Several months ago I had the privilege of being the chapel speaker at a local Christian high school. Below is a summary of the talk that I gave. It’s a little longer than my normal post, but I hope it puts God on display and that you enjoy.
As Mr. Henjum said in his introduction, I teach marketing at California Baptist University. Now one of the things about being on a college campus is that people tend to take themselves too seriously. One of the ways that I try to combat this is that every Friday, I tell very stupid, very silly jokes. And so, in honor of that tradition I want to start my time by sharing a joke with you.
Q. What type of animal makes the most of its food?
A. A giraffe because a little goes a long way.
Now the only way to move on from here is to pray, so let’s do that now.
Our passage today is Galatians 1, which is written by Paul. Now, most of us are familiar with Paul’s life and know some things about him. You might know that he was a Pharisee and that he held the coast of Stephen’s killers. Or that Christ appeared to him on the way to Damascus. Or maybe you even know that Paul was sent to the Gentiles to preach the Gospel.
However, when you read Galatians 1, you can see right from the beginning how Paul described himself:
- He was an apostle – i.e. he was sent – v. 1
- He was sent not by men or for men but by God- v. 1
Now this last self-description is interesting because most of us think our Christian work is to do good for others – but Paul says – he wasn’t sent for others – but was sent by God.
And the first point is this, as a follower of Christ – God has something planned for your life.
Paul’s life is instructive in this. His plan for his life was to be a good religious man. From the outside, it would seem that Paul was doing the right thing – that this was a good plan to have. However, God’s call is always to Himself first – and then for the work that He wants us to do.
B.B. Warfield wrote in his book “Faith & Life” “There is a better thing than having the reputation of being religious; and that is being religious. And the difference is just this: That one has the praise of men and the other of God.”
Paul showed that he too had learned this lesson when he writes in Galatians 1:10“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Like many of us, Paul was doing “good” work – but was not doing “God’s work” In recognizing that God has a plan for our lives – we have to recognize that it might look very different from what we expect or desire. But doing His will is much more important than having our way.
The second thing that we can learn from Galatians 1 is not only does God have a plan, but God is preparing you for His purposes and plans. Now, the idea that God has a plan for your life, is probably not a new idea for most of us in this room. At the Christian college where I went a popular verse was Jeremiah 29:11, which says “’For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, ‘plans to give you a hope and a future.”
However, what often gets lost in the discussion is we think along these lines:
1) I love God
2) I love to surf
3) God wants me to surf
However, that’s not how God works. God call us to Him and then He reveals the plan that He has for our lives. When we look at the life of Paul, it’s easy to see that God’s timetable and God’s purposes are often so different from what we expect. Paul was called and then what happened? According to Galatians 1:18, 3 years later, Paul met w/ the apostles and only then was he sent out to the Gentiles.
Imagine it – you’re Paul. Since you’ve been a boy, you’ve been trained in all things Jewish. You probably know the Torah by heart. You think you have every reason to be confident before God. As he writes in Philippians 3: 4b-7- “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
Then, you experience a miracle on the road, you come to be a believer and THREE YEARS LATER – you meet up with the apostles.
However, we need to look at what was happening to Paul during that time? In Acts 9:26-30, it tells us. As Paul was waiting to be accepted by the church leaders, God was preparing him for what he would be doing. – in the Damascus area, not in Jerusalem. Paul spent his whole life in the “in-crowd” – this would be the first time in his life he was on the outskirts. And that would be who he went to preach to. He went to preach to the Gentiles. The “non-chosen” ones.
We can also learn from Galatians 1 that God’s plan is for your life to glorify Him. As we already saw in Galatians 1, Paul acknowledged that he was “sent not by men or for men but by God” and later in Galatians 1:24 he writes, “and they praised God because of me.”
When Jesus stopped Paul on the road to Damascus and told him that he would be told what to do (See Act. 9:6), God did not do this so that Paul could fulfill his lifetime dream of being Pharisee of the Year. Instead, Paul’s life was radically changed so that his life could be a testament to God.
If you read Acts 9:18-23, you learn what happened as soon as Paul was called. Paul was baptized. Paul immediately began to share the Gospel and then Paul was immediately persecuted.
When I was preparing to give this talked I asked friends what they know now that they wished they knew in high school. I got a lot of good responses. But one wrote this and want to read to you:
After graduating high school I watched a majority of my friends go off to college (finish within four years), get married, start successful careers, start a family, etc. For a long time I thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t fit into that mold. Then I realized the only mold I’m suppose to fit into is the one God shapes me into. I learned (and am still learning) the meaning of surrender
John Piper wrote – “God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.
This is what God’s plan for our life is.
Lastly, we need to remember that our job is to pursue God – not a plan. When we look back at Paul’s life we see that he immediately did those things that he knew he was supposed to do. He did not know what God would call him to, but he did, as a wise person once told me “the next right thing.”
Where we often get off track is that we decide to pursue the dreams that we think are from God, and we subject Him to our dreams
God is not subject to anything.
We need to be pursuing Him and not our dreams, for His plans for us our always better than our dreams.
C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying – “You will certainly carry out God’s purpose, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”
Judas thought he was doing a good thing – he was, after all, working with the religious authority, but he got so focused on a plan – a political savior for the nation of Israel, that he missed God.
Job 42:2 says “I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.
God will accomplish what He desires for this world. If you are so busy pursuing a plan, that you aren’t pursuing Him, you might not get the privilege of participating in His work.
Now at the beginning of our time, I share with you a joke about how a giraffe can make a little go a long way. God also can make a little – our insignificant, and frankly small lives, – count for much in His kingdom. And in the end, the only balance that’s going to matter is a heavenly one. As Paul later wrote in Galatians 6:14 – “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
So recognize that God has a purpose for your life, that He’s preparing you for that purpose, that His plan is to use your life for His glory, and that your job is to pursue Him.
One final thought: just like I tell jokes every Friday, I end every semester with a message for my students. That message is this – if you have not made a commitment to follow Christ – do so now. This whole talk is directed to those who have already made that commitment – who have said my life for Your life. Everything we’ve talked about is based on that. God’s desire first and foremost is that should your life end today, you would spend eternity with Him. Do not wait thinking that’s something you’ll wait until you’re older, or when you feel like. You’ve not been promised tomorrow – make the commitment now.