We live in a society that prides itself on exceptionalism. We believe that we can rule our own mountain, control our own future, reach every goal. And here in America, if we find trouble ascending the hills that we find in front of us, we simply erect new hills, tailor-made for our own “unique” gifts. While I don’t disagree in the least that we should be goal setting people, wisdom-seekers constantly looking into the future with the desire to shape it for good and for the Gospel, I also think that we should understand that any “Godward” trajectory we set for ourselves will be absolutely un-attainable without the resources of the One we are pursuing.
The irony, for the majority of us, is that we will set far more goals than we will ever pursue. Read the last sentence carefully, I did not say we’d set more goals than we will reach, I said we’d set more goals than we would ever even make a first step toward. Why? A great deal of our terminal trepidation will likely be based on the fact that we are prone to want all the resources necessary for completion of a task prior to ever beginning the task. But that generally isn’t how things work. We will find that we will usually have the fiscal, emotional, or physical capital to achieve a step toward our target, not to obtain the entire thing. I read this a couple of days ago regarding the grace of God:
“So he [God] supplies perfectly measured grace to meet the needs of the godly. For daily needs there is daily grace; for sudden needs, sudden grace; for overwhelming need, overwhelming grace. God’s grace is given wonderfully, but not wastefully; freely but not foolishly; bountifully but not blindly.”
– John Blanchard (from Jerry Bridges, “Transforming Grace”)
I was reminded of something Paul told the Philippian church. He didn’t claim to have “arrived” at the goal he had set (or that God had set for him). But I get no sense of regret in Paul’s tone, to the contrary I hear determination. It doesn’t seem that Paul was mully-grubbing about how God hadn’t given him the ability to get everything done, but he was passionate about travelling the road that still separated him and His desired end.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Feel the weight of who is saying this. Paul. We could almost put a definite article in front of his name like a professional wrassler: “The Paul”. The guy whose life and testimony forces us to merely speculate as to what his weaknesses may have been after Damascus. The guy who always seems to be raising the bar for us, and yet he does it in such a humble way that we can’t even call him on pride. This guy says that he is still striving, still grabbing the gravel and scratching his way toward the throne of His Savior. Each day presented its own challenges for Paul, and each day he put the past behind him to face both the new mountains that he would encounter and the fresh supply of grace that was allocated for that day. God told him at a different time that “His grace was sufficient” for Paul. Not excessive, not given in a stingy way, but sufficient. Sufficiency is enough. And that seems to be the way that we receive from God as well.
I would encourage you friends, don’t try to conquer the world today. Far too often when we set those lofty and stratospheric goals we become overwhelmed with the scope and logistics of them and we never take the first step toward those finish lines. Instead, look at today as a mission in itself and approach it knowing that God has already given you the resources needed to accomplish His will for your life for THIS day. Plan for tomorrow, but don’t worry about it. Set your goals, but don’t obsess over whether or not you will be able to achieve them. It is the steady pace of a life lived in today’s grace that avoids being crippled by the distant mountains of tomorrow’s challenges. And really, don’t take my word for it, this same idea came directly out of the mouth of the Son of God. Jesus said:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you…“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25, 31, 33-34
It is impossible for you to do what God has asked you to do today. So, instead of lowering the bar, God Himself promises to give you exactly what you need to do the impossible. Never doubt that in every situation and in every circumstance God has offered His grace to give you the ability to do exactly what you should. Approach every situation in this way. As I’ve quoted before, Warren Wiersbe in writing on the topic of spiritual warfare:
“We do not fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory.”
– Warren Wiersbe