Goals, plans, purpose, passion, vision, hopes – we all have some form of these. I have a goal to eventually retire, but not quite yet. Because of the goal and eventuality, I plan ahead and adjust my current lifestyle choices accordingly. Sometimes our goals are strong motivators; often, they are more hope-filled and aspirational.
One thing books about success have in common is the need for goals and purposefully working towards those goals with laser focus. Then with great effort and overcoming all adversity coming our way, if we stay focused, we will achieve our goal. Sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with having goals and working towards a purpose. But our faith relationship with Christ is not strengthened through laser-focused striving after goals.
Paul writes in Romans, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, NASB95) Romans is one of those books of the Bible where context is king since Paul uses layers upon layers to build and explore his case for Christ. We must begin with the recognition that our justification is in receiving the finished work of Christ by faith. The same kind of faith that Abraham had when God promised him a son.
Justification is a dusty, seldom used word in today’s world. Think of it this way, whatever debts we had before God are stamped “paid in full.” The stains which kept us from being welcomed into God’s presence are washed away. In Christ, we are free from guilt, shame, and fear. We are justified by faith in Christ.
In the world, we set goals and strive after until we attain the goal or give up. Justification before God is something that no amount of striving after can attain. It is, instead, a gift given by Jesus Christ and received by faith. As a result, we have peace; we are reconciled with God. We don’t earn His favor; we already have it. We don’t strive to gain God’s love; we are already loved. We don’t climb a mountain to find God; we fall into His arms.
I can hear the “but, what about…” gearing up. Having peace with God doesn’t mean that our labors have stopped, but that their purpose has changed. We don’t do all the stuff of following Jesus to earn access to God or for our prayers to be answered. We do the stuff to open our hearts more fully into God’s peace and love. We labor to bring others into God’s peace. We strive for God’s kingdom to come in all of its glory. We do all of these things out of love for God and for one another.
Today, even if it just for a moment, soak in God’s peace. Let it surround you and hug you. Know that you are loved by God. Test your attitudes and motives. Are the things you do for God (or in His name) to earn His favor or because of your love for Him? Sometimes we need to lay down our staff (our labors, talents, and abilities) and rest in His peace until God tells us to pick it up again. Have God’s peace my friend.