LIVING IN YOUR NICHE
Now, I know that sounds weird - but this is the definition of the word, “Niche” - “ a comfortable or suitable position in life.” I like to think of it in terms of, “What God planned for me to do for Him.” Now - the reason we’re talking about this today - first of all - is because God told me to - and I think that the reason He told me to is that many Christians, as they get older, just kinda feel like they’re just not worth as much as they used to be - strength, ability, and on and on. I’ve seen through the years that God has a plan (or WILL) for every single person, and He knows us all inside and out. His will for you and me is just as much important as it was when you were 20 or 30. His will is also very, very individual for each one of us.
Now - I’m going to read a portion of Scripture - It’s Psalm 139:14 - 17 - “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
Then there’s Jeremiah 29:11 - “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.”
Boy oh Boy!!! What promises! And so many Christians never find and walk in those plans. Brothers and Sisters - I really believe that the Lord knows exactly what He planned out for you to do for Him - because He knew you before you were ever born and He designed YOU PERSONALLY to do what He wrote in that book of His that has your name on it!!! Maybe you’ve done some of it and already know what that calling is - and then maybe you’ve wanted to know but just never got a handle on it. AND THEN MAYBE you know and have been doing what He wanted you to do. If, that’s the case, then this is to encourage you to keep on keepin’ on!!!!!! If you’re still breathing, He’s not done with you. Now, I want you to think about yourself a little, as I tell you a little story about me.
When I was a little girl, in elementary school, when I learned to read, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED TO READ BOOKS. After awhile, my Daddy and I developed a plan. Every two weeks, on a specific night of the week, as he would get home from work, before he did anything else, he drove me to the library. It was about a 5 min. drive from our house. I would take the books back that I had read, and pick out some more and bring them out to the car. All through the evenings, from about the 3rd grade thru to the 7th, I did my homework quickly so I could read books.
Now another little thing I’ll throw in here is that, while I was doing my homework, often my Daddy would sit there at the dining room table with me. You see, my Daddy never learned to read. He was a country kid from a very poor family - his mother died when he was 3. His dad was an alcoholic, but got married again and had some kids right away. When he had just started the 3rd grade, he had to quit school, so he could sweep the floors in a little store close by and make money for his baby sister to have milk and food.
So when he sat at that table with me, he was learning what I was learning. As I started having to do math, he learned too. Actually, as a child, I was teaching my Daddy about adding, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, etc.
When our whole family went to church, Daddy would go to the service, but he never went to Sunday School or classes because he was afraid that somebody would ask him to say something. I remember going to my grandparents home after church on Sundays - for Sunday family dinners. After most were through eating, everybody would chat with one another - or one on one. My Daddy and I would get over in a corner away from everybody else, and he would say, with a big smile on his face, “What did you learn in Sunday School today?” And I would sit there and teach it to my Daddy. He loved it - and so did I.
Now the reason I’m telling you these two stories - reading and teaching - is that the Lord has revealed to me in these latter years that, from the time that I began to read and write, He was already training me for what He wanted me to do in life - my NICHE!
That may be the case with some of you. You may already know that - but, if you don’t, I’d like for you to think about it. Now, I really had no clue about that when I was growing up. In fact, I never even considered being a school teacher. It was never in my thoughts.
When I got married, then had our two children, and then my husband felt called to Bible School - we weren’t sure if it was to be the pastorate, or missions, or what - I began to be aware more and more of helping people understand about God. Then we began to pastor - THEN WE RECEIVED THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, during the days of the Charismatic Renewal! And - a whole new world was opened up to me! At first, I was terrified! Then, I realized that it really was for us still today - it didn’t quit when the apostles died. So - I received. That’s a story for another day.
Now - back to the Niche! You know, the NICHE is different for all of us. There are so many ways that the Lord uses His children to serve Him. But one thing I have learned is that, when you have found your NICHE, and you begin to operate in it, it is comfortable and actually wonderful to be doing what He has planned for you to do. AND, just because you’re getting older, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do, in one way or another, what He planned for you to do while you are still here on this earth. It’s different for everybody.
I began to notice very early in my life, that, not only did I love to read, but I also began to love to write things. Writing various things for classes in school was never difficult for me. I enjoyed doing it. I began at an early age - junior high, and then in high school, writing little poems for all kinds of things - birthdays, anniversaries, special situations, and on and on. I also learned that, sometimes if it was hard to tell someone something that I really felt like I was supposed to share with them - it often was easier to write it out to them. So I did that also. There was kinda’ a relationship within me between writing and helping others understand things that I had begun to understand. You see, the Lord was leading me to my Niche - even though I didn’t know that.
