Jul 30 - Setting My Life Goals

Setting My Life Goals: Am I Living My Life For God?

July 30, 2017

2 Peter 1:5-15

 

 

SETTING MY LIFE GOALS:

Am I living my life for God?

2 Peter 1:5-15

July 30th, 2017

 

Three hunters got caught in a snow storm in northern BC, but were lucky to find a trapper’s cabin.  The cabin was unlocked and when they were inside they noticed that the wood-burning stove was suspended in midair by wires attached to the ceiling beam.  One of the men, a psychologist, thought this was so because it represented a return to the womb.  The other, an engineer, thought that this was so because the air could better circulate around and distribute the heat.  The third, a pastor, thought it had some religious significance.  When the trapper returned they asked him about it.  He said, “I had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe.”

 

Last week we discovered that God uses ordinary people who are available because they are submitted to his will, because they have a true knowledge of God, and because they are empowered by him.

 

Today I want us to consider some things that will need to be true of us if we are going to be effective or productive or fruitful in living our lives for God

 

 

Peter moves on in his letter to speak about the qualities that Christians should strive for, that Christians should use maximum effort in achieving, that Christians should be completely diligent to make sure that they are part of their character and lives. 

 

Make every effort[1] to add goodness to your faith, knowledge to your goodness, ...            2 Peter 1:5

 

He begins with the quality of faith and tells them to add goodness, knowledge and 5 more things. He then mentions that these qualities are so important because they are an indication that God is actually at work in their lives (changing them for the better), partakers of the divine nature, as he mentions in v.4.[2]  

 

2 Peter 1:5-7

Galatians 5:22-23

 

 

*Faith (belief, trust, faithfulness)[3]

*Faith[4]

Goodness (excellence, piety)[5]

Goodness[6]

Knowledge[7]

 

*Self-control[8]

*Self-control[9]

Endurance ( perseverance, steadfastness)[10]

Patience[11]

 

Godliness (piety)[12]

 

Brotherly kindness (brotherly affection)[13]

Kindness[14]

*Love[15]

*Love[16]

 

Joy

 

Peace

 

Humility

 

In this slide I’ve compared Peter’s list of 8 qualities, which Christians should strive to incorporate into their lives, side by side with the apostle Paul’s 9 point list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Between the two lists there is quite a bit of overlap.  The asterisk (*) is an indication that the exact same Greek word is used in both cases (faith, self-control, love).

 

So Christians are to make every effort to have these changes take place. Why?  In order that they will live fruitful lives for God.

 

I will live effectively for God if ...

 

  1. The way I think about (and therefore act and react to) events and people is transformed

 

For if these qualities [lit. things] are yours and are on the increase, they will keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted as to be blind, forgetting that he has been cleansed from his former sins.                                        2 Peter 1:8-9 

 

While Peter doesn’t state that this personal transformation to greater goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love is due to a change in the way that we think about life and what happens and ourselves and others, the apostle Paul does (Rom 12:2 - be transformed by the renewing of your mind; cf. Tit 3:5 - the renewal of the Holy Spirit). 

 

I will live effectively for God if the way I think about events and people is transformed, and secondly, if ...

 

  1. I have a goal that goes beyond enjoying my earthly life

 

I intend to always remind you of these things, even though you know about them and you are established in the truth that you have received.  However, it is proper for me to refresh your memory as long as I live in this tent (i.e. body), especially because I know that I will be putting off my tent soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ had made clear to me.  So I will make every effort[17] to make sure that, after my departure, you will be able to recall these things at all times.                   1 Peter 1:12-15

 

The only goal, purpose, ambition, dream or vision that many people have is to be financially independent, to go on a cruise, to visit Disneyland, to buy a house or a new car, to win the lottery.  While there is nothing necessarily wrong with any of those goals, if that’s all there’s to our lives, if that’s all that’s important to us, then our existence really doesn’t have a lot of meaning, and our belief in God’s existence has no real practical consequences.

 

God wants us to aim to do something with our lives that has lasting consequences, even eternal consequences.  And as Christians we need to have a dream, more than a dream, but a goal that we are actively pursuing, a goal beyond our personal gain that we are striving for

 

[By the way, I think what is to be true of us individually should also be true of us corporately.  What is our goal as a community of faith?  Maybe, it should be that those who are part of any church family should display the fruit of the Spirit, should add goodness and knowledge and self-control and endurance and godliness and kindness and love to their faith. 

 

Maybe there should be a goal to bring others to God, whether in Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, or Victoria. 

