The Ultimate Goal

The Ultimate Goal:

‘One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3:13b-14 (loose translation)

When I was in Discipleship Training some twenty years ago, I was encouraged to know that suffering was for the purpose of building character and building character led to usefulness and crowns in Heaven.

Now I realize that the ultimate goal will not necessarily lead me to any victory, blessing or usefulness on earth, but that the only reason for suffering may be to bring me closer to the character of Jesus. I may not be otherwise blessed at all.

So much for prosperity gospel. So much for victorious living and God’s blessings. Is being like Jesus enough?

This past year, 2013, has been the most difficult year in my 30 years as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I have my health, I have a safe and warm home, I have my family; I am blessed in many ways. But what I have ‘lost’ is the belief that I will one day achieve something for the Kingdom which is of lasting benefit and significance. I have, as one friend said recently, experienced the ‘death to the dream’ or as Dr Larry Crabb puts it, I have experienced Shattered Dreams (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, (c) 2001).

This past year has been a year of expectations disappointed, of strain with no resultant achievement, of realization that just because I believe and work hard does not mean I will succeed in finding a job or finding an audience for my writing. That’s been a difficult lesson.
I’ve watched others in similar situations, faithful brothers or sisters in Christ, who have experienced similar. Some tell stories of God coming through in the end. Others are still waiting. For myself, I’ve stumbled upon a new reality: Jesus came to save from sin – which is both a one-time finished salvation and also a slow process of self-discovery and sanctification which may have no other end but purity.

I wonder how many believers have faith in ultimate goals being realized: hopes and ambitions that God will train us so that we can be better people in our work and ministry, only to discover eventually that life hasn’t panned out quite how they expected. And if any of those disappointed that their own dreams – what they believe or believed were the ‘desires of their hearts’ – will not be realized, have become bitter or disillusioned. My own sense of self-importance, which dies hard, has thought I will one day minister and be fruitful in producing writing that will speak to millions and change lives. Now I’m thinking that will not be how God uses me and that He may not even use me at all. Realizing this has been hard. But do I still love Him, in spite of thinking my secure middle class existence and hope for notoriety is speedily coming to an end?

Yes, I do. I may not love Him as much as I thought I did, but the seed is still there. Thank you, LORD. And I will persevere, in spite of discovering there may be no reward but the assurance I am saved by His grace. And I will love Him all the more as I see the ugliness of my selfish ambition and know He still loves me.

The ultimate goal is not to reap prosperity, nor even to be involved in the conversion of others to the knowledge of God’s ultimate gift in giving us His son Jesus. The ultimate goal is simply to be transformed to be more the likeness of the Son. And that is sometimes a hard journey.

Dr Larry Crabb’s subtitle to his book Shattered Dreams is not a promise and not a reason to persevere, but it is a hope; Shattered Dreams is God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy. I wouldn’t urge others to persevere for the sake of it, but it is helpful to know there is a hope at the end of the tunnel. As I grow in Christ, as I journey in my faith, the tunnels seem to get longer, but so far they’ve always ended. I’ve no reason to believe the one I’ve lived in during 2013 will end on 1st January 2014, but I do have every reason to believe it will, one day, ‘burst forth into glorious day’!!

God bless and Happy New Year!

There is always Hope

There is always Hope

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6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Goal

  1. Your blog post is honest. God thanks you and I thank you for that. You’ve had a tough year. But, you realize it wasn’t a year without redemption, however scant it may appear when looking through the lens of disappointment and the lacking of financial validation of the hard work you’ve done on your writing. Your many readers are counting on you to continue on with the support you so lovingly distribute while you wait for the recognition and the financial rewards you so richly deserve. Count me as one.

    I love you, sister Sarah.