Now, I’ve used this portion of scripture before, but I want to read Romans 12:1-2 to you, because this is what the Lord showed me was necessary for me to know what His plan was for my life. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” This is more than just saying to the Lord, “What do you want me to do?” over and over and over again. This means that you come before Him in worship, realizing that He knew you when you were still an unborn babe in your mother’s womb, and He had a plan for you then. This means that you take it seriously - to present yourself to Him in worship, meaning that you will absolutely do whatever it is that He planned for you. Remember, when Abraham obeyed what God told him to do and took his precious son, Isaac, about 12 years old, and prepared to sacrifice him on that altar. That was very, very serious. Abraham trusted God. And on top of that, Isaac, just a l2 year old kid (who wasn’t dumb, by the way) also trusted God. Presenting yourself as a living sacrifice is personal between you and the Lord - and it means you are giving yourself to Him to really know His plan for you and then be ready to live in that plan.
I believe that is really important to be able to spend the rest of your days here on earth doing what He planned for you. If you’re still breathing, it’s not too late.
After my husband graduated from Bible School, we pastored two churches in Colorado and then moved back to Kansas City, Mo., our home town. Then we started our own church. It was at this point, that I really began to get ahold of what God’s plan was for me. I had this burning desire within to write what I had learned about God. I also had this deep awareness that God wanted me to teach others what I had learned. That part was scary for me, but little by little, I began to get a grasp that that’s what He wanted me to do - and, then, on top of that, I discovered that, when I began to do it, it wasn’t hard, or difficult, or problematic - instead there was nothing that I loved more to do - it was true peace!
Now, just as I was getting ahold of all this - I had begun to teach a women’s group at our church on a morning one day a week. (This was in the 80’s.) It was growing and the ladies were loving it and I was loving it. Some ladies began to come who had not been to our church before, and they began to come on Sundays also. After going for awhile, a husband of one of the ladies began to come with her. (That was weird - it was a ladies group.) He sat in the back - not up in front with her. I figured that he was just coming with her so they could go to lunch together afterwards, or something.
After coming several times, one day after the meeting, he came up to talk to me. He said, “Your teaching is really good. You need to be on Christian radio. If you’ll do it, I’ll pay for it!” I almost fainted. At the same time, I knew this was from God. I looked him in the eyes and nodded my head up and down, and said, ‘Yes, I will.’ We chatted for a little after that - and then I began to have an overwhelming fear come over me - because now I had to tell my hubby - and I was afraid that he was going to get his feelings hurt because they didn’t ask him.
So - when we were both home that afternoon, I told him I had something to tell him. He could tell (because he knew me so well) that I was kinda’ afraid to tell him something.(He told me later that he was aware that I was fearful of something.) So I told him about the conversation with the man. Then he put his hands on my shoulders and looked me deeply in the eyes, and said, “Honey, if he asked you, then he asked me - because you and I are one.” I will never forget that moment! It was like a three-fold hug - Jerry, Me, and Jesus! I knew that I knew that I knew that God was leading me deeper into my Niche.
My husband made a little place in a walk-in closest for me to sit and teach in 15 min. segments on cassette tapes. The name of my program was, “Girl Talk,” on KCCV - Kansas City’s Christian Voice. I was on there 5 days a week. Our church began to grow and grow.
Brothers and Sisters, I really want to encourage you to give it all up to Jesus. Present yourself to Him and be ready for Him to guide you in what He wants you to do. I tell you that nothing in life will give you more happiness than knowing that Almighty God is guiding you in what you’re doing. You will have peace that passes understanding.
Now - let me deal with something kinda’ delicate here. One kind of job or gifting or whatever you want to call it is not more important than another. I have known people who have just known that their calling from the Lord is to just go to stores and restaurants and other places and they know that every time they do, God leads someone to them and they end up leading that person to the Lord. In fact, the Lord even tells them where to go. Many, many lives have been saved from going to hell, and instead - going to heaven. That’s a Niche. There are people, I am absolutely sure of it, who work at the Food Pantry, who just really love what they’re doing - it’s what God wants them to do. That’s a calling. I could go on and on and on. No two of us are exactly alike - none of us are better than others - or more important than others!
It’s just very, very important that we all, in the body of Christ, really know what our Niche is and love, love, love doing what He has given us to do, so that lives are being impacted.
