Our Mission in a Confused World
Jesus calls us to a life of PURPOSE.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks were frequent, a group of concerned citizens decided to build a rescue station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat manned by the few devoted crewmen who kept constant watch over the sea. Day and night these courageous men faced the dangers of the sea, risking their lives to save the lives of many who were shipwrecked.
After a while, the station became famous. Some of those who were saved, as well as others in the community, wanted to become part of this mission. They gave their time and money to improve the quality of the station. They bought new boats. They replaced the shabby emergency cots with modern hospital beds. They even tore down the crude station hut and built a new "multi-purpose" facility.
The station soon became a popular gathering place for its members. It wasn't noticeable at first, but over time, it looked less and less like a rescue station, and more like a social club. Few members were interested anymore in actually facing the dangers at sea, so they hired life-saving professionals to do it for them.
One day a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crew rescued boatloads of cold, wet, frightened people. Some of them were sick. Some lost everything they owned. Some were uneducated. And all were indigent.
The influx of shipwreck victims upset many members of the club; so the issue was addressed at the next business meeting.
One leader said, "If we allow our facility to be overrun this way, it will become run-down. And we all know how expensive repairs can be."
Others nodded in agreement. But there was a handful of people who said, "Wait a minute. We are first and foremost a life-saving station. We can't close our doors to those who need us most."
The leadership said to them, "If you're not happy with the way we do things here, go start your own station down the coast."
And they did: With a small, crude hut and a single boat and a few committed workers. Then this group of dedicated workers risked their lives to save those who were wrecked at sea. They saved many lives, and soon, this second life-saving station became popular, too. They bought new equipment and built a new facility. The members lost interest in facing the perils of rescue, but they loved to gather and talk about their sea adventures of days gone by. Soon, like the previous station, they stopped sending boats into the water.
This scenario was repeated again and again throughout the years. Today you'll find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.
John Macarthur calls this story "an illustration of the history of the church." It could also be called an illustration of the history of many believer's lives. However, it doesn't have to be about your life, and it doesn't have to be about this church. As we experience success and God's blessings upon us, there's no law that says we have to lose sight of our goals in life.
Last week we looked at Jesus' approach to ministry, and how his approach should affect the way our church approaches ministry, and the way we approach ministry individually. We'll continue that idea today as we look at how Jesus went about the work of the ministry in his own life.
Today's story is familiar to most of us. Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, and he called out to Peter and Andrew, "Follow me." Immediately, they left their boats and began to follow him.
There's no reason to think that this was the first time Peter and Andrew had seen or heard Jesus. According to verse 17, he had already been preaching in the area. No doubt they had heard him speak. But when Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, "Follow me," this was their moment of decision. It was their chance to make the transition from being mere listeners in the crowd, to being committed disciples.
When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, he called them to a vision of what their lives could become. He said...
(v. 19) "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Jesus calls us all to a life of purpose...a life of accomplishment. We're not to simply drift from day to day; he wants us to live with a sense of mission, a sense of determination to accomplish something of lasting value.
I've used this story before, but it's a good one. When Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple computers, offered the position of Apple CEO to Pepsi chairman John Skully, Skully wasn't interested. He said he was satisfied with his work at Pepsi. Jobs looked Skully in the eye and said, "Are you telling me that you would rather sell sugared water for the rest of your life, when you could lead a company that will change the world?" Skully made the decision to leave Pepsi, and went to work at Apple computers.
He was called to a vision. We, too, have been called to a vision. This story in Matthew 4 reminds us of what that vision is. Today we'll look at three elements of our mission in life. These elements apply to the church and to the individual. If we'll keep these ideas fresh in our minds, we avoid the travesty of becoming a life saving station that no longer saves lives.
Here are three things that make up our mission in life. First of all...
1. Our mission is to change lives.
Did you notice that I'm picking up where I left off last week? That's because your ministry, and the ministry of this church, is all about changing lives. It's not about buildings, or accumulating money, or earning accolades—it's about changing lives.
(v. 19) Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Jesus is saying, "Instead of doing something temporary with your life, I can show you how to live a life that will have impact for all eternity."
We all have a built-in need to live lives of significance. I saw an interview recently with one of the bit players in the movie Grease (remember that movie from the late seventies about teenagers in the late fifties, portrayed by actors who were in their late twenties?) The movie, stage production, and soundtrack were all phenomenally successful, and every few years they find their way back into the sphere of public popularity. So the actor in the interview said, "I'm just glad to have been part of something that touched so many lives."
Now, let's be realistic. I realize that a lot of people saw the movie and/or bought the album, but can it really be said that seeing Grease was a life changing experience for anyone.
Actors often say things like that. The star of the sitcom Blossom said she was proud of her work on that series because they addressed so many relevant issues. Actors feel compelled to be activists, because they want to believe they have done work of lasting value.
It's a built-in desire. We all need a sense of significance. When we do the work of God, the need for significance is met, because our mission is all about changing lives.
It's this simple: if we're not involved in work that promotes positive change in the lives of others, we're not doing ministry.
We need to ask ourselves: are we reaching people for Christ? Are we helping people grow in their Christian life? Are we empowering people to be better parents, better spouses, better employees, better friends, better sons and daughters, better neighbors, and on and on? Our mission is to help change lives. Primarily, that involves leading people to a life-changing connection with Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be "fishers of men."
