James Merritt - Am I In My Sweet Spot?
What am I going to do with the life that is still in front of me, however long or short it may be? And oh, by the way, as I'm asking that question let me get deeper. How do I determine what's most important? How do I make the greatest impact with what life that I have? That's really what inspired our mission statement that we had just recently revised, if you remember. It goes like this: Is pointing to people to Jesus and inspiring them to live the cross-shaped life, and we really believe there's nothing greater we can do for those of us who have been led to Jesus... There's nothing greater we can do than to lead other people to Jesus and to inspire them to live the cross-shaped life.
Now, if you're a guest of ours today, you may be asking, "Well, what is the cross-shaped life"? And that's the series that we're in. And what we've done is we have devised a list of five questions that if you answer them, and when you answer them, it will tell you whether or not or how much you are living the cross-shaped life. Now, if you've missed any of the series or all of the series, we've done something for you. You can actually go to a website, crossshaped.life. That's crossshaped.life. You can go back and pick up all the messages we've been preaching, and you can go and find out what those questions are that you can answer to determine whether or not you're really living the life that you ought to live. So, today we're actually dealing with a forth question. Am I in my sweet spot? That's the question I'm asking every one of you right now. Are you in your sweet spot?
If you wanna get the most fulfillment out of the life that you're living, it is absolutely imperative that you find your sweet spot. Now, biblically speaking, we know what that means. I'm gonna tell you in one word how to find and what your sweet spot is. And it's found in the word "serving". That's your sweet spot. And when you are serving where you ought to be serving and who you ought to be serving and when you ought to be serving, you have found your sweet spot. Jesus was in His sweet spot when He was serving. As a matter of fact, one of the most amazing things that Jesus ever said about Himself and about His life was this. In the Gospel of Mark, He said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served".
Now, think about that. He said, "I did not leave heaven and come to earth to see what you could do for Me, I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many". That's amazing to me. Jesus said, "I found my sweet spot when I came to planet earth, not by your serving Me, but My serving you". And just as Jesus came to earth to serve, He has left us on earth to serve. Now, one of his disciples, you may remember the name or you may know the name, his name was Peter; Peter wrote a letter to a church 2000 years ago about this whole business about finding your sweet spot. So, if you brought a copy of God's Word or you have an iPhone or a Smart Pad or whatever it is you wanna use, I want you to turn to a book called 1 Peter. It's a book in the Bible called 1 Peter. I know what you're saying, I have no idea where 1 Peter is. It's easy, it's right before 2 Peter, all right?
So, if you'll just find 2 Peter, you'll hit 1 Peter. Now, if you don't know where either of those are, go to the New Testament, start going to the maps, and before you hit Revelation you'll hit 1 Peter, all right? I want you to look at 1 Peter 4, let me kind of set this up. Peter's writing to this early church and he's giving them words of instruction and trying to tell them, "This is how you ought to be living your life. This is what your Christian life ought to look like. And oh, by the way, you've only got a short time left before either Jesus comes for you, or you go to Him". And so, He's kind of trying to tell them, "This is what you ought to be doing because you don't know how much time you've got left. He may come back today, He may come back tomorrow, or you may go to Him today or tomorrow. So, before He comes for you or you go to Him, this is how you ought to be living your life".
So, he begins by telling this in 1 Peter 4:7, "The end of all things is near". And that's always true, "Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling". Now obviously, he's talking about the second coming of Jesus. One day, Jesus is coming back. And he says, "Look, until Jesus comes, we ought to be watching for His coming, we ought to be waiting for His coming". But then he goes down in the next verse and he says we ought to be working until His coming. He says in verse ten, "Each of you should use whatever gift you've received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace in all of its various forms". Now, in that one statement, Peter just tells every one of us, "This is how to find your sweet spot".
One of the marks of a crossshaped life is serving others. So, if you want to know whether or not you're in your sweet spot right now, I'm gonna help you determine that. I'm not gonna, right now, we're not talking about where your sweet spot is, we're gonna get to that in a moment. What I want you to find out right now, what I want you to ask yourself is, "Am I even in my sweet spot"? and, "How would I know if I am"? Well that's real easy. Answer three questions and you'll know whether or not you're even in the neighborhood of your sweet spot. Here they are. Number one: Where am I serving? Now, if the answer to that question is, "Well, I'm not serving anywhere," you're not in your sweet spot. All right?
