God chose to make known how great among the gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and strive with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.
For I want you to know how greatly I strive for you and for those in Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your orderly conduct and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (New Revised Standard Version)
I invite you to consider the question: “What is God’s goal for my life?”
This might just be the most important question you ever answer.
We are created in the image and likeness of God. We were designed for a purpose. Therefore, it is vital and necessary to know the aim, trajectory, and goal for your life.
First, however, let’s consider why we might be out-of-touch with the answer.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Man and woman are the apex of God’s imaginative activity. Only humanity has within themselves the ability and the special character to connect with the divine in a special fellowship relationship.
Yet, the original people fell from their place in Paradise.
Now, in this current broken world we inhabit, and apart from God, people’s experience is fragmentation, disconnection, confusion, and separation in relationships and self-understanding.
One way of looking at the entirety of the Bible is that it reveals how God is graciously and patiently wooing wayward people back to Paradise.
The ultimate fulfillment of this re-connection is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Christ, what was lost is found; what was separated is connected; and what was scattered into a thousand pieces is being put back together again.
So, let’s get back to the question of God’s goal for you and me. Since we live in a fallen world, we have to deal with sin, death, and adverse situations. Yet we can take charge of our lives and face reality with a Christian life which thrives and flourishes.
“My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking anything. If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you for asking. But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt.” (James 1:2-6, CEV)
What is God’s goal for my life? Maturity. That you and I will be completely mature. That we will work toward spiritual maturity in our own lives, and what’s more, labor toward presenting others mature in Christ Jesus.
Yes, maturity. Out of all the things which God might want from and for us, maturity is at the top of the list.
Maturity means to be a whole person, not fragmented, a complete and healthy person – in body, soul, spirit, mind, and emotions – all aligned together in a total package of wise living from encouraged hearts and loving faith communities.
Maybe that sounds too far from your own experience. Perhaps you feel that you are all over the place, as if you could never have it all together (or that others are never going to have it together). However, the goal is not about having it all together.
Rather, maturity is about you and me submitting to adversity and hardship as our teachers. In other words, it’s suffering which leads us to God. Spiritual growth and development happens in the crucible of life. Faith formation occurs in the class of hard knocks.
And we are not to let any spiritual hucksters or charlatans come along and deceive us with all kinds of talk about how the Christian life is having every earthly desire satisfied and never having any significant problems again – that if we just name it and claim it, then our faith will move mountains of money into our bank account or put us into positions of power.
Maturity requires spiritual growth over a long period of time. There is no substitute, no other way to be mature in Christ. And our faith will be tried at every turn so that it is strengthened in sustained living for Jesus.
Whenever things are going great, it’s too easy to attribute it to our own ingenuity, ability, or intellect. Yet, when things are rough and there is no apparent way out, we need something or someone outside of ourselves.
Faith is a muscle that must be stretched, exercised, and used so that it will grow and develop. Trials to our faith and hard situations are the means of strengthening such a faith. The result of all that struggle is maturity, completeness, and wholeness.
We learn to connect with a generous God who won’t chide us for our messiness and problems. God delights in hearing us and responding to our prayers.
God pays attention and responds… in his own good time and according to his own good grace, and not on our timetable or according to our expectations.
Sometimes we need to learn that the three-ring binder approach to Christian discipleship, with clear proven steps to move forward, is not what we really need. We need Jesus himself.
In order to return to the Garden, we must walk through the gate of Christ and learn to enjoy the pasture we are currently in.
Maybe our circumstances will change, and maybe they won’t. But that’s not the point. The aim of all Christian discipleship is that you and I will change, and that our perspective will be different.
So, what will you do today, even right now, to take charge of your life and make a step toward maturity and healthy spiritual wholeness?
In truth, you know exactly what to do and who to be. You just need some encouragement and affirmation to get over a few fears. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s not okay to remain stuck in fear.
Gracious God of mission who reaches the world with mercy and love, you alone bring growth to your Church everywhere. Send your Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith, give shape to our Christian hope, and love to all our words and actions. May our witness in the world demonstrate a mature Christianity, full of grace and seasoned with salt, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.