When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:36-38
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:3-6
In our prayers we always thank God for you. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank him because we have heard about the faith you have in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all of God’s people. Your faith and love continue because you know what is waiting for you in heaven—the hope you have had since you first heard the true message, the Good News that was told to you. Throughout the world, this Good News is bringing blessings and is spreading. And that’s what has been happening among you since the first time you heard it and understood the truth about God’s grace. Colossians 1:3-6
We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people .... As a result, you have become an example to all the believers in Greece—throughout both Macedonia and Achaia. And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 7-8
Today's thoughts from today's verses:
When God raised up Israel to be his special people in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he had great intentions for them. Through Israel, God wanted to show the world the good things that come from being under his authority and care. Overall, Israel failed to live for God as his people and the intentions God had for the world through Israel were not realized. Jesus, as the Messiah, came to set things right for Israel and the world. In the Gospel of John we are told that he (Jesus Christ, the Messiah) came to his own (Israel) but they received him not. Now keep in mind that almost all of those who responded on an individual basis to Christ and became his followers when he was here were Israelites. However, he came as the Messiah of Israel, but as a nation they did not receive them.
Israel had a stewardship to the world that was not fulfilled in Old Testament times nor in New Testament times when they had the opportunity to embrace the Messiah and his heavenly kingdom. Look at what we find in Matthew 8:11-12, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be great misery and anguish.” These are the same words we saw in Matthew 25:30 from last week’s story and have been examining more closely this week. We have seen that these words are reserved for those who dismiss altogether the treasure of Jesus and his glorious heavenly kingdom. This was the plight of those in Israel who rejected Christ when he was here on earth and offered himself and his heavenly kingdom to them.
We, on the other hand, are those who don’t dismiss the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom and have become true followers of Jesus who help with the advancement of his heavenly kingdom. We will hear him say someday, “enter into the joy of your Master as good and faithful servants.” We will not hear those words of dire consequence, “Now, throw that good-for-nothing servant far away from me into the outer darkness, where there will be great misery and anguish!” This is because we have embraced the suffering Messiah, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for Israel and the world on the cross of Calvary. We are the redeemed who are forever his and are seeking to live fully for him and his heavenly kingdom.
To help us with this we have been seeking to gain a fuller understanding this week of what it means to be a new person with a new life through our relationship with Christ by examining three words: surrender, identity, and vocation. These three considerations wonderfully help us experience “Our Heavenly Destiny” as fully as possible while we are here on earth. Surrender has to do with our commitment to Christ who is in charge of producing the "new person" and "new life" he has in store for us (See Wednesday's devotional). Identity is all that we are in Christ as he makes us into a new person with a new life (See Thursday's devotional). Vocation is our calling (central purpose for why we are here) to the life-long pursuit of letting the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us.
Let's begin our focus on "vocation" by pointing out that it is not really possible to separate vocation from identity. We might say that identity is who we are and vocation is what we do. When we explored identity yesterday we did so with the focus being more on who we are, but it would not be inaccurate to say that our identity includes both who we are and what we do. This is because what we do is the outworking of who we are. So, in this sense identity includes vocation. It is interesting that when we meet someone new, conversation almost always turns to the question, "what do you do (for a living)?" and not "who are you (as a person)?" So, generally what we do is very much a part of our identity.
Vocation on the human level almost always has to do with one's career. Some people have a sense of calling to their careers, but many do not. Spiritually, we are all called to a career of serving the kingdom. Serving the kingdom is our primary vocation, just as our primary identity is who we are in Christ (at least in the way we considered it in yesterday's devotional). Take some time to go back through the passages above, both reading and thinking about the highlighted portions. These are the kind of expressions about spiritual vocation that need to shape how we view ourselves in regard to vocation so that we can move more and more toward it really being true that our primary vocation is serving the kingdom.
It is important to keep in mind that it usually does not necessitate a change in career and calling on the human level to make serving the kingdom your primary vocation. As a matter of fact, God is particularly interested in showing his people how to make an impact for the kingdom right where they are in the middle of all they are already doing. Remember, our spiritual vocation is all about letting the new person we are becoming and the new life that is unfolding have an impact on the people and world around us (right where we are). We really are ones who don’t dismiss the treasure of Jesus and his heavenly kingdom and have become true followers of Jesus who help with the advancement of his heavenly kingdom.
Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:
Lord, thank you for the calling you have on my life. Teach me more and more of what it means to make serving you and your kingdom my primary vocation. Continue to help me surrender. Continue to shape my identity in Christ. Continue to accomplish your purposes by making my life a blessing to the world around me. Amen!
Note: there will be a Saturday Devotional this week
Posted on Fri, March 29, 2019
by Ken Hart