Question number two: Who am I serving? "I'm not serving anybody," then you're not in your sweet spot. All right? When am I serving? "Well I'm not serving any time," then you're not in your sweet spot. What I wanna do this morning is simply share three reasons why every follower of Jesus should be able to answer, in the affirmative, all three of those questions. They're right here in what Peter tells us, okay, and what I'm about to say now, true for everybody. Number one: God expects me to serve. That's the first thing I want you to get in your heart right now. God expects me to serve. Now let's go back and listen to verse 10 again. He says, "Look. Each of you," he's talking to you. "Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others".
Now, each one means everyone, and everyone means each one. The point is all-inclusive. In other words, here's what Peter's telling the church right now. "Hey, nobody gets left out. Nobody gets left behind. Everybody's got a gift, everybody's expected to use it, everybody's supposed to serve". And by the way, you don't get a vacation from serving, you don't' get a break from serving. You may have a 9-5 job, serving's not a 9-5 deal. You're to serve God and serve others every time you get the opportunity, 24/7. Now, here's the problem. We've got this idea that serving is what you do. Serving's not just what you do, being a servant is what you are. Serving is not just an action, it's an attitude. And the reason why we ought to have servant hands is because we have a servant heart. And if Jesus is in your heart, you have a servant heart because He had a serving heart.
Now think about this, Peter's talking to the church and He says, "Okay, you all have a gift". Now, when he said that, He didn't know who had what gifts. He didn't know what particular people or what particular persons had what particular gifts. He said, "Look, I don't know what your gift is, I don't know what your gift is, I don't know what your interest is, I don't know what your passion is. I do know this: You've got one; every one of you has a gift". Now, that ought to tell you something. And you've heard this before, and it sounds so tried, but it really is true. The greatest ability in the world is availability. Listen, ability without availability is no ability. And let me just say this, I know there's some of you sitting there and this is what you're already saying right now, you'd love to say this to me, "Do you know who you're talking to? I'm an introvert, I'm bashful. I don't like to smile, I don't like to talk, I'm not good with my hands, I can't even put a Lego together. And you're asking me to serve".
Can I just stop right there? Can I just be honest with you? If you're available, God can use you. If you're not available, God can't use you. The only person God can't use is the person who is not available. And once you understand how Jesus served you coming to die for you, then you'll understand serving is not what you have to do, it's not what you get to do or should do or have to do or do out of guilt, serving is actually what you should want to do. One of my favorite verses in Psalm 100 is, "Serve the Lord with gladness". And what the psalmist said was, "Look, God not only expects you to serve Him, He expects you to serve Him gladly. He expects you to serve Him gratefully. He expects you to say, 'You know what, if you love me enough to serve me by coming to die for me, the least I could do is live a life of serving You.'"
And by the way, it's not just what you do, it's how you do it. Because remember, Jesus did not die for His sins, He died for yours. He didn't come just so you'd serve Him, He came to serve you. So, the cross-shaped life is a life of serve. And here's all I'm telling you, whether you leave here tonight and decide to change your ways, whether you leave here tonight and decide to serve, I'm just telling you God expects you to serve. Here's the second thing: God equips me to serve. Because again, there are some of you going, "Look, dude, I didn't go to seminary, I didn't even finish college". Maybe you didn't even finish high school. Okay. "You know, there's just not a lot of things I'm very good at doing".
Listen to me, God never asked us to do anything that He doesn't give us the power and the equipment to do it. He always says, "Look, I'm ahead of you". Listen to what he says, listen. He says, look, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received". In other words, here's the plain truth: Everyone that I'm looking at right now, and everyone watching me at our campus, look right here, look into my eyes, you have a gift. At least one. You are a gifted child; all of you are gifted. Under God's Christmas tree, every follower of Jesus gets at least one gift-wrapped package, and your name is on it. And just as the gift is to be unwrapped and used, so is our spiritual gift. Look, I get it. We all have different gifts, we all have different abilities, we all have different passions, we all have different interests, we all have different desires, we all have different directions we wanna go in. That's okay, but there's a reason for that. God made you the way you are so that you could do what He wants you to do through serving others.
