Step Towards Transformation
God loves variety. Everything in this world God made is original and nothing is a copy. Every tree is different. Every plant is different. Every animal is different. Certainly every human being is different. There’s nobody like you in the entire world. You don’t have to realize that God has done almost creative overkill. He never makes copies of anything. Even twins aren’t exactly alike. God makes everything an original.
Illustration; Did you know that in one cubic inch of snow there are eighteen million snowflakes? In those eighteen million snowflakes not one of them is like any of the other eighteen million. That’s creative overkill. Nobody would even know that except the scientists. Every snowflake is different.
God could have made us all alike. We could have all looked the same, talked the same, haved the same color, the same hair. Everything. But God didn’t want to do that.
Why? Because an original is always worth more than a copy. God says you are valuable. The Bible is very clear that God specifically shaped every human being to His customized standard. You are unique. You’re not one in a million – you’re one in over six billion.
Psalms 139:13-16.. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
This passage says that God made you the way you are. He formed you and put you together. He knit you and wove you together. He made you. Every day of your life was planned out in advanced before you were even born.
This is why I believe abortion is wrong. Abortion short circuits a human being that God had planned from creation. There are accidental parents but there are no accidental children. God chose every detail of your life, even the stuff you don’t like, the stuff you consider weaknesses and He chose it for you. You’re never going to find anybody with the exact combination of your personality, with the exact combination of experiences and all the things God has given to make you, you. You’re unique.
The problem is that most people don’t like the way they are. They are always saying “I wish I were taller, I wish I were smaller, I wish I were thinner. I wish I had red hair, brown hair, black hair. I wish I had a different skin color. I don’t like my nose. I don’t like my teeth. I wish I had more talent. Why couldn’t I be like him or her?” When you do that it causes all kinds of problems in your life. As a result of that they live frustrated lives.
In response to our uniqueness we try to hide by becoming just like everyone else. Most people start off as originals and end up as carbon copies because they try to imitate those around them.
Today we are starting on a new series looking at discerning and using our SHAPE. Your SHAPE determines many things about you. This is an acrostic that stands for Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experiences.
First Let me begin by saying that God has shaped you for ministry. The Old Testament saint, Job, said to God, “Your hands fashioned and made me” (Job 10:8a). The Good News Translation puts it this way, “Your hands formed and shaped me.” God has been forming and shaping you for ministry since you were born.
Second, you are unique. There is no one else in the world quite like you. Even if you are an identical twin, you are a unique creation of God.
Illustration: When I was a young boy I sometimes used to wish that I had different hair or eyes or so on. However, after I was born again and read the word of God I realized that God created me to look and be exactly who I am. I am unique. And you are too.
Let me give you TWO reasons why knowing your SHAPE is important.
The way you find out what God wants you to do with your life is to discover how He shaped you. Architects have a phrase that goes like this: FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION. All architects know this. Form follows function.
Illustration: No one builds a refrigerator and then sits down to figure out what it will be used for. You start with the function, you design the object to meet it’s function (keeping things cold) and then build the object according to the blueprint.
Illustration; Let’s say that my company, the South African Railways, wanted to build a railway station. We would ask questions about how the station was going to function:
What that means is this, tell me what you want the building to be used for then I’ll tell you how to form it.
But in God’s economy, it is exactly the opposite: FUNCTION FOLLOWS FORM. In other words, in order to determine God’s plan for your life, you need to understand first how God has formed you. Then, having determined how God has formed you, you will then have a much clearer understanding of what God wants you to do. What God made you to be determines what he intends for you to do. Your ministry (function) is determined by your makeup (form).
In discovering your SHAPE -Function Follows Form. In other words figure out how God shaped me and then I’ll know what His purpose is for my life.
Jer 1:4-5.. The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Before Jeremiah was even born God had in mind what it is that he would do with his life. God would not make you one way and then have you focus your time and energies in another area. This is often the opposite of what happens growing up in school.
God won’t force you to do His plan. You can waste your life. You can blow your life. You can use it on all kinds of personal, self-centered things and totally miss God’s plan and purpose for your life. In fact, most people do. That’s why they’re so frustrated. God says before you were even born I had holy plans for you.
Bottom of Form
S.H.A.P.E. stands for Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. Let’s look at each in turn.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1-7, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. . . . Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” And then Paul gives a partial list of spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts include prophecy, teaching, exhorting, service, leading, giving, mercy, administration, evangelism, shepherding, and so on. Each Christian at the moment of the new birth is given a spiritual gift by God. And the reason God gives each Christian at least one spiritual gift is, as Paul says, “for the common good.” That is, God gives you a spiritual gift to use in your service in the body of Christ.
And so the question you must ask yourself is, “What am I gifted to do?”
As you know, the word “heart” is used in many different ways. In this context I am using it to refer to your innermost feelings and desires, the way that Paul uses it in Romans 10:1, where he says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” In relation to ministry it has to do with what you are passionate about. And one way it comes into play may be in relation to the area of ministry in which you will serve.
For example, God has given you the spiritual gift of teaching. Now, you may be able to use that spiritual gift in all kinds of settings, but you love to work with teenagers. You are passionate about helping young people come to an understanding of the truth. And so your spiritual gift is teaching, and your heart is to work with teenagers.
