We Americans love our goals. We come in all varieties from record breakers, to trend setters, to fund raisers, to weight losers, to mass marketers. Modern technology helps us track our goals; Facebook and Twitter enable us to announce our successes to the world. Seems if we don’t have goals, we may not accomplish much. But if we believe goals serve a purpose, doesn’t it makes sense to have our sights on the right ones? If goals have power to move us in a new direction, isn’t it important that we’re headed in the right direction?
As promised, we are going to take a closer look at the goals of the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian ever. His number one goal was clear. We read it in Philippians 3:8 “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” and again in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him.” Excellence means superior, better, higher, past supreme; and know means to be aware of, feel, perceive, be sure, and to understand. When Paul wrote Philippians, he was no wet-behind-the-ears, greenhorn convert. He was a mature Christian imprisoned for preaching the gospel. After years of serving God, I hear Paul say he was reaching for a superior, surer awareness, feeling and understanding of God than he currently had. Now don’t misunderstand—he already had plenty, but he wanted more. He wanted it so desperately that he counted everything else a lost cause.
I doubt my goals would have been the same as Paul’s in that jailhouse circumstance. No way! I’d be clanging my cup against the bars hollering “Someone get me out of here!” and “Can’t I at least have a cell phone?” or maybe “How about a little decent food around here!” It would not be a pretty picture as I demanded some rights.
Paul could probably have walked out of that jail at any time, if he had denounced Jesus as the Son of God and returned to being a Pharisee. But Paul’s aim was higher than physical freedom. He wanted to know God more than he wanted to breathe—literally! Ever wonder how he arrived at that goal or what about God made Paul willing to give his life for Him? (A topic we will explore later.)
I believe the biggest scam ever has taken place in our generation! Christians have been conned into seeking the good life rather than seeking God Himself. We have been deceived, as Eve was deceived, causing her to make a bad choice. By the way, deceived people don’t know they are deceived. We too are fed continuous lies about God. They sound something like this: “God isn’t a good God. He doesn’t really love you. His rules keep you from finding happiness.” Satan tempts people to settle for anything but God’s plan. Maybe you’ve heard him cleverly whisper to you: “Take this substitute; it will be better than God’s plan.” I certainly have.
Here are some of the substitutes I believe Satan has sold to modern-day Christians. Like Paul, we are encouraged to seek something bigger and better than what we have, but the object of our goals are very different from his. We are coached to reach for our destiny, a more successful career, a larger paycheck, more expensive houses, cars, and vacations, a greater ministry or larger organization. We’re told that bigger is better and better will make us happy. It is all skillfully packaged as the “abundant life.” I’m confident that Paul had none of these things in mind, yet our bookshelves are filled with books on “how to.”
We have indeed been scammed! Yet God longs for us to discover the truth about Him, His extravagant love for us, and His real plan for our lives. He wants us to drink deeply from the well of Living Water and eat of the Bread of Life. My spiritual life and possibly yours are starving for the real thing. Hear Jesus say, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT). What are you asking Jesus to give you? ~ Janie Kellogg