Don't Confuse Goals With Purpose

As 2020 approaches, it’s the season to set your New Years’ resolutions. Lose weight, be the real you, go for the career you always wanted, eat less deep-fried wontons—whatever it may be that is going to revolutionize your life, or at least help you to be a better you.

Our goals can be fantastic! I love setting mine. Maybe, at times, I love them too much.

Goals are crucial because they help you have something tangible that shows progress. If my goal is to lose ten pounds, but I have gone through half the year and gained ten, it tells me that there is something that is amiss between how I live and what I say that I want. Of course, they do need to be clear, attainable, and within a time frame.

Though they are important and though they are necessary, it is all too easy for them to become our god. How many people personally and professionally worship at the feet of almighty goals. It’s a god shaped in the form of their self-interest, yet it makes them slaves to a self-imposed expectation that profoundly affects their self-worth.

We morph ourselves from human beings into human doings.

No longer do we live lives of love or hope. We no longer have time for friends and family. We miss the pleasures that everyday life can bring. All too often, I connect with colleagues who are stressed out, overworked, feel like failures, and are spiralling down a staircase of self-doubt, depression and anxiety. The crazy thing about all of it is that much of the stress is self-imposed. It’s because of their goals. If we cannot enjoy the journey of self-improvement (whether we reach that goal or not), what’s the point?

I’m not saying that goals shouldn’t be hard or that sometimes they are not enjoyable. I believe that anything worth doing has a challenge to it. And if there’s a challenge to it there is a chance of failure. As G.K. Chesterton writes,

“Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong.”

When we tie our goals to our purpose and then fail to attain our goals, our “being” that has morphed to “doing” becomes human-failings. I know I have been there. I have felt my being slip away as my goals—some self-gratifying and others Kingdom-oriented—changed me into doing. When everything is going well, it’s…well, going well. Then as soon as there is a slip, the failing creeps in. Instead of learning from failing, we are dragged down into a vortex of self-loathing due to our incompetencies.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. However, I think it’s not far from the truth.

Jesus once said,

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Matthew 6:24

While in this context, he was referring to money, this statement is also true when applied to anything. The reality is whether your goals are inflating your ego or leaving you wrecked and ragged, both compete with what God has said about us.

I write about this in my book Hidden Faces,

“We turn our lives into commodities. Yet all we’re selling is our accomplishments, whether they be good, bad, amazing, or delusional.”

And point out,

“Our skills, talents, abilities, looks, intellect are all finite. They’re all perishable. The constant that always remains—that endures indefinitely, the one thing that will never fail us, is Christ. When we define ourselves by who Christ declares we are, we cannot help but live in the future that He has prepared for us.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jer 29:11

Don’t confuse goals with purpose. You were created to enjoy the God who made you, the world He’s put you in, and the people that come across your path. God created you to be a being and not a doing.

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Jesus For Prime Minister part 3

You do not have to wait until tomorrow to appoint your leader. You can do so right now, today. The leader I am talking about longs to improve your life. He wants your finances to be in working order, mainly so you can be a blessing. He wants you to be safe so that you will be willing to take risks. The leader I am talking about, has declared that all people, no matter who or what they are, have value. So that all would know that they are loved. However, you will not find him on any ballot. But, he is as close as the mention of his name. He has come to start a revolution that upsets the status quo.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Mt 6:9–10

As Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray, he points them to an essential theological truth, “Your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This kingdom isn’t meant to be ethereal. It doesn’t just include your spiritual life. Jesus is speaking of an all-encompassing kingdom that affects yours and everyone else’s everyday life. That is why the rest of the prayer talks about God providing our needs and forgiveness and temptation.

One problem is that we can separate earthly kingdoms and Jesus’ kingdom. After all, Jesus said,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Jn 18:36

Yes, the type of kingdom that Jesus speaks of is vastly different from our own personal and nationalistic kingdoms. But make no mistake, in the Old Testament God’s presence coming to the temple, in the Newt Testament Jesus being the full embodiment of God, and now the Holy Spirit residing in people is God’s establishing his kingdom here. 

Yes, it is foreign to us. However, we are made for it, and the world was made to house it. We must see the spiritual and the material intersect. It’s not just one. It’s not only the other. God’s kingdom has come, not in full, but we must do our part.

