Saturday, October 20, 2007

Goal or process?

At Bible study this week, and again at my monthly women's group, we discussed God's plan for our lives as a goal vs. a process. As a typical American, I am of course goal-oriented. Like Santa Claus, I make my list and check it twice - and love to cross things off.

But God isn't like that. Sure, He does have ultimate goals. Scripture tells us that history has a sure conclusion: The summing up of all things in Christ, things on earth and things in heaven (Eph. 1:8-10). His church - made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation - will be presented to God without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:27). But goals in the sense that we think of them - a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan, specific numbers of converts - are not consistent with God's character.

Instead, He seems to be process-oriented. By that, I mean He is interested in our pursuit of Him and what He is making of us in the process. He is terribly concerned with what we are becoming (Christlike). One of the most fundamental New Testament terms for believers is "walk" and it indicates an ongoing action, not a one-time event.

One of my favorite examples is my daily quiet time. God doesn't want me to be so focused on the goal - finishing my quiet time, checking off all those boxes for prayer categories and Bible studies - as what He is showing me in that time. We've all had those times of irritation when our quiet time is interrupted (at least, I hope it's not just me). When I see God as process-oriented, I realize that He may actually be more concerned with my reaction to the interruption than whether or not I finish my Bible study.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not against structure, and sometimes we can be too easily distracted. All I'm saying is that when it looks like our plans are going awry, perhaps God has a different plan! Perhaps the process is the priority. A story I heard this week of a missionary who died his first night in the Andes underscores the truth that God works in ways very different than we do. If something Biblical, God-centered, and kingdom-oriented "interrupts" your plans - consider that God might be rearranging your goals to better fit His process!

Bottom line, God's work gets done, in spite of us! As Kenneth Latourette writes of the "decline" of Christianity during the Dark Ages, "If its future depended upon the kind of power embodied in the earthly city and its affiliated cultures, the outlook for Christianity was grim". But God was still at work in the process ... and the revival that later came was tremendous!

What "failed" goal are you grieving over tonight? Consider what God is doing in the process. Trust Him that He is steering you toward His ultimate goal ... and enjoy the scenery on the way!

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