for you on the cross.
We must care about unbelievers because God does. Love leaves no choice. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear.”40 A parent will run into a burning building to save a child because their love for that child is greater than their fear. If you’ve been afraid to share the Good News with those around you, ask God to fill your heart with his love for them.
The Bible says, “[God] does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.”41 As long as you know one person who doesn’t know Christ, you must keep praying for them, serving them in love, and sharing the Good News. And as long as there is one person in your community who isn’t in the family of God, your church must keep reaching out. The church that doesn’t want to grow is saying to the world, “You can go to hell.”
What are you willing to do so that the people you know will go to heaven? Invite them to church? Share your story? Give them this book? Take them a meal? Pray for them every day until they are saved? Your mission field is all around you. Don’t miss the opportunities God is giving you. The Bible says, “Make the most of your chances to tell others the Good News. Be wise in all your contacts with them.”42
Is anyone going to be in heaven because of you? Will anyone in heaven be able to say to you, “I want to thank you. I’m here because you cared enough to share the Good News with me”? Imagine the joy of greeting people in heaven whom you helped get there. The eternal salvation of a single soul is more important than anything else you will ever achieve in life. Only people are going to last forever.
In this book you have learned God’s five purposes for your life on earth: He made you to be a member of his family, a model of his character, a magnifier of his glory, a minister of his grace, and a messenger of his Good News to others. Of these five purposes, the fifth can only be done on earth. The other four you will keep doing in eternity in some way. That’s why spreading the Good News is so important; you only have a short time to share your life message and fulfill your mission. (281-295)
1. Colossians 1:25 (NCV); 1 Corinthians 12:5.
2. John 20:21 (NIV).
3. Luke 2:49 (KJV).
4. John 19:30.
5. 2 Corinthians 5:18 (TEV)
6. 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NCV).
7. Matthew 28:19—20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8.
8. Matthew 28:19—20 (CEV).
9. Ezekiel 3:18 (NCV).
10. 2 Corinthians 5:18 (LB).
11. 2 Corinthians 6:1 (NCV).
12. 2 Corinthians 5:20 (Msg).
13. Acts 4:12 (NCV).
14. John 9:4 (NLT).
15. Acts 20:24 (NLT).
16. Acts 1:7—8 (NIV).
17. Matthew 24:36 (NIV).
18. Matthew 24:14 (NCV).
19. Luke 9:62 (LB).
20. Luke 22:42 (NLT).
21. Romans 6:l3b (LB).
22. Matthew 6:33 (NLT).
23. 2 Corinthians 2:I7b (NCV).
24. 1 John 5:lOa (GWT).
25. 1 Peter 2:9 (Msg).
26. Acts 1:8 (NIV).
27. Acts 22 to 26,
28. 1 Peter 3:15—16 (TEV).
29. Psalm 119:33 (Msg).
30. Psalm 106:43 (Msg).
31. Proverbs 25:12 (TEV).
32. For some biblical examples of each of these, see Psalm 51; Philippians 4:1I—13; 2 Corinthians 1:4—10; Psalm 40; Psalm 119:71; Genesis 50:20.
33. Matthew 12:34 (LB).
34. Psalm 69:9 (LB).
35. Jeremiah 20:9 (CEV).
36. Galatians 4:18 (NIV).
37. Romans 1:17 (NCV).
38. 2 Corinthians 519 (NLT)
39. 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NIV).
40. 1 John 4:18 (TEV).
41. 2 Peter 3:9 (NCV).
42. Colossians 4:5 (LB).
The Bible was originally written using 11,280 Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, but the typical English translation uses only around 6,000 words. Obviously, nuances and shades of meaning can be missed, so it is always helpful to compare translations.
AMP The Amplified Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1965)
CEV Contemporary English Version, New York: American Bible Society (1995)
GWT God’s Word Translation, Grand Rapids: World Publishing, Inc. (1995)
KJV King James Version
LB Living Bible, Wheaton, II: Tyndale House Publishers (1979)
Msg The Message, Colorado Springs: Navpress (1993)
NAB New American Bible, Chicago: Catholic Press (1970)
NASB New American Standard Bible, Anaheim, CA: Foundation Press (1973)
NCV New Century Version, Dallas: Word Bibles (1991)
NIV New International Version, Colorado Springs: International Bible Society (1978, 1984)
NJB New Jerusalem Bible, Garden City, NY: Doubleday (1985)
NLT New Living Translation, Wheaton, II: Tyndale House Publishers (1996)
NRSV New Revised Standard Version, Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1990)
Ph New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips, New York: Macmillan (1958)
TEV Today’s English Version, New York: American Bible Society (1992) (Also called Good News Translation)
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