Apostle Paul

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Three Final Warnings – Purpose Part 6

Published July 9, 2012 by joypatton

Finding your purpose sounds like a really great thing.  But I have to warn you that it is not smooth sailing.  You don’t punch it into the GPS of your life and have clear direction at every turn, advance warnings of detours, and safe arrival at exactly the time predicted.  In this sixth blog on purpose, I have three final warnings.

Brace yourself!  Once you know your purpose and start to live it, you have a target on your back.  After Jesus was baptized, he was led into the wilderness to be tested for 40 days.  After Paul was blinded by the light on the road to Damascus, his new identity and purpose were immediately put to the test.  Paul started preaching that Jesus was the Messiah in the Jewish synagogues, and the people there were amazed because they knew of his previous reputation.  (When Ice Queens, turn into Princesses, people notice.)  But soon the Jews in Damascus decided to “take care of the situation” and plotted to kill Paul.  Paul escaped Damascus with the help of friends who lowered him over the wall in a basket.

Why is it important for a Princess to know her identity and her purpose?  Because some day, her Princess status will be challenged.  It may or may not be challenged by other people, but I know for certain that the enemy Satan will challenge it.  Paul knew where he came from, who he was, and what he was called to do.  His confidence came from his identity in Christ and his belief in the true Gospel.  Paul and the Princess have no confidence in themselves and all the things they are gifted in.  Rather their confidence is in the One who gifted and called them to His purposes.

Remember that suffering was part of God’s purpose for Paul.  Was Paul any less anointed or gifted when he was sitting in a jail cell?  Was he less called when he was under house arrest?  In God’s kingdom, suffering has a purpose.  Are you ready to suffer?  Will the Enemy be able to sidetrack you at the first sign of trouble?

Beware of the box – Sometimes God’s purpose does not look the way we always thought it would.  Sometimes we look at our gifts and passions and we think we know exactly how God wants to use us. A couple weeks ago, I met a girl who loves Spanish and Latin cultures.  Her grandmother was a missionary to Honduras, so naturally she felt she wanted to be a missionary.   But what if God has a different way for her to use her love of Latin culture?  What if she doesn’t ever become a missionary, but instead works in the United Nations?  Would she have missed God’s purpose for her life?  Or maybe you are a gifted singer, songwriter, musician.  When that is your gifting we automatically see record deals and touring.  But what if it’s leading worship in your local church or teaching music in a classroom?  Have you missed God’s purpose if you never get your Nashville dream box?

Maybe you thought you had the perfect guy who met every one of your requirements for an ideal mate.  You thought you would be living happily ever after by now, but you aren’t.  Have you missed God’s best for your life?  Consider other women who have a passion for children, but never marry or can’t have children of their own.  Have they missed God’s purpose?  Is the passion he put in them wasted?  Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God.

For me, I have a passion for teaching women the Bible.  I always thought that meant I would be teaching in my local church like I have for the last five years.  But that’s not what I’m doing this year.  If I don’t do it through my church, does that mean I’ve missed God’s purpose for my life?  I’m learning that there are lots of ways to teach women the Bible.  I think God is blowing up my box.  This box held my dream in a predictable place where I was safe and comfortable.  However living with purpose when you don’t know the plan is quite terrifying.  But it takes me to the place where I have to choose whether or not I will trust him more.  The Princess must choose to look to him and follow, no matter where he leads.  Will you trust that he has a purpose even when it doesn’t fit your box?

You can’t please everyone – When you live according to your purpose, you will have to say no.  You will have to disappoint some people, especially people who are used to you saying yes.  One of the myths of modern womanhood is that you can be 100% wife, 100% mom and 100% employee.  This will leave you exhausted and failing 100% of the time.  You can’t be everywhere and do everything.  Something has to give.  Someone is going to be unhappy and feel left out.  Someone is going to get less than 100%.

Some days your kids don’t have a home cooked dinner because you go on a date with your spouse.  Some days your husband has no clean underwear because you had a work project that required extra time.  Sometimes you have to take a sick day to be with a sick child.  So how do you know who you should disappoint?  The Princess asks the King.  The Holy Spirit is the one who knows exactly what you should do.  The King is fully capable of filling in the gaps and picking up the balls you have dropped.  Remember it is ultimately his job to make sure everyone, including you, has what he or she needs.

