Make It Count!
Over the last several weeks, we talked about the End Times. The purpose was awareness - to be aware of what is coming. We wrapped up last week’s sermon with the exhortation to make our lives count. We have one shot at this life – one life to leave our mark.
Sadly, some people think that if I can just make it through this life and get to heaven, I’m good. That mindset does not come from Christ. Understand that
What we experience in the next life is directly correlated to how we live in this life.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is clear -
God has given us commands to obey and He has given us plans to fulfill (2 Cor. 5:10).
He has created us to do good works in this life with rewards in Heaven. God expects us to make our lives count.
But what does it mean to make my life count? And understand that the world has its standard and God has His - and we need only to be concerned with God’s standard.
To answer the question, what does it mean to make my life count, we should start with the end in mind. Answer this question:
When I meet Jesus face to face, what words do I want to hear?
Most of us probably went to the default answer - “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We should want to hear those words, but it is my opinion, that not everyone will hear those words. There are several biblical reasons for that, but I’ll not get into that this morning.
“Well done, good and faithful servant,” should be our desire and our motivation because in that statement is the desire to please our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:9).
But we must ask ourselves another question, who will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The word faithful is the key! When you read the parable of the talents in Matt. 25, Jesus gives a high-5 to two of the three servants – the servants who were faithful to His instructions while He was away.
They did what they could with what they had been given. They made their time on earth count!
Understand, the Master gave each servant enough “materials” to accomplish the task. What they did with what they had been given was up to them. Making their lives count was up to them.
Similarly, God has given each of us enough “material” to make our lives count – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. God has given us all we need to make our lives count - for we know that our God will supply every need for the job according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
If God supplies all we need, then what hinders us from making our lives count? Usually, it’s the person standing in our shoes. We are often people of little faith, and we often forget that we are called to live by faith. And that’s what it really comes down to - at the end of the day, a faithful life is the life that counts.
It’s not in the accomplishments or achievements. It’s not in the accolades or awards. It’s not in the accumulation or abundance. Making our lives count is determined by our faithfulness to God.
But understand this,
The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?
Even in our faithfulness, there is a certain amount of mystery in knowing the impact of our lives on those around us. We can’t connect all the dots – but God can and does.
Even so, there are some things we can do to maximize our effectiveness in this one life. To guarantee that your lives count, send me $100 every month, and believe me your life will make an impact. I figured if it works for some preachers, I might as well give it a try. But seriously,
The key to making our lives count is something that every Christian can and should do - it’s called prayer.
If we want to make our lives count – pray!
Before we get to the practical, real quick, what is the purpose of prayer?
The purpose of prayer is to …
a) Communicate with our Father.
Communication is reciprocal
- it’s speaking and listening; giving and receiving - which takes time. Talking with God cannot be rushed.
The purpose of prayer is to …
b) Collaborate with His plans.
A good friend of mine said, “Chad, you have to spend time with God every day, so you can receive your “marching orders.” We pray so we can know the will of God and collaborate with His plans.
The purpose of prayer is to …
c) Conform to His image.
God did not establish prayer so He could be our little genie - give us what we want and do what we want. Prayer is one of God’s primary means of transforming us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Prayer is not so that life will go our way. Case in point - recently, we found a house, we prayed about the house, we did what God told us to do and made an offer on the house at the price we believed was of the Lord, and we lost the house. We communicated with our Father. We collaborated with His plans. When life didn’t go our way, we had a choice - react with doubt, or respond in trust. We chose to conform to His image by trusting.
We could talk about communicating, collaborating and conforming in depth, but that’s not where we’re heading this morning. Remember, we’re talking about making our lives count. We do need to know the basics of prayer to get there.
So what does prayer have to do with living by faith and making our lives count? A lot. When I began to study for this message last week, I thought we would be in the typical passage about running the race or the parable of the talents, or something like that. I did not expect to end up in Matt. 6, specifically covering the Lord’s prayer, but the more I studied the Lord’s prayer, the more applicable it became - and I believe this could be life changing, for you, for me, for this church and for our community.
Now, I often use the Lord’s prayer as an outline for my prayers, but I have never used it in the context of making my life count - but it makes sense. So, let’s look at the Lord’s prayer and discover who what He taught could be the catalyst for making our lives count.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Who is their main concern? Self and what others think of self.
Prayer is ineffective when self is the main concern.
