What is the goal of the Christian life?
Is it perfect attendance at church? If it is, not one of us is going to make it. I’ve missed church a time or two or three or four. You have too. Perfect attendance isn’t the goal of the Christian life. It’s commendable, to be sure, and beneficial too, but it’s not what we’re aiming for. There’s more to Christianity than just showing up.
Maybe the goal is to serve on as many committees as you can. What do you think? Is that what God wants from us? Can the purpose of the Christian life be boiled down to enduring…I mean enjoying a few thousand meetings? If joining committees is the chief aim of the saints, far too many are falling short.
If it the goal isn’t perfect attendance or committee membership, perhaps the goal is reading the Bible cover to cover. Genesis, no problem; it’s a story book. Exodus, a bit tedious at times, but fairly interesting narratives. Leviticus, anyone who can make it through that one is surely a saint. Then there’s Numbers. I’ll confess. I’m not sure I’ve ever really read every word of Numbers. Reading the Bible from page one to page one thousand, one hundred forty-five has is not the goal. There are complete atheists who’ve read the whole thing. If a heathen can do it, it can’t be all there is to living for Jesus.
So what is the main thing? Is it praying a lot? Is it doing good works? Is it memorizing John 3:16? No, no and no. The goal of the Christian life is maturity. That’s what God wants for you and for me and for every believer. God wants us to be fully developed followers of Jesus. To be complete. To be ready.
Isn’t that great?! I can’t think of any better news than that unless you count God’s desire for us to be saved as something separate. I don’t view the two as disconnected in the least. Being saved through faith in Jesus is part of the process of reaching maturity. It’s the beginning part, the first step toward the ultimate without which the goal cannot be attained. You have to be born before you can grow in maturity, right? Works that way in the physical realm and in the spiritual. Birth precedes growth.
So you’re born again into God’s family. You start your new life with him. You enjoy your new relationship. You start doing some of the things we talked about earlier – reading your Bible, praying, attending church more regularly, serving others. You learn new things all the time. You get excited when God answers your prayers. He’s alive! You’re alive! Life is good.
You’re whistling that merry tune, when along comes trouble. You don’t understand. Wasn’t the singing and shouting and fun supposed to last forever? You stop whistling and cry out to God, questioning him loudly, and he answers with peace in the midst of the storm. Your faith grows as you understand better the depths of Jesus’ promise to be with you to the very end of the age. You thank him despite your outward circumstances.
Some of you have experienced multiple times the triumphs and tragedies of life and have grown strong in your faith. You trust God implicitly. No matter what comes, you know he’ll see you through. Doubts seldom plague you. You understand what James is saying at the beginning of his letter to the church.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)
Steadfast faith – or perseverance as James calls it here – is one sign of Christian maturity. Over the next few days, we’ll talk about a few other signs of maturity. For now, I want to urge you to ask God for his peace in the midst of your trials. I want to ask you to seek him for steadfast faith.
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