And so the question you must ask yourself is, “What do I love to do?”
When Moses was told by God to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, God also gave Moses men with abilities to do the task. Listen to what the Lord said to Moses in Exodus 31:1-6, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you. . . .”
And so the question you must ask yourself is, “What ability do I have? What natural talents and skills do I have?”
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:11a “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” God has given each person a unique personality.
Bottom of Form
And so the question you must ask yourself is, “Where does my personality best suit me to serve?”
All of the experiences in your life can be used by God in his service. Let’s notice a number of different kinds of experiences.
You may have used your gifts to serve God, and you have gained spiritual experiences from using those gifts. A negative example is the Hebrews. The writer to the Hebrews rebukes them for their lack of spiritual maturity. He says in Hebrews 5:12-13 (in the Good News Translation), “There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. . . . (you are) without any experience in the matter of right and wrong.”
Some people go through incredibly painful experiences. God can use those experiences to help others.
Paul said that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Proverbs 4:13 (in the Good News Translation) says, “Always remember what you have learnt. Your education is your life—guard it well.” Whatever education you have had—formal, informal, or non-formal—can be used by God in service.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:13 (in the New International Version), “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ. . . .” Most young Christians don’t have a good idea about how to serve in the body of Christ. And so my suggestion is to do something, anything. If you don’t like it, or if you are not good at it, move on to something else. But if you do like it, or if you are good at it, then that may be an indication of how God wants to use you. All of your ministry experience, however, will be used by God as you continue to serve him.
So, to summarize: your ministry will be most effective and fulfilling when you are using your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart’s desire in a way that best expresses your personality and experience.
Bottom of Form
ILLUSTRATION: THE APOSTLE PAUL’S S.H.A.P.E. DETERMINED HIS MINISTRY
Let me now illustrate how the Apostle Paul’s S.H.A.P.E. determined his ministry.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:11, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher.” God gave Paul the gifts of preaching, apostleship, and teaching.
Paul’s passion was to preach the gospel to the unconverted. He said in Romans 15:20, “And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Furthermore, Paul was particularly concerned about preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. He said in Galatians 2:8, “For he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles.”
We read in Acts 18:3-4 that Paul went to see Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth, and “because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.” So, just in these two verses, we see that Paul had the ability to make tents, and he also had debating skills.
Paul said in Galatians 1:14, “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” Paul was extremely zealous. And that affected the way he did ministry. Paul was also compassionate. In his ministry to the Thessalonians he said, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Concerning Paul’s spiritual experiences we think of him prior to his conversion when he stood by watching while Stephen was being stoned for his faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:1). Then Paul was converted on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-20). He then went and spent three years studying in Arabia (Galatians 1:18). Later he had a special vision from God (2 Corinthians 12:2-7). All these spiritual experiences impacted the way he did ministry.
Concerning Paul’s painful experiences we read Paul saying in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, “(I had) far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
Concerning Paul’s educational experiences Paul said in Acts 22:3, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” Scholars believe that Paul had the equivalent of two Ph.D. degrees. He was a highly educated person. He understood Judaism as well as the Greco-Roman culture.
Bottom of Form
And finally, concerning Paul’s ministry experiences we simply have to read the book of Acts or his letters! Paul is still the greatest theologian and church planter in the history of the church.
HOW SHOULD I RESPOND TO MY SHAPE?
You can’t build your SHAPE, develop your SHAPE, use your SHAPE, until first you take these three steps.
Acceptance means to believe that God knows best. When He made me He knew what He was doing. It all comes down to the matter of trust. Do I believe that God made a mistake when He made me or do I trust Him knowing that He has a plan for my life?
Actually, when we say we do not like who we are we are basically telling God that He blew it. That He made a mistake when He made us. When you reject yourself you are in essence rejecting God.
Rom 9:21-24.. Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Whenever we doubt God’s love and whenever we doubt God’s wisdom we always get into trouble. The root behind all of your problems is you don’t trust God. You don’t believe God really loves you. You don’t believe that He really has your best interest at heart.
We need to refocus and develop what’s inside you rather than focusing on what’s outside of you. The next few weeks we are going to focus on developing the inside of you.
1 Sam 16:6-7.. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
My goal for you in this series is to help you become a confident person. I know a lot of people. I don’t know very many confident people.
Most people I know are masking insecurity. I don’t know many people who are that confident. But when you know your shape.
This is what God made me to be. I like me and God likes me. If you don’t like me that’s your problem.
I want to help you become a confident man, a confident woman. My goal is at the end of this series you’ll be able to say like Paul said,
1 Cor 15:9-10.. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God . 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
CONCLUSION: YOUR SHAPE SHOWS GOD’S GLORY
When you use your SHAPE and you do what God made you to do, it not only feels good to you, but it brings glory to God. Iranaeus was a great Christian leader in the first century. He once said “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
Anytime something fulfills the purpose it was intended to fulfill it brings glory to it’s creator.
Illustration: How can a pencil bring glory to God? By being a pencil. By doing what it was intended to do. Pencils are made for writing. When a pencil is used for the act it was intended then it brings glory to God. If you use a pencil to get earwax out of your ear that is a misuse and abuse. That does not bring glory to God.
Everything you have in your life is a total gift from God. It could be either used or it could be abused. E.g. using a clock as a hammer.