May 20, 2013

Blessed* with a Purpose

I love to meet people who are passionate about what they are doing. It isn’t always their money-earning job, but it is something they do on a regular basis.

Amy Rees Anderson is an entrepreneur who recently wrote an article for She tells how when speaking on leadership and business at a university she will often ask the students, “What career do you want to pursue,” or, “What business do you plan to begin?” After listening to their answers she will then ask, “Suppose I gave you a check for $10 million dollars today and told you that you could pursue any career path or start any business you wanted to, with no expectation that you would ever pay me back or generate a return on my investment – in fact, I couldn’t care less if the business never makes a dime. Now tell me what career you would pursue or what business would you want to begin.”

The answers, she says, are always different. The students choose the perceived safest way to steady income, and the area they are most passionate about does not provide that security or that income.

Marketing and business guru Seth Godin does something very similar. He first asks, “If you could do anything at all with your life and money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?” Then he asks, “Why aren’t you doing that now?”

Sometimes we are lucky enough for those two things to coincide...being able to do something we are passionate about and making enough money with our passion to support ourselves and our families.

Sometimes they don’t coincide. Einstein’s Miracle Year where he wrote four groundbreaking works including his most recognized Theory of Relativity took place while working as a file clerk for the Swiss Patent Office. He did physics as a side project. In fact, when he finally got a full-time academic position he simply worked out the implications of the work done in the boredom of the patent office.

Franz Kafka is regarded as on the most influential authors of the 20th Century who influenced the work of writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Throughout his life, his passionate pursuit of writing was squeezed into spare time left over after he working for an insurance company.

I would say that most people live in that realm...squeezing their passion into the spare moments of their lives; while a few people are lucky enough to make a living while pursuing their passion.

We are currently in a series called Blessed*. We have been looking at some of the unexpected ways of viewing God’s blessing in our lives. God’s blessing is not always what we expect! Who would ever consider that the point of our deepest need is the point where God’s largest blessings happen? It is not a common thing to hear that our biggest blessings come when we obediently and generously give.

We can also make the mistake of spiritualizing things to the point where we see our passions as something completely separate from God’s desire to bless us and those around us.

  • We might have a passion for art, and wonder how God could ever use such a passion for Him. 
  • We might have a passion for business and leadership and never see them as possibilities of blessing.
  • We often have a love for something that leaves us asking how God could ever use it to bless us and those around.

But God gives us our passions as a way of blessing us with a purpose.

Moses is one of the greatest leaders known to Israel. When relaying their history Abraham, Moses, David and Elijah take primacy over all others. And of them, Moses is most associated with all that God wanted to do in the salvation of Israel and the giving of the Law.

They revered Moses. Years after his death someone wrote in Deuteronomy 34:10-12, “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

To say that Moses is important to Jewish history, Jewish religious history, and to the heritage of our Christian faith can not be understated.

Most of us are aware of the story of Moses, the burning bush, and God’s call for him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. As a shepherd, Moses was out with the sheep when he saw a burning bush and went to explore. There is always something about guys and fire! When he got there, he saw that while the bush was on fire it was not being consumed by the flames. A voice, the voice of God, spoke to him out of the bush, and called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

Most of us see this as the beginning of Moses’ call to do something for his free them from slavery. But Moses’ passion for his people started way earlier than this.

In Exodus 2:11-12 it says,
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”
Moses’ passion to free his people started as a young man. He had grown up in Pharaoh’s household, and watched as his people were beaten and abused. He wanted to do something, but we often make the same mistake Moses made.

Our Passions Require Patience
We can get our photographs in an hour; even less if we simply print them at home. We  can use the express lane at Walmart for 20 items or less...and, if you are like me, you start counting the items in everyone else’s carts and fuming if they have more than 20! You can get up-to-the-minute stock quotes, sports score, and breaking news on your smartphone. We can get full meals in a matter of minutes at MOST drive thrus.

We live in an impatient society. We want what we want and we want it now!  And that attitude can slip into our relationship with God.

Just because we have a desire to see something come about. Just because God gives us a passion to see something happen. Just because we have a gifting in a certain area doesn’t mean we have the go ahead to see it become a reality...when we think it should.

