Eyes on the Prize: Persevering to do God’s Will

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Heb. 10:36, NIV)

Welcome to the third and final part of this series on fulfilling your purpose! If you have not read the first two posts in this series, you can read them here: The Big Picture & Follow the Leader. Fulfilling purpose is a journey, one that lasts a lifetime. And my prayer is that you, my dear reader, will not be cut short amid your days. Rather, you will live long enough to complete the work the Lord has committed to you and fulfill His purpose for your life. But if you must fulfill your purpose, then you must learn to persevere – that is, to patiently endure every trial or challenge and ensure you do what God desires of you.

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Follow the Leader: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus

Hello, friend! Welcome to part two of this series on fulfilling purpose. If you have not, you can read part one here. What I intend to emphasize here is simple – the only way to surely fulfill purpose is to follow the leader, Jesus Christ. The Bible variously commends the Lord Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith”, “the firstborn from the dead” and “the forerunner”, who has gone ahead of us into the presence of our heavenly Father. There are at least three reasons why you should keep your eyes on Jesus in your pursuit of purpose as a child of God. We will look at each one in turn, briefly.

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The Big Picture: Your Purpose through God’s Eyes

Hello there! Thanks for coming by. This write- up is part one of a three-part series discussing practical issues around our purpose as children of God. Purpose is a big theme within the Christian faith, and rightfully so. Understanding that each one of us was created by God for a specific reason is an important foundation for every human being, and indeed, every child of God. It is a truth worth stating at every opportunity – that every human being is created by God to fulfill a specific purpose on the earth. Fulfilling our purpose ultimately brings God pleasure and glory.

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Enter In

Enter in

Into the presence of your heavenly Father – your Lord and Maker

Even though you know you’re not good enough

And are fully convinced you’re terribly short of the mark

Your memory is your judge – kept accurate records of all your wrongs

Your guilt crushes your soul beneath its heavy weight

But God has sent me to remind you: enter in.

He sees you standing at the door, hanging around the corridor

Tentatively. Wishing, but uncertain. Hoping, but afraid

Waiting till you do enough to feel like you have the right

But you are not getting any better at being good, it seems

He says to enter in through the open door. In fact, He says to open up

Because He’s been knocking, waiting to come in and dine with you

To make you His treasured vessel and special dwelling

But you must open up and agree that no price will ever be enough

To pay off your sins and unload all of your guilt

Except the life of the Son, who was the perfect sacrifice

The Son has shed His blood; you can come in on His account

The covering of blood is enough; the price was paid on the cross

Do not despise the cross in pride. Rather, accept the price paid

Once for all on your behalf, and enter in to His presence

It is He who purifies and perfects, empowers and transforms

Only in His presence will you be made whole and fulfil purpose

But first, you must enter in.

Ecclesiastes: how the world really works

We all have a dainty picture of how our lives should pan out, of how all of life should operate. We expect to do good and experience good, to love and be loved, work hard and prosper, build up wealth and enjoy it. We expect that good things should happen to good people, and evil people should reap the work of their hands. And we’re not alone in our thinking. Large portions of the Bible hold and teach the same viewpoint – that it will be well with the righteous, and that the wicked will eventually self-destruct.

But no sooner are we born into the world than we begin to experience the unfairness, instability and imbalance that characterizes this fallen world of ours. The very idea that life can be random and not predictable, that our faith doesn’t guarantee happier lives, or that a relationship with God doesn’t mean we will get all we want, can be discouraging or depressing in our pursuit of purpose. We are all shocked with this reality at some point in our lives and may even begin to question the meaning of life.

This search for meaning is what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about. The writer explores critical themes of our lives and declares with a brutal finality that “All is Vanity!”. He draws from his own experience of pleasure and wisdom and wealth and introspection, and then arrives at the discomfiting truth that all human endeavour and accomplishment ends with a sobering submission – death and return to the dust. Whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, wise or foolish, careful or carefree, all will end up in the grave.

He goes further to examine the static nature of our world through its various encounters with humanity. At its best, the rise and fall of kingdoms and nations mirrors the rise and fall of sea waves. From where things come, there they return. We are rather minute in the grand scale of things, even though we would like to exaggerate our own impact on the earth. Then the writer goes on to strike a final chord, which is for me, the most disconcerting note of all: nothing is guaranteed in life.

The strong does not always win. The smart does not always get wealth. The fastest does not always win. Nothing guaranteed; nothing assured. So, he encourages his readers to enjoy their days and take pleasure in whatever blessings they have received from God: food, family, friendship, wealth – whatever it is they are privileged to have, knowing well that nothing is guaranteed, and that all good gifts come from above. It is somewhat of a contrarian view, asking people to enjoy knowing nothing is assured.

