# Attitude. The ‘smile’ (yes, it is a smile, not a weird banana thing) represents an attitude that is within – it does not mean you must walk around and grin and bear it. Jesus Christ had a purpose. His eyes were fixed firmly on the cross from about half way in each of the synoptic gospel accounts of his life (Matthew / Mark / Luke).
Nothing was easy about his goal, his purpose – what enabled Jesus to see it through was the attitude that Paul comments on in Philippians Chapter 2. Jesus is not striving or stretching or overreaching, he has laid everything down. Becoming ‘nothing’ – as the passage says,
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:7, 8 NIV]
Other versions of scripture refer to this ‘attitude’ as mindset. Think for a minute about how you think. Your mindset will often determine your ‘purposefulness’ – for example, if you stub your toe when you get out of bed in the morning – is your day a total write off?
Jesus held onto NOTHING, he claimed for himself NOTHING, did not allow ANY sense of entitlement to mess with his focus and purpose on earth. He wore His ‘Being God’ lightly . . . . I don’t know about you, but sometimes in life and ministry my attitude can stink.
I can be thrown off course by thoughts of ‘ this isn’t fair’ or ‘why isn’t this happening?’ ‘How come stuff at the church up the road is working out – but not for me?’ Attitude! Linked with attitude and flowing from it is our heart motivation, our very values and the things we say are precious to us – like actually BEING a servant (as Jesus came to be) can grate or be hard to actually LIVE OUT if our attitude is wrong. So, first thing, check your attitude! The first and most important part of the ‘pyramid of purpose’.
# Creative Thinking. We were MADE to be creative! I have met a bunch of youth workers over the years who have told me they are ‘not creative’, but – they can write a cracking drama, they can inspire their youth group with an illustration, they are a technical wizard, they can think of the perfect video clip to go with a talk . . . Creativity is simply about having time to THINK. Our attitude (which is why it is #1 will obviously affect our ability to think). I love what we are encouraged to think about in scripture,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. [Philippians 4:8 NIV
Try this test. When you get to the end of a youth work session or a piece of work, and you are FED up – maybe your whole team or those you work with have HAD it. Instead of picking over the disaster like vultures, why not read that passage – we find it MUCH easier to think negatively, this stifles and can kill our creative, hopeful, vision filled self. Regardless of what has happened – there is something worth celebrating in there somewhere!
I love NCIS (an American criminal investigative drama), the main character, Gibbs, has a bunch of rules he tries to live by. Rule number 5 is,
‘you don’t waste good’
How many times do we waste good, because we don’t think differently about what is going on? An evening session might have been a disaster in some respects – but – that young person who was always dipping in and out has been regularly for the last three weeks. I have even simply settled for, ‘I know this whole thing is a disaster (a youth group I am running for example!), but if we know that – and the young people know that – God MUST be doing something, because they keep showing up!‘ That might not feel like much sometimes, but let’s not make the BEST or the IDEAL the enemy of the simple straightforward ‘good’ that is staring us in the face. Get creative with your thinking . . .
Our attitude (giving us the right mindset) and our thinking (giving us space to be creative and ‘see’ in new ways) should then lead to the ‘out working’ bit of this pyramid of purpose – which is:
# Service. The hand, open and out stretched for me represents me asking the question of myself, ‘how can I support, encourage, enable, serve, equip, bless, nurture others?‘ IF our purpose is self promotion or some kind of self actualisation, I don’t believe we will ever be satisfied – purpose is about pursuit – but not for ourselves, for the sake of others.
A calling is a HIGHER thing than that! Maintaining our purpose, and fulfilling our purpose is tied up in our willingness to serve. IF we get to a place where we don’t want to serve others or can’t be bothered – alarm bells should be ringing!! Maybe we need time out, we might need to examine our attitude and how we are thinking about who we are and what we are doing.
Serving takes us out of ourselves. True serving is also about the other (not the benefits we get from serving), we CAN do stuff for others . . . We can even tell ourselves we are being generous and sacrificial, unless they don’t notice or don’t thank us and take it for granted – THEN, well, THEN we take our ball in and don’t play!
We need to find contentment in the act of service. Back in that Philippians passage, Jesus took the nature of a servant. When Jesus washed his disciples feet, at least initially, the LAST thing they were thinking of was thanking him. Peter especially was horrified.
Maybe, we need to horrify people with our service! We aren’t doing it for ourselves, and – in some ways – we aren’t doing it just for them either. It is what Jesus calls us to if we are in ministry!
None of these three things are reliant upon what you (or I) are actually doing for a job. We don’t need to have the job of our dreams or the perfect boss or the ideal working situation to work with this pyramid of purpose. I work for myself now – yes, I’m involved in working for others if I’m asked to do a particular piece of work, but, what if that doesn’t come in? What If, you know, I’m just sat at my desk typing stuff like this that nobody will ever read . . . . Here is something I’m still learning after 30+ years of being in ministry,
Do what is in front of you.
I like Colossians 3:23, where the focus is not on my circumstances, my position, my opportunities, my status, my “big chance”, my job title, my boss’s “to do” list . . . nope,
Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people.
We need to cultivate the attitude of Christ in our heart and mind (get HIS mindset); we need to think – in such a way that all the creativity that begun the universe – is at our fingertips, because we are made in God’s image, creativity and imagination and ideas are in our ‘born again’ DNA . . . and we need to get on with serving others – right where we are, right now.
This is purpose!