I presented this message to a group of middle school boys (called “Trek”) on April 29, 2008, while serving in the Awana program at my church.
Since this is the last time I get to talk before Awana’s over, I really want to use this time to tell you guys some of the things that are on my heart, and encourage you to pursue the one thing in life that matters the most—seeking and following after God.
Now, if you’ll allow me to lecture for a bit, I’ll begin. For starters, I’m a bit of a slow learner regarding important life lessons. If you’re like me at all, and you probably are (with or without the meager Obi-Wan Kenobi facial hair), you’ve had or have some misconceptions about your role in life in respect to God’s divine plan.
For the longest time this is how I viewed life: God loves me and wants his best for me. By trusting in him and praying for his help, I will succeed and be prosperous, living a life of contentment and joy with a home and wife of my own and a couple of kids. I could pursue my creative interests and enjoy my work, going to church and living a moral life. And compared to most people I knew at the time who were non-Christians, this seemed very true. I saw their lives and families falling apart, while I was blessed with two loving parents, good friends, a bright future, and lots of pizza. I like pizza.
Anyways, I’ve always been a creative person and envisioned becoming an actor, an artist, a voice actor, a filmmaker, an author, a professional yodeler… just kidding about that last one. It seemed God had given me oodles of talent that I could use for a wide and varied career. So many interests, so little time!
But you know what? I was wrong. I was immature in my understanding of the nature of God and his will. I asked the question, “What can I do for God?” Instead, the question I should have asked, and the question I now challenge you to ask is, “What is God’s will for my life for his glory?”
You’ll notice two things about this question: one, it places the focus on determining God’s will, not my own, and second, it’s asked from the perspective of living my life for God’s glory. God’s glory, you ask? What does he mean by that?
It’s pretty simple. Just read through the Bible and you’ll realize one of the main themes is that God desires and is worthy of all glory and worship. When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, he declared that his purpose in hardening Pharaoh’s heart was so people would see his miraculous signs and know he alone was God. When he was angered by the Israelites’ grumbling and disobedience and wanted to destroy them, Moses interceded on their behalf, saying it would diminish God’s glory in the eyes of the Egyptians if he failed to fulfill and honor his promises. Guess what? God spared the Israelites time and time again.
When Christ began his ministry, he spoke often of doing the Father’s work. He even went so far to say that he did everything in accordance with the Father’s will, and he repeatedly gave glory to him.
(2) And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
(3) Jesus answered, “Neither has this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be revealed in him.”
This is just one example, but it’s a theme and truth you’ll find all throughout Scripture. God loves us and saved us so that we can ultimately tell others about him and bring glory to him through it. God doesn’t need us, and no glory we bring him is adequate, but he has chosen to love us and save us, and desires for us to do his will.
As Christians, we’re supposed to live like Christ, and that means living our lives according to the will of God, not according to what we think we should do or would like to do. I tell you these things because it’s what I’ve learned the hard way, and I hope I can save some of you the trouble and grief I’ve encountered.
God does not exist to make your lives better—you exist to bring glory to God. Your life needs to reflect this in everything you do and say. There’s no aspect of your life that is exempt from examination. You need to evaluate the things you hold close to your heart, your hopes and dreams, your aspirations and personal goals. You must make an effort to live for God and God alone.
(13) For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
(10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
This got me to thinking, “Realistically, what can the Trek guys do?” This is a valid question. The age range for Trek guys, that’s you guys, is from 12-13. None of you own a car, none of you drive (legally anyway), and none of you have finished high school. You may not get out much, nor even have many friends. How can you possibly do anything meaningful for God? Well, let me read an oft-quoted portion of Ephesians that always rubbed me the wrong way:
(1) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
(2) Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),
(3) so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
This bugged me because I didn’t think my parents deserved my respect or obedience. But, the Bible says differently. So that’s good. Now you know of at least one way you can do what’s right in God’s eyes, and you don’t even have to seek his will about it. Honoring your father and mother is something that branches out into various areas of your life, and if you make a conscience effort to do so you will find it directly affects your life expectancy.
