DISCOVERING SPIRITUAL POWER POINTS
March 26, 2009
In our pursuit of life, it is sometimes easy to forget what the goal is. We pursue families that relate to each other intimately and schedules that run like clockwork; we look for success in business and try to create a nest-egg for retirement; we aim to live peaceably with each other as deadlines, traffic, crime, poverty, and health issues buzz around our heads.
In this dizzying world of things to pursue, it is easy to forget that our main quest in life is the Giver of that life - God. Our first and highest calling is to search after God, which is dependent on the growth of our relationship with Christ. But we tend to make the same mistakes the Gentiles made. We worry about money, clothing, and food, forgetting that "[our] heavenly Father knows that [we] need all these things" (Matthew 6:32). It is not that we should not ask for earthly blessing and provision, it is that our first request needs to be of heavenly motive. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Does this mean we should not pursue other goals? Quite the contrary. God has planted desires and longings in our hearts and minds so that we will set goals that are in His plan. Going after God's goals for our lives will lead us to grow in the ultimate goal: knowing Him.
Apostle Paul knew what it meant to set goals, keeping in mind his absolute aim: "I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead"
This passage describes not only where Paul had been but also where he was going. Yes, he endured hardship. Yes, he experienced the joy of Christ in all kinds of circumstances. Yes, he had seen God use him even from prison. Paul still understood that there was more of God to know, and he set goals that would enable him and others to experience God at greater depths.
So how did Paul set these goals and move forward with such decisiveness, shrugging off passivity and complacency with every step? How can we follow his lead?
► Believe and meditate on the promises of God.
Paul had full confidence that God's Spirit was with him, giving him the resurrection power to live up to his God-given potential in every area of life. (Philippians 3:11)
► Have a consuming desire to achieve a precise goal.
Paul's desires were not foggy: he was consumed by his desire to evangelize the lost. (Philippians 3:13)
► Have the courage to attempt even at the risk of failure.
Paul did not let his weaknesses or fears deter him; he understood that God used his weaknesses and fears to keep him dependent on - and strengthened by- Christ.
► Choose determination.
Paul came upon more opposition in life than most of us can even imagine. Yet he was determined to commit himself to whatever God told him was necessary to see his goals fulfilled. (Philippians 3:14)
► Be persistent.
Persistence means we are still in the game when everyone else has forfeited his turn. As we examine Paul's life throughout the Bible, we see the great strides and mighty accomplishments. But he had days, just like the rest of us, where he only inched forward. We would not always sprint toward our goal; some days it will be all we can do just to keep pressing on. Yet we must not give up.
► Humble yourself.
In Philippians 3:12, Paul writes, "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect . . ." Paul did not rest on past accomplishments because he knew he was not "there" yet. Neither are we.
► Let go of the past.
Paul said, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind . . ." (Philippians 3:13). Clinging to bitterness, unforgiveness, and past mistakes will always keep us from achieving our God-given potential.
Evaluate your own goals and ask God how they fit into the greater goal of knowing Him. As he reveals His plans for you for this day, this year, this life on earth, do not let anything or anyone stamp out the zeal that rises in you.
As you press forward to something more, remember the precious goal that awaits you: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-2 NIV).
As you begin to evaluate your goals, striking through those that are self-motivated instead of God - motivated, how do you set new ones that are in God's plan for your life?
Keep these principles in mind as you pray and ask God to reveal His potential and priorities.
1. Evaluate your definition of "great" when desiring to accomplish "great" things in God's kingdom.
"Great" is different for everyone. When you are walking in the will of God in a certain area of your life, you are achieving something "great" however small it may seem in the eyes of the world.
2. Do not compare yourself with others.
God created you with unique qualities, interests, and desires. He has given you a specific purpose that is unlike that of anyone else on earth. When you look around and try to set goals based on what others are doing, you will get discouraged and will not achieve the potential God has given explicitly to you.