Never lose sight of the fact that our mission is to change lives. Secondly...
2. Our mission is to heal the hurting.
Verse 23 tells us that Jesus went throughout Galilee healing every disease and sickness. The next verse says...
(v. 24) And people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.
A significant portion of Jesus' ministry was focused on healing people. People with afflictions of every kind came to him, and Jesus healed them. In the Gospels and later, in the book of Acts, his disciples continued his ministry of healing.
God still heals today, and we're to continue that ministry. Now, we all know of examples of people who prayed to be healed but weren't, just as we know of farmers who prayed for rain and didn't get rain, or Little League players who prayed to win, but lost anyway. Just because some prayers weren't answered the way we think they should have been answered doesn't mean that God has stopped intervening in our lives.
Some Christians believe that God no longer heals people today. They say he used to be willing to heal people, but not anymore. I don't know where they get that idea. I've read arguments to support this notion, and the arguments don't hold water. God isn't less powerful than he was 2,000 years ago and he isn't less compassionate than he was 2,000 years ago. Neither does the Bible teach that God ever intends to stop intervening in our lives with his power and mercy.
Our mission is to continue the work of Jesus; we are to offer healing to those who hurt. Now I realize there are TV evangelists who stage glitzy productions of healing extravaganzas, but that's not what I'm suggesting—I'm sure you know that. Even without the flash and hype, we can pray for those who need healing, and the results are nothing short of amazing.
Let me take this one more step. Even though it is exciting to hear about someone whose broken body was mended by the power of God, it's even more exciting to hear about someone whose broken life was mended by the power of God—because that's something no doctor can do on his own.
I'm happy when I hear about someone who was healed of a sickness, but I become ecstatic when I hear about a marriage that was brought back from the dead, or a broken family that was restored to unity, or a depressed person who discovers joy and optimism and hope through the presence of God in their life. These are the greatest miracles of all.
We have been called to do the ministry of Christ—to heal the hurting. And while we pray for their healing, we're called to offer them comfort during their affliction.
If someone in this church is fighting cancer, or going through a divorce, or facing unemployment, we are to pray for God to heal the situation, and we are to offer them encouragement, comfort and emotional support every step of the way.
If someone close to you goes off the deep and commits a foolish sin that wrecks their life, you are to pray that God will restore them and help them pick up the pieces, and you are to offer them encouragement and support every step of the way.
There are people in this community who are hurting desperately. Maybe they brought it on themselves, maybe they didn't. Either way, our mission is to do what we can to help them find wholeness and experience the fullness of God in their lives. When we stop caring about those who hurt, we cease to be a life-saving station and we become nothing more than a social club.
Our mission is to change lives. Our mission is to heal the hurting. Finally...
3. Our mission is to teach the Word of God.
(v. 23) Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom .
There was an emphasis in Jesus' ministry on healing, but there was even more of an emphasis on teaching. Whenever a crowd gathered around him, he taught them. In the next chapter we'll begin to look at the core of his teaching, which has been called the Sermon On The Mount. It deals with some tough issues—tougher than Blossom ever dreamed of addressing. His teachings show us how to live in the real world, day-in, day-out.
Our mission is to teach the word of God—not just on Sunday morning from the pulpit, but in our Home Bible studies, Sunday school classes, children's church, youth ministry meetings, single's groups, men's prayer breakfast, and on and on. We teach the Bible because the Bible teaches us how to live.
We teach the Bible because it compels us to address some issues that we might be tempted to sidestep. A pastor actually told me that he doesn't preach from certain passages (or on certain topics) because they just stir up confusion. He's missing the point. The reason we teach the word of God is to eliminate confusion. There are some passages that can be interpreted different ways, and when we teach these passages faithfully, and are honest about our struggles to understand them, one of the by-products is that we lose some of our arrogance—we stop acting like we know everything there is to know.
Also, when we teach the Bible we're sometimes forced to confront the sin in our own lives, the spiritual apathy in our own lives, the lack of faith in our own lives, the lack of vision in our own lives, and on and on.
The writer of Hebrews says...
For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The church that doesn't take seriously its commitment to the Word of God runs the risk of becoming obsolete...becoming nothing more than a social club.
The believer who doesn't make a determined effort to learn and know and teach the Word of God runs the risk of becoming ineffective in life.
If you want to change lives, you do it by knowing and teaching the Word of God. If you want to heal hurts you do it by knowing and teaching the Word of God.
Matthew says that Jesus went about teaching and preaching the "good news". Let's never forget, folks, that our message is good news. It's a message of hope, a message of forgiveness, a message of reconciliation, a message of mercy. Our message is that God loves you, and that Jesus came to help you live life to the fullest—to give you peace, and joy, and meaning. And his love is so powerful that nothing, nothing, nothing in the world can separate us from it. That is good news! That is the message that drives us toward fulfilling our mission in life.
We don't want the story of the life-saving-station-turned-social-club to become our story, and it doesn't have to. But we can't allow ourselves to lose sight of the ministry to which we have been called—as a church and as individuals. It's about people—helping them change, healing their hurts, teaching them truth. We don't do this for our glory, but for their good. It's the essential part of our mission.