Yesterday we continued our series at Southampton Student NAVS with our sixth session entitled “An Invitation to Serve – The worth of the Individual”.
As we continue to consider the vision on God’s heart for our lives we now turn to the intrinsic ‘worth of the individual’ and how that truth could and should, inspire, motivate and fuel our service with the people living, working and studying around us. To this end we consider nine key lessons about our intrinsic worth, the kind of people God uses and the subsequent potential that we have in God’s service. Read on as we explore further what God has to say about these things;
1. Our Intrinsic Worth – Our sense of worth has to begin with God for it is He who made us, it is He who saved us and it is He who has prepared good works in advance for us to do…
a. Created in God’s Image – Firstly we learn from Genesis 1:26-27 that we were made in the likeness and image of God. These verses use the Hebrew word for ‘Image’ or ‘Likeness’ (and there is no distinction in Hebrew) four times for emphasis. God made us relational (for relationship with one another and with God), responsible (to exercise responsibility over creation), rational (to think, understand and talk) & real (experiencing emotions). This image became marred after the fall and there was an impact on this image of God; relationships became difficult, blame-shifting impacted our sense of responsibility, our understanding became darkened and we started to experience negative emotions . Where as we were made to find our significance, worth, acceptance and value in God now there was a tendency to look for these things elsewhere. Even so the truth is that we are still fearfully and wonderfully made; we are still made in God’s image and we reflect God’s image as only we can. The starting point for this question of worth is therefore the fact that we can derive huge intrinsic worth from the fact that God made us this way. Our search for meaning must ultimately lead us to God if we are to find a lasting sense of worth and significance.
b. Redeemed in Love – If can see that we are worth a lot to God because of the way that He made us we can also see this in the way that He sent His Son to die for us in order to restore relationship with us. The intrinsic worth of anything can be derived from what people are willing to pay for it and God was willing to pay the ultimate price for us. God was willing to pay such a steep price because He loves us and wants the best for us. He longs for us to be the people He created us to be, voluntarily choosing to love Him and live our lives for Him.
c. Redeemed for a Purpose – We would also have to note that God had purpose in mind when He redeemed us. Not only are we made in His image and saved out of love but God is also committed to seeing us move onto maturity. He relentlessly pursues us in order to see us grow in faith and become the kind of people He intended us to be. He wants us to be people who are transformed into the likeness of Christ, people who live out the kind of character exemplified by the beatitudes in Matthew 5. Again not only is this a huge encouragement but God also wants to use us in His purposes. He could command a host of angels to proclaim His gospel but He chooses to use people like us. What a privilege and blessing that God has determined that His purposes will be worked out through us!
2. The kind of people God uses – Secondly we turn our thoughts to the kind of people that God uses to be involved in the lives of His people. This is expressed through a willingness and availability to be involved with people…
a. Developing Heart – Heart gives ‘life’ & ‘vitality’ to our service; it’s the basic desire to want to do something that will have an eternal impact. When God asked Samuel to anoint a new King of Israel to replace Saul the obvious choices all passed by in favour of the young shepherd boy David. God said that “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The Psalmist also says of David that he “shepherded them with integrity of heart” (78:70-72) and Acts records that David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). The kind of people God uses are first of all people who are characterised by such heart and specifically a heart for people.
b. Exercising Vision – If our service needs “heart” in order to keep it from being ‘dry’ and ‘lifeless’ – you need a vision to keep it from being aimless. Again from the life of David we read in Acts that “David served God’s purpose in his own generation” (Acts 13:36). We can have all the ‘heart’ in the world but we need to have some concept of where to direct our heart and passion. It’s not so much however that we need vision, but that we need to get on board with the vision of God’s heart, with how God is working out His purposes.
c. Using Skill in God’s Strength – You may have heart to do something and a vision to know where to do it, but without skill to know how to do it you’ll become very frustrated. the Psalmist says that David not only had ‘integrity of heart’ but he also ‘led with skillful hands’ (Psalm 78:72). David was a skilled shepherd who was used to fighting lions and bears in order to protect the sheep under His care. When the Philistine giant Goliath arrives on the scene and sets himself up against the people of God it is David who volunteers to take him on. Initially Saul feels that David is not up to it but David is able to convince him that he has both the skills and a deep dependence on God that will allow him to prosper. David has little to say about Goliath in this chapter but much to say about God who ultimately affords him the victory. As we each serve the Lord in our generation it is essential that we too are equipped for service so that in turn the body of Christ might be built up (Eph 4:12).
3. The potential we have in God’s service – Our final section is the natural consequence of what we’ve been talking about; that is we have huge potential in God’s service if we can grasp the intrinsic worth of the individual and be the kind of people exercising heart, vision and skill that God can use in His service. Let’s finish with three encouragements to serve;
a. Serving prayerfully – Prayer is key to unlocking our potential in God’s service because it is God who puts heart, vision and skill into our lives. Paul demonstrates this when he says “Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you” (2 Cor 8:16). If we want to take up God’s invitation to serve then we need Him to put into our hearts such a concern for people. We also need Him to do the same for the people we are serving, those that we want to develop a similar heart, vision and skill for others.
b. Serving out of an overflow – In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul writes about the generosity of the Macedonians and he says that “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (v2). How we use our money, resources and energy is part of our ‘service’ and these Christians are a fantastic example of those who gave out of an overflow of their relationship with God. Paul says that they pleaded with him for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. What an incredible example that is for us. Our motivation for service should come out of an overflow firstly of our relationship with God and secondly of our conviction of the intrinsic worth of the individual. As this conviction of individual worth grows we’ll find ourselves placing more confidence in others and what God can do with them. We’ll find ourselves dealing heart-to-heart rather than just superficially. Once we realise not only that we are of huge intrinsic worth but that those around us are too it will transform the way we approach our service!
c. Serving in our weakness – We couldn’t finish without thinking a little about serving amidst the pressures and struggles we face and the failures and weaknesses that we experience. Paul describes the Corinthians as “Jars of Clay” and he says that this is “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). The place of weakness is not an easy place to be; I should know because I have been there for long enough! Yet there is a sense in which it is a good place because it points us to God and helps us to lean on His strength. This place is also a helpful platform from which to help others. After all Paul says that God chose the ‘foolish to shame the wise’ and the ‘weak to shame the strong’ (1 Cor 1:27).
In all of our weakness we should remember that the way that we are created, redeemed and matured express our huge intrinsic worth. God wants to use us and indeed chooses to involve us in His purposes. Fragile and weak as we might feel God can still use us in His service. God loves us and wants to involve us in His purposes; namely to reach those He loves who are living, working and studying all around us…