Full Sermon Transcript
Pastor Chris Paavola:
Well, hey everybody, good morning. And to all the Lions fans today, I’ve never seen so much blue. Do you cheer that much for Jesus? Come on people. Just kidding. I’m just kidding. I’m glad that you guys are here and you’re missing out on the pre-pre-game tailgate party. Hopefully you get there in time for the pre-pre-game. So anyway, thanks for being here today guys. My name’s Chris Pavola, I’m the senior pastor here at St. Mark. It’s good to be with you as we are in the month of January. We’re taking this month to discover who it is that God made you to be, the shape that he has made you to be in the sermon series that we’re talking about, your shape. And I don’t mean short, tall, hourglass, potato, I don’t mean that kind of shape.
I mean shape like the acronym shape that you are uniquely and distinctly made with very, very, very specific spiritual gifts, hearts, things that you care about, abilities, things that you can do, personality and experience. And when you take all of these things and you shake them up and put them all together, when you take all these things together, it gives us a picture of who you are. And I don’t know if you know this, but we believe you’re not an accident. And not even just that you’re not an accident, that it’s not an accident you’re here, that God has a very specific purpose and a plan for your life that includes this morning. So thank you guys so much for being here.
But today as to last week, we talked about spiritual gifts and we talked about how when you through the waters of baptism or just when you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, that’s the Holy Spirit giving that utterance of faith that the Holy Spirit is there. And when the Holy Spirit moves in, he brings all sorts of gifts with him.
He’s got his bags packed and he gives each and every one of us, each and every one of us who are followers of Jesus, a distinct spiritual gift that is unique to you. And we talked about them and they’re kind of the soft skills of the church really. Things like discernment, knowledge, gift of teaching, stuff like that. And so that was what we talked about last week. This week then we’re moving into the next one. We’re talking specifically about heart, your achy breaky heart and whatever other heart songs, heartbreaker. Anyway, we’re not talking… So when we say heart, we mean your passions, your desires, the things that make you tick, that unique heartbeat that you have. I love this thing. When you do that thing that just time flies while you do it or you do that thing and it keeps you up at night.
The thing that just makes you come alive. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today, and we hear it all the time and we see it lived out. And it’s always inspiring, like stories like Millard Fuller. So Millard Fuller was this guy down in Georgia and he met a couple who was homeless named Eunice and Bo. This was back in the sixties and early seventies, early 1970s. And when he met them, he got to talking and just learning their story of being homeless. And actually that weekend, Millard was going away to a retreat, a Christian retreat. And while he was away at this retreat, it was during a time of prayer. He just felt the Holy Spirit just kept pressing in his heart this conversation with Eunice and Bo and what am I going to do? What am I going to do?
And he just started thinking about how, well, I’m handy, I can do some things. And then he started thinking about, hey, Eunice and Bo, they seem like able-bodied people. What if we built them a house? Just as crazy as what if they just put in the sweat equity with me and we built a house, I bet I could build a house. And then he started thinking about a friend of his who worked in a lumber yard and how he could donate goods. And he’s like, I bet we could get a lot of goods at cost if we did this the right way. And then he started thinking about another friend of his who was a banker, and he’s like, you know what? I bet we could get a low interest or maybe even a no interest loan or something forgivable that we could do.
And so anyway, he left the retreat and he went back to Eunice and Bo and called him up and he’s like, “Hey guys, what do you think? You want to build a house?” And they were like, “Sure, let’s give it a shot.” So they tried it. They actually built a house. They got cinder blocks and lumber and it wasn’t very pretty, but it was a home. And over the next several months, they built an actual home for Eunice and Bo and then they said, “Hey, we’ve got some other friends who could use a home. You should build a home for them as well.” And Miller Fuller was like, “Well, sure. I’ll do that.” And so he built another home with them and they built it and then he perfected the process and more people came on board. And so in 1976 they started a 501C(3), a nonprofit called Habitat for Humanity.
And as they approach their 50th anniversary, they are approaching 1 million homes that they’ve built all around the world, blessing hundreds of thousands of people, unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. And I hear a story like that and I just can’t help but think that you and I, that we should not underestimate what God can do when you live out the passion he places in your heart. Do not underestimate what God can do when you live out the passion he places in your heart. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. And if you’re just like a guest with us this morning and you’re kind of leaning into this whole church thing or trying to figure it out and you hear this, you’re like, finally, finally the church is doing something and not just watching the world go by. Finally, the church is making a difference. This is one of your big criticisms of the church and it’s rightfully so.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
But today, this is not to make an apology for that, but today I think as you hear me talk about this topic, you’ll hear why this is difficult to do. One of the reasons this is difficult to do of living out your heart is that it’s not about us. We’re not talking about living out your heart like where you are, the center of your world. We’re not taking cues from the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of Atlanta. We’re not trying to make ourselves the center of the universe here. It’s a hard thing to do to dethrone yourself and put somebody else or some other cause at the center of your world, to inconvenience yourself and to take on sacrifices for yourself for the good of another. That’s hard to do, and frankly, that’s illogical, but it makes tears form in our eyes when we hear about stories like Miller, it makes the hair on our arms stand on end because there’s something about it that’s good and we know that, but it’s difficult to do.