 

Maybe our goal should be that all of us are compelled by God’s love to make a difference wherever we may find ourselves.] 

 

I’ve heard it said that if you have no goals, there will be no growth; worse, if you stop dreaming you start dying.  .  What was that quip about how many Baptists are needed to change a lightbulb.  What, change? 

 

Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves for they will never cease to be amused.

 

So all of us need at least one big goal.  Instead of an expanding waistline, our horizon needs to expand.  We have to have a vision.  Because if we are lacking a big goal, then maybe we need to check our spiritual pulse. 

 

And, by the way, a big goal does not necessarily mean having to enter full-time ministry, or starting a nonprofit organization or NGO (non-governmental organization).  It doesn’t necessarily mean aiding unfortunate people somewhere in the world.  It doesn’t necessarily mean to write THE book that will change the world. 

 

It may mean, making sure that an effective Christian organization is financially viable, whether that organization deals with at-risk youth, with malaria prevention, with education, with the provision of clean water, with looking after orphans, with fighting human trafficking, or with providing health care. 

 

It may mean personally volunteering at a local charity or at our church.

 

It may mean going on a short-term mission trip.

 

It may mean letting our lights shine so that people will notice and give praise to our heavenly father. 

 

It may mean being a prayer warrior because physically or financially we are no longer able to do much.
 

My personal big goal in life is to pass on truth, spiritual and otherwise.  Being a pastor just happens to be the avenue through which I do this, but I know it’s not the only avenue, and I could very well work in a secular job and still fulfill my bigger goal in life some other way.

 

Peter’s consistent motivation was to always remind his readers about what it means to be a believer and what it means to live as a believer.  Even if they may have already heard the very same things he is writing to them, it didn’t matter to Peter.  He would just keep reminding them because his goal was to ensure that they would in fact live the kind of life that is fitting for someone who believes in God and Jesus

 

That was his big goal.  He wanted them to be established in the truth. Do you remember the words of the resurrected Jesus to Peter? 

 

Three times Jesus told him to “feed my sheep,” that is, to look after fellow Christ-followers (John 21:15-17).  Similarly, Luke records how Jesus commissioned Peter to “strengthen the brothers.”[18] 

 

I think that Jesus’ words were instrumental in determining the vision of Peter, his goal, the one thing that he most wanted to accomplish with his life.  This isn’t just a passing fancy.  Peter was so convinced that he has been given a job to accomplish by God and for God, he would not allow himself to be side-tracked. 

 

Charles Darwin became a naturalist through his love of collecting, classifying and mounting insects, especially beetles. He was obsessed with beetles.  When he was studying at Cambridge, he wrote about a time when he saw two rare beetles. He grabbed one in each hand.  But then he saw a third even more elusive beetle, and not wanting to lose the other two, he popped on of them into his mouth in order to grab the third. 

 

Unfortunately for him, the one in his mouth immediately squirted an acidic fluid that burned his tongue.  He was forced to spit out the one beetle, which he lost, and in the process he also lost the third beetle in which he was really interested.  The point is that he was so focused on the goal of collecting beetles that he would even put one in his mouth in that pursuit.

 

As an aside, as I read this story, I also read that Charles Darwin was keen on eating all of the animals he came across.  The more exotic the better.  He particularly liked the taste of the giant tortoise.  Which got me thinking that it is too bad that giant tortoises cannot be farmed for meat (too slow growing for one).  I would love to have a tortoise ranch, it would be one of the most relaxing jobs in the world, wouldn’t you think?[19]  Mind you, tortoise-man just doesn’t have the same ring to it as cowboy.  Or maybe it does?

 

Just washing down my tortoise.  Doesn’t that sound like a relaxing thing to do?  By the way, I gave this WAY too much thought this week.

 

Did I tell you I like tortoises ... and the idea of a stress-free life?  But here I’m speaking about a life goal, tortoise ranching, that revolves around me and what I can get out of it for myself. 

 

But life-goals just revolving around me can come in a number of forms.

 

For example, you have heard of the famous saying of Julius Caesar’s wife, haven’t you?: “Veni, Vidi, Visa”, I came, I saw, I shopped. 

 

As believers we need a life goal that goes that is greater than such things.  And I think that this was the case with Peter, especially as he thought about the fact that his life on earth would soon come to an end.  Let’s look at that passage again.  

 

I will live effectively for God if ...