Now, when my husband moved to heaven, it was a very difficult time for me. We were very close - I talked about that in one of the other sessions. It took awhile for me to kinda’ start getting it together. I was living here in Florida, not far from Debbie and her husband and my grandson. Two precious friends of mine - Jim and Kris Yeager - had been at our church in Kansas City. Then, they had started pastoring and had a church in that area. I kinda’ felt like the Lord was leading me to go their church - but I wasn’t sure - then THEY CONTACTED ME AND ASKED ME TO COME TO THEIR CHURCH - THEY WANTED TO PUT ME ON STAFF AND HAVE ME TEACH. Talk about the will of God. I agreed. I moved back to K. C. and they were so good to me. Of course, I got to be around my son and his wife and those grandchildren. They started coming to that church also.
It was then, that I began to have a strong desire to start the writing that I had always wanted to do. I started my first book, “Journey in Grace,” and got it published. Remember, I talked about all that writing I loved to do when I was a kid. Well, writing a book is like that for me also. It’s my Niche. I’ve written 5 more since then - “Choosing for a Change,” Coming Out of the Cocoon,” “From Darkness to Light,” “Living in the Light,” and “Teachings to Help You.” - Six in all - They’re all in the Bookstore. Four of them are teaching books and two of them are fiction.
I’m telling you, brothers and sisters, when you are doing what God planned for you to do, from before you were even born, nothing else is so fulfilling in your life.
Now - I want to deal with some things which seem to be our biggest hindrances from “Finding our Niche.” Unforgiveness is one of the biggest hindrances - and it has two types. The first is guilt and unforgiveness of yourself for the things you have done wrong in life - mistakes, marriage problems, poor handling of children, relationships which were unspiritual, choices which caused problems for loved ones, and on and on. You can’t change the past - but, if you are truly a born-again child of God, He has forgiven you for ALL YOUR SINS - AND ALL MEANS ALL. You must, as you ‘present yourself to the Lord,” as it says there in Romans 12:1-2, you must also see yourself as forgiven by the Lord - and let go of the past!!!! The only way you can do that is begin to see yourself like God sees you - clean and forgiven. The past is over - you don’t have to keep living in it, in your mind.
Now the second type of forgiveness is toward others. There are lots of people who have hurt us through the years - and really the only way we can reach the place of complete forgiveness, no matter what they said or did, is to realize that, if God can forgive you - YOU CAN FORGIVE THEM! I am aware that, for many people, that is very, very difficult. When you have been hurt deeply, frankly, the only way you can forgive is in the power of AGAPE LOVE, which we talked about last week. He has placed that AGAPE in your new born again spirit and you have to access it by faith. I look at it this way, if God can forgive me, I can, by faith, reach into that spirit realm and forgive those who have hurt me.
Now- forgiving yourself and forgiving others is a huge step into being free from the effects (or consequences) of past sin. But there’s one more thing to deal with in this area. You can know that you are forgiven by God, that you have forgiven others, but there is one more thing that really helps in this realm - that is apologizing to others for hurt or problems that you brought into their lives - in other words, actually asking them to forgive you. Sometimes, because of many, many reasons, a personal encounter is difficult to arrange. Therefore, writing a letter to that person sometimes is the best way to handle it.
In other words, you absolutely must LET GO of all that past bad stuff - and see yourself as God sees you.
Now I want to remind you of two situations in the Bible that tells us what God can do with a person who messes up bad. First, I want to remind you of David and his encounter with Bathsheba. I’m sure you all know the story - so I’m not going to read it. It’s 2 Samuel 11:2-5, and then 11:6-27. David had a sexual encounter with the wife of one of his soldiers. You’ve probably heard and read the story. Then, he had Bathsheba’s husband killed. You talk about BAD! This was dear David who was a man after God’s heart. Then Nathan, the prophet, dealt with David, and the end result was that the baby which was conceived by this relationship died. David repented! He knew he was wrong. He got close to God and ended up being used by God in wonderful ways. They had another baby and named him Solomon AND - guess what - he turned out to be the richest man ever on the earth. Read 2 Chronicles 1:2. Both David and Solomon, his son, wrote what God wanted them to write in what we call the Old Testament. God forgave David after he had messed up bad - and USED HIM BIG TIME.