WHAT’S YOUR HEART
And one of the reasons it’s difficult to do is because when you ask the question, what’s your heart? And you start thinking about it, well, it takes you into some hard places. And so if you’re taking notes, you can follow along, you can write down some of these questions. I think these are questions that you might be able to answer right here. Some of these, or for some of you, it might be a question that you need to let marinade for a little bit and you can write it down and then hang it on the fridge a little bit later on and let it bother you all week. But the first question, when you ask what’s your heart that you need to ask according to what we just read in scripture is, well, how have you been hurt?
- How Have You Been Hurt?
How have you been hurt? I don’t mean to make light of anybody’s difficulties, but honestly, if you’ve experienced abuse of any kind from somebody else, or let’s say it’s a cancer diagnosis and a setback or a setback financially, you have these plans to do this thing for this family and then you just keep getting setback after setback after setback. And why can’t this all work out and just finally come together? What’s your hurt? That’s something that God can use, and that’s what we just read. It’s from 2 Corinthians chapter one, starting verse three and four. It says this, “Look again, praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus says Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” By the way, if you would like a new name to call God when you’re praying, that’s a great name to just put in your vocabulary, God of all comfort, I call on you now to comfort me.
Call them that. That’s a beautiful title. The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves receive, present tense, not past tense, receive from God. So that thing that you’re going through right now, that hurt that you’re going through. The comfort that you received from God in that thing. Maybe it was a word that you read in scripture. Maybe it was a prayer that you prayed. Maybe it was the way that your small group rallied around you when you were going through that thing. Whatever it might be, it doesn’t end with you.
God wants to use you now as a vessel to give that same comfort to someone else. He wants to give that comfort through you to someone else. The very same comfort you received with the magical five words. I know what it’s like. And when someone says that to you, oh, or when you say that to someone else, it’s just like, oh, you do? Well, how’d you get through it? And then you can share with them. You can testify, bear witness, tell the good news of how God comforted you. I read this word or my church did this thing, and suddenly they received the very same comfort that you received. Wow.
There’s a section later on in scripture, a book called Romans. It’s a very popular verse, but this is what he’s talking about when he says, I know that God works all things for the good of those who love him. That’s what he means. He can take any situation no matter how dark, no matter how troublesome. He can take any situation and work it for the good, the glory and the growth of his kingdom. Nothing is beyond his redemption. Nothing. It’s not a fun question, but it’s a good question. How have you been hurt? And then the second question is similar. It’s not the empathetic question of how have I’ve been hurt, but it’s a sympathetic question. How have you seen others hurt? Who do you hurt for?
- Who Do You Hurt For?
Not how have you been hurt. No. Who do you hurt for? Can’t tell you how many people I know who work with children with special needs, who grew up with siblings with special needs. Who do you hurt for? Maybe it’s you see a documentary on clean water in Africa and it just moves you. Maybe when the weather turns cold and you start thinking instantly about those without shelter or appropriate attire, who do you hurt for? And history is full of Jesus followers who hurt for something and did amazing things, amazing things. People like Mary Bethune. Ever heard of her? Antebellum era. She noticed all these children who were uneducated, African-American children who were not getting schooling, and she said, “Nope.” So she started schools all across Florida. I mean, she did it on a shoestring budget using crates for desks and charcoal for pencils.
She taught those kids. And one school became two schools became four schools, so there were schools all over the south, and then she started getting higher positions and audiences with presidents of the United States and established the United Negro College Fund that now today has given scholarships to hundreds of thousands of children. But it all started with one school. She actually sat on the board that founded the United Nations, you guys, but it started in a poverty-stricken Florida in the Antebellum.
Or a guy like Reverend Helms there. He was serving in a really wealthy parish, and he started noticing that there was poor parts of his community. So he started asking people in his parish to bring the goods that they no longer needed so he could redistribute them to people in their community who had need. And he kept on doing this, and they got bigger and bigger and it became what we call today, goodwill. Millions of people served or then good old Bob Pierce there in the Korean War, Vietnam War era. He was in Asia and he couldn’t take his eyes off this little child that he had built a relationship with, this orphan child, and he decided to just give her the $5 he had in his wallet. And he realized I could do that, and it just changed your world to get $5.
