How to aim high and achieve more in life.

Posted: April 28, 2014 in Thoughts on God

AimThe Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous flower show in the United Kingdom (perhaps in the world), attracting visitors from all continents.

There are four grades of award presented, Gold, Silver-Gilt, Silver and Bronze. As well as awards for gardens and flowers, the Knightian award is for exhibits of vegetables.

I once heard a man being interviewed about the fact that he was retiring after winning the gold medal for his vegetables for ten years in a row. Asked for the secret of his success, he said, ‘I aim for perfection. But I settle for excellence.’

‘Aim for perfection’ (2 Corinthians 13:11), writes the apostle Paul. God’s people have always been called to aim high (whilst avoiding the dangers of perfectionism). God gave to his people in the Old Testament a wonderful vision of their potential inheritance. Jesus challenges us to live a life like his. The fact that we are fallible human beings who never fully succeed should not stop us aiming high.

PROVERBS 8:22-31

1. Aim to be full of joy

Wisdom is seen to be full of joy: ‘Day after day I was there, with myjoyful applause, always enjoying his company, delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family’ (8:30b–31, MSG). This joy is mirrored in the joy of Jesus. In fact, Jesus also wants this to be our joy too. He said to his followers, ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15:11).

The description of personified Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is echoed more than once in the way the New Testament talks about Jesus. It describes Jesus as the one who – like the figure of Wisdom in this poem – was ‘appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began’ (Proverbs 8:23). ‘He was with God in the beginning’ (John 1:2), and in creation he was ‘the master worker at his side’ (Proverbs 8:30).

The joy that Jesus experienced in his relationship with God the Father strengthened him in his life on earth. Hebrews invites us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus … for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross’ (Hebrews 12:2–3). Jesus teaches us to aim high with our own lives, never just ‘making do’ but enduring hardships and always seeking the joy of God’s presence.

Lord, thank you that you want your joy to be in me and my joy to be complete. May I never settle for anything less.

LUKE 9:10-27

2. Aim to be full of love

Jesus is the supreme example of love. Even the secular world often recognises this. TIME Magazine said this, ‘Jesus, the most persistent symbol of purity, selflessness and love in the history of western humanity.’

Jesus loves people. He cares about our physical needs. Rather than sending the crowd away hungry to find food for themselves, he gets his disciples to feed them – miraculously.

We come back again to the feeding of the five thousand – one of the few miracles recorded in all four Gospels. We are reminded of how much Jesus can do with the very little that we offer him, and of the fact that Jesus involves us in his miracles. This is the huge privilege that the disciples had and that you have when you trust in him.

The disciples begin to understand who Jesus really is when he asks, ‘ “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” ’ (v.20). He begins to explain to them about his death (the greatest act of love in history) and resurrection. He challenges his disciples to aim high. He calls you to aim at three things which together comprise love for others and love for Jesus.

  • No sin
    Sin is the opposite of love. In the middle of the word sin is the letter ‘i’. Jesus says, ‘Those who would come after me must deny themselves’ (v.23). God may ask you to make different sacrifices in your life, but the only thing we are all required to give up as followers of Jesus is sin.

Every day the challenge of love requires little acts of self-denial.

  • No self
    Jesus says, ‘Those who would come after me must … take up their cross daily and follow me, for those who want to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for me will save them’ (vv.23–24).

Effectively Jesus invites his followers to ‘come … and die’. The cross today is a symbol of hope. However, then it was a symbol of pain, shame, disgrace and ultimately death.

Jesus said that if we live lives of selfish ambition – even if we are the most successful person of all time and ‘gain the whole world’ (v.25) – it will do us no good at all. The way to find life in all its fullness is to abandon our lives to the love of Jesus and of others. Jesus says we must take up our cross daily and follow him (v.23).

Being willing to give up your life is the ultimate act of love. This is the example which Jesus set first. He calls us to follow his example: ‘cleave steadfastly to me, conform wholly to my example in living and, if need be, in dying’ (v.23, AMP).

  • No secrecy
    Jesus says, ‘All who are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’ (v.26).

If you love Jesus you must not be ashamed of him. Sometimes even taking his name on our lips is a challenge. Nor must we be ashamed of his teaching. If you want Jesus to be proud of you, you must be proud of him. If you love people you will want everyone to know about Jesus.

Speaking for myself, I know how often I fall short in these areas. But the fact that our lives fall very far short of perfection should not stop us aiming high.

Lord, help me to aim high. Help me today to deny myself and take up my cross and follow you. May I never be ashamed of you or your words but rather boldly declare the good news of your death and resurrection for us.

NUMBERS 33:1-34:29

3. Aim to be full of the Spirit

This passage describes the inheritance which God assigned to his people (34:29). Although they set out ‘boldly’ (33:3), they had wandered around in the desert for forty years (v.38). They never fully enjoyed their inheritance.

Paul, preaching in the book of Acts, explains that God gave the land to his people as their inheritance (Acts 13:17–20). He goes on, ‘We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus’ (vv.32–33).

God’s promise to give his people the land of Canaan was always about more than simply good real estate. It was a promise of flourishing, as God’s people enjoyed relationship with God, under the security of God’s protection, in God’s promised place. This points forward to the New Testament concept of the ‘kingdom of God’, the sphere of God’s presence and rule. It is this that is fulfilled in Jesus, and that we can begin to experience now.

In Christ, our inheritance is ‘the promised eternal inheritance’ (Hebrews 9:15). It is ‘an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you’ (1 Peter 1:4).

Not only do we have this inheritance to look forward to in the future but we can experience something of this inheritance right now: ‘Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance’ (Ephesians 1:13–14).  

The Greek word for deposit (arabone) is a word that means ‘down payment’. In other words, we experience here and now a foretaste of that inheritance through the Holy Spirit. As you live in the Spirit, your life will be changed to produce the fruit of ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22). Don’t settle for second best, aim for perfection.

Lord, help us in the Spirit to be ruthless with sin so that we do not allow anything to become ‘barbs in [our] eyes and thorns in [our] sides’ (Numbers 33:55). Help me never to settle for second best but to aim high – comforted and changed by your Holy Spirit.

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