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Measure achievements of the new year by divine standards

SATURDAY, JAN. 2, 2010

How will you measure success in 2010?

You want to make more money? Get a promotion? Retire?

Perhaps your resolve is more relational: you ache for deeper friendships, or long to enable others to reach their potential.

This time of year, many people are setting goals, aiming for some measurable mark of achievement by the end of 2010. But how do we know the goals we’re setting are the right ones? And how do we avoid that inevitable disappointment when we miss our mark because of circumstances we cannot control?

Our Bibles offer priceless wisdom here, especially if we hone in on the lives of people who really seemed to live with purpose. Few would disagree that the Apostle Paul was such a person.

Consider Paul’s last words to his protégé, Timothy: “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:6-7, NLT).

Don’t be put off by the context here: yes, Paul is about to be executed for his faith. But that makes his perspective all the more remarkable.

Paul viewed his entire life as a Christian to be an act of worship to God.

Folks, that alone is a worthy New Year’s resolution. How might our contentment and joy and hope increase if our goals were not so much self-centered but God-centered?

I want to find out this year, and you’re welcome to join me.

Paul didn’t divide his life into little compartments: work, home, friends, church. He realized that all of life can be offered to God, allowing him to guide us into his best. In any context, Paul asked himself: what would please God?

The apostle also seemed intensely aware of something you and I don’t like to think about: Our lives are finite. We’ve only got so much time to live for that purpose that is bigger than us.

Don’t shrug this off as too esoteric; it’s intensely practical and personal.

It’s just that living for God’s purposes and not our own requires a different measure of success.

Paul didn’t measure success by the number of churches he started or the number of people he baptized or whether he had achieved affluence, influence or prestige.

Just the opposite.

Paul simply measured success in terms of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (v. 7).

Ultimately, we won’t find lasting contentment or joy or hope if we set our sights on things that might not happen. We can’t always control whether we keep a job, stay healthy or retire when we’d like to do so.

But this can be our resolve: no matter what context God places us in, we can aim to be faithful to our Savior.

The saints who went before us so often lived with a sort of Teflon happiness that wasn’t soiled by trials or even persecution.

Their secret?

They kept their eyes fixed on a heavenly finish line.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

How will you measure success in 2010?


 

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