“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
What is this goal that Paul is talking about? What should be the goal of a Christian? Is it finding our purpose? Is it doing something great for the name of the Lord? Is it being the hands and feet of Jesus? Is it accomplishing our life's greatest point of usefulness? Or is it showing as much love of the Lord to a watching world as one person can within a lifetime? No, none of these things are the biblical goals of a Christian. Paul, in the breath before the verse quoted above, says this: “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (verse 12) The goal Paul had in mind was Jesus perfecting him – the process of being made whole in Christ - that was the goal God gave to Paul and it is God's goal for each of us. The process, the pain, the perfecting of our nature is the goal. These are not things that come about in our lives to get us closer to some arbitrary goal of our utmost event or life purpose, they are the purposes that God desires each and every moment in the storms of our lives to make us more like Him.
As a young Christian I used to get so caught up in the end result of the perfecting God was doing in my life, always on the look-out for what I was being equipped to do. What I have found over the years though is that in living that way I have looked right past the One who was desiring for me to see Him in the midst of the storms so I could cling to Him tighter and see Him working to perfect of my trust in Him as I kept my eyes on Him through the storm – making Him my ultimate purpose, not some showcase of giftedness I was being prepared for.
“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side...Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.'” Mark 6: 45, 47-50
In the story above, as told by Mark, the disciples were obedient to get in the boat as Jesus asked and go before Him. The goal in their minds was to get to the other side and of course continue the ministry that Jesus had started with them. But Jesus did not join them for the journey, instead He stayed and prayed. Then at a particular time in the night, Jesus started to make His way across the water by walking. Unfortunately, the disciples were so set on their goal of getting to the other side that they were not even watching for Jesus while they struggled against the waves – their purpose had clouded the process which God was working through to refine them. They were so set on accomplishing a worldly purpose - that is to expand the ministry of Jesus - that they did not see that Jesus desired more to expand their understanding of Him and His power He could bring into their lives.
Hear what Oswald Chambers has to say in reference to this same story:
“We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success...We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not...What we call the process, God calls the end...God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying God.” Oswald Chambers
What is stressing you out today? Is it that you are in the midst of some turmoil and afraid that you are not moving fast enough in any direction to be of use to God? Maybe the turmoil you are enduring, the storm that has you standing in one place and crying out to God, is where God is accomplishing His greatest goal for your life. Success in the kingdom of God is not measured as success on earth. We will receive no costly riches for reaching the goal, or even in gaining momentum in our strides towards the goal. Instead, we will bring glory to God each step, jump, leap, or stumble we take as we are perfected in Christ who alone is the “author and finisher of our faith”.
“...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...” Hebrews 12: 1b-2a