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Finding Purpose in Life

(Ecclesiastes 1:1-9; John 20:19-23)

Lesson 8 -- first quarter 2006
April 23, 2006

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2006

Me? Chosen? Why?

The team captains had one question before they started taking turns selecting their softball players: "Mark, are you playin'?" Ah, such a warm glow in my head to realize they each hoped to have first choice if I were playing. (That was well over a decade ago; now others get chosen first.) But why did they want to choose me? They had experienced history. They hoped that history would repeat itself. (Now they know better!)

Praise the Lord, He chooses differently! When He chose me for Himself, He did not first consider my history. He did not make His selection fervently hoping that the good I had done I would somehow be able to replicate. Nor did He figure that if I were that good then, I would certainly be an improved version of myself by now. No!

God chose me long before I existed. He chose me before Creation. Why? Because in His eternal state He saw that at some point I would accept His redemption when given the opportunity. He didn't make the decision for me, but He knew what my decision would be. So He chose me.

Does that make His choice easier to understand? Only a bit. But I do not have a problem with my limited comprehension of His choices and His ways. On the basis of His Word, I believe He has chosen me. That is enough for me.

I have been chosen; so what?

When I listened to team captains making their choices, I knew that their expectations were directly related to the order of their choices. Those times I was chosen first, I knew my captain expected a great deal from me. If, however, the captain waited to pick three or four (or eight) others first, I knew that my contributions to the team really weren't all that critical. Oh, I knew that any contribution I could make would be valuable, but I couldn't kid myself about this fact: I generated low expectations.

Not so with God!

Regardless who joined His band before us, He still chose us "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4). He chose us "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6). Do you get it?! The Everlasting God, the Almighty Father, chose you and me with some very specific purposes in mind!

When the captain chose me for his softball team, he usually knew the position he wanted me to play. So did I. Whatever position I ended up in, the essential job description was the same: Do it faithfully to the best of your ability; don't fail your captain nor your team.

Shall I do worse for God? No! You see, my softball abilities and history made me acceptable (or otherwise) to the captains. But there is nothing in my abilities and history to recommend me to God! He is the One that brought me into favor with Himself. He made me "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). So by His grace I shall be "holy and without blame . . . to the praise of the glory of his grace."

As the Father sent Jesus, He sends us

"Jesus began" (Matthew 4:17; Acts 1:1). What God's own Son launched, we get to carry forward toward fruition and completion! Our commission to blanket the world with the Gospel was not just told to us, it was passed on to us. The difference is incredibly significant. Instead of being given a message alone, we were handed a baton. Jesus didn't just come to teach us what to do to accomplish world conquest, He came to do the project. But He didn't stay here until it was fully accomplished, He launched it and left us to carry on. What a privilege and responsibility!

When the Lord passed off His "baton" to the Apostles and other disciples, they seized it and took off. Full speed ahead. Driven on by the understanding of the enormity and divinity of the project. Empowered and emboldened by the Spirit. This was a race -- against time and the devil for men's souls. This was a race -- a race that demanded runners, not joggers, not walkers, not couch potatoes. Any other attitude and any other speed translated into minimizing what Jesus began. This in turn translated into more souls in Hell. No wonder they made all other things, desires and ambitions secondary!

And so it has been down through the ages. As one batch of runners expended their time, energy and resources -- their lives -- they carefully and faithfully passed off the baton. The new runners, with fresh time, energy, resources and life, blazed off toward the goal. On and on they ran, compelled to finish what "Jesus began."

But not everybody has been faithful. For some, their hands were too close to full with the things of this life and . . . they fumbled the baton. For others, careless living consumed critical amounts of energy, time, resources and life and . . . they lagged further and further behind. For yet others, their distracted eyes missed the critical "pass off" time, or their earthly-overtaxed hearts succumbed, or their out-of-step stride upset the rhythm and . . . right, you got it.

Now it is your turn! Will you be faithful or careless? Where is the baton? Are you training? Remember, "Jesus began" and He is counting on you to carry the message and the life forward. The ribbon across the track is in sight. This isn't the time to relax and slack off, it is the time to give the home stretch everything we've got! "Jesus began"; will your generation get to finish?

"Ye shall receive power . . . and ye shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8). Jesus neither expected them nor commanded them to grab the baton and run without first having the energizing power of the Spirit. But the disciples did not expect to receive this power by doing nothing. They didn't try to "redeem the time" in earthly, fleshly pursuits while they waited on God. Instead, they "all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14). I don't know what they prayed and supplicated for. Perhaps they asked for zeal for the race. Perhaps they asked for hearts disposed to receive that power and use it earnestly. Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the enormity of the trust Jesus had laid on them. But they prayed, and they prayed together. I don't doubt that God used this waiting time to prepare them individually. I am equally certain that God used this time to knit them into the cohesive, coordinated relay team He needed. What about the team you are a part of? What are you doing in expectation and anticipation of the race that is before you?

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