Is Our Highest Goal Attainable in This Life?

I am a pastor.  But I am still a human being.  I have my questions, my concerns, my hang ups.  One of the things I continuously wrestle with God about is, How does my message translate to the utmost reaches of society and of the world?  In other words, when I go to apply God's Word to specific situations in my culture, can the same general principles hold up in other cultures?

To give but one example (and not a small one), one of my convictions developed over the last decade and woven into the fabric of my soul, is the idea that we were created for deeply joyful, loving fellowship with our Creator—now and throughout all eternity. Pastor John Piper, who has had an extraordinary impact on my outlook on God and the Christian life, has made it his life's passion "to magnify the supremacy of God for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ."  It is his firm belief that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."  What that means is, your most important duty and highest goal in life is to pursue your joy in God.

But I have to confess, I am not very good at this.  Pursuing my joy in God means, first and foremost, beholding God (Psalm 27:4!), as I recently preached.  And, as Dr. Piper tweeted this morning, "Beholding... begs for lingering."  It requires sustained focus.  Focus on what?  On God's revelation of Himself—primarily through His Word (Scripture/the Bible), but also His creation.  In order to rightly comprehend that revelation, our minds must be moved upon by the Holy Spirit, who speaks not amidst mighty whirlwinds and the hectic pace of many of our lives, but in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).  We must (to quote the rest of Piper's tweet) "beware of hurry."

But this is countercultural for people everywhere.  It's extremely difficult.  In the "developed" (modern) world, the tendency is to hurry about everything—to squeeze the most we possibly can out every moment of life, prioritizing, of course, certain types of goals and objectives (e.g., financial, vocational) over others (e.g., relational, spiritual, emotional, evangelistic).  It's difficult in less developed societies ("third world"/"developing") for different reasons: lack of resources and education that would enable them to engage the Word thoroughly (as we Westerners conceive of thoroughness).

And it's difficult in every society, for one glaring reason, which the apostle Paul laments in 1 Cor. 13:12: " For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (ESV).  God knows us far better than we can possibly know Him, this side of eternity.  God enables us to see and experience just enough of Him to eliminate our excuses not to believe, but not enough to erase the possibility of doubt.  Mark Galli's CT article, "Mercifully Forsaken," explores the positive side of this reality.  But the question remains, To what extent is it possible to experience our joy in God in this life?  And how hard must we be on ourselves when evaluating our faithfulness at pursuing this goal?

As a pastor, preacher, teacher or writer, it's easy to hold up the ideal.  But what is the relationship of the ideal to reality?  What is God's expectation of us?  He is no doubt sad when we strive after earthly things to find satisfaction in life, or when we simply resign ourselves to "get along" grudgingly in this life—"gritting and bearing" it.  But in what way(s) and to what extent are the "higher," "heavenly things" (Col. 3:1-2) available to us now.  And when I say "us," I mean all of us: the congressperson, the businessman, the school teacher, the railroad engineer, the stay-at-home mom, the unemployed masses of Zimbabwe, the addict, and the trafficked girls of the East (and even the West).

This is a question I will probably wrestle with for the rest of my life, as I myself strive and urge others to experience the eternal life available to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Popular Posts