It is so important to remember whom you are trying to please because sometimes, you won’t please the people around you.  Tamar didn’t look like a nice Christian girl dressed as a prostitute waiting for Judah to come along.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, didn’t look like a good Jewish girl when she showed up pregnant and unmarried.  The woman who anointed Jesus with perfume and wept as his feet experienced scowls from religious leaders, even the disciples, in the room.  But each one was declared righteous in God’s sight.  Each one was exactly where God needed her to be to accomplish His purposes.

Sometimes pleasing Him makes us look stupid or even worse, unrighteous.  But Paul lived a life that was solely focused on pleasing the Father.  Jesus said that he did nothing apart from the Father.  His food was to do the will of Him who sent him.  The Princess lives only to please the Father and carry out His mission for His kingdom.  So whom are you trying to please?

Don’t give up!  My hope is that you will know who you are in Christ, that you will know how he has gifted you and that you will make courageous choices to trust him more with your life.  Dear Princess, you can trust the King with your life.  You belong to Him!

Purpose from a Personal Encounter – Purpose Part 3

Published November 22, 2011 by joypatton

I wish God would just give me the map for my life that showed exactly what decisions to make and where I was going to end up.  I would probably say, “Thanks for the map!  See you in heaven!”  Then I would proceed through all the checkpoints in my own self-effort.  The problem is that I would trust the map more than the One who gave me the map.   But God has more for me in life than a map.  He wants to be in relationship with me, for me know to him and be known by him.  He wants my heart more than he wants my feet.  He wants my faith-effort, not my self-effort.

The Apostle Paul’s purpose came from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  The same is true for us.  Our purpose grows out of a personal relationship and encounter with Jesus Christ.  When I was sixteen and coming out of depression, I had one of those personal encounters with Christ.  One where I knew I had to make a choice about what I was going to choose to believe.  I had another personal encounter and revival with Jesus when I went through a discipleship program at the age of thirty.  Both encounters gave me a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh vision for what God had for my life.  I didn’t go into those times seeking purpose and a plan for my life.  Honestly I was simply seeking to know him more.

Paul was on the way to Damascus to find Christians and kill them because he believed that was the right thing to do.  But when Paul got closer to Damascus, a bright light from heaven blinded him and he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5 ESV) The ironic thing is that Saul was persecuting the Christians in an effort to please God.  The problem was that he knew a lot about God, but he did not know God.  So when God came to him, he did not recognize him.  He was so busy trying to do the right thing that he missed who God really was.  His actions were based on a wrong belief about who God was and what God wanted.

More than seeking purpose or seeking God’s will, the first thing we must seek is to know him.  Often we point to Jeremiah 29:11 when we are talking about finding God’s will.  But one of my favorite verses that we often overlook comes after that.  This is what the passage says:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me.  When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 ESV)

Every journey begins with one step.  Often the journey begins with a step toward him.  Even if you don’t have the big picture map of where you are going, do you know what the next step is that God is asking you to take?   Maybe it’s a consistent time in the Word, a Bible study or finding a new church to attend.  Maybe it’s to rest and take a break from all your self-effort, to stop all of your doing and listen.  Often we overlook this step because it doesn’t answer the urgent question we have about God’s will in our lives.  Seeking God sounds too simple or we don’t believe it would really work.  But the truth is he wants your heart because when he has your heart and you know his voice, then he can take your feet anywhere he needs them to go.  God wants us to depend on him, not just for the big picture, but for every step, every breath, along the way.  Will you trust him for the next step?

Get over yourself…You can’t mess it up – Purpose Part 2

Published November 14, 2011 by joypatton

I’ve found that when people are thinking about what their purpose is one of the first fears that comes up is that they are going to mess it up or that they will miss God’s plan for them. Often this fear keeps us trapped right where we are. We are afraid to take action and move in a direction because we are afraid we will miss it. Maybe you are afraid to pursue a career wholeheartedly because it might prevent you from finding a husband. Maybe you’re afraid if you don’t start having babies soon you will miss your window and the problem is you aren’t even married yet. Maybe you are afraid to go into missions as a single woman because you don’t think God could bring you a man in the middle of the jungle. Maybe you are not pursuing a promotion because you want to have a baby, but can’t right now. Maybe you are not doing the thing you love because in your plan you wanted to get married first. Maybe you’re afraid you will marry the wrong person so you isolate yourself.

