PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Optimizing Your Destiny
Robert D Pace
Everybody has a destiny. So much so, that God himself has taken a personal interest in it. The Bible says God has “chosen our inheritance for us”! That means he’s providentially tailored it just for you. It doesn’t mean that humans are manipulated like a dangling puppets, but constrained by his infinite love, God’s wisdom has crafted a beautiful future for those that entrust their lives to him.
I want you to open your Bibles to that familiar passage of promise that’s found in Jeremiah 29, verses 10—14 and let’s read the destiny that God offers people.
This passage discloses how God’s amazing grace is offered to his chosen people—Israel. But it’s not because they had done anything meritorious or grand. Not at all! Here they were rebellious, spiritually calloused, and even idolatrous! They had rejected the Prophets’ warnings and chosen their own course. As you read the Old Testament, you’re unable to ignore the numerous accounts of Israel’s rebellion. On one occasion, God said their sins were greater than any other nation on the planet! Ultimately, God used Jeremiah to prophesy how he would exile them into 70-years of Babylonian Captivity. But in keeping with his nature, he promised Jeremiah that he would extend mercy and restore them to their land.
I love the words God used to comfort Israel. Look again at Jeremiah 29:10, because it describes God’s loving disposition toward his people:
“When the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you. . . .” Let’s stop reading again. God’s loving thoughts toward Israel couldn’t be forgotten no matter how they had failed him! That’s the wonder of God’s grace!
But God not only remembered his people, he “remembered” His promise. Let’s continue reading in verse 10.
The Lord said, “I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” God promised to forgive their waywardness and even restore their losses! Isn’t it wonderful to know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that we serve offers restoration to his people? The Lord knows how to restore what the enemy has stolen!
God’s thoughts toward us are sovereign, certain, and steadfast.
Listen to the first portion of verse eleven: “For I know the plans I have for you. . . .” That simply means God doesn’t operate haphazardly. His plans are wonderfully predetermined. We can botch and bungle life, but God’s foreknowledge always accounts for it, and that means he knows how to bring order out of confusion!
And then finally, let’s continue reading verse 11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” His plans offer peace and prosperity. He has your best interests in mind. Even when we shove God from our thoughts and schedule he doesn’t cast us aside and treat us as his enemy. He continues to love us.
This doesn’t mean God doesn’t correct and reprove rebellious people. He does! Jeremiah was disclosing God’s corrective process. And when people repent of their wickedness God is always willing to move in redemptive ways. His compassion simply cannot ignore the repentant!
That’s why Paul asserted in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God, in his foreknowledge and love, somehow decrees a destiny of goodness for us. Just remember: your key to claiming God’s grace is humility and repentance.
Two Types Of Destiny
When the Bible speak of destiny it presents it two ways: First, there is the predetermined, fixed destiny of God, and second, there is the alterable destiny of God. For example:
Christ’s Second Coming is unalterable and certain. Men may deny it, scoff it, or ignore it but Jesus Christ is coming again!
Believers will also unalterably appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. It’s an appointment where God scrutinizes every human action of this life. It’s where Christ appraises every aspect of our life and we will receive rewards and experience loss. The good news is, regardless of our losses, everyone appearing at the Judgment Seat of Christ will hear those joyous words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of the Lord.” It’s sinners that are summoned to the Great White Throne Judgment that will hear God say, “depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you,” and they’ll be thrown into Hell, forever banished from God’s presence!
These are examples of unalterable destiny!
But secondly, Scripture also demonstrates an alterable, flexible destiny; and this can affect Believers positively or negatively. For example: many people have secured a specific promise from God’s Word, believed it, and ultimately claimed a wondrous miracle! Thus, their faith in the Word optimized their destiny.
(Transition) And this is what I want to talk about today: Optimizing Your Destiny. I want to disclose what the Bible says about unlocking God’s amazing and wondrous destiny. And one practice you must implement is this: you must persevere toward your destiny.
I. Persevering Toward Destiny
The perseverance of Believers is a recurring thought in Scripture and it’s been a focal point of theological discussion for centuries. By and large, the court of religious opinion has been divided into two camps. One camp holds humans highly responsible for their destiny, while the other camp attributes God as being the sole factor of human destiny.
I don’t subscribe to either argument. I believe our highest destiny is achieved when there’s a coordinated effort between Creator and creature. A person reaches their highest destiny when they willingly humble their self and submit to God’s plan. It’s Abraham cooperating with God; Moses cooperating with God; David cooperating with God; and the Apostles cooperating with the Holy Spirit. God has plans for his people, but their highest blessings emerge when they obediently collaborate with God.
(Bible Illustration) Let’s illustrate this divine-human relationship that elicits God’s blessings from Luke 5. The Apostle had fished all night without catching anything. Then, Jesus appeared on the shoreline and commanded them to “let down the nets for a catch.” Notice Peter’s response: “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing.” Peter wanted Jesus to know that they hadn’t simply fished all night, they fished “hard all night.” Nevertheless, he was willing to untangle the nets and recast them.
