May 13, 2012

Pastor Joe Wittwer

GPS: Finding your way in life

#1—Where am I?


Happy Mother’s Day!

How many of you have a GPS (Global Positioning System) in your car?  On your phone?  How many of you have used Mapquest or Google Maps?  Same idea.  GPS technology has made it easier to find our way around.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a GPS for God’s will—a way to know for certain God’s direction for my life?

For the next three weeks, we’re going to use GPS mapping techniques as a framework to discuss the essentials of discovering God’s direction for our lives.  There are three questions we must answer: Where am I?  Where am I going?  How do I get there?  Today, we start with “Where am I?”  You’re at Life Center.  Class dismissed!

Offering and Introduction:

Simon Birch clip 1: in the pastor’s office.

    Simon Birch believed that he was God’s instrument, that God made him the way he was for a reason, that God had a plan for him.  Do you believe that about yourself?  Do you believe that you are God’s instrument?  That He made you the way you are for a reason?  That He has a plan for you?  Let’s read our text together:   

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

You are God’s masterpiece.  The Greek word is poiema; we get the word “poem” from it.  It means “that which is made or created” and was used of works of art.  You are God’s creation, God’s poem, God’s work of art, God’s masterpiece.  And notice that He has plans for you.  He wants you to “do the good things he planned for you long ago.”  

    Simon Birch believed this: he was God’s masterpiece, and God had good things he planned for Simon to do.  Do you believe it for you?  And what are the good things God planned for you to do?  That’s the question we’re addressing in this series, “GPS—finding your way in life.”

We’re going to use GPS mapping techniques as a framework to discuss the essentials of discovering God’s direction for our lives.  There are three questions we must answer: Where am I?  Where am I going?  How do I get there?

    When you are getting directions from your GPS, the first thing you enter is your current location: where am I?  On my phone, there is a tiny arrow I can press, and it zooms in on my current location.  With this, I am never lost!  I always know exactly where I am!  

So we start with where we are.  Who are you as a person?  How has God wired you and put you together?  You are His masterpiece—what did He have in mind when He created you?  We will look at your SHAPE:

  • Spiritual gifts.

  • Heart (or passions).

  • Abilities.

  • Personality.

  • Experience.

These things are all expressions of who you are and how God has wired you.  The Bible teaches that God equips us for the things He wants us to do, so we start by looking at God’s design to determine God’s destiny for us.

The Big Idea: God has wired you for a purpose; understanding your design can help you determine your purpose.  

Take a look at who you are and how God put you together, then use what you have!

Offering here

What is your SHAPE?

    In 2003, I spent five weeks talking about this in a series titled, “Do what you were made to do.”  If you want to dig deeper, go to our website and download these messages.  Here are five things that help describe who you are and how God wired you: your SHAPE.

Spiritual gifts.

    The four passages listed at the top of your outline include virtually all of the New Testament teaching on spiritual gifts.  I hope you’ll read and study these passages this week in your Life Groups or on your own.  

    What are spiritual gifts?  They are God-given, God-empowered abilities for serving God and others.  

Who has spiritual gifts?  Every Christian does!  You do! God gives every follower of Jesus one or more spiritual gifts that equip you for His service.  The Bible teaches that each one of you is gifted by God for His work.

1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation (gifts) of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these (gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of you grace (gifts) has been given as Christ apportioned it.

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.

Who has spiritual gifts?  Each one of you!  The Bible says that:

  • Everyone has one or more spiritual gifts.  No one is left out.  No one is insignificant or unimportant.  

  • No one has all the gifts.  Everyone needs others.  No one is independent or all-important.

  • No single gift is given to everyone.  Everyone has at least one, but not the same one.

What are they for?  Paul said they are for “the common good”—that is, to benefit everyone.  And Peter said they are to be used “to serve others.”  God has good things He wants you to do; these gifts help you do them.

What are these gifts?  There are at least four lists of gifts in these passages, and at least 26 gifts listed.  Let’s look at the list in Romans 12 as an example, and we’ll take a quick poll to see what gift we have in the room.

There are seven gifts listed in Romans 12:

    • Prophecy: speaking for God; God gives you the right thing to say.

    • Serving

    • Teaching

    • Encouragement

    • Giving

    • Leadership

    • Mercy

As you can see by the show of hands, people have different spiritual gifts.  But what if you didn’t raise your hand for any of them?  What if you’re not sure what gifts God has given you?

