For His Purpose


In the life of the believer, there will most certainly be moments of godly sorrow, reflections upon grieving the Holy Spirit. One ponders the time and energy wasted on useless detours and sin-driven pursuit -- time and energy that could have been used for righteousness in Christ. This kind of sorrow leads to repentance, as it did for the prodigal son.

Perhaps you've heard the phrase "a life without regret is a life not lived." It has some resonance in the lives of believers. Consider Solomon and his reflections on spiritual dissolution in Ecclesiastes. If we can accept that we are unworthy of God's blessings, which we are, then we can accept that God uses the mistakes we have made in our life to guide us to a greater righteousness in Christ. The devil, however, wishes to drive a wedge between believers and God by suggesting the opposite: that they can be worthy of God's blessings and that their mistakes can and will push God away. It is a deadly trap that focuses man upon Self, resulting in lifeless legalism or despondent licentiousness. Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote that God "has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." (2 Timothy 1:8)

In the verse from 2 Timothy, Paul spoke not only of God's grace but of His purpose. God's purpose calls the believer to a holy life. Not our purpose. While we may have a purpose for holiness that is indeed genuine, it still won't be God's purpose for our holy life -- one that He specifically designed for each of us to glorify Him. In Psalm 23, King David wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd....your rod and your staff, they comfort me." God can give us direction (the staff) through His discipline (the rod). Sometimes this means allowing us to suffer from our follies. "Do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3:11-12) God's purpose fulfills His Law, which is constant and immutable.

Do we pray to be righteous, or do we pray to listen to God's righteous plan for us? Choose the former and love the flesh. Choose the latter and love God. Would a father kill his own son? No. A man who is spiritual and righteous before men would do no such thing. Even the most hardened and worldly of men would recoil at the thought. Yet Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac for the Lord. Because Abraham was righteous unto the Lord, he passed the test. At the sacrificial altar, God said to Abraham, "Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22:12)

Contrast the godly righteousness of Abraham with the self-righteousness of King Saul from 1 Samuel, Chapter 13. At Gilgal, Saul made a burnt offering to the Lord, choosing not to wait for Samuel's arrival -- contrary to God's command. Saul believed that by doing a service for the Lord, he was acting righteously. However, he did not act righteously for God. His words betrayed him: "I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:12) By ignoring God's timing (purpose), Saul chose to gratify his own fleshly righteousness.

What can keep a believer from growing in Christ is their refusal to let go of Self, keeping the satisfying or unpleasant aspects of their life locked away from God. The believer who makes precious their personal righteousness is one still beholden to the Self, the flesh. In this sense, the legalist and the licentious man have something in common. But the same kind of bitter disillusionment greets both of them at the end of their journeys. A life lived for the stifling quest of personal holiness is a life lived without the inner joy that God gives believers who live for His purpose. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

If there be regret in our life, may it be for God's purpose so that His discipline (the rod) may direct us to righteousness. If there be righteousness in our life, may we not forget it is for God's purpose, not ours, and that these blessings of righteousness are bestowed upon us in spite of our unworthiness. Then we will be humbled, not because it seems spiritual or right, but because that can be our only possible action once in the presence of our Lord.