Meditations in Meaning & Values 22. Goals
Phil 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
We have been considering the idea of us reaching to our potential in life and then that life is a process, a series of changes flowing on, one from the other, and it is going somewhere, and it is that ‘somewhere’ that we want to look at in a little more detail now, although we are aware it has been on the periphery of our thinking a number of times in these meditations.
Again we are aware that you may be thinking, but all these things are so obvious, so why are we bothering with them? It is because they are so obvious that we need to pause over them and reflect upon them for our great danger is that we take them for granted and fail to see and rejoice in wonder of the world and the life that the Lord has given us. So let’s recap or try to summarise as simply as possible where we have just got to. Life is made up of a constant series of changes which take time and for us human beings those changes have historically been talked of as ‘three score and ten’, although today people are indeed living on average a lot longer than seventy years. But life is a flow of changes, culminating eventually in death.
Solomon kept of facing this conundrum, what is life about when everything we do is eventually swallowed up by death? For example at one point he says, “The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both.” (Eccles 2:14) i.e. the wise and the foolish both have the same end, so he thought to himself, “What then do I gain by being wise?” (v.15) A little later he writes, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal.” (Eccles 3:19) Even later he writes, “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” (Eccles 5:15). All of this process that we have been considering, as much as it may improve and change us so that we achieve our potential, simply changes nothing, we will all eventually die. Thus the goal of this life can appear to the person thinking “under the sun” as very negative. What’s the point if all that is going to happen is that we are going to die and be forgotten. That’s where Solomon got to and where many people today get to.
This thought of an end goal, although we have briefly considered it before, needs further thought. What is our answer as Christians? What is the meaning or purpose in life if all that happens is that eventually it ends in death? (Yes, I know we have been here before but we are seeing it in the bigger context of working to achieve potential and working in the midst of a process.) There are two important conclusions to these questions. Very simply, the process is important and then end goal is important.
Let’s consider the verses that come before our verse above: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called.” (Phil 3:10-14) The very nature of the apostle Paul’s life meant that he was in a hot-house situation where reality was something which confronted him more than most. As a result, he looks at all he has learned and experienced in life so far and concludes that he simply wants to know God’s power through Christ, a power that will raise him from the dead, and in the meantime while he is waiting for that the best he can do is press on – do all he can – to get to that ultimate goal.
The ultimate goal was a primary factor in how he now lived. We spoke previously about sanctification, being changed into Christ’s likeness and later Paul is able to write, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13) We considered being content in an earlier meditation, and Paul shows it as a sign of rest in God’s purposes. Because this was so important to Paul he challenged those he wrote to, to also be heavenly minded because heaven is both our present resource and our future destination: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col 3:1,2) When we focus on heaven it brings a new meaning to our present activities, a new purpose to life and to our end goals, to what our future potential might be.
We pondered recently on the problem of waiting, for these things that are not blindingly clear at the moment, of living in a ‘waiting mentality’. The prophet Hosea addressed this when he said, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hos 6:3) Meaning in the present it comes clear when we make God the focus of our lives. Meaning for the future becomes clear when we make God the focus of our lives. Process and goal are wrapped together by this attitude.
Instead of becoming so heavenly minded as to be no earthly use, as some have said when we focus on God, we find we become more fruitful in terms of blessing God’s world today, and we stride forward more purposefully with heads held high to achieve whatever God has for us. The excitement of today and tomorrow is that God has yet more to input to my life, more than I received yesterday and the days before. The process is ongoing with the blessing of God upon it, no longer meaningless drudgery, but receiving all of the goodness He has for me, to bless me, to change me, to use me, and as that happens day after day, we will be working nearer and nearer the potential He has for me on this world and then the next. Hallelujah!