For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10)
So how can we carry out those good things that God has planned for us?
We must be filled with the Spirit of God.
When the prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel he told him to go to a place called Gibeah where he would meet a procession of prophets who would be worshipping the Lord and prophesying. Samuel said:
6The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you (1 Samuel 10:6-7).
Before Jesus came, the Holy Spirit was poured out onto selected individuals such as kings and prophets but the Old Testament prophet Joel had predicted a time when the Spirit of the Lord would be available to all people (Joel 2:28). This happened soon after Jesus’ ascension to heaven and is described in Acts 2 when all the believers were filled with the Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. At that time there was a crowd of God-fearing Jews who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world and each one heard the believers speaking in their own language. They were amazed so Peter explained to them:
14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17“ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
This baptism of the Spirit comes directly from Jesus Himself and is distinct from water baptism, though it may happen concurrently with it or may be given before (see Acts 10:44-48) or after. Referring to Jesus and the baptism of the Spirit, John the Baptist explained:
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11)
And in Acts 19 we read an interesting encounter the apostle Paul had with twelve believers in Ephesus. These men had received water baptism but had not even heard of the Holy Spirit:
1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all. Acts 19:1-7
So if you have not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, simply ask Jesus. He said that everyone who asks will receive (Luke 11:9-13)! Then you will be empowered to do those works of faith that God puts in your heart!
Once you’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit then as Samuel said to Saul:
“...do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you” (1 Samuel 10:7).
God has put desires in your heart. He has planned good works for you to do, works which require faith because you cannot do them in your own strength. These may be dreams and ambitions you have or issues you passionately care about that have come directly from the Lord’s heart. By the way, ambition or the desire to excel at something is not a bad thing as long as we give thanks to God for our gifts and talents and glorify Jesus. The apostle Paul tells us:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
It’s when our desires turn to selfish ambition in which we crave to promote ourselves above others that it becomes ungodly (Galatians 5:20). The bible tells us:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalms 37:4-5, NASB)
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3, NIV)
In Psalm 37:5 the word translated “way” is darkeḵā which comes from the root word derek (דְּרָכַ֫יִם) which means way, road, distance, journey, manner. So David, the psalmist is exhorting us to commit our journey and manner to the Lord and then we can trust Him to guide even our desires. Solomon is saying something similar: the word “plans” in Proverbs 16:3 is machashabah (מַחֲשָׁבָה) meaning thoughts. So when we commit whatever we do to the Lord, He will actually establish our thoughts in line with His!
You may not feel that you are strong enough, capable enough or important enough to carry out the plans God has for you, but this is exactly why God has called you:
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Because it’s not by your power that your desires will bear fruit but by the power of the Holy Spirit:
2 Thessalonians 1:11
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
So today if you have a God-given dream in your heart, I want to give you a few biblical principles, which will help you to achieve it.
1. Know your Purpose
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 2 Timothy 3:10
Paul knew what his purpose in life was. Speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church Paul said this:
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24
His purpose was to testify to the good news of God’s grace and that purpose formed the basis of every decision he made. We may be a leader with a singular purpose in life like Paul or we may have been given gifts from God to serve Him in other ways. Each one of us has an important gift, which is vital for the well-being of the church:
4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:4-8
Sometimes our calling is to prepare the way for others like King David who prepared the plans for Solomon to build the temple (1 Chronicles 28) and John the Baptist who was called to prepare the way for Jesus (John 1:23). Sometimes it is to assist others with what God has put on their hearts. That’s exactly what Jonathan’s armour-bearer did. Jonathan was king Saul’s son. He was a man of faith who trusted the Lord. The Philistines were planning to attack Israel but apart from Saul and Jonathan, the Israelites had no weapons (1 Samuel 13:22). One day Jonathan went with his young armour-bearer to the Philistine outpost. The armour-bearer’s response meant that he got to participate in the victory God gave to Jonathan:
6Jonathan said to his young armour-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
7“Do all that you have in mind,” his armour-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” ....13Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armour-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14In that first attack Jonathan and his armour-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre. 1 Samuel 14:6-7, 13-14
If you are not sure what your gifts and purpose(s) are it is worth taking some time to pray and ask God for revelation. And sometimes we can get guidance from speaking to mature believers:
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance Proverbs 1:5
2. Pray: set your purpose continually before the Lord
The Greek word translated “purpose” in 2 Timothy 3:10 is prothesei. This comes from the root word prothesis (πρόθεσις) meaning a setting forth, predetermination or purpose but it is also the word used in Greek for the “showbread” or “sacred bread” that was set before the Lord each Sabbath in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple of the Lord:
For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. (Hebrews 9:2, ESV)
This word is used to describe the showbread 3 more times in the New Testament (see Matthew 12:4, Mark 2:26, Luke 6:4). In Exodus we read that God told Moses to
Put the bread of the Presence on this table to be before me at all times. (Exodus 25:30, ESV)
Just as the bread of the Presence was to be put before the Lord at all times, so our plans and purposes should be brought before the Lord continually. In practice this means we keep speaking to the Lord about our purposes so that He can guide us. But the bread of the Presence was also a symbol of Jesus who gave His life for us so we could receive eternal life. Jesus said:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:51
So as we feed on Jesus, the bread of life and put our plans and purposes before Him, we can trust Him to bring them to life!