 

  1. I have a goal that goes beyond enjoying my earthly life

 

I intend to always remind you of these things, even though you know about them and you are established in the truth that you have received.  However, it is proper for me to refresh your memory as long as I live in this tent (i.e. body), especially because I know that I will be putting off my tent soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ had made clear to me.[20]  So I will make every effort to make sure that, after my departure, you will be able to recall these things at all times.                     1 Peter 1:12-15

 

So Peter speaks of his physical body as a tent that he will soon be putting off, like a garment one takes off prior to going to bed.  By the way, Paul uses the very same terminology to speak about dying in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians.[21] 

 

To Peter, in the time that remains prior to his death, he will continue in his life mission in order to ensure that even after his departure, that is, his departure from this life ... after his death, his readers will continue to hold to the truth.

 

By the way, did Jesus predict WHEN Peter would die?  No he didn’t, although in the passage which records Jesus’ words to Peter, Jesus mentions that Peter would become “old.”  That’s a relative term, as you can imagine.  To a 30 year old, someone in their 60’s is ancient.  So Jesus didn’t predict when Peter would die, only that Peter would become old.

 

Did Jesus predict THE WAY that Peter would die?  According to the author of the gospel of John, Jesus indeed did.  However, the words that Jesus used, don’t give us that impression:

 

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

                                                          John 21:18

 

You will stretch out your hands - the outstretched arms was the reason why tradition speaks of Peter being crucified.

 

and another will get you dressed (possibly because his eye sight became very poor or, possibly, because he was blinded as a punishment ... his eyes were put out).

 

and (this other person) will lead you where you do not want to go (possibly to his death). 

 

From Ignatius of Antioch, who was born around the death of Jesus (c. 35-107), we know that Peter was in Rome at some time.[22]   Also in the first century, Clement of Rome[23] writes that Peter was martyred.[24]

 

We don’t hear about the method of death until the late second century.  Tertullian mentions that Peter was crucified.[25]  Also around that time, a legendary account of Peter’s life mentions that he was crucified upside down.[26]

 

So it is highly likely that both Peter and Paul were executed in Rome around AD 64 or 65, when Nero had many, many Christians killed.  Exactly how they were killed is really a thing of tradition and could or could not be historically true.[27]  

 

I believe that Peter is NOT referring here to what Jesus told him as recorded in the gospel of John.  To my mind, it is most likely that Peter had a much more recent revelation about his imminent death. 

 

Many years previously, (c. AD 44), Peter and the apostle James (lit. Jacob; Yacov) were both arrested and imprisoned by Herod (Agrippa I.).  The apostle James was one of Jesus’ inner circle of three, which included Peter, James, and James’ brother John. 

 

The Herod who had Peter and James arrested was neither the Herod (Herod the Great) who reigned at the time of Jesus’ birth, nor the Herod (Herod Antipas) who had John the Baptist beheaded, but the grandson of Herod the Great.[28] 

 

James was executed by this particular Herod Agrippa, the first apostle to die for his faith. Peter, on the very night he was to be sentenced - likely to a similar fate - was rescued from jail by an angel (Acts 12:1-19).[29]

 

So while Peter may have been spared execution back then, this was not going to happen now. 

 

It reminds me of a story about 2 missionaries who were about to cross a river on foot when they saw a bunch of crocodiles lying on the bank.  One of the missionaries refused to enter the river.  The other chided him, “Don’t you know that God is good?”, to which the first retorted, “Yes, but God may also be good to the crocodiles.

 

Life is uncertain at best. We may avoid disaster, but we may not.  However, the point is, as long as we think we have another 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 years guaranteed on this planet, we may always push a greater goal into the future

 

Imagine that you met God this afternoon.  He appeared to you and you knew unequivocally that it was him.  He proceeds to tell you that you have exactly 3 more years to live and then you will certainly die.  Your soul would live on, but the place where it spends eternity depends on the way you live your life.

 

This is just as an aside, but did you know that the apostle Paul wrote that salvation comes by faith, but that God’s judgment is based on works?

 

Salvation by faith

Judgment by works

 

 

God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you cannot take credit for this - it is a gift of God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things [lit. works] that we have done,[30] so none of us can boast about it.  

Eph. 2:9 NLT

God will judge everyone according to what they have done.  He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good and seek after the glory, honour and immortality that God offers.

Rom. 2:6-7 NLT

Rom. 3:22,24,28; 4:5; 5:1

1 Cor. 4:5

Gal. 2:16

2 Cor. 5:10

Phil. 3:9

Col. 3:25

 

One way to think about this is that our good works are THE sign of the genuine nature of our faith. Paul wrote to the Christians in the Roman province of Galatia:

 

In Christ ... only faith expressed[31] through love counts for anything.[32]                                           Galatians 5:6

 

Paul was convinced that genuine faith in God would motivate, not toward acts of barbarism, nor toward being judgmental, nor toward feeling superior, but inevitably toward greater love and kindness and compassion. 

