The Purpose Driven Life
Seeing Life from God’s View
1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 25:14-30
morning I offered to take some American friends to Heathrow airport to pick up
a hire car. They planned to do some travelling and see some of Britain before
returning to the States. The plan was to get Michael to school, then deliver my
friends to the car hire company at Heathrow before spending the day on a quiet
retreat with James. Simple. The pick up went smooth and on time. But just before
we got to the M25, Mike realised he’d left his mobile phone behind at Diana’s
house where they’d been staying. There was a mixture of frustration and embarrassment
in his voice.
No problem I said. I would just lead them back to Diana’s place after picking up their car. Simple. A little further along the way we realised we didn’t actually know where the car hire location was at Heathrow. Visions of driving round the four terminals and outlying car parks filled my mind.
No problem - we’ll just phone them up and ask where they are. Simple. The only problem was Mike had made the booking on the internet and didn’t have a phone number. The frustration level rose slightly now tinged with a little anxiety. No problem I said. Simple. We’ll just call directory enquiries. While marvelling at the wonder and convenience of my in-car Bluetooth mobile telecommunications system, we discovered directory enquiries had no listing for Dollar at Heathrow. Did I want the phone number for Dollar rental at Manchester airport? No thank you ‘Mam’.
No problem. Deploying some lateral thinking we decided to phone another directory enquiry service. They are all probably abroad anyway. Sorry, no Dollar at Heathrow. We do have a listing for Dollar in Reading. Would you like that number sir? Yes please. We were getting warmer (and closer to Heathrow)
No problem. I rang the Reading number to hear a pre-recorded message from a nice lady thanking me for my enquiry concerning renting a car in the USA. If I wanted to speak to an operator would I please phone in office hours after 9:00am. Not what I wanted to hear. No problem. As Heathrow airport came into view I began to feel another sermon illustration coming on. A phone call to Reading after 9:00am finally elicited the phone number of the Dollar office at Heathrow. Wonderful. A phone call to the Dollar office at Heathrow revealed that they were at the Sheriton Hotel, but because it was a bad line we could not make out the location.
No problem. As we turned onto the Bath Road, another directory enquiries phone call revealed the number of the Sheriton Hotel. And one last call to the Sheriton Hotel revealed its location to be - yes you’ve guessed it - on the Bath Road - right in front of us. Although we had not known our destination, we had not got lost or wasted any time.
The journey had been a test. A test of our spiritual health more than of our spatial awareness. With today’s sermon in mind I was given a life lesson that reminded me that quite simply - life is a test. How we respond to challenges moulds our character.
Do we see things like a missing phone number or a wrong turn as a frustration or an opportunity? Rick Warren says, “The way you see your life shapes your life. How you define life determines your destiny. Your perspective will influence how you invest your time, spend your money, use your talents, and value your relationships.” So how do you view life?
What image or metaphor would you use? People have described life in a variety of ways. Some see it as a circus, others as a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony, a journey and a dance. People say “Life is a carousel: Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, and sometimes you just go round and round” or “life is a ten-speed bicycle with gears we never use” or “life is a game of cards: You have to play the hand you are dealt.”
When you think of your life, what picture comes to mind? Which do you identify with? “That image (what ever it is) is your life metaphor. It’s the view of life you hold, consciously or unconsciously, in your mind. Its your description of how life works and what you expect from it.” People use a variety of ways to express their view of life - from the car they drive to the clothes they wear to their hairstyles, tattoos or even bumper stickers. Our presuppositions about life influence us more than we probably realise. They will often shape our expectations, form our values, shape our priorities, form our relationships and set our goals. For example, “if you see life as a party, your primary value in life will be having fun.
If you see life as a race, you will value speed and will probably be in a hurry much of the time. If you view life as a marathon, you will value endurance. If you see life as a battle or game, winning will be very important to you.” What is your view of life? Are you basing your life on a faulty metaphor? What is your purpose in life? What is your motivation? The first and most important purpose for your life is to know God and love God - because you were planned for his pleasure.
In the Bible, three inter-related metaphors are used to teach us God’s view of life: Life is a trust. Life is a test. And life is a temporary assignment. Life is a test because life is a trust because life is a temporary assignment, for we were made for eternity. These principles are the foundation for God-given, purpose-driven living on earth. We find them elaborated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4 and illustrated by Jesus in the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25. Lets examine them each and see how they are related. Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 4.