One of the questions we need to ask ourselves is, does this manifest in people or powers? When we look at Jesus’ teachings, it appears to point to the powers and systems of the day that helped oppress. N.T. Wright points out,

Jesus was addressing a Jewish world in which ‘kingdom of God’, ‘reign of God’, the notion that God must be king, was one of the most exciting and dangerous slogans. People had died in recent memory because of this slogan and the attempt to put it into practice. Galilee and Judea were full of your men who were eager to take upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom, that is, to work for the holy revolution against the western power, whatever it cost.

Jesus speaks in a language that people understand. As we move forward in time, the Apostle Paul is trying to convey who God is to a completely different audience. Wright further points out,

There would have been no point in Paul standing up in the market place in Philippi and saying, ‘I’ll tell you what the kingdom of God is really like.’ That wasn’t what people in Philippi were talking about.

I don’t want us to get lost in the kingdom language. We are very far removed from knowing what it’s like to live in a kingdom. However, we know what it looks like to have our personal lives revolutionized. We also know what it means for a group of people to stand up for injustice. We know what it is like to see people have a voice for those whose voices are stifled. Christ is our king, our Prime Minister, our President, our Messiah. Jesus the Christ is the living God who calls us his own.

This isn’t a one or the other–personal or communal. This is a, yes and. As Dr. Blizzard points out,

The gospel of the kingdom is not a message about getting to go to heaven. It is not a message for the hereafter or the world to come. It is a message for today. It is a message that men and women can come in contact with the power of the living God who breaks through the space time continuum to meet them at the point of their human need.

So, is Jesus salvation personal? Yes! Is Jesus communal? Again, Yes. Yoder writes,

What needs to be seen is rather that the primary social structure through which the gospel works to change other structures is that of the Christian community.

What Jesus came to do changes personal lives and the powers and he happens through people like us in gatherings like this. It changes it through subtle resistance that is bold and strong. It is because of this that we are to speak up for the oppressed. It is also why we need to pray for and bless our leaders, whether they be for us or against us.

To what end? The beginning of the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” That word hallowed is not a word that is used too often these days. It means to make holy, to set it apart, to give it all the glory. As we think about what it means to be kingdom bringers it must always come back to this question, Does this exemplify God and declare that he is vastly superior and beyond our comprehension or not? The kingdom that Jesus has come to establish is one of grace, hope, and love and point us to the author of those things. It declares that people have value. As we look at a personal politic, it must always come back to this equation.

What this means is that it is God and God alone who gets the glory. Wright rightly writes,

“We treat our political leaders as heroes and demigods; they carry our dreams, our fantasies of how things should be. When we find out that they are only human after all, we turn on them, blaming them for the intractable problems that they, like their predecessors, haven’t been able to solve.”

The only hope that is secure is found in Christ. It is not a red kingdom, not a blue kingdom, not an orange kingdom, not a green kingdom, or any other parties kingdom. The only kingdom that will never let you down is Christ’s.

Here’s the thing, if what we want or think should happen, we are not to lose hope, nor are we to despair. Why? Because we know the end of the story. The book of Revelation tells us,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Re 21:1–4

God will get his way. To me, this sounds like a beautiful picture. What is amazing is that God has invited us into the process. We can be kingdom bringers in the here and now. We can seek to establish a kingdom of love that draws people to the one who drys every tear, the one who has defeated death and abolished the old order of exploitation and selfishness to one os self-giving love.

We do this not in our strength but only with the power of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit living in us. Matthew T. Lee points out,

“The world of the Holy Spirit ushering in the kingdom leads to spiritual transformations among individuals and within the church as a collective entity, inspiring action to make the kingdom appear on earth as it is in heaven… A series of spiritual transformations provides the motivation for action as well as a source of vision of the kingdom of God.”

To see this type of kingdom established, we must yield our selves to the working of the Holy Spirit. We must invite the transforming work of the Spirit of God. Was the World changes us it changes our relationships, it changes our actions, it changes the world. We need the flame of the spirit to purify and bless. Purify so that we reduce the amount of brokenness in the world. And bless so that we can pass the blessing on. The Spirit also comes to give us the power of witness. We become empowered to be witnesses for him.

As we head to the polls. Let’s remember who our true king is. A king who doesn’t restrict our vote, but encourages us to have a voice. A voice that isn’t just concerned with us but one that is concerned for God’s creation. A voice speaks for the earth, the oppressed, the broken, and the hurting. It is a voice that speaks truth to the proud, arrogant, power-hungry, and exploiters. Further, then a voice, we are called to action and to expect those we have entrusted with power to be held to account for what they do or do not do. We are to be kingdom bringers.

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