Often when we approach the topic of purpose or finding God’s will for our lives, we have a lot of fear that we will mess it up or that we will miss it. We think of purpose as something that is set in stone and magically hidden somewhere and if we follow all the right steps and don’t take a wrong turn, we will find it. But if we take a wrong turn or get off the track, then we will be lost and never know our true purpose. The fear of messing it up or missing it often keeps us from trying at all.

Here is where I would love to tell you all the helpful tips about goal-setting and writing a personal mission statement or creating a life plan. Those are all very good things that I have personally found very helpful. However, while planning is not against scriptural principles, it’s not necessarily Biblical. After all, Paul never sat down to write his personal mission statement and write out his short-term and long-term goals. (I’ve yet to find a Biblical character that has.) But when I looked at Paul, he knew who he was and where he was going.

Saul (pre-conversion Paul) was side-tracked. He was missing it and messing it up. He was killing Christians, and you can’t mess up more than that. Yet Paul in Galatians wrote “But when he who had set me apart before I was born…” (Galatians 1:15) Wait a minute…God knew who Paul was before he was even born. So that means that God knew that Saul was growing up in a Jewish home. He saw the education that Saul received in learning Jewish history and Jewish law. God made Saul a zealous and passionate person because he knit Saul together in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:15). God was there when Saul was holding the coats for the religious leaders who stoned Stephen. So God must have known that Saul was side-tracked. Dare we even go so far as to say that God let Saul get side-tracked?

If God is sovereign and knew Paul before he was born, that means God knew you before you were born. In fact, as a believer, you were chosen to be in God’s family before you were born (Ephesians 1:4). That is a pretty amazing, mind-blowing thought.

Even as Saul was persecuting Christians, his heart was not against God. He was not despising the plans of the Most High; he simply did not know God’s plan for him. Is your heart rebellious toward God? Are you despising the obvious plan he has already shown you in his word? If your desire is to seek God, he will be found by you.

So what if you get side-tracked? What if you miss it? What if you mess it up? Is your God big enough to intervene and get you back?

God doesn’t have a Plan A and a Plan B for your life. In my mind, Plan A is what my life would be if I never made a mistake, if I always perfectly knew what God had for me and had the courage to do it. It’s the blissful happiness that could be mine if only I had… (fill in the blank). Plan B is all the bad things that have happened in my life because I made a mistake or didn’t have the courage to follow. But the truth is…there is no Plan B. It’s all Plan A to God. Sometimes the bad things are the very things we need to go through to be who God wants us to be. Sometimes bad things are part of God’s plan. Consider that Paul’s suffering was part of God’s purpose for him (Acts 9:16). I’m sure that for Paul it didn’t feel like Plan A when everyone was plotting to kill him.

If you still think you can mess it up or miss it, you are bigger than the god you have in your box. If you, one tiny, little peon person in the universe, can mess up God’s plan, you must not serve a very powerful God. You have made yourself god and you need to get over yourself. God was powerful enough to intervene in Paul’s life. He sent a flashing light from heaven, spoke in an audible voice to Saul and made him blind. That is powerful. Is your God powerful enough to intervene in your life if you get side-tracked? Is he able to help you find it if you miss it? Is he able to take you where he needs you to be even if you make a mess?

Paul recognized that it was only by God’s grace that he was called into a new identity and a new purpose (Galatians 1:15). After his conversion, he said, “Now he has intervened and revealed his son to me…” (Galatians 1:16 The Message) God’s grace is there for you as well. When he reveals his Son to you, will you accept the grace he has to offer you? When you do mess it up, repent and believe that the work Jesus did on the cross is enough to cover your sin. Do you believe that God is big enough to intervene? Does the cross have enough grace to cover all your mess?

There are still days when I ask God questions because I’m afraid. Did you really mean for me to have four children? It seems I’m yelling at them all the time; I’m not a very good mom. Are you sure you want me in women’s ministry? Do you realize how difficult it is to deal with women? Did you really ask me to write a book? I have to say YES! This is where he has me, and I’m trusting a God who is big enough to get me where he needs to go … by any means possible. The Princess presses on in spite of her fear because she knows that the King Father is sovereign over all things, even her. “And we know that for those who love, God works in all things for the good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:28-29 ESV; you know I had to go there at some point.)

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