See, everybody has a spiritual job description, everybody. I don't know what yours is, you're kind of seeing what mine is, I don't know what yours is. But, we all have a spiritual job description. We've been given not only a job description, God says, "You know what, I've not only got a job description for you to do while you're on planet earth, I have already given you the abilities and the gifts you need to fulfill that job description". See, the biggest problem we face in the church in this area, and it's been true of every church I've ever pastored, and it's true of every church that exists. I'm looking right now at a lot of unwrapped gifts. Peter goes on to say something, I thought, "This is so appropriate for what we're talking about". Listen to what Peter goes on to say. He says, "Look, if anyone speaks," he's talking about me right now, "If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength that God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the Glory and the Power forever and ever, amen".
Now, let's listen to what he said, it's interesting. He divides these gifts up into kind of two categories. He says, "You know there are speaking gifts," that's what I'm exercising. And he says, "There are serving gifts". Now, I'm exercising a speaking gift right now. It's not that my words are God's Words, but I'm preaching God's Word. That's my job. But here's what I want you to understand. The only reason that right now I am able to exercise my gift is because other people are exercising their gift. The only reason I'm up here exercising my speaking gift is because other people exercising their serving gift.
So, I wanna take a moment in the service, and I don't do this often enough, I just want to take a moment, first of all, I wanna thank all of you out there, all of you. You're watching, you're looking, doing it right now. I wanna thank you for the people that run the sound, for the people that do the lights, for the people that run the cameras. I wanna say thanks to our ushers and our greeters, I wanna say thanks to our first impression team, for those who just kind of meet people and help them get to their car or bring them in from their car, I wanna thank the people right now that are down in the nursery and they're taking care of our babies, and the people who are working with our children, and the people who work with all of our Next Gen. I'm in my sweet spot right now because they are in their sweet spot. I'm unwrapping my gifts because they have unwrapped theirs. I'm using my gift because they have used theirs and are using theirs. And I just wanna say thank you for all of you who have found your sweet spot and you are serving. God not only expects us to serve, He's equipped all of us to unwrap our gift so that we can serve. But it gets better.
Peter says, "Not only does God expect you to serve, and not only has God equipped you to serve," watch this, God encourages me to serve. Listen, this is so good right here, notice the last part of this verse. You know, this is the part of the verse that if you're ever reading your Bible, we tend to kind of skip over. Don't skip this part. He says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you've received to serve others," and then he adds these words, "as faithful stewards". Now what is a steward? A steward is a manager, a steward is someone who takes whatever's been entrusted to him and does the best that he can with it. You have been given a spiritual gift, at least one. And you're gonna give an account to God one day whether or not you even used that gift and how you've used that gift. And God's made a promise. He says, "Look, I promise you if you will be a good steward, if you will be a faithful steward, if you'll just serve in the area that I've gifted you in, if you serve where I've given you a passion to serve, you will be rewarded".
There are certain verses in the Bible that every time I read them, I'll just tell you, they just kind of light a fire in me and they just encourage me. And trust me, pastors need encouragement. Because I'm telling you right now, there are times a pastor does wonder, "Am I making a difference? I mean, am I moving the ball down the field? Is anybody's life being changed at all because of what I say, or is it just kind of a thing that people just do? It's just kind of, you know, 'Check of the Sunday, go hear the pastor, laugh at his jokes, go home, and don't do anything else'" right? So, you wonder sometimes, "Am I really making a difference". And then I read a verse like this. "God is not unjust. He will not forget your work," He will not forget your work, "and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them".
See, you may think serving's just not a big deal. You may think, "You know, I just don't understand why a menial thing like changing diapers in a nursery, or parking a car on a hot summer day, or handing out a worship guide as people walk into the door, or giving out food and clothes at our Carepoint Ministry, I just don't understand why that's such a big deal". I'll tell you why it's such a big deal, because God sees it. And God says, I don't care what you do. Whether you think it's a big thing or a little thing, you know what God says? "I won't forget that. You think you got a long memory? I've got an eternal memory. I won't forget it. I'll remember it. I'm writing it down, I'm taking names, and when the time is right, you will be rewarded".
