I love it when God speaks so clearly, that it’s as if He is face to face with you. This happened to me, during a preach at church. The series was called Missional Church. I‘ll be honest, I was expecting lots of sermons about going forth to tough nations, where you‘ll spend time getting seriously sandy being a warrior for Jesus! Praise God for the courageous people who do just that, but this practical international move hasn’t been strong a calling I‘ve heard from God over my life (as of yet). This preach was also during a year while I was on a church training course, when I had heard a lot of sermons like this, so I was ready to switch off a little.
Long story short, yes, the sermon was about us being called to spread the Gospel, but that being, wherever it is we find ourselves. It is a task that is our great commission. This is your purpose: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” During the sermon, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in a clearer way than I was used to at this point in my life. I heard Him audibly, saying: ‘This is your identity in Christ‘.
The preacher made reference to a passage in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison for driving an evil spirit out of the fortune telling woman. In chains and imprisoned, Paul still shared the gospel, and fulfilled his calling. At that moment, Paul knew his identity in Christ. He was not held captive by the prison walls and chains. Instead, the Holy Spirit reminded him of his freedom, and prompted him to carry out his purpose. His identity was not that of a prisoner, but that of a child of God.
No matter the situations or environments you find yourself in, as dark as it may be, have freedom, peace and worth, because your identity is rooted in Christ. No matter how friends change, if you lose family, or your job, your attempts to make something of yourself fail, people hurt you, or let you down, God remains the same, and so does who you are in Him. You are loved, chosen, adopted, and complete! “In Christ, you have been brought to fullness,” Colossians 2 v 10.
Since that sermon, this message has stuck with me intensely for years, and I pray it will for the rest of my life. At the period of time when I was listing to this preach, I was just diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and was under the attack of the enemy. The day after this preach, my whole demeanour changed, and I started to feel the depression ease off me. The weight of me trying to hold my own had been lifted, and the emptiness in my life started to fill with the Love of God. Mental health is a very complex thing, and can be an ongoing battle, but there is hope in Christ.
It has taken years, for me to be very strongly prompted to share, and to encourage others (It’s a daunting task! I’m no preacher or theologian, just someone who has good news to share). At the moment I have many friends and acquaintances who are having the same struggles I do, and like me, can get very distracted by the many things of this world. So much so that I‘m somewhat writing this out of frustration, for them and for myself to remember to be continually rooted in my identity in Christ. In the act of sharing the gospel, comes great joy. It can be so difficult at times to pluck up the courage, but when we do, we are reminded of the things God has done in our lives; our salvation, miracles, our own testimonies. We ultimately become thankful for the cross, and the Holy Spirit leads us to a place of peace as we lean on Him.
Forgetting our purpose and identity in Christ, steals our joy. We get distracted by our wants and desires, comparing ourselves to others, and being comfortable, thinking we have all we need.
Things have changed a lot in my life, in the five years since this preach was shared. The amount I can be distracted by continues to change and update itself. For example, I am now happily married, working on fulfilling some of my aspirations, and we are comfortable where we are. A good friend asked me, “Are you complete, happier, and all sorted now that you have a husband?” That question hit me like a train, and I will never forget it. The answer is a sure NO WAY! I’m very happy yes, but my joy does not depend on the state of different aspects of my life.
Joy depends on where God is in our lives, and whether we are fulfilling the purpose He has for us. Father God wants us to live our lives with Him on the throne, and our identity firmly rooted in Him. If we seek him daily, hourly, I wholeheartedly believe He will do it. My prayer is that God uses this as a reminder to speak to anyone, regardless of where you are, that we would rest in the truth that we are chosen children of God with a Gospel purpose in life. Like the song says:
“…I am chosen, not forsaken, I am who you say I am…I’m a child of God, Yes I am”.