    • Jay, you are an inspiration. One scripture I love to live by as best I can is from Philippians 3 – forgetting what lies behind and straining for what lies ahead I press on… to Jesus! (paraphrased). The input you provide to me, on this comment and in so many other ways, demonstrates how perseverance is so rewarding. When we look for God as evidenced in others, we are richly blessed. Thanks so very much for connecting. I have no doubt you’ve touched many lives just as you have mine.

  2. Ah dear Sarah, the best purpose we have is to pray, for everything and everyone, that’s all. And especially intercede for the people that are to die everyday and night, so that The Lord may forgive them they’re sins and have mercy upon them, so that even if they don’t get to enter heaven that they may live in the valleys in front of the gates of heaven. Sarah do not be disheartened, even if you planted the seed of the Holy Spirit only in one person, that is enough for The Lord. The Lord won’t let you miss HIS goal, and all the talents and spiritual gifts He has bestowed on you He used up to today, as you are, and it is usually where you didn’t see or notice it, The Lord works in mysterious ways. Also we cannot always fulfill the works of The Lord unless we are in right standing and in the will of The Lord. Since you’ve now discovered that you were not in the will of The Lord, there your dreams shattered, do not let the enemy deceive you, you are special, you are to minister, and you will, but only in the Lord’s time. What you should do now, is ask The Lord what He wants you to do today? And you ask that everyday, and allow Him to lead you. When we lead ourselves you won’t get to where The Lord wants to lead you. Our goal should be His goal and that doesn’t mean that His goal isn’t bigger than your shattered dream;) strengths, and ask scripture everyday, for if you can not hear the Lord’s answers, how then will you know what His will is in your life. Never give up, and the best thing to do when one feels broken down, is to get up, sing and praise The Lord, clap your hands and raise your voice to the Heavens. And remind Him of His promises written in His word. The best way to minister is to live by example, unsaved souls do not heed to Christian words of ministering so much today. But when all is well in your life and you are super happy and glowing all the time, then people will start asking questions, on the street, in the shops, wherever and then The Lord will open the doors for you to minister to them and place the right words in your mouth. Be blessed 🙂

    • Hello dear Chans,

      It is so true that when we worship we lift ourselves, reveal our faith and encourage others towards the LORD.
      I thank you, and the LORD, for your discovery of this blog and being in dialogue with me. You are a terrific blessing and your deep, considered input is so valuable.
      Actually I believe I was in the will of the LORD throughout my journey, and the journey has brought me much closer to Him, thriving on deep prayer. What matters is not success or achievement but relationship. For me, that understanding has come full circle – the LORD blesses and what I’ve experienced this year the blessing of a deeper walk with Him – through the building of my relationship with Him. That it takes pain and suffering and disappointment as well as joy and victory makes sense to me. Years ago I said ‘I will follow’ and if that only means through easy or ‘successful’ times then I believe that isn’t the deepest commitment. When I say I want to draw close to Him and He takes me through a tunnel, that in fact is what I’ve asked for – even if I didn’t know it. He does give us the desires of our heart – to draw closer and to be more like Jesus means enduring some of the sort of pain he endured.
      And that’s okay!

      • He he you sound much happier already, so glad about that:D you’ll get there at the right time:) One day at a time:) there will come a day that the Lord will take all the pain away, and you’ll look for the pain but won’t find it. I’ve searched for mine, I can remember it was bad but I can’t identify with the pain no more, it’s all gone. And you might think nah not my pain, it’ll always be deep down inside, just wait on the Lord your day will come:) The deep things of the Spirit one just can’t put it in words, but you’ll know:) and you’ll burst with joy every moment of everyday and it’s contagious, it won’t be just uplifted spirits around people but even when your alone, you won’t stop smiling:) it’s like being in love, just in love with the Lord:) I pray all of this for you soon real soon, you’ve learnt now it’s time to fly with the Lord:) You are truly special.

  3. I wonder that you thought I was sad? Isn’t it odd that when we write of past events a reader experiences us as still being there. Joy is everlasting, though happiness may be fleeting. God bless!

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