So, is that it? Do what your parents say and you’re good to go? God will bless you and you can sit back, relax, enjoying life? Absolutely not! There’s much more you can do, and much more you must do.
We’re Christians. We have a charge from Christ to make disciples. We need to share our faith, we need to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have within. We need to have a growing relationship with Christ and be in the Word. How do you get to know someone better? You spend time together, ask questions, and learn from one another. It works the same way in the Christian life. You can’t tell others about Christ if you don’t know him yourself.
The fact that you guys participate in Awana is great. It means you’re spending time memorizing God’s word and value the things of the Lord. Awana is a great opportunity to fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters. That’s something else you can do. But I want to caution you, and challenge you. We have a pretty laid-back atmosphere here, both in game time and handbook time. There are plenty of opportunities to talk with your buddies and have fun. But how often do you actually discuss things that really matter?
I’ve been talking this whole time about the things that really matter—the things God wants us to do for his glory. As the body of Christ, we’re supposed to encourage and strengthen one another. It’s not enough for you guys to simply obey your parents and read the Bible. You need to cultivate healthy Christian friendships and sharpen one another. You need to be sensitive to others, and keep rude comments to yourself. Build one another up instead of tearing one another down. Anyone can make a clever joke and get a few laughs, even me. But why is it so much harder to actually encourage one another?
You also need to pray. Don’t pray, “Dear God, help me get fifteen kills in Halo 2 today and move up a rank.” Pray in such a way that God will want to honor your request, and be sincere. Let me share an example of what I mean.
A few weeks ago a co-worker told me about a job interview she had. It went absolutely horrible and she was devastated. Later, she told me she had a new interview. I encouraged her as best I could, but since she’s not a believer all I could really do was wish her good luck. But as I got to thinking, God laid it on my heart to pray for her and ask her permission to do so. Well, this seemed like a pretty uncomfortable thing to do, but I told God I would do it—if certain conditions were met.
Words to the wise—don’t tempt or challenge God unless you want to lose. I told God something like this, “I’ll bring it up to her in conversation, but it needs to be one-on-one, nobody else hanging around and listening in, and I need to have enough time to have a decent conversation to address the question.” So, that same day, I took my first break and went into our quiet break room alone. Guess what? My co-worker walked into the room, saw me there, and decided to sit down. Hmm! Instantly, I remembered my part of the bargain. She asked me how I was doing, and I blurted out, “Do you believe in God?”
From there, we talked about church and her beliefs, I shared a little about what God was doing in my life, and when we were done I asked if I could pray for her during her interview. She said yes. That night and the next morning, I got down on my knees and prayed something like this, “Dear God, I’ve spoken boldly on your behalf regarding your faithfulness to answer prayer. I pray that you will show yourself mighty on behalf of my co-worker so that you will receive glory through this. And if the interview goes well, I’ll personally give the glory to you.” I prayed again and I prayed hard.
The next day, I was cautiously optimistic. When I saw my co-worker, she had this huge smile on her face and she told me, “It helped.” It was a little awkward, but my exact and immediate response was, “Praise God!” About a week later, she told me she got the job.
The reason I’m telling you this is because you too can ask God for opportunities to give him glory, either through sharing your faith or being obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You may think there’s no real way for you to do this, but I promise you that God will answer this request if your motivation is only to honor him, and if he’ll truly be honored by it. Maybe you’ll be at the grocery store and have an opportunity to help someone struggling with a bag of groceries. Who knows, but the point is you may not see how God can use you, but you must be open and sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting at all times.
1 Timothy 4:12
(12) Let no one despise your youth, but be an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
You guys may be young, but you’re not that young. Some of you will be moving up to Journey next year if you’re still in Awana. I urge you to look for ways to take on new responsibilities and prove yourselves workmen who are not ashamed.
(17) And everything, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.
Maybe instead of going into Journey you’ll become a leader in training. Perhaps you’ll be in my shoes in a few years, trying to impart some biblical wisdom to the future Trek guys. Believe me, it’s not easy. If you’re like me, you may be a slow learner regarding important life lessons. Use the time you have now while you have relatively fewer responsibilities to study God’s word, encourage one another, be a good witness, honor your parents, and focus on the things that really matter.