3. Maintain a positive outlook.
People who spend their time criticising others and thinking negatively about themselves are often the very people with a mountain of regrets. The promise you received at salvation is still true: "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed" (Romans 10:11).
4. Do not let the world's view of success discourage you.
God's definition of success is completely different than that of man. He sees and knows your potential whereas humans can only see circumstance. First Samuel 16:7 says, "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
5. Continue setting goals for yourself.
No matter what your age or your level of achievement, there is always room to grow. Not only will setting goals continually expand your vision, but setting them also will keep you motivated and inspired throughout every season of life.
I was reading a book Midnight Muse, by author Crystal Boyd who wrote these words about the key to happiness:
We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids are not old enough and we will be more content when they are. After that, we are frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they are out of that stage.
We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, are able to go on a nice vacation, when we retire.
The truth is, there is no better time to be happy than right now.
"Right now" is all we are guaranteed in this earthly life. Yet it is easy to get so consumed with what will take place tomorrow that we do not see what is happening today.
God promises a future of hope to all believers. (Jeremiah 29:11) He also promises a future in heaven: "I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3).
God does not make empty promises. He always does what He said He would do. He told Noah that the flood would come; it came. He told the disciples that Pentecost would bring His Holy Spirit to them. Pentecost came, and the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We can trust God for the future; thus, we must be diligent to open our minds and hearts to Him today.
Alfred D. Souza writes, "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my 'life.'"
No matter what challenges you face today, God has allowed them to bring about good in your life. You can trust Him to be your sufficiency now and for eternity. He wants you to experience His peace and joy in the moment, not only in the future.
Hebrews 3:1 says, "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession."
This one verse overflows with assurance for the believer. First, it is addressed to the "holy brethren." That refers to anyone and everyone who has trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The fact that the word holy is used as an adjective signifies that believers have been sanctified, or set apart to God.
Because of who we are in Christ, by grace alone, God sees us as unique. This assurance confirms that neither your profession, your salary, your appearance, or your nationality defines you. What gives you the special identity you have, is the fact that you are a child of God.
The second part of Hebrews 3:1 calls believers "partakers of a heavenly calling." We know the destination is not earth, but heaven. If you have ever heard the saying, "Home is where the heart is," you understand the truth of this phrase. Your heart resides with Christ; there your home is too.
Why is it important to know who you are and where your home is? Knowing who you are means you can deny all the false messages of the world. Magazine images, television newscasts, and people will try to convince you that you are not pretty enough, not smart enough, and not successful enough to be complete. Yet your identity in Christ alone completes you. You can add nothing to it, and this world's detractors can take nothing from it.
Knowing where your home is means you are not searching for this temporary dwelling -earth- to satisfy you. When circumstances around you are negative, you can still rejoice because this life does not hold you. God does.
The final phrase of Hebrews 3:1 is not to remind us of who we are or where our home is. It is to remind us who Jesus is - the "Apostle" and "High Priest." These two titles are paramount. The first signifies that Jesus is our representative of God. When we want to know what God is like or how God would respond in a given situation, we can look to Jesus. The second title, "High Priest," signifies that Jesus is our representative to God. God looks at His children through the eyes of His Son, who is blameless and holy.
He sees us for our potential, and He remembers that we are works in progress. What a merciful, loving Father we have!
There is another portion of Hebrews 13:1 that cannot be overlooked. It tells believers to "consider Jesus." The word consider means to observe or think. As we live in the present day with eyes to the future, we must observe Christ, meditate on His Word, and be imitators.
We are not given an assurance so that we can casually drift through life. God has planned an exciting adventure for every single child, and if you have a personal relationship with Christ, you are included.
Let the assurance of your identity, home, and Lord inspire you to explore new depths of God and serve Him with all your heart. You would not be disappointed.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
As you consider the future in light of all that God promises His children, God may be illuminating some areas of your life.