Then - in the New Testament, nobody is a better example of the same thing than the Apostle Paul. He was known as Saul and was a true and strong Pharisee. He was responsible for striking out against the Christians in the early church. He chased them down, imprisoned them, hurt them, and much more. He wanted to demolish Christianity - all followers of Christ. He hated them. Then - he had an encounter with Jesus and his life was truly transformed. HE WAS BORN AGAIN! It was obvious that, in the first part of his life, he was a strong advocate for what he believed! He thought he was doing what God wanted - THEN HE FOUND OUT HE WAS WRONG! He had a huge turn-a-round! When you read through all those epistles (or letters) that he wrote BECAUSE GOD WANTED HIM TO WRITE THEM, you hear in many ways, him describing his earlier life against Christ. BUT, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, GOD FORGAVE HIM AND HE WAS REALLY FREE FROM CONDEMNATION AND GUILT. The same can be true for you and me.
I want to read this verse to you. It’s Romans 11:29. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Now - this is saying, that those gifts and callings that God had for us when we were still being ‘framed’ or formed in our mothers’ wombs, are still there, no matter what kind of situations have been in your life - God does not repent from giving them to you - He hasn’t said, “Well, he really messed up, or she really did everything wrong, - I’m taking the gifts and callings away from them.” NO - NO - NO! That’s not who He is or what He is like. That’s the reason you’ve heard about people in the ministry who have messed up - and then they have, themselves, repented, and 3 or 4 years later, they’re back in the ministry again. Now, other people have not forgiven them and so it isn’t like it used to be, but God still uses them.
Now - I want to go back to that portion of Scripture I mentioned a bit ago - Rom. 12:1-2 - about presenting yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice, this being your reasonable service. Remember - A LIVING SACRIFICE often wants to get off that altar!!! I don’t think that it’s a one-time thing! I believe that we have to have a ‘daily commitment attitude’ with the Lord - a personal daily relationship with Him - to remind ourselves that we belong to Him. This body wants to get off that altar - this mind wants to feel sorry for ourselves, and pout! The only way to overcome these attitudes is to have such a close relationship with Him daily, talking to Him, being in His Word, reminding ourselves that we are His servants, His tools - AND HE IS OUR EXCEEDINGLY GREAT REWARD. Then - verse 2 talks about not conforming to the world by renewing our minds.
Brothers and sisters, just because God has gifted us and given us ways that He wants to use us while we’re still on this earth, it doesn’t mean that it’s all just going to happen automatically. We have to submit to Him - we have to learn to think like He thinks. We have to ‘yield the right-of-way’ to Him. God gave authority on this earth to mankind back there in the Garden of Eden. He doesn’t just whoosh down and do everything without our inviting Him into the situation.
This is one of the questions we hear all the time, on TV, radio, even in Christian movies, “Why does God let bad things happen?” BECAUSE HE GAVE AUTHORITY IN THIS EARTH TO MAN - THEREFORE MAN HAS TO OPEN THE DOOR! There are so many reasons for all this - it would take hours and hours to cover it and we never would get it exactly explained.
We, as His children, must daily walk with Him!! If we will do that, He will show us things, reveal to us what we need to see, give us insight, see to our specific needs in all kinds of areas of life. The only way is to live a life in communication with Him, by seeing yourself as A LIVING SACRIFICE.
I’ve learned through the years to consider HIM as my best friend. He has the answers to everything. I’ve learned that, if I will look at reading His Word as a privilege, rather than a task, I will daily get insight - from a little verse here - or a little word there - or, as I just sit for a moment and ponder on a verse I’m reading and saying to Him, “Okay, Lord, how does this apply to me? That was Paul saying that - show me what You want me to see from that.” And on and on and on!!!
A living sacrifice is daily aware of who I’ve sacrificed myself to! A living sacrifice daily wants to be pleasing to the One whom I’m sacrificed to. I can tell you, personally, that when you are living that way, there will be times that the Lord will, in all kinds of different ways, let you know that He is pleased with the way you are serving Him. I know some of you in this room have experienced that. He is a good, good DADDY!
He has a plan for every person in this room. For some, it may have been hard for you to know what that plan is - for others, you may have been experiencing it already - for some, you’ve known it kinda’ and want to walk in it more deeply!
He told me to tell you - no matter where you are in LIVING IN YOUR NICHE, He loves you deeply and wants to reveal more and more to you - and open doors for you - and wants your life to be filled with His joy and you and HIM walk together every day for the rest of your time here on this earth.
Now - someone might be thinking, “Well, that sounds great, but I don’t get around like I used to - I don’t see how God can use me.” You know what? He might want to start using you to encourage people with phone calls. He might want to start using you as an intercessor. And on, and on, and on! It’s all about submitting to Him and He will show you what He wants you to see. He will lead you into YOUR NICHE - DEEPER AND DEEPER AND DEEPER!!!
Scriptures used for this lesson
2 Samual 11:2-5
1 Samual 11:6-27