 

Now granted, one does not have to be religious to be kind and compassionate. But for Paul, one cannot be a Christian without being kind and compassionate

 

Of course, love can be expressed in many, many different ways, not simply by helping someone with their physical needs, as these pictures indicate. People have so many different needs, emotional, relational, intellectual, health related needs ... and love can be shown in meeting any of these.

 

In fact, just a few short verses after the passage in Galatians 5:6, Paul notes that when we carry the burdens of others we are actually obeying the very thing which Jesus commanded his disciples (lit. we fulfill the law of Christ).[33]  That is faith expressing itself through love.

 

Genuine salvation inevitably leads to good deeds

 

Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

                                                          Matthew 5:16

 

Numerous sermons can be and have been preached on the tension between faith and good works.  But as I said, this only as an aside, so I don’t want to belabour the point.       

 

So, what if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you had exactly three years to live and that God would subsequently determine your eternal destiny based on what you did?

 

Would you change anything in your life? 

 

Would you go on a three year selfish and self-centered binge:  Get as much pleasure as you could possibly get out of life?  Or would you devote yourself to something of genuine importance during those three intervening years before your death?

 

I intend to always remind you of these things, even though you know about them and you are established in the truth that you have received.  However, it is proper for me to refresh your memory as long as I live in this tent (i.e. body), especially because I know that I will be putting off my tent soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ had made clear to me.[34]  So I will make every effort to make sure that, after my departure, you will be able to recall these things at all times.                     1 Peter 1:12-15

 

We often think of a legacy as leaving behind money or possessions to our children and/or grandchildren when we pass on.  According to what we read in Acts, Peter was not a man of means.[35]

 

Peter, knowing that his life was drawing to an end, wanted to make sure that he would leave a legacy after his death - that his readers would remember at all times what he wrote to them.  Little did he know at the time of writing, that his letter would be preserved and still read nearly 2,000 years later!  If he had, I would imagine that he would have been delighted.

 

To repeat my primary premise.  If we live lives that are effective for God, then we need a vision, a goal, that is bigger than the gratification of our own desires, the fulfillment of our own wishes for importance or wealth, even greater than leaving behind physical things for our descendants. 

 

We can all do things that of significance.  Some of us may compose music, others may write poems, again others may invite friends to a church event or small group, others may give to charity, others may visit the lonely or the sick, others may have people over to their homes, ... there are simply too many ways to list ways in which we can change the world for another human being, and maybe even change their eternal destiny.

 

About 25 years ago I used to visit a blind elderly lady in a care home in Coquitlam on Schoolhouse Road (Mrs. Haddock). The reason why I still remember her is because, even though she was physically frail and virtually blind, she had a huge ministry.  She would phone family and friends, who she would call up, pray for, encourage, listen to, and lead to Christ. 

 

When she passed away, she left a massive legacy in the people who she touched for good and for God.   

 

Last week I mentioned that God uses ordinary people who are available to him.  There is something more important than education, talent, skills, gifting, intelligence, and that is a genuine willingness to do whatever God asks of us. 

 

But this should not be some half-hearted thing that is done grudgingly, it should not be a chore that needs to be completed.  It should be something that resonates within us.  That energizes us.  Something that is satisfying and meaningful.  Something that we actually want to do.  A big goal is a dream or a vision after all. 

 

It is why, when it comes to living for a great goal and leaving an important legacy, that all kinds of super-talented, highly educated, extremely smart people will be sitting on the sidelines of life, while people who may not be as gifted are getting the job done.

 

So let me challenge you to think a bit about the title of this weeks’ sermon:

 

SETTING MY LIFE GOALS: Am I living my life for God?

 

In order to answer that question, maybe we need to begin with two others:

 

  1. What are the big goals in my life right now: What am I living for, what am I most desirous of happening?

 

Is it a holiday? Is it world travel?  Is it financial independence?  Is it to ensure ongoing health?  Is it to be a good parent?  Is it to finish my education?  Is it to get married?  Is it to establish my career?  Is it to purchase a home?  What is the one thing most important to me right now?

 

  1. What is the one big (eternally important; God-inspired) goal that I want to accomplish before I die ... what would I want my legacy to be?

 

For some of us, that may be the really hard question.

