by Craig Lawrence
Synopsis: Acknowledging that we have long-term and short-term goals in life, Craig asks, "Do you view heaven as a real goal? Are you taking daily steps in that direction?" He provides useful pointers to help us achieve that end.
This lesson focuses on the need to leave a daily spiritual legacy. The apostle Paul emphasized the need to press toward the goal (Phi. 3:7-16). Before his conversion, Paul occupied a powerful, prestigious and privileged position in Hebrew culture; yet, he laid it aside for the cause of Christ. In like manner, if some accomplishment or success stands between us and achieving the goal of heaven, it should be viewed as rubbish. Ask yourself the question, "Will this activity help me get to heaven?" Ask yourself, "What did I do today that is not rubbish? What did I do today that will help me press toward the goal?"
What is your goal? There are plenty of challenges in life. There are many mountains that we must climb. However, which ones are most important? There are many long-term and short-term goals in life. Do you view heaven as a real goal? Are you taking daily steps toward that goal? Today, did I draw nearer or drift further from that goal?
Am I striving to become a stronger Christian? Am I focused on raising my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4)? Husbands and fathers, you have the same commitment as Joshua, who said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). Wives and mothers, are you striving to be a worthy woman (Prov. 31:10-31)? Both of these are high callings!
Perhaps your goal is to become a preacher, an elder, or a deacon. Sometimes, we look at Bible characters like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, etc. and ask, "How can I be one of those? Can I be like them? Could I ever be counted by God as a hero of faith? That would be tough!" Well, yes. It was not easy for them; neither will it be for us.
Some of those who are listed in Hebrews 11 did great things, and some did small things. Living by faith involves big choices and little choices. Those small things combine to help us achieve those long-term goals. We should all have that upward calling of reaching heaven, but the smaller goals, impacting daily life, keep us accountable to our larger, long-term goals.
"Be like Christ!" is one of those big goals. Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the perfect example. In one sense, this goal is one that we can never fully attain, but one we can reach toward. We are all sinners; He never sinned; yet, we can endeavor daily to be like Jesus.
Let's talk about what not to do. The following declaration appeared in a cartoon comic that I once read: "My goal is to be a failure. If I reach my goal, I will feel successful; if I don't, I will feel successful, too!" Either way, that guy (theoretically) has got it made. Don't be that guy! Instead, pick a goal that is challenging but achievable. Perform the incremental steps (daily faithfulness) that make the long-term goal (heaven) possible.
"If you can see it, you can reach it" is a popular saying used by many businesses in their promotional materials. However, perils may stand between us and attaining our goal. I once saw a funny motivational picture of the African savanna. There was a lion laying in a field, and a large tree stood on the distant horizon. The caption, "GOALS: If You Can See It, You Can Reach It," was prominently displayed. Underneath, in smaller print, it added, "Except for that tree over there. There is a lion in the way."
Don't let things in your life become that lion: fear, worry, doubt, uncertainty. Yes, you can see the mountain or the tree—it lies within our reach, but danger stands in the way. Self-destructive attitudes and actions may keep us from achieving our goal.
Long-term goals provide the vision; however, daily actions help fulfill the vision. What are some good short-term goals?
I should regularly study my Bible, and be like the noble-minded Bereans: "They received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11; cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). I should endeavor to strengthen my faith through study (Rom. 10:17) and prayer (Matt. 17:20-21).
I should encourage my fellow Christians and attend worship services regularly. I need to be an active part of a local congregation, faithful in attendance, continually giving and receiving encouragement (Heb. 10:23-25).
I should be active in the church, using my talents, stepping outside my comfort zone: teach a class, lead a prayer, present a lesson, etc. Discover where my talents lay and cultivate them to God's glory (Eph. 4:11-12, 16).
I should help someone in need. Paul said, "...through love serve one another" (Gal. 5:13). If I see a struggling brother, I should not manifest a holier-than-thou attitude, but have genuine concern for others
I should pray daily. "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Excuses come easily: "I'm too busy… I'm too tired… " Excuses equal taking a step backward. Go forward, don't slide backward. Devote yourself to prayer and you will be blessed (Col. 4:2; Phil. 4:6-7).
If I am still in the home, I should obey my parents: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Eph. 6:1; cf. Col. 3:20).
I should spread the gospel. Make personal application of the great commission: Go! Even if it is only to the coffee shop to have a religious discussion with a friend. "Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples" (Ps. 96:3).
If I am not yet a Christian, I should obey the gospel plan of salvation: Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized.
What you do today has a long-term impact: "Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established" (Prov. 16:3).
At first, we are simply trying to get through the day. Yet, days become weeks, months, and years. Short-term decisions affect our legacy, creating our character, establishing patterns and forming habits.
Eunice raised a faithful son (with the assistance of her mother, Lois) despite the absence of having a husband who provided spiritual leadership in the home (Acts 16:1-2; 2 Tim. 1:5). From childhood, Timothy had been taught God's word that led to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).
Shiphrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives in the Egyptian captivity, defied Pharaoh's command to kill all the male babies: "The midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live" (Exod. 1:15-17). As a result, they were blessed, and their households were established (Exod. 1:20–21).
Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, responded harshly to the people when they requested relief from the hard service and heavy burdens imposed by Solomon. Rejecting the sage advice of the elders, and heeding the foolish advice of his peers, Rehoboam refused to relent; as a result, the kingdom was divided—all because of a decision made over the course of three days (1 Kings 12:13-16).
Judas betrayed the Lord for a mere 30 pieces of silver, and afterward hanged himself. Previously, he pilfered from the money box entrusted to his care (John 12:6). Although Judas undoubtedly believed in Jesus, he let greed get the best of him because he looked at life from a short-term perspective. A moment of petty personal weakness became his eternal legacy (Matt. 26:14-16; 27:3-5).
Moments matter. So also do small decisions. Character is simply a reflection of a lifetime of successive, individual choices. Destiny is often decided by daily decisions.
It takes many steps to successfully run the Christian race with patience (1 Cor. 9:25–27; Heb. 12:1). If you are taking a step forward each day, you are getting closer to your goal. One step does not take you far, but with 2,000 steps, you will cover a mile. Therefore, you should take life one step at a time. Allow God to establish your steps (Psa. 37:23-27); let His word illuminate your path and direct your steps (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 16:9).
Create your daily spiritual legacy. Set your sights on Jesus. Keep heaven as your ultimate goal. We need long-term spiritual goals, and also make daily progress. Forget the past. Press on to the goal!
Think about the impact that you have on other people. Our legacy is what people say about us when we are gone. What do others think of us? What is our daily legacy? How do others perceive our daily walk and work? Do they see the love of God in my life?
When people see your good works, they will glorify your heavenly Father (Matt 5:16). Do you produce good or bad fruit (Matt 7:16-20)? Do you show your faith by your works (James 2:18)? Just like Paul focus on your goal and lay aside worldly passing pleasures. Focus on spiritual good fruits rather than physical bad fruits. Do not let the "rubbish" of life get in the way of your heaven bound goal.
Author Bio: Craig serves as a deacon at the Adoue St. church of Christ in Alvin, TX. He works as Sales Manager at Fastenal in Houston. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.