I don't know what your experience has been, but I've found that life can have a way of distracting me - of pulling me away from my intended purpose and taking my focus off what really matters. Take for example my years at University - I never went to law school with the intention of becoming a lawyer. Instead, I dreamed of becoming a renowned journalist and I'd been advised that the best way to realise this dream, was to get a comprehensive education. So law school it was. But somewhere along the way, I lost sight of why I'd gone there. I got caught up in everybody else's goals and ambitions, and as a result the vision changed. I applied for summer clerkships; I aimed for the top firms - I was going to be a lawyer.
It's an all too easy thing to do - to allow the people around us, the culture that we live in to shape our goals and aspirations. To let it become our measure of success; the yardstick by which we determine our value. But as a new year begins, it's an opportunity to redefine success; to recalibrate our hearts and to set goals that are not about how the world says our lives should look, or what the world says that we should pursue and accumulate - but who God says we are to become.
In Colossians 1, Paul prayed this prayer for the believers in Colosse:
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might...
As I've entered 2017 and been meditating on these words, I've asked myself the question, what does it look like to live a life that pleases God? What will enable me to look back on 2017 and view it as a success?
Paul reveals some measures of Biblical success in this prayer, telling us that to please God is to be fruitful in good works and to grow in our knowledge of Him. And it's the second that has really struck me. What if instead of measuring 2017 by a list - by what I manage to accumulate and achieve; by the numbers on the scales or in my bank accounts; by how clean my house is or what positions I hold - what if I measured it by whether this year saw me draw closer to Jesus? What if I defined success as a growing relationship with God - as knowing Him more and allowing myself to be known by Him?
When I stepped down from my role as an Associate Pastor, my Dad wrote me a beautiful letter of encouragement - and in it he shared this quote with me:
You take care of the depth of your life and ministry, and God will take care of the breadth of it - Source unknown
If I will direct my attention this year to the depth of my relationship with God, it will follow that I will grow in my knowledge of who He is; that I will as Paul prayed, be filled with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. And with this knowledge, with this growth, will come fruitfulness - will come breadth. Because the more I know God - not just know about Him, but know Him for myself - the more I will become like Him. Jesus put it this way when He said:
As you live in union with Me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you - but when you live separated from Me, you are powerless.
I can't know for sure what this year will look like - no matter how much I plan and set goals, I cannot guarantee what lies ahead of me. But I can determine this: I can resolve to pursue God in it all. I can resolve that no matter what twists and turns my journey takes, no matter what mountain tops I reach, or valleys that I walk through, that I will expect to see Him and to know Him more intimately. That I will love Him and allow Him to love me - in the good, the bad and the mundane. That I will believe that there is no part of my life where His power is not available to enable me to keep going - to keep growing.
And that for me will be true success - to look back over this year and to be able to say, I know God in a deeper and more meaningful way than I did at the beginning. So as we set our goals and return to our routines, let's not allow ourselves to be distracted from the one thing that really matters - staying connected to Jesus. Let's pursue Him in all things and fruitfulness will follow.
Live today with purpose,
Join me for a new devotional series in Colossians starting 13th February and let's pursue God together! Sign-up here to get it to your inbox, or if you prefer pen & paper pre-order the hard copy here.
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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