Philippians 3:10-12 “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” (HCSB)
How many of us realize that the apostle Paul had a goal? Often times, when we read about Paul’s missions, we understand he was obedient by following God’s Word and suffered greatly for it; but have we thoughtfully considered that Paul considered his great suffering was for the benefit of his converts; that Paul was thankful to have suffered and developed a deep character for it in order to have the strength and faith to suffer as he did to be a role model for their sakes?
Interestingly also, Paul was not completely satisfied with just their salvation (which is one of our utmost goals as Christians is to bring others into the sheepfold) but he was not completely satisfied with his ministry until God’s glory was served. It was of extreme importance to the apostle that eyes of man became away from self and onto the risen Lord. And this aligns with much of the teachings from the Bible; that when we take our focus away from our “self” and onto the Lord, we will have much more peace in our lives. Paul’s goal should be our goal.
2 Corinthians 4:13-18 “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”(NIV)
The Greek term for grace that Paul uses is χάρις (charis, pronounced Kha-res) and the term for thanks in the same verse is εὐχαριστία (to give thanks), which is derived from the term εὐχάριστος (eucharistos, pronounced yü-khä’-rē-stos ), so charis becomes eucharistian and we can properly transliterate verse 15 to equally read as “It’s all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase gratitude to the glory of God”.
This is to show that there is a correlation of gratitude to grace in the way Paul uses the Greek terms. The more God’s grace reaches outward, touching the lives of many, the more gratitude is given to God’s glory. Gratitude means so much more than thankfulness. We can be thankful but Gratitude is a deep feeling that is not forced but is spontaneous in the feeling of joy; which increases in proportion to how underserved and unearned the gift of kindness is. When we understand how gracious and freely unearned God’s gift to us is, our gratitude glorifies God the giver of our eternal life.
Thus, what Paul is communicating, is that his suffering was not only for the benefit of the church but also for the ultimate glory of God and this is why Christians can find joy and gratitude in God’s grace. Yes, Paul had a goal and that goal was not self or man-focused but God-focused because Paul understood that real joy comes from keeping our focus on Christ rather than our own desires of the world and flesh.
When we adopt Paul’s goal as our own, we will find much satisfaction and fulfillment as we focus on God and learning His Ways, maturing and growing in intimacy with Him; making our own situational problems seem very small in comparison.
To illustrate this, there once was an analogy spoken by a great theologian, Oswald Chambers, who used a mountain’s “vantage point” views as distinguishing levels of intimacy with our Lord. At 500 feet up the mountain, one could see the valley below and in front; at 1000 feet, one could see a bit of the sides of the mountain as well as the valley below and in front; and at 2000 feet, one could see much more around the mountain, and a vastly greater view of the valley below and in front. The more we grow closer to God, the higher we escalate up the mountain and the more we are able to relate to Him and see the importance of His plan for man’s redemption; making our circumstances seem very small in comparison. So when Paul suffered for the Gospel, he counted it all joy because he was at 2000 feet and able to see the kingdom purpose much more so than those of us who still focus on our own lives.
However, there is a trick that our flesh plays on us on that mountain; whatever level we are currently on, we can be tempted to think, “This is great! Where I’m at is good”, and instead of being intentional with goals and growing, we can become complacent eventually leading to boredom and backsliding.
People from all walks of life realize that if we don’t have a goal, we will remain the same or we will slip deeper into something less than optimal; so in order to always be growing in our faith and character, we need to set some basic goals.
Goals give us focus to what is important in our lives; they help us to zoom in on important things and allowing the less important “fluff” things in life step to the sidelines. Setting goals that stretch us, allowing room for the Holy Spirit to do “wonders”, will build character in us. If we try to do everything others want us to do as well as everything we think we need to do and apply a little bit of energy to each one, we don’t make much impact; whereas if we can focus on a few things, allowing God’s Spirit to provide supernatural energy for accomplishment, we can impact the world around us in most amazing ways. Even the apostle Paul admits that he is not like a boxer swinging wildly into the air without direction, but more of a boxer who has a target, focuses on that target and hits it every time (1 Corinthians 9:26).
But where is the best place to start? Below are some ideas.
- First, gather together a Bible, pen, paper, water and “no” cell phone; then retreat to a cool and quiet space where you can reflect with God and your heart (it can be a spare room, closet, car, field, under a tree, etc.). If you are extremely extroverted and need the flurry of others around in order to relax, perhaps a new coffee shop where no one will know and interrupt you may suffice. This is your time with God, and it’s your time to give God first place in your thoughts, so be creative and know yourself; not everyone will be able to relax in an empty quiet room; however, most will find the silence comforting.
- Take a few deep breaths to release any stresses from the day and give everything on your mind to Christ by saying a short prayer asking for that as well as His guidance and creativity for what goals in your life can make a wonderful transformation outwardly to others and inwardly to yourself. You may already have a few in mind, but remain open to promptings from the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.
- Read Proverbs 16:9 and confess that it is only by His Spirit that we can have the power to attain our godly goals and it is by His Word that we can confidently be led by His guidance and direction (Zechariah 4:6, Psalm 1:1-3).
- So what kind of goals should we set? Business goals? Personal maintenance goals? The list can be long. Ultimately, we are looking for goals that God will bless and that will draw you closer to Him in a fuller relationship with deeper trust and faith in all circumstances. In order to keep the goal from becoming a personal victory or a mere project that must be tackled at all costs, we must keep our goals based in love for others. A goal with love as its means is a goal that God will bless.
- Think about how you want God to act in your life. What do you hope God will do and what do you expect Him to do through you for His glory?
- Have you ever heard someone say, “No answer is an answer”? It’s the same way with goals; “no goals means nothing gets better; no growth”, no progress and no character improvement; it certainly means we are not going to be doing all that we can do for God and His kingdom. Think about personal godly growth things like “prayer times”, Bible reading” “studying God’s Word”, “fellowship”, “worship” and other spiritual disciplines. Then think about growth things like “finances”, “health”, “quality time with ___”, “relationships”, “and business” etc.
- Start with small objectives, but ones that are bigger than you can do alone so the Holy Spirit can team up with you and build your faith, and then build your plan. If you have others in your life, it may help to include them and ask them to hold you accountable. Praying in everything will help us keep our focus on God and His Spirit in us, to teach us how to grow for His glory in all things.
Questions for Reflection
- What level on the mountain are you at?
- Have you experienced backsliding in your spiritual journey?
- What level or goals do you want to reach to by the end of this year?
- What is one attainable task you can immediately incorporate into your day to grow closer to God?