    How can I discover my gifts?  The short answer: by practice.  As you serve others in different ways, you’ll discover what you’re gifted for.  Let me recommend four things you can do to discover your gifts.

  1. Take an inventory.  There are assessments, such as the Wagner-Houts, that ask you questions and then give you a score on different gifts.  I have always scored zero on martyrdom and celibacy.  I’m also dangerously low on mercy.  These tests are ok, but they’re really only a starting point.  The next three things are the best ways to discover your gifts.

  2. Evaluate your experiences.  What have you been good at it?  Where have you been effective?  When I tried to do counseling, people jumped off bridges or ran their cars into trees—usually it was me.  But when I led, people followed.  I concluded God made me to lead not do counseling.

  3. Ask for feedback. Spiritual gifts can be observed and confirmed by others who know you well.  If you think that you’re a good teacher, but no one else agrees, guess what?  If you’re gifted, other people will see it and confirm it.  Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.

  4. Experiment.  Try new things.  I wouldn’t have known I had a speaking gift if I hadn’t tried speaking.  You probably have latent gifts just waiting to be discovered if you experiment.  

S—Discover and use your spiritual gifts.  You have them!  Use them.  The H is:


    By heart, I mean your passions, those things that make your heart beat faster. What do you want to do?  What do you love to do?  If you could do anything in the world for God, what would it be?  What motivates you, interests you, fascinates you? What do you really care about?  That’s what I mean by “passions” or heart.  And I think God puts those in you.

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Some people take this to mean that when you delight in the Lord, he will give you whatever you want.  But others take this to mean, “Delight in the Lord, and He’ll give you the right desires in your heart.  He’ll put His passions in you.”

    Jesus said the most important thing is to love God with all you’ve got—all your heart and soul and mind and strength.  When you do, you can trust your desires.  When someone who really loves God tells me that they have a desire, a passion to do something, I assume that God put it there.

Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” (NLT)

God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him.  I believe that each of us have some God-given passions, the desires to do what God made us to do.  And doesn’t it make sense that if God made you do something, He would give you the desire to do it?  So don’t ignore those God-given desires and passions.  

    Passions are easy to recognize.  Passions are enjoyable.  You enjoy doing them—they energize you.  Passions are consuming.  When something is a passion, you are into it!  You think about it in your spare time; you talk about every chance you get; if you’re cut, you bleed it!  You love it, and don’t understand why everybody else doesn’t love it too! Every passion can be channeled and used for God.  What do you love to do?  Use it for God!

ILL: Martin Burdette loves cool motorcycles. How does he use that for God?  He also cares about young people. So he built an award-winning custom bike and takes it to schools and talks to students about making good choices.

    Niki Anderson loves cats.  How does she use that for God?  She is an excellent writer who also cares about lost people.  She has written some best-selling cat books—each story has a moral and many of them point to Jesus.  

What are you passions?  What’s God put in your heart? Spiritual gifts, heart, and the A is:



Look around: we’re all different!  Our bodies are shaped differently, and inside all these interesting shapes are a wide variety of natural abilities.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of natural abilities.  

  • Some of you are terrific athletes—you have natural athletic ability.  Our college pastor, Bobby Moore, played professional baseball in the Texas Rangers organization—and I’ve never seen anyone hit a golf ball as far as he can.  He has incredible eye/hand coordination.  You can’t teach that—it’s a natural ability.  Of course, I smoke him in racquetball.  Humility comes naturally to me!

  • Some of you have musical ability—when you were born, you cried in perfect pitch.  I know people who can hear a sound and tell you what note it is, and if it’s flat or sharp.  You can’t teach that—it’s a natural ability.

  • Some of you have natural people skills.  My oldest son, Andy, has always has been great with people—it’s a natural ability.  When he was 17, and I asked him what he wanted to be, he said, “A café conversationalist.”  

  • Some of you have mechanical ability—you can fix anything.  And others of you can’t even find the right end of a wrench!  

There are thousands of natural abilities.  

What is the difference between spiritual gifts and natural abilities?  You are born with natural abilities—they are part of the physical package, your genetic code.  And when you become a Christian, you are born again, or born spiritually, and are given spiritual gifts—they are part of the spiritual package.  Honestly, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between spiritual gifts and natural abilities.  There are some abilities that are clearly one or the other, but there is also some overlap.  For example, you may be a great teacher because of a spiritual gift of teaching or a natural ability to teach, or both.  Same with leadership.  So is it a spiritual gift or a natural ability?  Either way, it came from God and is to be used for God.  So thank God for it and use it!