There is a common factor that avid fishermen share. They “work hard” at fishing! Perhaps their typical demeanor includes neglecting their lawn or not repairing the house, but as fishermen they’re life’s most persevering people! Think about it: when they are in the boat and the fish aren’t biting, they will do whatever is necessary to have a successful day. They will change sites, change poles, or change bait. Fishermen, on the water, are life’s most persistent people. They don’t want to come home empty-handed! So it’s understandable why Peter was willing to obey Jesus and recast the nets. He didn’t want to go from ship-to-shore without a catch! He thought: “We’re exhausted from working all night, but let’s not be outwitted.”
That’s how you optimize destiny—you persevere! You have to ‘work like fishermen’ if you want to claim immense blessings! And perhaps, like Simon Peter, you’ve “worked hard all night.” You may not have much energy left and don’t feel like obeying another directive from the Lord. But folks, don’t let fatigue or excuses preempt a blessing that the Master is trying to send your way! Recast, retool, reload, or do whatever is necessary to claim God’s rich destiny of blessing!
Now, in order to achieve this it means you’ll have to do something. That is, you will have to commit to perseverance! For the average person, resignation is normal when there aren’t quick results. And there’s never been a generation more acclimated to instant gratification than today’s generation. We are truly the “now generation!” That’s why we must not get trapped by the world’s thinking! We must constantly live with our minds being renewed and transformed by the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Life!
Farmers know their harvest can’t be reaped from seed planted yesterday. Harvesting comes by patiently tending a crop that was planted weeks and months earlier. That’s why God said in James 5:7, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” The “Laws of the Harvest” do not offer instant results. They reward those that are patient and persevering.
(Transition) I want to make another notation about perseverance, and it’s this: perseverance goes the “extra mile.” God always reserves a special blessing for those doing more than is expected. Turn to Luke 6 and let’s read.
God’s richest blessings are accessed by traveling the extra mile; they’re claimed by pushing and persevering past the point of what’s merely acceptable. Continue to help others, continue sharing your Faith, continue to love, and continue giving. This is the key to securing a destiny of blessing.
(Transition) The second practice that must consume you as you unlock your destiny involves “acquiring the desire” for destiny. There must possess deep desire within your heart in order to unlock God’s highest destiny for you.
II. Acquire Desire to Achieve Destiny
God doesn’t bless the wistful, happy-go-lucky, complacent Christian. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” And here, again, is a quality that Simon Peter exhibited. He had tremendous desire to accomplish things for God.
While Peter, James, and John were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus it was Peter aspiring to build three worship centers in response to what he witnessed.
It was Peter jumping onto the waves and leaving the eleven in the boat as he endeavored to walk with Jesus.
Simon Peter was the person desiring to liberate Christ from the Cross. He unsheathed his sword and severed Malchus’ ear the night of Christ’s arrest.
And on the Day of Pentecost it was Peter that leaped before that multitude to preach. That’s why 3,000 souls were saved and hauled toward Heaven’s shores. Peter had desire!
(Example) Let’s take this one step further by rehearsing the story of Christ and Peter walking on water. You’ll have to read between the lines and think like Simon to make the most of this story. But late one night the Apostles struggled to cross the Sea of Galilee when out of nowhere Jesus came walking atop the waves. In amazement, the disciples leaned over the boat thinking, “Can you believe that? He’s circumventing nature and walking on water. Look at him stepping over those waves.” But Peter’s thoughts went beyond the thoughts of the eleven others. They went beyond the mystery of Christ walking on the water. Peter wanted out there too! And before the others could stop him he jumped from the boat and joined Christ.
Some people watch a football game and see the superstars grip the ball, crack through the line, and race sixty or seventy yards for a touchdown. They scream and jump in exhilaration. Others aren’t content doing that. They imagine making the moves with the running back, and wish it was them.
(Illustration) I think this type of desire runs in my family. My grandfather, a retired minister, somehow acquired a passion for professional wrestling of the late 1960’s. (Before wrestling became so vulgar!) My grandfather unwittingly entertained others in the living-room as he watched this sport. He would sit before the television, wiggling and wobbling, as if he were in center-ring with those wrestlers. When one wrestler gripped the other in a headlock, my grandfather displayed a headlock. If the wrestler hamstrung his opponent with a half-nelson, he demonstrated a half-nelson. Honestly, I’ve seen him tumble from the chair during a wrestling match! (Perhaps I embellished the story somewhat!)
Well, this was Simon Peter. He wasn’t content watching Jesus walk on water, he jumped out of the boat to join Him. I wonder how many have that same consuming desire to participate with the accomplishments of other Christians? Are you impassioned to participate when you see others fulfilling the Great Commission, or ministering to the youth, or the elderly, or the needy? Kingdom living is more than listening and learning, it’s yearning and participating. And this is what claims a blessing!
Honestly folks, it’s time to re-emphasize our place in God’s Kingdom. For years now, the church has spotlighted support groups, recovery groups, and encounter groups. And there’s legitimate need for them. There’s a valid place for Christian therapy. But let’s remember what we are: Jesus used the Greek word ekklesia to describe the Church. Ekklesia was a term used to describe armies. They were comprised of men that had been called out from the ordinary ranks to serve the king. This means God’s mighty army that’s been “called out” from the unsaved masses to serve the “King of kings and Lord of lords”! We have and been commissioned to pillage the world of its sinners and show them salvation through the Blood of Jesus!