He’s like, I should do that again next month and the next month. I could keep on that support. And one kid became, two kids became four, and Bob Pierce eventually started World Vision where millions of children have been taken care of all because one day he gave $5 to a little girl, World Vision. And these amazing organizations started by Jesus followers who all had something in their heart.
They hurt for somebody. Hurt. That’s the first question. How have you been hurt? Second question, who do you hurt for? And then that leads us to a third question. Go ahead. What bothers you? I asked Xilan, our worship leader who was up here today earlier in the week, I asked her, what bothers you? We were preparing for the message. So I’m like, “Hey, Xilan, what bothers you?” And then she goes, “The beeping of the microwave.” I was like, “No, no, no, no, not what irritates you. I mean, what bothers you? What unsettles you about the world? What do you look at in the world? And you’re like, this is not okay. This is my holy discontent. This is the thing that just… This is not okay. We need to make a change. What is the thing that keeps you up at night? What makes your blood pressure rise? What bothers you?”
- What Bothers You?
And if you notice, the first two ones are about people like you or someone else. This one is about issues, issues. What bothers you. Maybe it’s an issue with the environment or an issue with protecting the rights of the unborn or some other legal issue or some other health cancer issue or whatever. What bothers you? What’s the issue? Be curious about that. If I’m God think, okay, let’s just play a hypothetical game here, and you’re God and you’re making a person and you have this plan for them to live out this thing over here. Well, you’re going to give them an extra measure of passion about that thing. You’re going to sprinkle them full of passion about that thing to meet that need so they pursue it. The passions that God has placed in your heart are like little breadcrumbs he wants you to follow into his design for your life, if you will be brave enough to step into the fog and see where they lead.
So what bothers you? And so at this point, I should probably stop another three questions. There’s one more question, but we’ll get there in a second, but just make two observations. First, well, that’s the gospel right there. I mean, if you think about it, God had a perfect world and he was with us in that perfect world, humanity, Adam and Eve, and then they hurt him deeply. They betrayed him, they cheated, they lied, they stole, and it hurt him and it damaged his relationship with them.
It broke his heart. Then as he watched the consequences and the curse of what we call sin because of their actions carry out in their life, he hurt for them as he watched them kill, lie, cheat, steal, betray one another. He hurt for them. He hurt for humanity, and then he started to be bothered by the issue that we were separated from him forever. Holiness cannot dwell with imperfection or it compromises the whole thing. It’s no longer perfection. It’s no longer holiness. And this bothered him that there was eternal separation, damnation. We were doomed to die apart from him. Amity is the word. There was separation between man and God, and this bothered him as much as it bothers you and even more. And so he was bothered enough to do something about it. He sent his son to live a perfect life and die a perfect death in our place that we might be with him.
And so it would make sense that the same God who was hurt, who hurts for us and is bothered by these issues, that his spirit that is now within you would continue to be hurt and hurt for and be bothered by the things you see around you. This grieves the heart of God. It makes his spirit groan within you if you are sensitive enough to feel it. I think the more we push out and get calloused and push away feeling, the easier it gets to be apathetic. I do. That’s the first observation when I looked at those questions.
The second observation, Hitler, [inaudible 00:20:06], Joseph Stalin could look at that list and still commit all of the atrocities that they did in the 20th century, the genocide of millions. They could. They could answer those questions and still do what they did unless there was a fourth question preventing it. And so we really need one more question as you process, what’s your heart? The fourth question is simple. What does God’s word say about it? See, my friends, we sang about it earlier. Our heart is prone to wander. I feel it.
Our heart is deceptive and easily deceived. It’s fickle. It can be hot or cold, hard or soft. Your heart is a terrible guide. I’ll talk about this some more some other time, but Disney gives terrible advice when it says, “Follow your heart.” Your heart is a terrible guide. Jesus calls it wicked and it needs to be held in check, governed and guarded and guided by his word. Left to your own devices, it ends up very, very bad, I promise you, but that’s why we need God’s word to guard this process.
I say often and just bears repeating. We don’t place ourselves in authority over the word of God. We place God’s word in authority over us. I say this definition all the time. We place God’s word and authority over us. It’s God’s word. We submit to it even when we disagree, even when it’s hard. It’s God’s word. And because we submit to it, because it has authority over us, it curtails some of the atrocities we could commit just following the first three questions. And it gives subtlety and nuance in how we respond to certain situations. It gives nuance. My friends, if you’re a follower of Jesus and God’s word is guiding you, it gives nuance in how you respond to your enemies, how you answer the question of the rights of the unborn. It gives nuance on how you address things like racism.