    Every ability is from God.  Every ability can be used for God.  

ILL: I heard of a lady, a stay-at-home mom who heard a talk like this and wondered what she had to offer.  She thought, “I’m a good cook.”  So she began baking cookies and taking them to the neighbors to build relationships.  When someone on her block was sick, she cooked up a fabulous soup and took it over.  She did this for a long time.

    One Sunday, she tapped on her pastor’s shoulder.  “See those two rows?” she asked her pastor.  “Those are my neighbors.  Preach good!”  She had cooked well; now he better do his job.  God used her cooking.

Every ability is from God and can be used for God.  What are your abilities?

    If you don’t know, use the same four steps I suggested for spiritual gifts:

  1. Do an inventory: formal or informal.

  2. Evaluate your experiences.  What have you been good at?

  3. Ask for feedback.  It’s good to get an unbiased opinion.  If you doubt that, watch American Idol tryouts!  I listen to some of these people and think, “Not only are they clueless, but they have no friends!  No one who will tell them the truth!”  You can’t sing, dog.

  4. Experiment.  Try some new things!  You may have talents you didn’t know you have until you try them.

Spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, and the P is:


No two people are identical.  You are different physically; for example, each of you has a unique thumbprint.  And you are different personally—each of you has a unique personality.  

ILL: Somebody wrote:  “I was watching Geraldo.  He had a guest who had 79 different personalities.  I thought that was wild because I work with people who don’t even have one.”

Everyone has a personality!  Your personality is a unique combination of different traits.  Thousands of different personality traits have been identified, which makes the combinations almost infinite.  

    Let me show you what I mean.  I’m going to read a list of 10 opposite traits and we’ll take a poll to see what you are:

Introvert/extrovert.  This is not about whether or not you like people.  Both introverts and extroverts like people.  My wife is an introvert, and she loves people.  But introverts are drained by being around too many, and are energized and replenished by being alone.  Extroverts are energized and replenished by being with people.  Marry an introvert and extrovert and guess what happens on Friday night?  The extrovert is looking for a party; the introvert wants to curl up at home.  How many of you are you an introvert, an extrovert?  How many don’t know what kind of vert you are?

Thinking/intuitive. Do you tend to make decisions by carefully gathering the facts, weighing the evidence, and making a logical decision?  Or do you make decisions more by feeling or intuition—you just sense what is right or best?  Sometimes your language even expresses this: “I think this is best,” or “I feel this is best.”  How many prefer thinking?  How many prefer intuition?  How many can’t decide?

Routine/variety.  Some of you work best in a highly structured environment with predictable routine.  You can be highly productive when you know what to expect—it’s the same every time.  Give me routine!  Others of you would go crazy in that environment.  Boring!  Give me variety!  You need every day to be different.  You like things that are new, and you’re at your best when facing a new and different challenge.  Routine: you go to a restaurant and order the same thing.  Variety: you try something new just for the fun of it.  How many of you prefer routine?  Variety?

Controlled/expressive.  Some people are very open about what they think and how they feel; we say that they wear their feelings on their sleeve.  You don’t wonder what they’re thinking or feeling—they express it, loud and clear.  They’re expressive—let it all hang out!  Other people are very controlled; we say that they play their cards close to the vest.  They don’t like everyone to know what they’re thinking or feeling; they are more selective in who they open up to, and what they share.  How many of you are more controlled?  More expressive?

Cooperative/competitive.  My wife is a great runner but she dropped out of track in high school.  Do you know why?  She didn’t like the competition.  It made her stomach tight.  She’s more cooperative—let’s all do it together and help each other along the way.  I just want to beat your brains out.  I’m very competitive.  Let’s turn everything into a game…where I win!  It’s more fun if there’s a goal or a prize at the end!  How many are cooperative?  Competitive?  

Relational/task.  A task-oriented person is more focused on the job at hand, and not so worried about relationships.  “Why don’t they quit whining and just do their job?” he asks. A relationally-oriented person focuses first on the persons, not the task.  The highest goal isn’t getting the task done, but making sure that everyone is happy.  How many of you are relational?  Task oriented?

