OnFire Encouragement Letter
Onfire #226 Lessons From a Lawnmower
The boys have finished school. Mark won an academic award. Ian is now at Camp Wildwood, working there for the summer. And Zen, our Japanese student, attended the prom and safe-grad last night.
Starting on Monday, we’ll be on vacation on PEI for three weeks. We’re looking forward to the break and plan to build a new raft.
I once took apart an old lawnmower. After pulling off the covers to expose the inside, I was fascinated to watch all the parts work together as I turned the drive shaft. Every piece had a job to do in order to convert energy into work. The carburetor mixed air and gasoline. The piston propelled the drive shaft, but only when the spark plug ignited the fuel at the perfect moment. The valves controlled the intake and exhaust from the cylinder. An oiler lubricated the engine, while the seals kept oil in and dirt out.
Each part has an obvious purpose. This is something we find hard as people. We struggle with knowing our purpose, and we all want to know we have one. I contrast this with our cats, who are content to sleep approximately 16 hours a day. I don’t think they spend much time between naps pondering their place in the universe. We, one the other hand, want to know there is purpose and meaning in life. Surely our toil and effort is worth something? There has to be more than simply living and working, eating and breathing.
As we continue reading the very first verse of Titus, we find that Paul understands his place and importance in God’s work. He is a servant and apostle “for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness...”* He knows that his purpose is to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and teach them to grow in godliness.
Paul’s purpose begins with his identity. We often tie who we are to what we do, so that we are ministers or teachers, mechanics, electricians, accountants, or some other vocation. The problem is, we become confused if we can no longer do what we did. If something affects our job - like layoff, poor working conditions, a change in health , or retirement - we lose our sense of purpose. But Paul begins with who he is and this leads him to his purpose. He is a “servant and apostle for the faith. of God’s elect...” If we put identity first, then we can change what we do without needing to change who we are.
Paul’s sense of purpose is not self-focussed. He is a not a servant and apostle for his own benefit. His mission is to strengthen the “faith of the elect” and increase their knowledge of the truth. Again, we often turn this around, looking for ways to make ourselves feel better instead of serving others but God did not fashion us for our own good. We will only ever discover our purpose as we serve others.
Paul knew the importance of what he did. He called people to faith and taught them how to be godly. This is important stuff. We often feel that what we do is not important, or, we look at someone else and conclude that our contribution is weak by comparison.
We cannot do this however. For starters, it is not realistic to compare ourselves to someone else because no matter how gifted or talented we are, it seems we will always be able to find someone who appears to be more gifted or with abilities we feel are more important. I know people who run themselves down because they are not like the Apostle Paul. We all have a role in God’s kingdom if we are willing to do our part. Just because one role puts a person in the public eye does not mean other, less public roles, are not important.
It is good to be able to complete this sentence: “What I do is important in God’s kingdom because...”
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published June 23, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at email@example.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com