Here are five questions to ask yourself:
1. Am I hoping in something centered on the future rather than hoping in the Lord?
2. Am I trusting too much in earthly things for my security, such as where I live, my family, my job, etc.?
3. Is there an area of my life God is highlighting, an area I have not fully given over to Him?
4. Has God enlightened me with a new revelation of Himself?
5. How do my new understandings about who I am in Christ and where my home is, affect the way I live today?
Search your hearts for the answers! May God bless you all.
A young man, bursting with pride, came to the great philosopher Socrates. His quest was wisdom. The young man approached Socrates and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge." Socrates saw through the young man's compliments and began leading the juvenile through the streets. Their destination? The wild, unruly oceanfront.
Socrates took the lad by the hand and led him into the water until he was knee-deep in crashing waves. Socrates inquired, "What do you want? " The young man replied with a sly smile, "Knowledge, O wise Socrates." With all his strength, Socrates pushed the young man's head under water and held it there for 30 seconds. He then asked again, "What do you want?" His young friend sputtered, "Wisdom, O great and wise Socrates." After plunging the young man's head beneath the waves and holding him there for 40 seconds, Socrates repeated his question. The young man's reply was: "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful." Down the young man went again. This time, Socrates let him stay under the saltwater, waves lapping across his face, for 50 seconds. Upon hearing Socrates' question the fourth time, the young man screamed, "Air! I need air!"
So Socrates was then able to make his point: "When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge."
While the Lord certainly is not as harsh with us as Socrates was with his young protégé, our attitudes are often similar to that of the young man in the story. We allow desires for the world's charms to mingle with the desires given to us by God. Our minds flirt with the worldly desires to the point of consumption.
We soon want so many different things that we cannot remember what we truly wanted in the first place. Confusion sets in, and we struggle to decipher God-given desires from our own pursuits.
God does not lead us down the path of confusion. Psalm 25:12 says, "Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose."
The first part of that verse is the key to knowing which desires to pursue: we need to fear the Lord. To fear God is not likened to being afraid of a burglar or a dog. To fear the Lord means to revere Him, to stand in awe of Him. Yet how can we be awestruck by a God we do not know? If your desire to know God on a deeper level has waned, let Him steer you back on course:
► Ask God to show you what stands in the way of your desire for Him.
You may have accepted Christ as your Saviour and believe His Spirit is living in and through you, but not fully surrendered everything in your life to the Lord.
► Ask God to re-structure your priorities.
Sometimes our lives get off track because our focus gets off track. Have demands in the workplace, home, or some other arena led to a shift in your attention to God?
► Ask God to create a deep desire in you for more of Him.
Matthew 5:6 says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." As your desire to know God increases, selfish desires will pale in comparison.
► Ask God to give you an intense aversion to the things of the world.
The enemy will tempt you with worldly charms, but God's power within you is greater than what the world has to offer. (John 16:33)
► Ask God to give you a love for His Word.
God's Word always awaits you with truth about God's character, about your identity in Christ, and much more. As you study and meditate on it, your understanding and faith will grow - enabling you to live out God's best for your life.
LESS OF ME - MORE OF GOD
G. K. Chesterton said, "There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less."
While you can always accumulate more things, more relationships, and more success, there will always be room for more. And when there is room for more, there is room for wanting more. The cycle never ends. But if you choose the second route of Chesterton's advice, "to desire less," the likelihood of living a fulfilling life increases. But how do you simply want less? By going back to the one desire that every human has been given: to know God.
You may not understand it as a desire for God; you may just feel dissatisfaction with your life's pursuits. Or the relationship you wanted and attained just is not everything you thought it would be. Perhaps you have everything you have ever wanted yet still go through periods of longing, sadness, and loneliness. The origin of dissatisfaction, unfulfilled expectations, and feelings of sadness or loneliness is the same: a hunger for what you cannot see and do not fully know - God. Whether you have never let God into your life or you made that commitment years ago, there is always more to be uncovered about God. We will never "get to the bottom" of Him while we live on earth.