It’s difficult to mobilize soldiers when they’re barricaded in support groups. While the church must continue its ministry of self-restoration, our battles will not be won by focusing on ourselves. Battles are won after we lick our wounds, put on God’s armor, and head for the souls that Satan holds captive! The cold, hard truth is this: the church must shift from nursing ourselves and seizing lost souls.
(Transition) But in order to unlock your highest destiny you need to add one more practice to perseverance and desire: it’s always appropriate to claim a “heavenly vision” for seizing your destiny. Visionaries are great accomplishers for God!
III. The Vision for Destiny
When the Apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa, his testimony this: “I have not been disobedient to my heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Paul maintained unblinking focus upon the mission that Christ assigned to him. Consequently, he accomplished great feats for the Kingdom of God!
(Illustration) The story is told of Abraham Lincoln writing General George McClelland about his “waiting campaign.” As a 21st century American I’m not thoroughly familiar with a “waiting campaign.” But what I do understand is that General McClelland’s army waited to attack while the opposing troops waited, too. They were poised, but waiting. Armed, but waiting. Ready, but waiting. While they were engaged in this “waiting campaign” Lincoln wrote McClelland and said, “Dear General McClelland, if you won’t use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while.”
Ask yourself something: what has God called you to do? How has he gifted and anointed you? What spiritual passion has he placed in your heart? Whatever it is, I urge you to stay focused upon God’s call upon your life! Answer your passion for God and his Kingdom!
David and Goliath
1 Samuel 17 discloses a “waiting campaign” between Israel and the Philistines. Saul and his army were poised in the Valley of Elah against Goliath and his troops. Both armies were too fearful to attack the other. Israel wouldn’t attack Goliath because of his towering stature and the Philistines wouldn’t attack Israel because they were God’s covenant-people. But along came a shepherd boy with a slingshot. Boys with slingshots aren’t prone to participate in “waiting campaigns.” Boys carrying slingshots look for targets. They hunt birds, frogs, squirrels, anything moving. That’s why God chose David to deliver Israel—he carried a slingshot.
Boys with slingshots also have enormous courage too. David said to King Saul, “Why are the troops hesitating? I don’t understand this “waiting campaign.” Don’t you know Jehovah fights with us? I’ll fight that giant.” For some reason, young David, with a slingshot, convinced the King—with all his armor—to let him fight Goliath!
The first thing David did when he galloped toward Goliath was call him a name. (Boys with slingshots have big mouths!) “You uncircumcised Philistine, God has delivered the lion and the bear into my hands and now he will deliver you to me.”
There’s incredible significance in this “uncircumcised Philistine” name-calling. Circumcision was the chief mark of identification between God and his covenant people. It signified the favor and protection he offered Israel. And when David looked at Goliath he saw 9’6’’ of unprotected brawn. David saw Goliath standing totally devoid of God’s covenant-relationship:
He saw Goliath’s breastplate but no covenant protection.
He saw Goliath’s shield but no covenant protection.
He saw Goliath’s headgear but no covenant protection.
He saw Goliath’s spear and armor-bearer but no covenant protection.
That’s why he boasted: “You uncircumcised Philistine”! David saw Goliath isolated from God’s promises and protection. And that’s why David boasted that he was about to feed Goliath’s carcass to the vultures. And with that, David reached into his pocket, grabbed a stone, loaded his sling, and hurled it toward the giant. And with one fell swoop David leveled Goliath and ended Saul’s “waiting campaign”!
Saints, I’d rather use David’s slingshot than wear Saul’s clumsy armor any day! The church doesn’t have time for “waiting campaigns.” The Church is called to charge and conquer. And it’s people with vision that accomplish God’s glorious destiny for the Kingdom. Scripture is filled with visionaries:
Paul envisioned taking the Gospel to Gentiles and his undying focus helped him blaze a trail into the capitol city of Rome.
Joseph envisioned delivering an entire nation from starvation. For nearly two decades he incubated that vision as a slave, and prisoner. Finally, with unblinking vision and God’s assistance, Joseph accomplished it.
Abraham walked with destiny deep down in his heart for over fifty years. And God gave him every square inch of real estate his feet touched.
Martin Luther of the 1500’s had vision. Luther said professional priests couldn’t absolve sins but “the just shall live by faith.”
Charles Wesley, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson were all men of vision. And there are people in this service whom God has given vision. Keep it, cooperate with it, trust God, and the vision will come to pass.
If we believe:
The Bible is God’s inspired, unerring Word;
The Great Commission is the preeminent, second-to-none ultimatum given to mankind;
And that every man is appointed to appear before Christ’s Judgment Seat . . . then what restrains us from launching out in bold faith for God?
Folks, I have no fear of missing Heaven. With the Apostle Paul “I am persuaded the Lord is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.” My concern is that I could allow complacency or negligence to minimize my heavenly rewards! Let each of us pray for passion, perseverance, faith, and focus to help fulfill our destiny!