Your Purpose & the Kingdom of God - Nader Sahyouni

Third in series: The Return to the Davis Theater


I just came back from two weeks of seminary classes. One of the two classes was about how prayer can be transformational, and how prayer can bring emotional healing into our lives. During that class, one of my peers, a student who is a pastor of a church out west, experienced some beautiful healing. He gave me his permission to share his experience.

My friend is about my age and his parents had grown up in Europe during world war two. His mother was from the city of Dresden in Germany. Some of you may know that Dresden was the site of a major bombing campaign by the Allies. His mother saw her friend strafed by an Allied fighter and many other things that caused her to shut down emotionally. When a mother is emotionally shut down, she cannot bond with her children and show them the love and nurture that they need. My friend cannot remember being held by his mother. In turn, he was not able to show much affection to his children. Although they are adults now, he had not yet told them that he loved them.

During the class, as the professor walked us through these different prayers for healing, my friend started to feel more and more impacted, something about these prayers was being answered. He began to experience some healing for the deprivation in his life, he started to open the door and allow himself all sorts of emotions of both joy and grief that he had repressed all of his life. What was even better was that he took the time last weekend to go see his adult son and told him for the first time how much he loved him and was proud of him.
What happened to my friend is part of a larger movement that Jesus talked about very often. In fact the one thing that Jesus talked about more than anything is what he called the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God, he is speaking to people who are very familiar with the term Kingdom. A Kingdom to them is a physical territory with a ruler, a King, who makes all the important decisions in the land. Everything of importance happens according to what that King wants, how the King wants, and when the King wants.

To our modern Western ears that sounds incredibly dictatorial and oppressive, but let’s remember, to their ears this was perfectly normal. They had good Kings and bad Kings, but they didn’t know anything other than Kings. In this case Jesus is presenting God as a good King, and his Kingdom is a place where his will is done.
Now this is where it gets tricky, his audience wanted that Kingdom to have a geographic boundary like all the other kingdoms they knew about, but Jesus was saying that that is not the case, the King, God in this case, was going to get his way, his will will be done, but that it would happen in our own hearts and through our own lives.

Now I’d like to take a minute to get a picture of what this will of God is that is being done. What does this Kingdom look like when God’s will is being done in us and through us? What is God’s will for humanity anyway?

We get a very clear glimpse of that from the life of Jesus. There is one particular episode from Jesus’ life that summarizes this. At the start of his public preaching and healing, he walks into the synagogue of the town where he grew up, and during the service he reads from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who predicted some 700 years before then that a Messiah would come and do marvelous things, it says:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

The cool thing we know is that Jesus really did do all of that. He proclaimed the good news to the poor, he brought healing to the brokenhearted, he set people free from evil spirits that had oppressed them, and so on. That is God’s will folks, he wants to care for the poor, he wants to bring healing into lives, he wants to set people free from the things that enslave them. Jesus went about doing all of that, just as it had been prophesied by Isaiah many centuries before.

As you have probably guessed however this is not happening everywhere, and it is not universal. Yes some people are healed, some people are not. Some people are freed from what enslaves them, other people are not. This is the case on a personal level as well as on a church level. We are there in some ways, but we are not there in other ways.

The even better news however is that God invites us to participate with him in bringing his Kingdom. We get to experience doing the same things that Jesus did. We get to work with Jesus. We get to work in the family business so to speak. Not only do we get to work in the family business however, as we follow Jesus it becomes something we WANT to do, we LONG to do that. It becomes part of the purpose of our lives.

You see folks we need purpose, God made us that way. We are not made to wander around with an aimless life , Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that God prepared in advance for us a purpose and a plan of what he wants us to do. There is a reason we get excited when we talk about our calling, when we think of what our legacy will be, how we will impact the world .
You know it is amazing that in very extreme and very difficult circumstances, people find out some of humanity’s greatest truths.

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis where he saw horrifying things. Frankl said that “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose”, he saw that people who lost purpose withered away in the concentration camps. We need purpose, it is never fulfilling to just wander about life aimlessly.

The promise being made to us is: As followers of Christ, we are -- each new day, each new moment, each new season in our life -- given purpose and joy in helping to bring about more of God’s will, more of God’s Kingdom. We can trust that as we follow him he continues to transform us for good through that purpose and joy we’re experiencing, and that as he does that, he also brings transformation to those we are in relationship with. We become an influence for good in their hearts as well, or rather I should say God becomes an influence for good in their hearts through us.

That is so amazing, we get to be a part of working with Jesus to bring his Kingdom, and I can’t think of a purpose more exciting than that. And that of course can also increase our personal sense of purpose and joy.

I remember once being in a conversation with a group of people about whether God still heals today or not, and we decide to pray for this one woman’s back problems. She had been to an orthopedic surgeon and all that. As we prayed for her, I got a picture in my mind of a woman wearing a full robot suit that gave her enhanced strength. So I shared that image and what I thought it meant, I said something like “you know I’m getting this image, I’m not sure if it’s from God or not, but I’m getting a picture that you tried to do things way more than a normal person would, that you were using superhuman strength to go above and beyond for something” As I shared that, tears came down her face, and she said that yes she had worked with tremendous energy to try to make everything work out in her first marriage, but it had not worked. She had tried so hard and it had all come failed. It seemed God was healing that hurt in her life as we were praying for her.

Then she goes to the bathroom and comes out and says “you guys won’t believe this, but as I was cleaning the mascara from all over my face, I realized my back didn’t hurt any more”. The following week she pulls me aside and she says “now that I know this prayer stuff works, can we pray for these things? And she proceeds to pull out this long list from her purse of stuff she wants prayer about”

You see this is Isaiah’s prophecy continuing to come true. God’s Kingdom is still coming into people’s lives, bringing healing and transformation. Sometimes it’s fun and exciting physical or emotional healing, and more often it’s just amazing to see God change people’s hearts and the direction of their lives as he works in their hearts, it’s so life giving to see that transformation of the world happening one person at a time.

We live our lives with this purpose folks, to let Jesus work in us for our own transformation and through us for the transformation of others, and as people are transformed, the world is transformed, and the prophecy from Isaiah continues to come true.

If feeling this kind of purpose in the way Nader is talking about really grabs you, we want to suggest two things for you:

1) Try making space regularly in your week to listen for God inviting you to participate in his kingdom
This could look like…
Examples of what you might sense or intuit in prayer are…
Will you know for sure if it's God! Nope, but give it a shot, and pay attention to how you're feeling: purposeful? joyful? like you're part of something big?
In addition to that, there is a reason we asked Nader to share some of his stories along these lines this morning - because we’ve been talking the last few weeks about various ways many of you might feel excited to help BLV as we look ahead to our return to the Davis Theater
Expand a bit...

2) So, today’s specific invitation: Get on our invite list for our next praying-for-others training in September…
What safer space to give this sort of thing a shot than within the context of a faith community like ours? - where prayer is always on the table as an offer
This training will have helpful elements for people brand new to praying for others and seasoned veterans at praying for others.

And, if you're interested in ever helping with our Sunday prayer team, this is the orientation for that.

I’d like to read that prophecy again, and this time as I read it, I’d like you to pray for how God wants to use you to bring more of that into the world:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,