2 Peter 1:3-8
“Put Here for a Purpose”
Series: “Do You Count?”
Ernest Campbell was the pastor of the great Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan back in the 1970’s. In one of his sermons he offered what I think is a most memorable line. “It has been said that the two most important days in every person’s life are the day on which that person was born and the day on which he discovers why he was born.”
The reason that line is so memorable is not so much because of one’s birthdate. The fact of the matter is that we rarely miss celebrating our birth date. The more memorable part is the second part – the part that has to do with understanding the purpose for which we were born. Sadly, there are too many people walking around today who have no clue as to “why” they were born. They have no clue as to what their purpose in life really is.
As with most things in life today, or so it seems, experts in this area tend to hang this millstone on the millennial generation – that segment of society that reached young adulthood in this century. The charge they make is that this group has such a sense of entitlement that the topics of purpose and significance have no way of ever becoming front-burner issues. But I think that charge is unfair. Granted, there may be some in their twenties and thirties who have yet to give thought to why they are on this planet taking up precious space, but there are also plenty of us older folk who haven’t come to a clear understanding ourselves, which may be why the older some of us get and the more birthdays we have to celebrate, the more anxious and unsettled we become – even to the point of not paying attention to birthdays anymore. In other words, if we haven’t figured out what our life’s purpose is by our fifties or our sixties or even older, then we ask ourselves the question, “Will we ever figure it out, or will we end up running out of time?”
I don’t know of anything more our faith in Christ has to offer this day in which we’re living more than a means by which people can discover their purpose in life. From the book of Genesis all the way to the book of Revelation, the Bible is filled with verses and stories of men and women, boys and girls, “created in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), who have discovered the immeasurable bliss of being in the center of God’s will and bringing His Kingdom purposes to pass.
This morning we have before us a passage from 2 Peter, where believers are being encouraged by instruction that will prepare them for the demands of discipleship in a world in which those who follow Christ are in the minority. Peter begins his letter by reminding his readers that God’s power has provided everything necessary for what he calls a “godly life.” All that is required of us who call ourselves Christians is that we open our hearts to “the knowledge of him” that our faith in Jesus has made possible so that we might be in a good place to answer his glorious and good call.
What’s most striking to me about this teaching is that our answer to God’s call in Christ is not simply a “one-time affair.” It’s not a “one and done” decision. It’s instead an ongoing confession so that as Peter spells out all of the qualities that demonstrate a believer’s heart for the things of God, he also emphasizes the importance of developing them in a continual way. Notice in particular verse 8: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Might it be that one of the primary reasons so many confessing Christians fail to live with purpose and significance is because of at some point along life’s way their witness became stagnant and slothful simply because they quit growing in the gifts and the graces that faith in Jesus makes possible? Might it be that whereas at one point those persons felt alive and useful, as one day led into the next other concerns and commitments began to creep into their hearts so that before long they “lost their first love” (Rev. 2:4) and the power to make a difference for Christ in the places where they lived, worked, and played?
If I hear Simon Peter correctly, the main difference between merely “living” and “living with a purpose” is first believing and then acting as if God has put you in a place where things there depend on your faithful obedience to Him. Unfortunately, too many folk occupy spaces in this world where they don’t actually believe that God cares whether they’re there or not, when the fact of the matter is that God intentionally calls us to certain places and certain tasks so that in those places and through those tasks we might channel (as Peter writes) God’s “divine power” so that those places might be ones in which God’s redemptive purposes come to pass.
Is that how your life looks? Can you honestly say that you have claimed God’s call in the places where He has put you so that His divine power flows through you and you are having an impact for God in ways that enable you to be productive and effective and to know the bliss of being in the center of His will? Does your life reflect a growing maturity so that the power of Christ’s resurrection is evident in everything you say and do?
As you can tell, I spent a good part of my sabbatical leave in the sun. (My dermatologist will most likely be telling me I spent way too much time there.) Judy and I went to the beach a good bit, and since both of us are major league people watchers, there was a lot to observe. After all, people are fascinating, are they not?
One of the things I noticed about people at the beach is that everyone has a certain threshold when it comes to getting into the water. Some people never leave the safety of their beach umbrellas. The water holds no attraction for them at all. Others are content only to stick their feet in the water and go no more. But there are still others who cannot wait to plunge out into the deep end, either with the help of a surf board or a paddle board or some of them with nothing at all other than the mortal bodies God gave them.
The preacher in me couldn’t help but wonder why this is so. I concluded that some of the people in the shallow end are children, who have to grow up a bit before they can venture out any farther. Others of them may have had some bad experiences in the deep end and don’t care to go out that far from the shore anymore. But there are some beachgoers who have either grown up enough or managed to overcome their fear of the deep end or have found some implement or gismo that could help them launch out in ways that never thought they would be able to do.
I hope you can see the application. Too many Christians are content with the merest smattering of faith. They never desire to get out into the deep end of life. But no doubt as Peter was writing this letter he couldn’t help but think about the time that the other disciples and he were out fishing when early toward dawn they saw a figure coming toward them walking on the water. At first they thought it was a ghost, until they heard Jesus encourage them with his words: “It is I.” You remember the rest of the story, do you not? Peter asked Jesus to invite him to join Jesus on the surface of the water, and when Jesus did so, Peter did fine, until he took his eyes off Jesus and quickly began to sink.
Most sermons and Sunday School lessons chide Peter for taking his eyes off Jesus, when in truth it was only Peter who dared leap out into the deep in order to experience for himself the divine power that Jesus knew.
Where is Jesus calling you this morning to join him in a work that might change this world into the world God created it to be? The day you will be able to answer that question will be the day that you will come to know “why” you were born, and it will also be the day that your life takes on even more the life of Jesus.
What a truly great day that will be, and there’s no reason whatsoever that by trusting your life to God’s divine power, today can’t finally and forever be it.