At the beginning of studying for a master’s degree in theology, one of my professors said, “We do not study to be prepared for a future career; we study to experience God changing our lives.”
Today’s devotional reading says something similar. Chambers says God is not leading him to a particular end. Instead, His purpose is that he depends on Him and His power right now. “It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.”
Chambers draws this from an incident in the New Testament just after Jesus fed 5000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves and two fish . . .
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:45–52)
Using this passage, Chambers wants to disarm the idea that life lessons are some sort of preparation for future successes, much like my professor was giving a head’s up regarding the purpose of grad school.
However, God actually does have an end result in mind for His people. Romans 8:28-29 and 1 John 3:2 are clear; His goal is that I am transformed into the image of His Son. While it will not be complete until I see Jesus face-to-face, each event, trial, even daily monotony and all of life’s experiences are used by God toward that transformation. During all those experiences, He is giving me opportunity to live up to that purpose, to be what He has recreated me to be. Nothing is unimportant to His plan.
Further, I cannot excuse myself from Spirit-filled obedience by assuming God has no reason for what He allows to happen. He is using everything for His purposes. Nor can I assume that because He will finish the job in the end, I can merely coast until I get to heaven.
Chambers points out that I cannot assume that my obedience will produce great success, at least not immediately. The disciples did what Jesus told them to do and they wound up in a storm and terrified. When Jesus walked on the wind-tossed waves, got into the boat with them, and the storm stopped, they were astonished, but their hearts were not changed to greater faith. Instead, they became hard-hearted. This incident no doubt affected their faith later, but at the time, it added to their cluelessness.
I can relate to that. As I try to figure out the purpose of some things, I realize that I’ve no clue what is going on much of the time. I only know God’s goal – that I be like Jesus, clueless or not – in the middle of the muddle. Jesus always knew what was going on, but I am not there yet.
Life is often a mystery, but the promise and plan of God is certain; He is changing my life to be like that of His Son. The best I can do is live up to what I know and allow Him to govern my actions and responses. This fulfills His will for me, at least for that spot in time and space.
And if the muddle continues, either in life or in my mind, I am comforted to know that He knows what He is doing and His purposes cannot be thwarted by my inability to grasp and hold on. He will continue to ‘dust and polish’ until this mirror more perfectly reflects His image, even though it will take a lifetime and then some.