Moses had a desire to free his people. We know that God later commissions him to lead them out of slavery. But Moses got into trouble by trying to do things outside of God’s timing and outside of God’s methods.

Moses, in an attempt to fulfill this passion, takes a very common tactic still used in modern society...force. He killed an Egyptian.

Exodus 2:13-14 continues,
“The next day Moses went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” 

There is a wrong way to do the right thing. The ends do not justify the means.

So often we are guilty, in our impatience, of attempting to do what God has called us to do...but in our own strength and in our own way. Moses needed time to learn to lead not with force and fear, but with loving and firm guidance. His attempt to do things his way lead to wrong kind of outcome.

Exodus 2:14-15 says,
“Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian...”

When Moses attempted to do God’s will in his lead to fear, shame, and rejection.

So often we attempt to do God’s will...we attempt to fulfill the passions God has placed within us...using means and methods that are not Gods.

Our Passions Require God’s Methods
When we attempt to fulfill God’s call using our own methods we wear ourselves out physically, emotionally, and spiritually by living outside the boundaries He sets for us. It happens all the time...we sense God leading to do something...but when things get busy we neglect to care for ourselves physically. We don’t care for our bodies with enough rest or exercise.  We stop nurturing ourselves spiritually and distance ourselves from our time with God and His people. We stop feeding ourselves intellectually because we just don’t have time.

We find ourselves burned out and at wits end because our methods do not work

We find ourselves frustrated because our expectations are not being met.

Moses believed his show of force would be welcomed and accepted by the people...but they weren’t. Learning to use God’s method required an educational process. He had to learn HOW to lead the people with wisdom with the power of God. There was no better place than living the life of a shepherd in the household of a priest.

Exodus 2:16-21,
“Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 

The Biblical ideal for leadership is rooted in the shepherd. Before Moses was given permission to lead and guide God’s people he had to LEARN to lead.

There is an educational, learning process to all our gifting. When I received the call to ministry I started making plans to attend college with thoughts of Seminary. Someone in the church said, “I don’t know why you need to get schooling! If God has called you that should be enough!”

That is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in the church.

Our passions often require a training and learning process. Spiritual gifts and passions are given in seed form...they need care, they need training, they need work. Just because God gives us a passion to see something does not mean it will happen automatically. It doesn’t mean you won’t need training because we are so tempted to do things our way and not God’s...even after the training...there were time when Moses needed to relearn that lesson.

When Moses submitted to the methods of God, only then was he able to see the miraculous. His way was force and violence and murder. God’s methods led to some amazingly miraculous things!

Exodus 2:23 sums the time of waiting, training, and preparation for Moses by saying, “During that long period...”

It was 40 years before God called to Moses from the Burning Bush and commissioned Moses to do what He felt a desire to do so many years before. 40 years!

Our Passions Require Commitment
When Moses finally submitted to the learning, growing, time-consuming process then and only then did He receive God’s call and commission to fulfill the desires he felt as a young man.

Be assured, God will call. God will commission us. God will ask us to use those passions and desires and dreams, and commit ourselves to see them through to the end...and that is the hard part!

We impatiently jump in too soon, but then we are often too quick to bail out.

We may not see the results we thought would come of that passion as soon as we would like. Things are tougher than we planned.

We may have expected to support ourselves using our passion, and we find ourselves working multiple jobs to support our passion instead.

There will be times when we feel there is no use to go on...

Doubt will creep in...

But just as God calls us to start...God calls us to finish. It took Moses 40 years of preparation before God allowed him to assume leadership of Israel, and it took another 40 plus years before Moses was able to lead them to the edge of the Promised Land.

The Israelites complained, whined, attempted a coup of Moses’ leadership, the rejected was a mess. But Moses hung in to see God fulfill His promises!

We too must hold on. We are called, but if we truly believe that God has placed the passion in our lives then it is our responsibility to submit to the time it takes to train and prepare, we are to be faithful to do it the way God has called us to it, and we are called to finish and see it to completion no matter what challenges we face. Because when we see it through to completion...that is when we see the ultimate blessing of God!

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