Big picture/detail.  The big picture person has a low preference for details.  You like the big idea—just give me the big picture and skip all the small stuff.  Details drive you nuts.  The detail person has a high preference for detail.  You love the details.  My wife is a detail person and I’m big picture, and she saves my bacon all the time.  If we’re going somewhere, I’m out the door.  “Let’s go.  Let’s get there!  That’s the goal.”  She’s tending to the details: are the doors locked, can the animals get in and out of the garage, have the kids been fed…little things like that.  How many of you are big picture people—don’t sweat the details?  Detail people?  

Spontaneity/planning.  It’s summer vacation time.  How many of you would say that your idea of a great vacation is just go somewhere and let it happen?  Spontaneity—the unplanned, the unexpected is an adventure.  It’s fun!  Woohoo!  How many of you would say that’s not a vacation, that’s a nightmare?  Your preference is to plan it out: where you’ll stay, where you’ll eat, what you’ll do—all planned.  No surprises please.  Ok, we already know who is who on this one!

Saving/spending.  I’m almost afraid to ask.  Some people prefer to save and others prefer to spend.  Simple test: if you received an unexpected windfall of $1000, how many of you would save it?  Spend it?  Give it all to the Lord!  Hallelujah!

Talking/quiet.  Here’s a fun one.  Some people love to talk, and others not so much.  We might say of one person, “He’s a man of few words,” and of another, “You can’t get a word in edgewise.”  Simply put, some people are very verbal and others aren’t.  Which are you?  Talking?  Quiet?  And how many of you are married to the opposite?  Good!

Each of you has a complex combination of those traits (and hundreds more), and your combination is unique.  Your personality is like your thumbprint: one of a kind.  

    Your unique personality is part of the way God designed and created you.  Your personality matches the dream that God has for you.  God made you to do something, and your personality is part of His design—it will match what He wants you to do.

ILL: Would you please write your name on the top of your outline?  Now underneath it, write your name again, but this time use your other hand.  What was that like?  It didn’t feel natural, did it?  I’ll bet you felt uncomfortable, that it took extra time and effort, and that even with extra time and effort, you did a lousy job!  

That’s what happens when we ignore our design and try to do things that don’t match our personality.  It feels uncomfortable, unnatural; it takes extra time and effort to do it; and even with the extra time and effort, we don’t do a great job.  We’re like square pegs trying to fit into a round hole.

    But when we do what we were made to do, when it matches our personality, it just fits.  “I was made for this.”

    Spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and the E is:


God uses the experiences of your life to make you who you are.  Your experiences are part of your life story, and your story is a big part of what God wants to do with you.  What kinds of experiences does God use?  All of them.

  • Family and relational experiences.

  • Educational experiences.

  • Vocational experiences.

  • Spiritual experiences.

  • Painful experiences.

  • Life experiences.

God uses all these to shape us and to teach us.  Let me give you just one example.

ILL: We have five children, but one of them, our second son Jeff, took as much time and energy as the other four put together.  Jeff had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that made social interaction very challenging for Jeff—and made Jeff very challenging for us.  We invested a lot visiting all kinds of doctors and specialists.  Laina spent a lot of time at the school advocating and intervening for Jeff.  We have lots of Jeff stories—some of them fun, and some heartbreaking.  Just before his 23rd birthday, Jeff died from an accidental overdose of oxycontin—he was trying to medicate himself.  

Jeff’s life and death are a huge part of our story as a couple and as a family.  Jeff changed all of us.  God used him in some remarkable ways.  And one of the results has been that Laina and I have been able to help other couples who have children with disabilities, or who have lost a child.

    It’s part of our story, and God doesn’t waste a thing.

Your experiences are part of the mix when you ask, “Who am I and what does God want to do with me”

    So, was Simon right?  Was he God’s instrument?  Near the end of the movie, Simon is on a school bus.  There is an accident and the bus ends up in an icy lake.  The driver and those in the front of the bus were able to get out the door, but Simon and many small children were trapped in the back of the sinking bus.  Simon takes charge.  He opens a window and helps all the children out.  Last of all, Simon escapes through the window.  Watch this.

Simon Birch clip #2

Simon was right.  He was God’s instrument.  He was made for a purpose—not only to save all those children in the bus, but to help Joe believe in God.  

    You are God’s masterpiece.  He made you just the way you are to do good things for Him.