I’m re-posting this article from Lift Up Your Day website, where it appeared today.
The year is already half over. Time to look at my New Years’ goals.
To my chagrin, I remember promising to all my readers that I would blog about the progress of my resolutions. I vowed to undertake and implement 12 new goals. (What was I thinking?)
Written in my journal is this incredibly long and un-checked list. I felt tentative and strangely courageous when I wrote all those things down in January. Now I just feel stupid. They’re not done. (I haven’t even blogged once about them!)
On the opposite page from this list of near-impossibilities are several Scripture verses and my theme word for the 2016: FULFILL. I chose fulfill because I had 12 important things to do this year. I wanted to embark on new ventures, and I wanted to complete the old undertakings that still hang around my neck like a feverish child. I want to fulfill God’s purpose for my life.
That was the intention of the list.
But if fulfillment comes through joy and success and accomplishment, then it’s no wonder I don’t feel fulfilled. I might never feel it. Maybe my perspective is the problem. After all, I can’t find proof for my definition anywhere in the Bible. Instead, the Bible shines a light on the lies I believe about fulfillment. Maybe you listen to these lies, too. It’s why you don’t set New Year’s resolutions anymore.
Lie #1: I will feel fulfilled if (and when) I accomplish my goals.
Sometime or other, you might have heard John 10:10 quoted to prove that God wants to give us full lives. (“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”) The context of this verse follows Jesus’ explanation a thief breaking into the sheepfold to steal the sheep. Jesus declares that He is the gate, the door to good pasture and protection from the enemy. Following John 10:10, Jesus gives the discourse on the Good Shepherd—Jesus is about to die for His sheep. In between both illustrations, Jesus says He gives “life to the full” or “abundant life.” Seems like a strange analogy, if you’re a health-and-wealth guy. Jesus’ goal was the salvation and protection of His sheep from the enemy. He didn’t come to give them a fancier sheepfold.
Truth: Fulfillment comes through God’s purpose for me (which will probably be different—but better—than the one I’ve conceived).
Lie #2: I will feel fulfilled if I’m happy. (i.e. God’s purpose for my life is to make sure I’m happy.)
Ah, the mystery of attaining happiness! This is the lure of the American dream: total fulfillment, followed by utter disappointment. Why are we never satisfied with the things we buy and the goals we attain? It’s because we weren’t designed to be satisfied with temporal things. Our souls are hardwired to desire God and be satisfied with Him. And His ultimate desire is the salvation of the world. Anything less than participating in God’s mission will bring us disappointment and disillusionment. Happiness is fleeting, but joy lasts. And joy is intrinsically tied to elation over the success of something outside myself. Paul explains the connection between joy, suffering, and God’s purposes in his letter to the Philippians. He prays for them “to discern what is best and . . . be . . . filled with the fruit of righteousness . . .” Paul knows what will fill them up. God alone.
Truth: God’s purpose is for my life is to make me a witness (which will be painful).
Lie #3: I will feel fulfilled when I’m handling life easily.
Psalm 57:2 says “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” Not my purpose. Generally, He accomplishes his purpose for my life through the painful, difficult periods when my attention must focus on Him because I don’t know what else to do. Fulfillment in God is total faith and dependence. Usually that doesn’t happen when life is easy. Fulfillment takes faith. Heb. 11:1 says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We may never see our dreams fulfilled. Faith doesn’t mind believing without seeing.
Truth: Fulfillment occurs when I’m completely dependent on God (because I can’t handle anything on my own).
Lie #4: I will feel fulfilled when I’m confident and determined.
Psalm 145:19 says, “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him.” That sounds more like it. Let’s talk about my desires. But we miss the point here—the end of the verse says “of those who fear him. He hears their cry and saves them.” We don’t have an accurate word in English of the kind of fear that appears in Biblical phrases about fearing the Lord (yirahin Hebrew). Biblical fear means “fear, dread, respect, reverence, and awe.” All of them. We read these definitions and see a list of positive and negative words, and the combined concept confuses us. That shows how little we understand God’s character. Knowing Him is fearing Him. Proverbs 2:4-5 explains how to do this: search for Him, as for a hidden treasure. Proverbs 1:7 says the “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” The process of searching brings the knowledge, which produces the respect and awe that make God a completely trustworthy source of total fulfillment.
Truth: My fulfillment involves a fear of the Lord (a holy reverence that alters my perspective). Confidence and determination that come from within myself won’t sustain any measure of fulfillment or joy. The depth and satisfaction with my life will rise only from my intimacy with God. I’m created to long for intimacy with God. Any other pursuit will fail miserably.
Kind of like my resolutions.
image from Linnaea Mallette