3. Persevere: be steadfast in purpose and resolute!
The word prothesei is also translated “steadfast purpose” in the following verse:
When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, (Acts 11:23, ESV)
The context of this verse is that after Stephen’s death persecution broke out in Jerusalem so some of the believers went to Antioch and preached the good news of Jesus among the Jews and the Greeks there, many of whom believed. Then the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to help and teach them. Barnabas encouraged them to remain steadfast in purpose! So we too will experience times of difficulty and it is at those times that we need to remain steadfast to our calling and not give up! Jesus knew that the purpose of His life was to die as a sacrifice for our sins. But it was not going to be easy. The suffering would be intense. So Jesus resolutely set out to fulfil God’s plan.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Luke 9:51
The word translated “resolutely set out” is the Greek word estērisen which comes from the root word stérizó (στηρίζω) meaning to fix firmly, direct towards, buttress, prop, support; strengthen, establish.
Jesus made a firm decision to fulfil His purpose. So we need to daily make a resolute decision to fulfil our God-given purposes so that when difficulties come our way, we will remain resolved!
4. Plan for your Purpose
David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Lord but God told him it would be his son Solomon who would be the one to build the Temple:
3But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’....6He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 1 Chronicles 28:3,6
But that didn’t mean that God didn’t have any purposes for David regarding the building of the temple. The Spirit of the Lord gave David intricate plans detailing exactly how the temple was to be built which David passed on to his son Solomon:
1 Chronicles 28:11-19
11Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. 12He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.
13He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the Lord, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service. 14He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service: 15the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand; 16the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables; 17the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish; 18and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense. He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the Lord.
19“All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”
God supplies the detailed plans we need to carry out His purposes for our lives. Sometimes like Noah (who built the ark, see Genesis 6) and Moses (to whom God revealed the exact plans of the tabernacle Exodus 25:9), God will reveal to us His plans directly by His Spirit, but sometimes like David and Solomon, God will raise up others who have been inspired by His Spirit to help us plan for the task set before us. Whichever way He chooses, it is important to pray for guidance and make our plans as detailed as possible and to be open to wise advice:
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counsellors there is victory. (Proverbs 11:14, NASB)
The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful. (Proverbs 12:5, NIV)
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counsellors they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22, NASB)
Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. (Proverbs 20:18, NASB)
5. Prepare for your purpose
To fulfil your calling requires training and preparation.
An important foundation to prepare you for whatever God has called you to do is to read the bible:
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).
If your calling is to be a medical doctor, you will need to go to medical school. If it is to be a carpenter like Jesus and his earthly father Joseph, you will need to learn your trade. Whatever it is that God has called us to do, He will provide you with opportunities for training in your field. In a song of praise to the Lord when the Lord delivered him from his enemies and from king Saul who wanted to kill him, David said:
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. (2 Samuel 22:35, NIV)
David’s destiny was to succeed Saul as king of Israel and the prophet Samuel anointed him as king when he was likely just a teenager (1 Samuel 16:13). But it would not be till many years later that David would rule all Israel. He started out as a shepherd boy looking after his father’s flocks but even that was part of his training. When he defeated the giant Goliath he used the skills he had learned from looking after the sheep and rescuing them from wild animals. When he was about to face Goliath, David said to Saul:
Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (1 Samuel 17:36, NIV)
From shepherd boy, he became one of Saul’s armour-bearers (1 Samuel 16:21). After he killed Goliath he became a high-ranking officer in Saul’s army (1 Samuel 18:5, 1 Samuel 18:30). Then he became an outlaw because of Saul’s jealousy (1 Samuel 20). Finally he became king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4) at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:4) and 7 years later he became king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3).
6. Perform your Purpose!
Once we have planned and prepared we will be ready to perform what God has planned for us. We have plenty of biblical examples of those God chose to accomplish great tasks but I want to look at how Moses and the apostles were led to carry out those things God had planned for them.
After Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt, his father-in-law Jethro came to visit him. Jethro saw that Moses would spend all day judging the peoples’ disputes. So he advised Moses:
17Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
24Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.
Jethro was a wise man who gave Moses godly advice. Sometimes we need others to share the load, especially if the task is great!
Similarly as the early church grew, there were food distribution issues that were taking up the apostles’ time. But they knew they needed to focus their attention on prayer and the ministry of the word:
2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4
We may need to be single-minded on our calling and focus on the ministry God has given us. Sometimes we will therefore need to delegate to other capable people.
7. Press On!
Eventually we will be ready to fulfil the calling God has for us. This will require wisdom. Just as Solomon asked for and received wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:11), so James says God gives it generously to all who ask (James 1:5). We need continual reliance on the Holy Spirit and perseverance. We remain called till the day we die (Romans 11:29) and God always has new and exciting things ahead of us and eventually, heaven itself! But there are bound to be times when we make mistakes and we will need to put past mistakes and failures behind us and keep going forward. The apostle Paul said this:
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
Beloved, God has amazing and exciting plans for your life. He has called you and will empower you to fulfil your destiny if you commit your ways to Him. So today seek Him to discover more about His purposes for you. Then keep bringing them to Him in prayer. Ask Him to give you the plans you need to carry out the tasks He’s given you. Allow Him to prepare you and make you ready to perform those good works He has prepared for you. Delegate if necessary so that you can focus on your calling. Then press on- the best is yet to come!
Visit us at Inherit Life Church serving North Finchley, N12 and beyond