1. Life is a Trust
“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” (1 Corinthians 4:1)
Notice Paul describes us as servants - servants entrusted with a role. God has entrusted to us all our talents, all our intelligence, opportunities, relationships and resources for one purpose. God has entrusted to us a ministry of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:18). To know him and make him known.
“We never really own anything during our brief stay on earth. God just loans the earth to us while we’re here. It was God’s property before you arrived and God will loan it to someone else after you die. You just get to enjoy it for a while as trustees.” We are trustees of God’s property. As Paul goes on to say in verse 7, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). I am reminded of this every day.
get to live in a beautiful home we could never afford. I once calculated it would
take me 400 years to pay off the mortgage on the Vicarage. So we enjoy the benefits
of using a home without owning it. We are trustees. And that is a picture God
uses to remind us that we are all trustees. “the land is mine and you are but
aliens and my tenants.” (Leviticus 25:23). Aliens and tenants entrusted with God’s
Jesus often referred to life as a trust and told many stories to illustrate God’s kingdom rule, Jesus said, "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)
In the Parable of the Talents, when the master returns, he evaluates each servant’s faithfulness and rewards them accordingly. The owner says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21).
“At the end of your life on earth we will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you have handled what God has entrusted to you.” This means everything we do, even the little things like daily chores, can have eternal consequences. So, life is a trust. Therefore,
2. Life is a Test
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
It is precisely because life is a trust and that one day we will have to give an account that we are tested now to prove our trustworthiness. In the Bible, words like trials, temptations, refining and testing appear on more than 200 occasions.
Rick Warren argues that ““Character is both developed and revealed by tests.” Indeed, “all life is a test. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment,” and even trying to find the Dollar car rental location at Heathrow.
We don’t know all the tests God will give us, but we can predict some of them. Rick Says, “You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticisms, and even senseless tragedies. In my own life I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems, tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests my love through people.”
Rick goes on to say, “Most people fail to realise that money is both a trust and a test from God. God uses finances to teach us to trust him and for many people, money is the greatest test of all. God watches how we use money to test how trustworthy we are. In another story about stewardship in Luke 16:11 Jesus says, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
Rick insists, “This is a very important truth. God says there is a direct relationship between how I use my money and the quality of my spiritual life. How I manage my money determines how much God can trust me with spiritual blessings.” As I realised afresh on Wednesday searching for the car hire company, everything in life can be seen as a test, a test of my character, a test of my faithfulness, a test of my integrity, a test of my fidelity to Christ - therefore nothing, absolutely nothing is insignificant. “Every day is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity to deepen your character” Some tests you won’t even notice - others may appear to totally overwhelm you.
What ever they are, they all “have eternal implications.” Rick says, “The good news is that God wants you to pass the tests of life, so he never allows the tests you face to be greater than the grace he gives you to handle them.” This is what Paul discovered. “no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation's power so that you can bear up patiently against it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So the first analogy? Life is a trust - therefore, secondly, life is a test, because, thirdly,
3. Life is a Temporary Assignment
“It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
Bible uses a variety of analogies to emphasize the transient nature of this life.
Life is described as a mist, a breath, a shadow and a wisp of smoke. Furthermore,
the Bible compares life to living in a foreign country. We are taught that this
is neither our permanent home nor our final destination. We are only passing through.
Most of us do not enjoy the privilege of knowing how many days we have left but
our days are indeed numbered.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16). Therefore David prays, “Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more.” (Psalm 39:4). These passages teach us that compared to eternity, this life is very brief, our time here is temporary. Indeed it is the reason why even the best in this life can leave us sometimes feeling discontent. It should because this is not our final home. We were created for something much better.
Rick warns, “It is a fatal mistake to assume God’s goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it.
abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God
does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry. Never focus on temporary
crowns.” “The end of life is not the end … Your time on earth is not the complete
story of your life.
You must wait until heaven for the rest of the chapters … When life gets tough, when you’re overwhelmed with doubt, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember you are not home yet. At death you won’t leave home - you’ll go home.”
That is why Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18). If we treat everything we have in life as a trust; if we view everything that happens in life as a test; if we recognise all we value in this life as a temporary assignment - God promises three rewards in eternity. Jesus mentions all three in the Parable of the Talents:
'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21)
God promises us three things:
That is why James writes confidently “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Quotations taken with grateful thanks from Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” (Zondervan), chapters 4-5. This sermon series is based around Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose.