I want to say thank you for coming. I know this is the beginning of your weekend, and it takes effort to come to something like this.
As a pastor, it does my heart good to see men in church that weren’t dragged here by their wives.
And I want to say on behalf of the pastoral team here at this church and all the pastors in the room, that you, men, are important to the church of Jesus Christ.
Don’t let society trick you into believing that you don’t matter.
You’re important. And you know what? You’re more than important, you’re necessary.
What in the world would we do without men?
You look around any city, this amazingly, complex, miraculous thing that keeps running because of men that never get any appreciation. They’re on skyscrapers, and power lines, and they’re in the sewers. Even today men are working themselves to death, literally.
And I think the appreciation for that is greatly lacking.
People fail to appreciate the hard working people that make the life we live possible.
- The roads we drive on.
- The electricity we use.
- Clean water
- Clean air.
- Beautiful buildings to work and live in.
And so I wanted to start off just by recognizing and thanking the hard working men that make this planet such an amazing place to live.
And that’s not to take ANYTHING against the amazing women that do so much, but you’re important too. And you should be shown more gratitude than you’re shown.
Grateful and Humbled
I’m grateful and I’m humbled to be able to speak with you for a few minutes this evening. There’s a number of my personal heroes in the room. Men who I aspire to be like and truly admire.
At the end of service tonight, Pastor Marshall is going to take this opportunity to pray with you, so you’re definitely gonna want to take advantage of that. But before we get to that…
I want to talk to you for a few minutes about purpose.
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Title My title this evening is inspired by the words of Paul that we just read: Do Something Useful
Can’t you just picture your grandpa coming to you: Get off that couch and do something useful.
I have spent a fair amount of my pastoral life pastoring young people. Middle schoolers, high schoolers, college aged people, and young adults.
I remember awhile ago a man in the church who was a parent on a teenage boy came up to me after service and asked me: What do you think about young men today?
And I said “Just generally speaking?” He said “Yeah.”
And I thought about for a minute and I said: “Directionless.”
Not bad people. Just not sure where they’re going.
And look, that’s fine where you’re 12. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “I have no idea” That’s totally fine when you’re 12, 13, 14, 15. But if you’re 28, 30, and you’re still mostly into playing video games. Something has gone wrong.
And I stand by that statement. Certainly. But as I’ve thought about it some more, I’ve started to think: “You know, it’s not just YOUNG men that struggle with having no direction.” I’ve met with men of every age, young, old, everywhere in between that are depressed, sad, lonely, and have no idea why they’re here.
They have no sense of being a part of something that actually matters in the world.
And they despise themselves for it. – They’ve got no self-respect. Just frail, and weak, and easily hurt, and easily offended.
And it makes me think of something we read in Genesis 1 and 2:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; (Genesis 2:8a)
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)
So here in genesis 2, we read about when God creates the man, the ‘A-dam’ the prototype man. God creates the man, breathes life into the man, and immediately tells the man to do something useful. He gives the man a job. The first thing we know about the man was that it was his job was to take care of the garden. It’s interesting, we actually know his job BEFORE we even know his name.
Now listen, naming the animals is probably not the most important job you’ve ever seen. “Hmmm…. This is an animal that eats ants. What should I call it? Ant-Eater. DONE!”
No, but it was useful.
So right off the bat, God created Adam and he immediately tasked him with making a contribution.
Think about that. Even in a place that was literally PERFECT, God STILL wanted Adam to contribute. Let me ask you a question: Do you think God could have just named the animals when he created them? OF COURSE. He’s omnipotent, meaning all powerful. So it would not have been ‘more difficult’ for God to name the animals himself. But he leaves that job for Adam. And first thing he tells Adam to do is to go do something useful.
More than What You Do Now don’t misunderstand me. You are more than what you do. Your primary identity is not of a ‘doer’ but of a son. So don’t get that twisted.
But I believe that God has placed on the inside of each and every one of you a Godly desire to contribute, to build something that matters. To leave this place slightly better than you found it.
And when men in particular don’t have that, we’re miserable.
Men Suffer when they don’t have purpose
And it’s not just about your personal happiness.
- Society suffers when men don’t have purpose
- The church suffers when men don’t have purpose
- Families suffer when men don’t have purpose
Sled Dog Illustration Men who don’t have purpose, they’re like the sled dog with no sled that will just sit there chewing the meat off it’s own leg because it’s so bored.
And so they distract themselves with
- Video Games
Opioid Epidemic There is a nationwide opioid epidemic among middle-class, middle-age, unemployed, white men. Who lose their job, and lose their relationship, and become unbearable to themself and can only find comfort in a pill.
Women – culture gives you for free, a direction.
Women – culture gives you for free, a direction. And look, you should know me better than to think I’ve always highlighting the difference between men and women, that is absolutely not my style, but I do think that’s worth observing that society offers women a default purpose if they want to take it.
- Be desirable
- Get married
- Have children
- Raise a family
Now not all women have to or SHOULD take that purpose, but it’s just worth noting that culture provides that to them for free, if they want it.
From my experience, women don’t struggle with needing a purpose NEARLY as much as men do.
And one reason for that is that society offers them a purpose for free if they want it.
Men have to find that out for themselves.
I believe that on the inside of every man is the desire to be useful.
I believe God put it there.
Think about it like this: There is no one in my life that I admire who’s goal is to avoid responsibility to a pursue personal pleasure. Whether we’re talking about someone we know personally, or someone famous, there is no one who’s admirable because they avoid responsibility and pursue personal pleasure. That’s not worth admiration.
So God created you, amongst other things, to have responsibility.
And so if you’re here, either watching this online or here in person, I want you to know that you have a role to play. An important role.
And if you’re willing to work hard, and be honest, and have integrity,
- You can get your life in order.
- You can help your family.
- You can help your community,
- You can help your church.
And I’m believing God that for some of you in here, this is going to be a night where God puts purpose back on the inside of you.
The Principle of Exception
And I want to introduce you to something I call “The Principle of Exception”. – Someone say “Exception”
This principle is simply this: What has or has not happened for others, does not dictate and determine what can happen for me.
This is this is not a proclamation of superiority. It is a proclamation of differentiation. We aren’t saying we are better than but we are saying we can be different from.
That although we will go through some of the same experiences as everyone else. We do not have to have some of the same outcomes as everyone else. We can be the exception.
- Our God is the God of exceptions.
- The Bible is a book filled with exceptions and
- We can be people that are people who are exceptions.
In every area and arena of life, someone is gonna be the exception.
- Someone is going to succeed where most people fail.
- Someone is going to endure where most people quit.
- Someone is going to break OUT of the self destructive pattern where most people stay trapped in it.
What we are simply arguing is, that exception CAN be you.
See, the exception says,
- “I see the pattern in my family. But that doesn’t have to be me.”
- “I see the pattern in my city. But that didn’t have to be me.”
- “I see the pattern among people that are like me, but that does not have to be me.”
But in order for you to do that, you have got to overcome where other people fail.
And if you want to be a person of purpose, you have got to overcome some obstacle that trip other people up.
So if you’re going to be a man who does useful things, who has purpose, then I believe you’re going to have to be victorious in 3 arenas.
Number 1, if you’re gonna live on purpose, with purpose. You have got to manage your exposure.
What does that mean?
Well let me tell you a parable: Once there was a young boy who fell in love with a young girl. And he dreamed about what it would be like to marry that young girl someday and have a family.
Well eventually that young boy and that young girl grew up, fell in love and got married.
And one night, the young boy and young girl got in a horrible fight and the young boy hit the girl, and the young girl decided to leave.
The young boy was very confused by this. He didn’t think that hitting his wife was a big deal because he had seen his father do it many times.
Now unfortunately, that’s a true story that has found it’s way to my pastoral desk many times.
And men are surprised at the destruction they can bring upon their own family. By simply doing the things they had been exposed to.
That people who are only exposed on one kind of thing, more times than not, repeat it.
And exposure can be a good thing or a bad thing.
So if you want to have purpose, you’re going to have to identify the places where you’ve been exposed to unhealthy examples and you’re gonna have to overcome them through your discipleship to Jesus, the help of the Holy Spirit, and modeling good men.
Can I tell you something about how generational curses are broken, young men?
By you looking seeing the failures of your father, and saying ‘That stops right here.’ Doesn’t mean your dad was a bad guy. All of our dads were some good and some bad. That will always be true.
But if there is anything that has been an unfortunate reality of the men in your family, you, young man, have the opportunity to be the end of that curse and the beginning of something better.
Some of you older men in the room, you’ve enjoyed a good life with your family because you broke a destructive pattern of your father.
- Your dad was an alcoholic and you weren’t. You did it. You broke a curse.
- Your dad was abusive and you weren’t. You did it. You broke a curse.
- Your dad was an absent father and you weren’t. You did it. You broke a curse.
Sometimes there are certain things we know we should do but we don’t do because we don’t have the energy.
Has anybody ever got to the place in life where you say “I’m just tired”. I’m tired.
Listen to this. If the enemy can’t take you out, he’ll try to wear you down. He wants to wear you down.
Example: Being with a Chavez family in tragedy at the hospital with Greg. A few years back, I got a call from a young man, I think 20 years old, that I used to be his youth pastor.
And on the call he was hysterically crying because his dad had suffered some sort of severe stroke. And he lived alone with his dad (his parents had divorced years earlier), and so the young man drove his dad to the hospital trying to save his dads life. Talk about traumatic.
Well, this young man had 3 sisters, but their mom wasn’t in the picture currently. So it was just these 4 kids and the dad at the hospital, plus me.
So I’m sure you can see the dilemma here. I can’t leave this 20 year old and his 3 young sisters alone, panicking at this hospital trying to make end of life decisions for their dad.
- I lived there at the hospital with those kids for the next two days.
- I ate there, I slept there, alongside them.
That’s what pastors do. In my opinion.
And so I had to pray “God, give me the energy for this. Because I’m tired.” And he did.
Number 3, if you want to live with purpose, you’re going to have to overcome excuses.
There’s a brilliant man named Dr. Henry Cloud who teaches about something called learned helplessness. Did you know that some helplessness can be learned?
There are things that you used to believe were possible that you stopped believing are possible, because somebody told you they weren’t possible.
But them telling you it’s not possible for you is not based on what can happen with you. Them telling you what’s not possible for you is based on what did or did not happen for them.
- “Hey I got this really cool business idea.”
- “Oh yeah, I tried that. Didn’t work.”
- “So? Just because it didn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for me. I’m not gonna learn helplessness from you.”
Here’s what’s cool: if I learned helplessness, I can unlearn helplessness. And instead of having the mentality of a victim, I can develop the mentality of an overcomer and refuse to be limited by the limitations of others.
Now, I don’t want to over spiritualize this, but there’s a term the Apostle Paul uses in Ephesians 6, called Principalities and it’s a term that has spiritual implications.
And it Deals with dominant dysfunctional dispositions that characterize people, groups, families and regions.
Does that make sense? Yeah, so it’s not just a personal vise, a personal issue, it is a pattern and a trend that you can see in certain groups, in certain places, and certain cities in certain families.
Am I making sense? and there can be a principality of helplessness. Some of us will call it a spirit, others will call an attitude that is pervasive in a family, in a city, in a people group, that must be overthrown.
So, if we want to progress in life, and grow as a Christian and a person, we need to grow in our ability to discern the difference between a reason and an excuse.
Just because the reason is real doesn’t mean the excuse is right.
- The reason says something about the situation
- The excuse says something about me.
Just because the reason explains why I’m here, that doesn’t mean I have to allow the excuse to keep me here.
Yeah, you’re gonna have to stop making excuses.
4 Steps for Being Useful
1. Ask God for Wisdom
If you’re not connected to God, none of this is going to help you at all. Your contribution will be temporary and you will not have lasting impact.
Only God sees into the future. So only he knows if what you’re doing truly matters. “Look I made a new and improved cassette tape.” “Hey everyone, look at these, they’re called CDs.” Whoops. You wasted your life. If you want to make an eternal impact, you need his insight.
So if you want to spend your time and your resources doing something that matters, you’re gonna to get his insight.
So stay close to him, talk to him, involve him in the process of you deciding how you spend your time.
“God I was offered a job. Is this your best for me? Should I take it or should I hold out for something better?”
You have a loving father that knows EVERYTHING and LOVES YOU and wants to help you! How crazy would it be for you to not involve him in your decisions?
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
2. Look in your own hand
There’s a famous scene in scripture – In Exodus 4 where God appears to Moses in the burning bush and God says to Moses “Go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” and Moses literally responds with “What if he doesn’t listen to me?” And God asks him this question: “What is that in your hand?” Moses says “My staff.” God tells him to throw it on the ground, the staff becomes a snake and becomes the vessel through which many of God’s miracles were performed.
But understand, the significance of that is that this was an ordinary staff. I’m sure Moses is thinking “Really? This old thing? I made it out of a stick.” But it’s a natural thing, imbued with the power of God that becomes a miraculous thing.
Or you think about David fighting Goliath. 5 Smooth stones that he gets from the stream that effectively saves the lives of his people.
There was nothing special about the rocks.
5 loaves of bread, 2 fish.
Feeds 5000. These were not magic fish.
Feel – Ordinary
In the same ways, you might feel like your gifts and talents are totally ordinary. But the truth is this: It’s not about being the most unbelievable singer, or the greatest preacher, or the worlds best anything. It’s about offering those things to God and trust that he’s able to do amazing things with them.
The worst thing: You’d be so unimpressed with your own gifts that you never use them. Now that would be tragic.
I want to disconnect purpose from something that looks outwardly impressive.
Look you can have very normal things that can have eternal weight because of what God does with them.
Dad making cookies for shirley
“Somebody cared. Somebody was thinking about me.” – Nothing more spiritual.
The cookies were just a vehicle for something spiritual happening.
Herb bringing Vegetables
If you don’t know Herb, we have a wonderful man here in our church who’s a wonderful gardener. He’s also taking care of his wife Dotsie who is quite ill.
So, he has more on his plate than you do.
But what’s amazing is he still comes to church on Sundays with bags of squash and tomatoes, and all kinds of veggies to give away to other people.
And you know what that communicates to me, a young guy, that’s never known the kind of battles that Herb has to fight on a daily basis, you know what him bringing fruits and vegetables communicates to me? It communicates that just because I have my own challenges, doesn’t mean I stop serving other people.
Herb is teaching me that. With vegetables.
It’s a very ordinary gift – gardening, but when God gets behind it, it has eternal weight.
I’ve just used 2 examples of gifts: Baking and Gardening. If God can use baking and gardening, he can use your gift.
He can imbue normal, unimpressive things with eternal weight.
And on the other hand, your gift can look outwardly super impressive, but if it’s not imbued with eternal weight, it dies when you do.
Labron James – Guys pretty good at basketball. Pretty potent gift. Have millions of people that worship the ground he walks on.
And look, I don’t know anything about him. He may be serving God with his talents and gifts, I don’t know. But look, if he’s not connected with God, he’s just a guy throwing a ball into a basket (funny).
I was thinking of Carl Alarid – If you don’t know he’s a great man of the church and a great volunteer.
Well Carl has his own business where he, by himself, goes and builds miles and miles and miles of fence in the middle of nowhere. And you dig the post holes by hand, is that right?!
It’s not like he’s out there evangelizing. There’s no one even out there with him!
Here’s the question: Does Carl’s fence building have eternal weight? Of course it does.
- God is glorified when you use the gifts he’s given you to help other people and make the world a better place.
- Carl told me that when he’s out there, a lot of times, he’s praying. So we may never know the secret contribution that Carl has made during those times of prayer.
- He uses that money to raise a family, who all love and serve Jesus, and he gives some of that money to help spread the gospel.
He’s been blessed to be a blessing.
You follow those fence posts down the line and it ends with people coming to Christ.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. (Romans 12:1 MSG)
3. See what needs fixing and fix it
Walking Around House Like many of you, I’m a homeowner. I own a house that built in the 70’s and so there’s always things to fix up. And as I walk through my house, often times I’ll notice – “Hmm… I need to fix the squeak on the dishwasher door.” Or “Oh yeah, I need to replace that lightbulb.” Or “Oh yeah, I gotta replace the water filter in the fridge.”
But I’m walking around my own house, noticing what needs to be fixed.
And then I had this idea: What if strong Godly men didn’t just walk around their house like that, but around their city like that?
You know what I mean?
Have you ever come across a person or situation that’s pretty bad and then you find yourself praying “God I just pray that you would send someone into their life to help them.” Well, if you’re the one praying that, I think the percentage is fairly high that that person is you.
It’s just noticing what needs to be fixed and then fixing it. That’s all.
AJ fixing our Bathtub
For as long as we’ve owned the house we currently live in, the main back bathroom bathtub hasn’t worked. It’s this huge HEART SHAPED, carpeted, bathtub. But yeah it’s never worked. You turn the water on, nothing.
We once we had our daughter, we felt that having that bathtub working would come in super handy for giving grace baths.
Well I was commenting on that one night and AJ my brother in law was there and he texted me the next day and said “Are you home?” I said “Yeah” and he said “I’m coming over to fix your bathtub.” – Not I don’t know exactly what he did, but I know it had to do with pipes and plumbing and rust, and gross stuff.
But he came and he was able to get our back bathtub working. And to this day, however many years later, my daughter Grace still loves taking baths in that bathtub, and I love putting on a swimsuit and hoping in and playing with her in that bathtub. We have a HUGE amount of memories of playing around in that Jacuzzi sized bathtub. And I have memories that I’ll keep with my my entire life. Simply because AJ saw something that needing fixing and fixed it. He didn’t pray “God I pray you’d send someone to help them fix their tub.” No he came over and fixed it.
He just did something useful.
I want you to think about David again who killed Goliath. He was a little shepherd boy, his brothers are off at war. And the dad says to David ‘Go do something useful. Go bring bread and cheese to your brothers.’ – And David’s willingness to say yes to his father is what opens the door for him to encounters Goliath, defeat Goliath, and save his people.
So see, his being useful in an ordinary way turn into a huge blessing for the whole nation.
4. Don’t stop when it gets hard
This is huge theme in the Old Testament narrative.
This is what the battle imagery in the Old Testament is all about. Israel having to overthrow the Canaanites is a powerful picture of us having to overthrow the opposition that’s inhibiting us from possessing our purpose.
That God’s promises are preoccupied with opposition.
God promises his people a land to call their own. But it’s not a vacant land. It’s preoccupied, and if they are to OCCUPY it, they have to drive the Canaanites out.
And the same is true for us.
- We don’t fulfill your purpose without opposition.
- We don’t get the family God promised us without opposition.
And our willingness to overthrow opposition determines whether or not we possess the promise.
If it was easy, everyone would do it.
People Depending on You
Somebody is depending on you to be an example of what’s possible.
There are some of you in here, you have young people in your life, and you think they’re not watching, but they are. And your life can either be a help or an obstacle in them becoming who God wants them to be.
And you might be saying “Well they should be learning that from their dad.” Well, yeah no duh.
But they’re not. They’re gonna learn it from you.
Listen to me married men, there are people who are learning how to treat their wives from how you treat your wife.
Calling You – Be What You Wish You Had
I’m calling you to be what you wish you had. That’s your assignment.
Maybe you’re feeling “Man, I wish I had a man who could have shown me how to forgive when I was younger.” – Well you didn’t. And I’m sorry for that. But NOW, NOW you can be that for somebody else.
There are times as a pastor and a preacher, I just like a zebra. I feel out of place. I don’t do it like everybody else. It’s hard to find friends and mentors who do this the way I do it.
And sometimes I just wish I had an example, a prototype of somebody that was doing exactly what I see in my heart, the way that I see it, that’s doing church the way that I see it.
And there are times when I feel frustrated and alone. And I’m like, I just wish I had that. And I’ve got great pastors and mentors, but I’m different than all of them.
And sometimes I just feel like “I wish I had that.” And it’s like, the Holy Spirit is saying to me, “you are that”.
People in Future Depending on You
There are people in your future that you haven’t even met yet that are depending on you becoming a better version of yourself.
Young people, you’re like I don’t have a family I don’t have people I’m responsible for. But listen, you will be. And those people are going to be either blessed or burdened by who you become.
Older folks, you’re like ‘I know what I’m supposed to be doing, but it’s just hard, and I’m just tired. I believe God wants to inject you with fresh energy.
It’s ok that it’s a fight because you’ve still got fight in you.