What are the objectives of your goals for the New Year? Are they to make you a better person or to come to know Christ better?
This was the challenge given by my brother-in-law, Dennis Reitz, in a sermon on the first Sunday of a new year. “Christian living is not a self-improvement program,” he said. “When growth or change is our focus, our focus is on ourselves, not on Christ.” It made me think. I realized that far too many of my goals center around my fulfillment, from serving Christ it is true; but is my goal really to get to know Christ better and to further His Kingdom, or to make me feel good about myself? If the purposes of all my worthwhile activities are for making me feel more fulfilled, more worthwhile, rather than to fulfill Christ’s goals, I’m doing them for the wrong reasons.
It can happen so subtly. Just like this site, for instance. Under the Purposeful Singleness graphic there used to be this description of the site: Offering support and encouragement to Christian singles who may or may not feel called to a lifestyle of singleness, but who desire to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But what if that quest for purpose and meaning and fulfillment is self-serving rather than God-serving? When we are preoccupied with our own fulfillment, and not with Christ Himself, we’re missing God’s purpose for us by a long shot!
It seems the Apostle Paul had realized this when he said, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted as loss for Christ….I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8). Paul had figured out these equations:
Pursuit of our own goals = emptiness Pursuit of God’s goals = fulfillment
When we run after fulfillment and meaning, it’s sure to allude us, because true fulfillment and meaning is gained only as a byproduct of full surrender of all other preoccupations to a preoccupation with Christ and obedience to Him. Could this mean the giving up of personal, human dreams, such as marriage? Could it perhaps even mean suffering? According to Paul, yes: “That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death, so that by some means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Following Christ may mean the loss of our human dreams, it may mean the fulfillment of them. Neither is guaranteed. But this is the truth of what Paul discovered: knowing Christ is the only path to true fulfillment; all other paths lead to emptiness no matter how good they may seem.
When we first started the Purposeful Singleness ministry our mission statement was worded, “Offering encouragement and support to Christian singles who may or may not feel called to a lifestyle of singleness, but who desire to live fulfilling and purposeful lives.” After realizing the truths presented in this article, we changed it to its present version: “Inspiration, encouragement, and support for single Christians who may or may not feel called to singleness, but who desire to live purposeful lives for Jesus Christ.”
While the change may not seem that significant at first, you’ll probably now notice the difference: our purpose revolves around God’s purpose, and the resulting fulfillment is a by-product of living for Christ, not a goal in and of itself!