Yet this seemingly conflicting counsel is the hallmark of the book of Ecclesiastes: asking us to give our best in all we do and rejoice in all we have after painting us a picture of gloom. He closes the book in a similar manner, calling the young to remember their God in the days of their youth and asking everyone to fear God “because this is the whole duty of mankind”. It is a call, not to despair, but to hope and trust in God who gives us all things richly to enjoy.

The book of Ecclesiastes is an adventure into realism and invitation to humility, seeing that we will all die and be forgotten someday, and we cannot even control the outcomes of the life we are living. It is an invitation to abandon worry and fear and sorrow, to embrace joy and diligence and faith, not slacking in our daily work but giving our best, not careless in the way we live but honouring God, knowing that we will all give an account of our lives to Him someday and receive appropriate rewards for all we do.

Jonah – the prophet who rebelled

The Bible is full of the stories of many prophets, many of them with eponymous books in the Bible, full of the messages God sent them to deliver to various recipients. While a few of them had some of their personal stories told, majority are known mostly for the messages they delivered. But one man included among the prophets is known more for his own story than for his message – his story of disobedience no less. From resisting God’s instruction to taking offence at God, Jonah’s story is more like a 21st century millennial than an Old Testament prophet, one we will do well to pay attention to in our days.

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The Home Stretch

Last Sunday, I observed my toddler drifting off to sleep on our way back from church. He’s always determined, it seems, to stay awake through the journey home, a journey of about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the traffic condition. On the drive home, I glance back a few times to check if he’s awake and believe it or not, he’s usually awake for at least two-thirds of the journey. But something ‘magical’ always happens in those last few minutes, and by the time we’re home – he’s fast asleep. It’s hardly ever more than 10 minutes of sleep that he gets, but he is never awake by the time we get home.

And that takes me to my point: finishing any effort – a marathon, a project, a course, whatever it is – always requires a commitment to see through what you started. Perseverance is a powerful virtue in the development of our character, one we must all strive for in our daily lives. It is the deliberate choice to follow through, no matter the adversity or difficulty we face. And it is often the last bit of effort we need to put in that seems to sap our energy the most. Like my son, it is those last few minutes of staying awake till we’re home that is the hardest. That is when the lure of sleep is greatest and determination to stay awake is greatly tested.

Whether learning a skill, getting an education, acquiring experience, building a relationship or working at any defined project, we must learn to persevere through the difficult seasons. Difficulties can help us persevere as we truly define what is more important to us – the ease we crave, or the goal we desire to achieve. While some efforts have a clearly defined end point, others are continuous, like building a relationship. But we must recognize that the gain we seek from nurturing those relationships do not come without persevering through difficult seasons.

As a Christian, perseverance is most important to us because the kingdom we are looking for is heavenly, not of this earth. What God has promised us are not things we can get in this world. So we wait with hope and walk by faith, trusting that what God has promised, he will perform. We look forward to the return of the Lord Jesus and the transformation of our bodies, knowing that His coming is nearer now than when we first believed. And we choose to live as strangers and foreigners in this world, ambassadors of another kingdom. We do all this, knowing that this age is rolling up to a close, and that we are on the home stretch to inheriting God’s eternal kingdom.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Heb 10:35, NIV)

But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Matt. 24:13, NKJV)

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed (Romans 13:11, NIV)

Ramble on…

Do you have a regular time of prayer? Fantastic, if you do! If you don’t, you should consider setting a fixed time of your day aside to talk to your Maker, who hopefully, you also relate with as Father. So, what do you say when you pray? Do you have a routine? Maybe you say the Lord’s prayer or have specific words you use…well, let’s talk about that a little more.

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Trusting Him in the Dark

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.
Isaiah 50:10 NIV

Sometimes, the righteous walk in the dark. They deal with uncertainty, feeling their way around and wondering if God has abandoned them. People who revere God and obey His word do find themselves in such places, not because of sin or disobedience, but because we live in a fallen world. But God uses those times for our good.

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He Leadeth Me

He leadeth me, He leadeth me
By His own hand He leadeth me
His faithful follower I would be
For by His hand He leadeth me

The title of this post is drawn from an old hymn, whose refrain/chorus is the paragraph above. Today, I invite you to set your mind on the blessed thought that the Lord leads you, through every mountain and valley, through happy and sad, clear and confusing moments alike. Let us ponder together what this means for our lives and how we should respond to God’s leadership.

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