And let me tell you why, let me just kind of put all of this in perspective. I wanna say something right now you're not gonna like, but it's true and you know it's true, so we may as well just admit it, okay? Most of what we do in life doesn't really matter. Most of what we do in life doesn't really matter. It didn't matter much yesterday, it won't matter much today, it won't matter tomorrow, it won't matter next week, it won't matter next year, it won't matter next decade, it won't matter after you're gone. However, any service you give to God, anything you do for God and you do for God's people and you do for anyone, any service you give to others will matter for all eternity.
Matter of fact, I wanna give you one verse of scripture. This comes out of The Message, because I just happen to like the way this translation puts it. But I want you to listen to this, it's out of the Book of 1 Corinthians. "Throw yourselves into the Work of the Master". Listen to what he just said. Don't' just do it haphazardly, don't do it out of guilt, don't do it because, "Well, they expect me to do it," or, "I guess I gotta do something". Throw yourselves into the Work of the Master, "confident that," say that word with me, "nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort". You know what the word nothing means there? Can I tell you what it means in plain English? It means nothing. In English, it means zero. In Spanish, it means nada. Here's what God says. "There is no such thing as an unimportant work you do for Me. There is no such thing as an insignificant work you do for Me".
You pick up a piece of paper when you're coming in off the parking lot to walk in this church, God says, "That's not insignificant to Me. You go down into a nursery, and nobody ever sees you, and you sit there with those same babies week in and week out, and you give them their bottles and you change their diapers, and you sing lullabies to them, that's a big deal to me. You stand out there and you just kind of hand out Order of Worship guides as people come in, and give them a smiling face and a warm handshake, that's a big deal to me".
Thirty years ago, if I had said the word apple, you'd have thought about a fruit. Today when I say apple, the first thing you think about is not a fruit. I mean, there are a lot of us today that wonder how can you even exist without Apple. How can you even make it in life without Apple, because as we now know, it refers to one of the most successful companies in the history of the world. Well let me tell you something I found out about Apple, as a matter of fact I was telling one of our tech guys this morning who used to work at Apple and he had gone over my message, he said, "Man, I didn't even know you knew this. I didn't know anybody knew this. I can't wait for you to share this". When you become an employee of Apple, or even if you're a customer, everybody knows the treatment you get from Apple is just world-class, it's almost unrivaled by any other company.
Well, what you may not know is, if you ever decide to go to work for Apple, it doesn't matter what job you're applying for... you can go to IT, you can go to management, you can be working the custodial department sweeping floors, it doesn't matter, everybody that goes to work for Apple is given a note. That note encourages you to swim in the deep end and to do something big. When I read the note, I said, "That is so impressive". I thought, "I gotta share that with our folks, okay". So, you go to work for Apple, first day at work, this is the note that you get. There's a work, and there's your life's work, the kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it, the kind of work that you'd never compromise on it. You'd sacrifice a weekend for it. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don't come here to play it safe, they come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something, something big, something that couldn't happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple. Well, kudos to Apple. Props to Apple.
Man, what a great way to introduce somebody to Apple, but can I just let you in on a secret? One day, Apple is going to be in the dustbin of history. One day, even the great company called Apple will be on the ashes of everything this world has to offer. But, when you serve God, and you serve God's people, and you serve God's church, you don't just swim in the deep end, you don't just do something big, you do something eternal. You contribute to something that has the possibility of transforming someone's life forever. You have the opportunity to make a contribution to Clinton. Clinton, no, not the president, but a man who came up to me after the 9:00 service. Clinton walked into our church offices this past week a totally broken man. Because of some things going on in his personal life, he couldn't even talk for just absolutely bawling his eyes out.
One of our staff went downstairs, brought him up to his office, listened to Clinton's story, and then told him The Story. Clinton got on his knees and bowed and asked Christ to come into his heart. Clinton was at church this morning. I had my picture made with him outside, tweeted about it. Walks up to me, smile as big as the moon, radiance on his face, telling me is so thankful for all of the bad stuff that was going in his life because it was all worth it to bring him to Jesus. You know why that happened? Because people find their sweet spot, like you. Because you give your money... not your money, God's money; because you support what we do here financially, because you come here on Sunday and you do change the diapers, and you do park the cars, and you do give out the worship guides, and you do counsel teenagers, and you do teach children bible stories, and you do give your work to the greatest Work of all. You do something that has an eternal impact in transforming lives forever, and that's why, you wanna really get the most out of life, you find your sweet spot. Jesus did, and so can you.