Toward the Mark

Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time. To live with no aim, no goals or purpose, is to miss life altogether. We’re created with a sense that life has a purpose, and this purpose relates to a goal. As we pursue our goals we fulfill our purpose, and experience deep satisfaction and fulfillment. This makes for a much more rewarding and satisfying life. (2Ti 4:7)

Frustration is what we feel when we’re being blocked from achieving a goal. Something which seems beyond our immediate control is making it difficult or impossible for us to reach a goal and fulfill our sense of purpose. For example, trying to balance a budget when our spouse is constantly overspending. This can cause feelings of anger, grief and depression – and lead to envy, strife, coercion and manipulation (1Co 3:3), passive-aggression and/or violence to try to overcome what’s blocking our way.

The very nature of frustration tells us how we overcome it. By definition, there’s only one way: change – we must adapt and grow. (Ep 4:15) Frustration is God’s way of telling us we’re missing something; the only remedy is to discover what we’re missing – and put another precious piece into the puzzle of our life.

We might have an improper goal: we might be aiming at the wrong thing, or have an expectation that’s misaligned with reality. This often happens when our goals are not within our power to achieve, as when they involve the will of other people — who tend to have different goals than we do. (1Co 16:12)

Proper goals will always be within our personal control, and relate to our own behavior, not that of others. (1Pe 4:15) When the reality of other people’s goals gets in our way, as they inevitably will, we must ether course-correct or continue to bump heads with the universe. The universe will eventually win, needless to say. Wisdom is choosing to grow up by refining our goals, and learning to aim at better things. (Ep 5:17)

Yet, even if our goal is wholesome and good, aligned with reality, within our personal control, we may still be frustrated if we aren’t pursuing it correctly, or with the correct mindset. In this case, we grow by disciplining and controlling ourselves, praying, and adjusting and refining our beliefs, behaviors and expectations so we pursue our goal more patiently and efficiently, reaching our goal in a timely fashion, in accordance with reality.

If our goal is godly, we need not sin against ourselves or anyone else to achieve it. (Ja 1:16) If sinful behavior is necessary to achieve a goal, then it’s not a good goal by definition; it’s misaligned with eternal reality and pursuing it will bring us to ruin. (Ro 6:23)

As we address our frustrations in wisdom, seeking the will of God as our ultimate goal (Php 1:21), we can receive frustration itself as a welcome friend, a gift from God, exposing another area in our lives where He wants us to grow.

As we ask God to show us our hidden goals and motives, and prayerfully expose them to the light of God’s Word (Ps 119:105), He will reveal Himself and His way to us, that we may cleanse our way (Ps 119:9) and have His perfect peace. (Php 4:6-7)

The path of life is full of challenges and difficulty. It is at times bewilderingly painful and complex. As we face each trial in our pursuit God, we should count it all joy (Ja 1:2), realizing God’s glorious intent, constantly adjusting, shifting and growing to be conformed into the image of Christ. (Ro 8:29) This is how we work out our sanctification (Php 2:12), how we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. (Php 3:14)

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A Clean Heart

A clean heart isn’t merely forgiven, it’s also free of corruption, darkness and lies, inclined toward and aligned with its Creator, free to live according to His design. To the degree that our old man continues to dominate our lives, our heart isn’t clean, and we’re prisoners to sin (2Ti 2:25), which isn’t good. (He 12:14)

So, when King David found himself in a bad way with God, having sinned grevously, he asks God to create within him a clean heart (Ps 51:10); he wants a miracle, to be a new man.

God is certainly able to do this, yet one should know how God chooses to go about these things, to understand His methodology in such creative acts. It isn’t what we might think.

Our inclination may be to expect God to zap us such that we’re instantly holy, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the excitement. Yet this is a bit disingenuous; like claiming we desire physical cleanliness while neglecting to bathe.

So, while only God can perform miracles, He generally tends to work them through us as we engage with Him in His work. (Php 2:13) It’s no different here: He gives us instructions on how to clean our own hearts, and works the miracle of a clean heart in us as we obey Him, working through our obedience to cleanse us.

How then does God tell us to cleanse our own hearts, and put ourselves in order before God? By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and motives and constantly holding them up against the Word of God as a plumb line. (Ps 119:9) We hide God’s Word in our heart, so we know it from memory and are constantly thinking about it, so we won’t disobey Him through forgetfulness (De 26:13) or carelessness (Ps 119:11), then we commit to obeying all of it that we can as well as we can. (Ps 119:6)

This makes perfect sense, if we think about it for a bit. How can we even desire a clean heart if we’re still carelessly toying with sin, willing to disobey God, unconcerned about the trajectory of our lives? If we aren’t alert, paying attention, looking for where we might be missing His Way, asking God to help us, we’re acting as if we love darkness, as if we have no real interest in a clean heart.

So, though it’s true no one can fully cleanse their own heart (Pr 20:9), we can’t say that we even want a clean heart unless we’re willing to try, to take the first step and do what God says to do. As we try to obey Him He enables us, and does things in us that we can’t do for ourselves.

As we’re meditating on His word, as we find gaps between our behavior and God’s standard, we ask Him to quicken and enable us to align with Him (Ps 119:25), to make us go in the path of His commandments. (Ps 119:35) We ask Him to expose and correct the lies within us (Ps 119:29), asking Him for enabling grace whenever we need it. (He 4:16)

Since we’re seeking strength to do God’s will, we can be sure He hears us. (1Jn 5:14-15) We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice that He is transforming our character, step by step into the image of Christ. (Ro 5:2) This is how grace reigns in us through righteousness unto eternal life (Ro 5:21), enabling us to overcome sin. (1Jn 5:4)

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