Not talking about bringing our needs and requests to God - He desires that, but when self is of greater concern than God, prayer becomes moot. This kind of prayer is not communication, not reciprocal, not collaborative and it’s not conforming.
So, Jesus days, don’t pray that way -
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
The main point here is that prayer is founded on a relationship with the God.
The essence of prayer is communion with our Father.
So, don’t take prayer lightly, but, don’t worry about getting it just right or impressing others with elaborate words, and don’t put self at the top of the food chain. English preacher and the little old lady … “call him Father and ask for something.”
That’s kind of what Jesus is telling us here - in verse ...
“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Now, from this point forward, here’s my challenge - use this prayer as a catalyst for making our lives count.
And here’s what I mean - “‘Our Father in heaven …
The first step in making our lives count is having a relationship with the God through Jesus Christ. These first words, our Father in heaven serves as a reminder of whom we’re talking with. From time to time, I need to remember that,
1) God is my Father.
He’s personal, He’s relational, He’s near, and He’s present. I’m His child, I’ve been adopted and purchased with the blood of Christ. And if my Father is for me, then who can be against me?
This also serves to remind me
2) My Father is the God of the universe.
Our Father owns this place. He’s big, all-powerful and all-mighty, all-knowing. This means that if my Father, who is the Almighty God of Heaven asks me to do something, then I can do whatever He asks me to -
God can take my little puny messed up life and make it count!
So, this is how you should pray - Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name …,
To Hallow (ἁγιάζω, hagiazō), in this context means to honor as holy. It means not to bring any shame or dishonor upon His name or character.
I want to make my life count, so I pray, “Father, today may you be honored by my life. May you be glorified by my choices, actions, responses, by what I do and don’t do,” and so on. So know this,
When we honor God by how we live, our lives count.
Then Jesus says, verse
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Not our will, but His. God’s Kingdom is a kingdom of truth, righteousness, holiness, love, mercy, grace, peace, joy, freedom, light - you get the picture. We are to be citizens and representatives of God’s Kingdom. So we pray, “Father, may your Kingdom of truth, of love, of righteousness … transform me. Then may your Kingdom be manifest in me and through me today. May your will, your plans be accomplished in me and through me today.” You can take that farther - I’m just giving you the idea. But know this,
When God’s Kingdom intersects the world through us, our lives count. When we are obedient to the will of God, our lives count
- even when we don’t like or see the results of our obedience.
Then Jesus says,
Give us today our daily bread.
“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
“Father, give me today what I need to accomplish all you ask of me. Give me today what I need to honor you, to make your Kingdom know wherever I go and to whomever I meet. Father, give me today what you want me to have.”
Who here knows what they need for any given day? I don’t. I think I do, but I don’t - but God does. If I want my life to count, I need to ask God to give me what He knows I’ll need. I might need strength. I might need patience. I might need love. I might need brains. I don’t know what I need during the day - but God does, so I need to trust that He will supply all my needs.
So know this -
When we live in dependence on God, our lives count.
Then Jesus says,
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
We are to live in a continuous state of sensitivity to the Spirit of God - always open to His conviction, correction, encouragement and extension.
As the Holy Spirit convicts and corrects us - we confess our sins and repent and we’re realigned with God. The Spirit also encourages us to live in holiness and Christ-likeness. And the Spirit empowers us to extend to others what we ourselves have received from God.
So know this,
When we receive and extend the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of God, our lives count.
And lastly, Jesus said in
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
This part of the prayer can be a little misleading. God never tempts anyone to sin. He would not tempt you to do something that would condemn you to Hell. The word temptation (peirasmos) is better understood as testing or examination. The idea behind this is for the disciple to be aware of his or her weakness, and to ask to be spared exposure to situations in which they are vulnerable. But, when temptations and trials do come, it should be our desire to be delivered, i.e. victorious over the situation or victorious over sin.
So know this,
When we live victorious lives, our lives count.
Do you want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” I do.
Do you want your life to count? I do.
Now, I believe this prayer, personalized and prayed from the heart can help each of us make our lives count. I believe that through this prayer, we will see God work in our lives and in the lives of others in ways we can’t even imagine. But know this, merely reciting the words will not change anything. We must pray with the intention of communicating with our Father, collaborating with His plans and conforming to His Son.
I challenge each of us to use the Lord’s prayer as a prayer to make our lives count. Pray it. Personalize it. Own it. Pray throughout the day. I don’t care how you do it but pray it and watch what God begins to do.
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now?