I still remember a sermon from when I was seventeen years old. It was one of those that seemed to be preached just for me. I was at the verge of deciding my vocation. At the time I wasn’t open to input from God on the matter—and for good reasons. The only person that I knew who let God show her what her vocation should be became a single missionary nurse in Africa. At seventeen years old I could not think of anything worse than being a single missionary nurse in Africa.
God had been working on my heart the week before when I heard the sermon which was preached on a Friday night at a Missions Conference by Stuart Briscoe. His text was Ecclesiastes 12:1:
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them.”
I took that message to heart and trusted God completely with my vocation which, as it turned out, had nothing to do with singleness, missionary work, or living in Africa.
Recently, I had the chance to meet Stuart Briscoe when he was in Dallas and tell him about my spiritual experience. He too remembered the sermon. I told him that I did remember God in the days of my youth, but now those days are gone and I needed a new message.
His message was from John 17, and I thought I would share it with you too. It is a message for any generation. Youth is not a requirement. John 17 is the sweet prayer that Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples and each of us who would believe. Stuart said that this page of our Bibles ought to be well worn simply from the notion that these were Jesus’ written words of His heart’s prayer over us and expresses His longing for us. The prayer is all about the world and how God wants us to live in it. Even though I have remembered my Creator in the days of my youth, I am not done yet. The next step is the world!
Jesus prayed for us to recognize that by knowing Him personally we have been given to Him out of the world. We, who have believed in Jesus, now belong to God. God has given us to Jesus to complete His work in the world. Just as Jesus brought glory to God through His work in the world, so do we bring glory to Jesus through our work in the world. Jesus did His work in the world, and He continues that work through those who believe in His name.
Though our faith in Jesus has separated us from the world, we remain in the world to give God glory. We live in the world, but we are not of the world. Jesus was not of the world. That is easy to grasp. Because we have been united with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, we are not of the world either. We are now like Jesus and are of the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was sent into the world, and now He is sending us into the world. The world is God’s focus. He loves the world so much He sent Jesus to die for our sins so everyone who believes in Him can have eternal life in heaven. Jesus’ hope for me is that I will embrace that I have been given out of the world and take hold of the fact that I am in the world for a limited number of days (youth is gone, but there is plenty of time ahead). I am not to be of the world but to be sent into the world to finish Jesus’ work that He desires to do through my life. Now that’s a lifelong message!