But once we enter into a relationship with the Lord, He promises to reveal more of Himself to us as we fellowship with Him. Hosea 2:19-20 says, "I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice. In lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, then you will know the Lord."
To "fellowship" with God - talk to Him and listen to Him as you study the Bible - is to get to know Him better. He has "betrothed"- or engaged - His people to Himself for one reason: to let Himself be known. When you discover something about God that you have never recognised, the proverbial light bulb illuminates your heart and mind, giving you a greater desire to know more - and leave your other desires behind.
Hosea 2:19-20 speaks of God's loving-kindness - His faithful love to His unfaithful people. As we test the waters of worldly desire only to later find ourselves drowning in them, God's loyalty to us shines. He rescues us and restores our desire for Him alone.
Realising one of God's characteristics in His Word, and then seeing it come to life through our experiences deepens:
► Our humility. As we see God's sovereignty unveiled, we understand our need for Him.
► Our gratitude. Knowing that God's loving-kindness is what motivates His forgiveness, deliverance, and guidance in our lives gives us a thankful heart. Instead of coming to God with complaints about our unfulfilled selfish desires, we come to Him with adoration and praise.
► Our hunger. When the Holy Spirit sheds new light on an old verse (one we have read many times), our quest for more is strengthened. Our appreciation of God's Word gives us a more profound delight in studying and applying its truth.
► Our reverence. Learning something new about our Creator reminds us that we do not know everything about Him. As we come to terms with the depths and heights of God, our awe of Him is magnified.
► Our desire to please God. When we have a right, holy, respectful fear of the Lord, our wants traffic from satisfying ourselves to satisfying our God. Pleasing Him is not a chore; rather it is a joy done out of humility and thankfulness.
One of the most unfathomable qualities of God is that as we pursue our desire for Him, He will fulfill the other desires He has given us. (Psalm 37:4) Yet even as our other desires are met, our longing for God can never be quenched or superseded by them. The goal is still the same: less of us and more of God.
Do you remember when your perception of life changed for the first time? Maybe it was your first glimpse of freedom - you learned to drive, spent the night away from home, or got a job. You savoured your first taste of life as it took on new meaning. When we shed old perceptions of life for new ones, the world does not change. People still argue. Birds still sing. The sun still rises and sets. But our perception of the world - and our place in it - does change. There is a certainty about perception: it will continue to change and grow as people change and grow. Our perception of life changes as our perception of God changes. The more we study His Word and see its truth fulfilled in our lives, the more we understand about His character. The better we grasp His character, the better we grasp His desires - and our desires are transformed.
Journeying with God through this life on earth, it is good to evaluate our life - perceptions along the way. It is surprising that we could ever forget our need for God, but we do. And regular perception - checks are great reminders of our desperation.
In her book, Sacred Surprises, author Dale Hanson Bourke chronicles her continual realisation of the security of God. As you read Bourke's thoughtful letter, ask yourself: What perceptions of God and life do I need to let go of? What questions have I forgotten to ask?
I know you have been preparing me as much as I would let you. But I am not any more ready today than I have been in the past. The ups and downs are too much.
People have seen you in me so they come for answers. I do not have any, God. I do not know how to make sense of these events that turn lives upside down and leave them in shambles. I know you are there. And I know I can trust you. But I wonder when you will show me what you are about. When will you help me understand?
I have learned so much, but I know so little. Sometimes I look back and see the path I have come along. We have come a long way together. But I still cannot see the path ahead. Yet I am finally convinced - most of the time - that I do not want or need to see the future. It is enough to know you are there lighting the path.
Life is not random, and the path does not lead to nowhere. I know that now. But knowing is worse, in a way, and the very opposite of what I once thought. You have shown me that there is joy in pain, wisdom in foolishness, strength in weakness. And most of all that there is no making sense of any of it by myself. Oh God, I need you so. Without you I think I have the answers. And I forget to even ask the questions.