Everything is Spiritual – Lenten Season 2021
“The glory of God is in man fully alive” St. Irenaeus
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1: 27, 28 NIV).
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1: 31a NIV).
7 Spiritual Laws of Success – Everything is Spiritual (Law #2)
“Thank you for another week of self-discipline and success in fulfilling my daily tasks. I know that I can do all things (that are your will) through Christ who strengthens me. I am learning to have a grateful and positive attitude towards life. After all, you have wonderful plans for me. I believe that those plans include writing, publishing and selling my books, seminars and movies as well as becoming a Spiritual Life Coach, International Speaker/Podcaster and Author…”
That’s how I start my daily prayers each morning.
Not that I am a great prayer warrior or anything but, after many years, I finally realized that my goals and dreams were in alignment with God’s plan for my life and, therefore, in faith, I can ask for anything and he will give me his blessing and increase. God is enthusiastic about supporting my efforts and ambitions to further the Kingdom of God.
There is so much to say about each aspect of those two or three preceding paragraphs, I hardly know where to start. But the most important thing is to point out the overwhelming experience of relief and joy and satisfaction that comes from the alignment of your goals and dreams with the overall plan that God has for your life. It truly is wonderful.
That is the experience that God wants for each one of us. We need to be convinced that God has a “wonderful” plan for our lives. We need to know without a doubt that if we focus on the furtherance of the Kingdom of God with all of our effort and ability, we will find joy and peace and significance we can hardly contain. It is a statement of faith to even look in this direction, to be dedicated to finding that alignment here and not in worldly pursuits, to believe that what God holds for us is better than anything else we could ever imagine. That statement of faith is like music to God’s ears.
So let me try to point out a number of key elements to this alignment process….
First of all, when the gurus talk about having a purpose beyond yourself in order to find meaning in life, they are only half-right. Yes, our focus needs to be on something beyond ourselves, beyond our own desires, our own needs, our own thinking. No doubt.
But for a Christian that isn’t enough. Otherwise, you could dedicate yourself to the betterment of humanity, working with orphans and the poor and you would be satisfied that you did something worthy with your life. That, indeed, is satisfying but it is NOT enough.
Not for Christians who live in a world impregnated with the presence of a God who loved them so much that he died a horrible death for their salvation. Not for people who understand that there is a battle for the human heart that will have eternal consequences. No. That’s not enough.
Our purpose must be relational. Our purpose is “in Christ.” It is the same purpose as Christ had and continues to have….through us. Only that purpose is enough for those who have been bought with a price. Everything else is worldly, that is, without God.
Secondly, when I talk in my prayer, about becoming a Spiritual Coach, International Speaker/Podcaster and Author, it is true that I see that as my purpose in life. No doubt. But even that purpose is not enough. It doesn’t go deep enough. There is another element to all of this that we cannot ignore.
Even the gurus understand that the purpose or goal, in and of itself, is not really the true measure of success. It goes much deeper. It is “who we become in the process of pursuing worthy goals” that is the true measure of success in life. And once again, the gurus are half-right.
In order to succeed, you must spend time on yourself, develop yourself, develop your philosophy of life (wisdom), decide on the attitude you will take (values and beliefs) and determine the price you are willing to pay (discipline) in order to accomplish your goals in life. No doubt. Good stuff. Just not enough.
For us, the whole process is relational. It is about pleasing God and God is certainly pleased when our highest goal in life is to please Him above all. His goal for us is to become like Christ and, for Christ, pleasing God was like food and water……like breathing. When we are willing to sacrifice all of our small ambitions in order to attain His pleasure, then we are ready to think about the specific ways we can further the Kingdom of God and participate in his great rescue effort for the eternal hearts of mankind.
In other words, identity and relationship come BEFORE purpose and plans. As it should be.
Thirdly, the truth of the matter is that there is a process that we all need to go through to get to the point where our dreams and abilities are in alignment with the purpose and plan of God in the context of our ongoing walk with Him. There is a process. The gurus talk about it as well and they, once again, got it half-right.
Yes, work on yourself. No doubt. But what, exactly, do we work on? It almost doesn’t matter where you start. Just start. Start with some form of self-discipline. Start exercising regularly. Fix the things in your life that you have been putting off for far too long. Make a decision as to a new direction you need to take. All of these things, from a practical point of view, will start to develop you as a person.
Exercise will force you to start to discipline yourself and your time. Fixing things that need to be fixed (whether around the house or in terms of relationships etc) will teach you not to live your life putting things off all the time. Making decisions (about whatever) and then following through to implement your decisions daily is an essential habit to develop.
You could look at the book by Stephen Covey called the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and get a good start or listen to motivational speeches on YouTube to get some practical advice. All of it good stuff…. but it isn’t enough, not for Christians.
At the same time that we are exercising our worldly disciplines, we need to be exercising our spiritual disciplines and, when we do, our worldly disciplines also become spiritual because everything, for a Christian, is spiritual.
What do I mean? Our spiritual or God-related disciplines have to do with things like reading the Bible, prayer and meditation, worship and church-community engagement and interaction, evangelism and so on. In some ways, these are simply the tatics that we use to accomplish the strategic goal of a deeper relationship with God.
Getting to the spiritual maturity of wanting nothing more than to please God above all allows you to discover that He has a wonderful plan for your life that includes and develops your greatest dreams and abilities and produces true joy and peace even in the midst of difficulties and even persecution. That is the definition of success that God has and that we, as we mature in Christ, come into full and enthusiastic agreement with.
The interesting thing is that it is all a process. That alignment is not obvious at first. When we first become Christians, we need to take it on faith that God has a wonderful plan for our lives but He may not reveal what that is right off the bat. There is a process and it is a necessary process.
