Up till now, we have been focused on the first two purposes: to have a genuine, loving relationship with God that meets our needs as we learn to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That’s the first purpose, and the second is a reflection of it: to begin to have that same quality of genuine relationship with other people who love God. As we love God, God connects us in fellowship to other people who also love God; they will be our friends, teachers, helpers, and companions on the journey of faith. The first two purposes are all about love flowing toward us and our learning to reciprocate.
But once this need for love is established, then curiosity begins to call us to learn from God. And we begin to feel the third purpose coming up in our lives, the purpose where we learn what we do not yet know. And the heart of that purpose is that God intends to help us to grow and to grow up as human beings to become like Jesus.
This is the big picture, the one we see when we look back on the events of the past from the future. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:24-25a, A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. Paul said it this way in Galatians 4:19, concerned over the problems that the Christians struggled with: My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!
As the process of discipleship continues, this third purpose will shape us, and we will become more and more like Jesus Christ. We will understand, looking back, how God used the events and relationships of our life to challenge us to grow beyond our comfort zone through a time of discomfort; we will see how all the various details were utilized by God as a means to help us to grow as human beings and to grow to be more like Jesus.
Not better than others! So this is not a matter of competition with other believers. But like children grow up, we will become better than we were as we become more like Jesus Christ. Paul describes the end result in Ephesians 4:13-16: … until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.
Consider the difference, however, between two perspectives. In one perspective, we fly over the land and can see everything at once. This is a very different perspective than we have when we are walking over the land from one point to another. The journey in the air, like the perspective of looking back from the future, is almost effortless.
The journey on foot in the present day across the same land is hard work. And what lies ahead will be a surprise until it happens. It will take a lot more time and energy than flying over the same territory. We won’t understand why until we’ve finished a task, and possibly not immediately. We’ll wonder, “Why is this happening to me?!?!? Loving God used to be so easy …”
When Jesus said to the disciples – “Follow me!” – they had no idea at all what lay ahead. Nor do we! We do not know our path when Jesus says the same to us … all we know is that we wish to follow. It’s an adventure, and Jesus is our guide and companion into the unknown. We will understand each part of the journey as we experience it, as it unfolds day by day. The experiences of our lives will teach us to be more like Jesus, and Jesus will teach us to understand our own lives as we experience each event as it unfolds with Jesus there to explain it.
Can you hear Him calling you to follow? Well, then, it’s time to be going forward. Something interesting will be coming up soon – pay attention!
Some quotes in italics are from Day 22 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
The photo is by David Trattnig aka David, courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons License, and can be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/david-trattnig/5107551936/in/photostream/