 

Hard, because we may believe that it’s really puzzling trying to figure out exactly what our big goal should be, what we could accomplish for God and His kingdom in our lifetime.  To tell you the truth, I think that for most of us, that goal is staring us in the face, and has been for years.  We just haven’t given it a lot of thought in the business of life.    

 

Or this question could be hard because we are afraid of what the answer might be. We really don’t want to find out what that bigger goal may be because it may mean giving up some of our own self-centered goals, including the desire not to do anything that might be hard or difficult.

 

Or this question may be hard, because we feel we have nothing to offer.  And sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, our emotional or psychological burden may prevent us from doing much. But just like Mrs. Haddock, we shouldn’t allow our limitations to completely stifle us. 

 

Or this question may be hard, because we’re not sure how to start living it out.

 

But regardless of how difficult or easy this question is to answer, I want to challenge you today, spend some time giving the questions on the overhead some thought and prayer.  Figure out what you are living for.  And figure out what God would want you to accomplish with your life. 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Gk. spouden pasan (all diligence).  The verbal form is used in v.15.

[2] 1:4 God has granted to us his precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature (= Christ-likeness; see 2 Cor 3:18 - transformed into his image; Rom 8:29 - conformed to the image of his son) and escaped the corruption in the world that is due to sinful desire.

[3] pistis

[4] pistis

[5] arete

[6] agathosune

[7] gnosis

[8] egkrateia

[9] egkrateia

[10] hupomone

[11] macrothumia

[12] eusebia

[13] philadelphia

[14]chrestotes

[15] agape

[16] agape

[17] Gk. spoudaso [I will be diligent].  The verbal form of the word that is used in v.5. 

[18] Luke 22:32 - “Simon ... Satan has demanded to have you, ... but I’ve prayed that your faith will not fail.  And after you have turned back again, strengthen (Gk. sterisone; also support, establish) your brothers.

[19] They breed giant tortoises at the Darwin Research Station (Island of Santa Cruz) on the Galapagos, although one subspecies (abingdoni from Pinta Island) has already died out.

[20] Luke 21:18-19 - “... ‘when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you [gird you] and lead you where you do not want to go.’ This Jesus said in order to show Peter by what kind of death he was going to glorify God.”

[21] Cf. 2 Cor 5:1-4 - Humans groan and are burdened by the limitations of the physical body.  But once they lay off “this tent”, they and are given a new one, an eternal (spiritual) body.  2 Cor 5:8 - To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord.

[22] Letter to the Romans, chapter 4: Peter and Paul issued commandments (or: admonitions) to you.

[23] Bishop of Rome from AD 88 until his death in 99.

[24] Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5: Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one, or two, but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him.

[25] Tertullian (c. AD 155-240), Prescription Against Heretics, chapter 36 (2234).  He also mentions that Paul was beheaded.

[26] Late 2nd century, Acts of Peter, Also Eusebius of Caesarea (AD 260/265 – 339/340) in his Ecclesiastical History (III, 1): Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.

[27] The tradition about crucifixion could very well have been derived from the passage in John rather than historical fact.

[28] Herod the Great, King of Judea, Samaria, Idumea, Galilee, Peraea, etc.. (37 - 4 BC). 

Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea (4 BC - 39 AD).  Herod Agrippa I, King of Ituraea and Trachonitis (37 - 44 AD) and King of Judea and Samaria (AD 41-44).  Herod Agrippa’s father, Aristobulus, had been executed by his grandfather, Herod the Great, in 7 BC. 

[29] Herod had the guards executed when Peter wasn’t found in jail.

[30] This is an interpretation.  Paul could just as well have been writing about the works of the Law, such as circumcision.  Gal 5:4 - “You, who want to be justified by the Law, are severed from Christ and have fallen away from grace.”

[31] Gk. energoumene, present passive/middle participle from energeo, to be active, to be energetic, to effect. In the passive, to be effected, to be accomplished, to be acting.  Possible translations: operating, working.  To my mind, the implication of this word is that showing love is something that is done intentionally and with energy/purpose

[32] Or: has any value; is of benefit; matters; amounts to anything; avails anything. 

[33] Galatians 6:2

[34] Luke 21:18-19 - “... ‘when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you [gird you] and lead you where you do not want to go.’ This Jesus said in order to show Peter by what kind of death he was going to glorify God.”

[35] Acts 3:1-10 Peter to a beggar in the temple (at the beautiful gate) prior to healing him, “I do not possess silver and gold.  But what I do have I give to you.