It does, and you handle it as God directs you. And so there’s the four questions that I want you to loss sleep over. I want you to find your holy discontent, the thing that fuels you, that drives you, that keeps you awake. I want you to find it. How have you been hurt? Who do you hurt for? What bothers you and what does God’s word say about it? Ask those questions. Get on the wild goose chase. Give no sleep to your eyes until you can describe it and define it and name it. Now, having said that, it is one of the caveat I need to put on this. Okay? One of the little asterisk. My hunch is right now as I talk about these things, these are huge issues like spousal abuse, cancer, clean water for people in Africa. These are huge issues, massive issues, and there’s a potential for you to feel overwhelmed by the size of it that it paralyzes you.
I see some head nods, okay, like that you’re going, I can’t even begin to think about how to address that thing. It feels like I’m throwing cotton balls against the brick wall. Give me a break. What kind of impact am I going to make? Little old me. I see that potential. To you guys, I would say that you don’t need to start with this huge program. Don’t start with a million homes or a million children or whatever it might be. Don’t start with a big. Start with a small. There’s a really great verse in a really obscure book called Zachariah in the middle of the Bible. And take a look at, this is a beautiful verse, Zachariah 4, verse 10. “Do not despise small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see his work just begin.” Oh, isn’t that wonderful? Zachariah 4:10. That is a great memory verse. “Do not despise small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see his work begin.”
So just take that little step. If you have a heart for the hungry, make a meal. If you have a heart for the elderly, shovel the driveway. If you want to give blankets to refugees, make a blanket. Just get started. Just do something and then watch what happens next. All you can take is one step at a time. You can’t really leap forward. You just get one step at a time. So just get started. I mean, if you think about this elsewhere in scripture, this is the parable that Jesus told about the mustard seed. Though it is the smallest seed in the garden, when it is planted, it becomes the greatest plant in the garden, providing shelter. That’s the parable of the mustard seed. And that thing that God has put in your heart, that’s your soil. It’s the tiny seed. Just take one step and watch what bears fruit. When you let yourself become filled with a holy discontent, a passion, and a zeal for something greater than yourselves, and you live out your heart.
Now, we ended last week, the same opportunity I’m going to end you guys with today. 200 of you guys filled out shape profiles that we provided. We handed them out in worship. We’re not going to do that today. We’ve got them available physically on the hub out there, on the counter, out there at the hub. Also, you can just scan a QR code that’s going to be on the screen. If you’re watching online, you can just go to stmark.net/hub, or you can do that in your smartphone right now where you sit. Rest of the service, I’m fine with that. Whatever. Just fill out the… Let us know how God has gifted you, your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, your personality experiences. Here’s why this is so important, okay? As we go forward, as a ministry, as the church continues to grow, we will have ministry needs come up.
And what we will do as leaders, this is my pledge to you, we are going to put search queries into our database to say, well, okay, we need people who are gifted or called or care about this thing. You better believe that we want people serving in children’s ministry who like kids. You better believe that we want people on our landscaping team or our lawn care team who like lawn care or our counters or our alter team or the tech team. You better believe we want people who are gifted and able to be musicians, to be gifted in that thing, to do that thing. You don’t want bad musicians up here, I promise.
And so if we don’t know that you have that gift, that calling, that passion, that heart, then we won’t know to ask you. And as the ministry, you’re going to watch the ministry, and it’s going to feel like the ministry is moving forward without you. I don’t want you to be on the sidelines. I don’t want you to miss this opportunity. So please take a moment and fill out the shape profile either in a lobby after the service or in chairs right now or whatever, or in your home, watching at home. Fill it out and let us know how God has given you a heart to serve. Let me pray for you.
Heavenly Father, first of all, I guess with a topic like this, we need to apologize. We need to confess to you that we have fallen short. We are often apathetic, complacent, placid about the needs that we see in the world around us. And there’s different reasons for that. It’s hard to ask these questions. It feels like sometimes like the need is too big and we can’t really make a dent. So forgive us God. And as you forgive us, renew in us a heart to do something, to serve, to be moved to action, and to live for something other than ourselves, something bigger than ourselves.
So God, I just pray that for each person in here, you would enliven in their heart by your Holy Spirit that grieves and groans for things that it sees in this world, you would enliven them to take a step forward and do something to make a difference and to live out that passion that you’ve given them. So would you make that clear to them? Give them courage where they’re afraid. Give them energy where they feel just tired. And God work all things for the good, the growth, and the glory of your kingdom.
It’s in Jesus’ name we pray these things and we just wrap up our prayer by joining our voices together and saying the prayer your son taught us to say. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. We got to stand as we sing.