Right now, as you are reading these words, you may be excited by the prospect of pursuing something that you really want to do and you are hoping for God’s blessing on it. Hoping is good but faith is better. Where do we get that conviction of faith that we need? It comes through a process. The process of Christian maturity.
Pursue your dreams. No doubt. But also puruse God. Wherever there is some dissonance, some difference, something that doesn’t fit, choose God. That’s a great place to start. There is dissonance because we are still full of sin, we still don’t know what we want, we still don’t really know, like and trust God enough to give him eveything and trust that He will give us joy and peace and significance in return.
There may be disappointments as we pursue God. We may get off track. We may be out of alignment or not be able to see the path before us. The question always remains. Is God first? Is He who you are pursuing or is it your dreams? Are you willing to put God aside if necessary depending on the situations you face as you pursue your dreams? Then you know you are off the track.
Knowing in your heart that you are pursuing God and that God wants you to pursue your dreams is very different from pursuing your dreams hoping for the help and approval of God. It’s the difference between hope and faith, between pursuing God and pursuing something else, anything else.
Did you get that?
For many people, God is there to help us pursue our dreams and for us to developed ourselves and fulfill all of our potential, to become self-actualized. For Christians, we are here to help God pursue his dream, his goals, his purpose and, in the process, to be developed by God in all of our potential, to become Christ-actualized.
After all, that is what St. Irenaeus meant when he said that “The glory of God is in Man fully alive?” I always add the words “in Christ” to the end just to make it clear what he meant. “The glory of God is in Man fully alive in Christ.”
God is not here to help us develop all of our potential and fulfill all of our dreams rather, we develop all of our potential and dreams by helping God accomplish his eternal goal of saving mankind from their sin. That can be done in a thousand ways with all of the creativity and diversity that you might expect from a world full of totally unique individuals. No doubt. But there is an abyss between the two mentalities. One is focused on God who empowers our dreams and the other is focused on our dreams hopefully (in our minds) empowered by God.
Let me give you an example from marriage.
There is no doubt a lot of good advice in the Bible about relationships and communication and forgiveness and gentleness and so on that would be useful in marriage. But that isn’t the same as a marriage that is focused on God and empowered by the Holy Spirit who uses that same Biblical advice to improve their marriage.
A man came to me once and told me how concerned he was about his wife’s involvement in the church. “She is too religious for me,” he said. “I am a Christian, too, but she takes it too far and I am afraid that it will affect our marriage.” We talked for quite a while and I was able to help him see that his wife’s committment to God would actually help improve their marriage. “After all,” I told him, “she has commited herself to following God and one of God’s key expectations is that she would prioritize her marriage and do everything in her power to make it work.” That seemed to make him feel a bit better but he was still uneasy.
I know what his problem was and it is a problem that everyone who is not a Christian has. They want to be the priority in the life of their spouse. Not God. Some people see God as competition and that is true if you aren’t a Christian. The real problem with this man is that he was not truly a Christian himself and therefore did not prioritize God above his wife and family. If he did prioritize God, he would find joy and peace and their marriage would be stronger. Everything is spiritual if you are a Christian but nothing is spiritual if you are not. The difference is significant. It is the difference between happiness and joy, between success and significance, between love and ambition.
There is more to say, of course, but that is enough to get started with. Having that personal experience of realizing in faith that there is joy and peace in that wonderful life that God has in store for us as we pursue our life ministry, is essential.
But for that to happen, first we need to have a purpose beyond ourselves (what some of the gurus like to call a “transcendent” purpose) that is focused on our purpose in Christ. It is specific in its focus even while it is broad in its application. Our life is a ministry and our ministry is focused on the furtherance of the priority of God in the lives of people.
The second thing that needs to happen is that we go back one step from our purpose (which includes our dreams and abilities) to focus on our relationship with God and pleasing Him as the foundation of our lives. Who we are in Christ and the working out of that identity in Christlikeness is essential for finding that wonderful life that God has prepared for us.
And then, thirdly, we need to be aware that this whole thing is a process. We pursue God and He tests us, He challenges us, He leads us in paths we do not always want to go, He teaches us about the power of confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation rooted in the cross, He brings us to a place of spiritual maturity as we walk in the Spirit everyday and in that process we discover that our abilities and dreams are in alignment with our relationship with God. We go from hoping for the blessings of God to knowing in faith that God wants us to pursue our dreams and goals but always with Him, in His presence, holding His hand tightly, fiercely and vowing never to let go. That is what pleases Him.
Purpose. Identity. Process. It’s the same for the gurus but without God. With God is so much better.
Yes, everything is spiritual. Everything has to do with God. Everything has to do with our walk in the Spirit. You can pursue other worthy goals in life if you want. I suppose that’s better than sitting around doing nothing (even in the church) but for the true desert warrior, there is only one course of action to take – pursuing God.
Created for His pleasure
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
Getting rid of all my small ambitions
to make this one thing the hallmark of my life.
To please God.
Whether I get what I pray for or not,
whether my circumstances change or not,
whether I am healed or not.
To consider every sacrifice a small price to pay
to obtain the pearl of great price.
The Desert Warrior
Lord, I want to pursue You. That’s it. Full stop. Just you. But you tell me that, if I am dedicated to you, I will also dedicate myself to my marriage, my family, my relationships, and also to the development of my full potential as a Child of God in the furtherance of your kingdom. You promise me joy and peace if I pursue you and dedicate my life to ministry. I believe you. Thank you for the gift of a wonderful life living in Your presence and with your blessing. In your name I pray. Amen.