So how does this fact balance with what we are called to do in our Christian lives? The apostle Paul actually gives us at least three major goals for which we should be aiming – and we are not given the luxury of tackling one goal at a time! But let’s look at those biblical goals and then consider how we can fulfill them without lessoning our success with any one of them.
Goal One: Perhaps the primary goal Paul gives every warrior of the Way is to glorify God. The apostle made it clear when he wrote: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In context Paul is talking primarily about food and drink, but the words “whatever you do” add a breadth of application that clearly means we are to glorify God in everything we do – and of, course, everything we think or say. That’s a huge goal, but it meshes perfectly with what Jesus himself said about the greatest commandment being to love God (Matthew 22:36-38). If we truly love God, we will be seeking to glorify him in every aspect of our lives.
Goal Two: Although the first goal of the Christian life we looked at is already incredibly broad, we can now add on a second goal: helping and strengthening others. Just as Jesus taught that in addition to love of God we must love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39), so Paul stresses the importance of loving others through helping them in whatever way we can: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). We should note that Paul urges us not only to apply love in our dealings with everyone – but also especially to do what we can to help fellow believers.
Goal Three: We already have two major goals to contemplate, but Paul adds a third one: being a light to unbelievers. This is fulfilling the “Great Commission” Jesus gave his disciples before his ascension (Matthew 28:18-20), and it is called a “great” commission or goal for good reason. As Paul wrote: “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47 and see also Acts 26:18, Philippians 2:14-16). In a figurative sense, of course, “Gentiles” includes all who are not part of “spiritual Israel” (Romans 2:28-29, 1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 6:16) – in other words, all unbelievers – which is another huge goal.
So the biblical evidence is clear. As Christians, we are given not one, but at least three major goals, and we are expected to fulfill them all! But given what we said at the beginning of this article, how can we possibly fulfill three such massive goals without diluting our efforts and producing only mediocre results in what we accomplish? Fortunately, the Bible answers this question in a very encouraging way. Unlike physical goals which usually require focused attention and effort that can be applied in only one area or another, the New Testament makes it clear that if we are diligently working toward one of the three goals we have been given, we will, in effect, be working toward them all.
Consider a small example of this. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples: “… In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV). Did you see it? If we are fulfilling the goal of letting our light shine before others, we will also be fulfilling the goal of bringing glory to God! Paul made exactly this same point when he wrote that through the spreading of the word: “… the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Putting this example in a practical context means that helping a stranger or a fellow believer in some way not only fulfills the goal of serving and helping others, but our action also glorifies God – whether the person we help knows we are a Christian or not. A little reflection on the three goals we have been given will show that every one of them overlaps and interacts with the others in the same way.
This does not mean that we need only attempt to do one of the things we have been given to do in our Christian lives, but it helps us to see that unlike attempting physical goals, we can successfully accomplish multiple spiritual goals at once. That is one of the most encouraging things we can know about the Way to which we have been called, and it is a powerful antidote to feeling that we are responsible for managing long lists of spiritual goals. We are given multiple goals, but when we strive to fulfill any one of them, very often we are working on fulfilling them all.