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CHAPTER 9, The Goal


by J.C. Metcalfe



"We shall be like Him" - 1John 3:2

If you are running in a race it is always necessary to keep the end in view. I learned a lesson about this as a boy. I had entered for the mile race at school, but had not taken it seriously, and therefore, had not trained properly for it. I led in the race until I could see the white tape in the distance stretched across the course - I tried to run faster, but suddenly I knew nothing more, until I was brought round by someone throwing water in my face. It was very foolish of me to run in such a race in such a light spirit, and without making the goal my real aim. I lost the chance of winning one of the most coveted prizes for running the school offered. The Christian life is spoken of in the Bible as a race. Do you remember what Paul wrote? "I ... so run, not as uncertainly ... lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1Corinthians 9:26,27). One English translation of this passage runs like this - "I ... run not like the racer who is uncertain of his goal ... lest... having called others to the contest, I should myself fail shamefully of the prize".

what is the end and aim of our Christian lives? What is the goal, which we should never forget? Surely nothing but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1,2). He is the "beginning and the ending" (Revelation 1:8). Where and how did our Christian life begin? Was it not when we saw Him as our Lord and Savior? How can the race be run? Is it not only as He runs it in us? Is not the secret of Christian living - "For me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21)? Is not also the grand goal of the race to be forever with the Lord? (see Thessalonians 4:17).

Let us look at one or two Scriptures, which point us clearly to this objective. "We know," writes the apostle Paul, "that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:28,29). Here is God's purpose for you and me! This is the end of the race! Can you think of anything more wonderful, or better worth keeping in view? Could anything more surprising have been planned for sinful men and women? God's plan is not simply that we should be saved from hell, but something far greater - that we should be like the Lord Jesus Christ! I do not find the miracles recorded in the Bible hard to understand and believe, but sometimes when I look at myself I do wonder just how He is going to make me like Himself. It is when I do look at myself in this way, that I understand why He has had to make something altogether new, and find comfort in the assurance - "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). By grace He began a work in my heart; by grace, as I am willing, He continues it day by day; and one day, still by grace alone, that work will be finished.

In the Old Testament God taught the prophet Jeremiah a lesson by a very simple means. He told him - "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words." When the prophet obeyed he describes what followed in this way: "Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel as seemed good to the potter to make it..." (Jeremiah 18:2-4). Can you not picture this scene? Here is a man at work molding clay into cooking pots or jars for use in the house. A pot, upon which he is working is suddenly seen to have a flaw in it. The potter knows better than to try to patch it up. A new lump of clay is sought, and work begins again on a new vessel, in a form pleasing to the potter. In the same way God looked into your life and mine, and saw that they were marred beyond mending, so He sets to work to re-create them taking as a pattern His Own Son. If you and I are willing we may find the perfection of this new design wought in us. There will come a day when He will finally be able to say of the man that is called by His Name - "I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him" (Isaiah 43:7). May you and I be found amongst these!

In the end this transformation is not only going to affect our hearts and minds, but our bodies too. "Our citizenship," the apostle Paul tells us, "is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:20,21). It could never be by our efforts that such a miracle could take place, and we are told here that it will be brought to pass by His power, a power "whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." His power was displayed on the sea of Galilee, when He spoke and the winds and waves became calm at His will; that same power is now free to work in us, and make us new creatures in His likeness.

We have turned many times to John's first letter in these pages, and once more I want you to look at some verses to be found in it. "Beloved," writes the apostle, "now are we the Sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1John 3:2). This is more than a promise, it is a goal set before us. God's power will accomplish the work that recreates us in the likeness of our Savior, but we have our part to play. We cannot just sit idly and wait, we must with Paul "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). For this reason John follows his great prophecy concerning our future with the statement, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1John 3:3). Such a man cannot rest content until the race is won. He reads and studies the Word of God to find out all he can of the plans His Father has for him, and makes those plans his business in life.

The Lord Jesus in His boyhood was found by Mary and Joseph in the temple "in the midst of the doctors both hearing them, and asking them questions". When asked by His mother why He had stayed behind, and not accompanied them on their journey back to Nazareth, He gave an answer which showed that even then His eye was fixed on the goal - "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:43-50). All through His life on earth we catch glimpses of the same set purpose to go right on to the end of the race. On the Mount of Transfiguration we are told that His conversation with Moses and Elijah was taken up with "His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). Again we read of Him, "And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). There was no wavering! As the end of the race came nearer it almost seems as if His purpose became firmer, and that He quickened His pace towards the goal. "I can see that," you say, "but how does this affect my attitude?" Simply because this same Savior now lives in you, and His purpose remains unchanged that the Father's plan shall be fully and finally completed. Paul shows this very clearly as he writes to the Churches of his day. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who ... became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:5-11). Later in the same epistle he voices his own determination to follow this same path to the end. "That I may know Him," he cries, "and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:10,11). We have already quoted part of a short passage from the letter to the Hebrews, which powerfully expresses the same thought - "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1,2). We cannot reach the goal God Himself has set before us unless steadily, and with set purpose we follow Him. "If any man serve Me," He Himself cried, "let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor" (John 12:26). Do not let anything turn you aside from the goal.

I remember watching a small boy running his first race. He was a good little runner, and before long was leading. Suddenly he began to be interested in other things. First something attracted his attention amongst those who were watching, and he hesitated. Then he began to wonder what the others who were running in the race were doing, and began to look around at them. This meant that he could not run as fast as he had been doing. Others caught him up, and in less time than it takes to tell the race was lost. Satan tried to turn the Lord Jesus aside after things other than His Father's plan, but without success. He constantly seeks to do the same to you and me, and we shall do well to heed the call of that great Christian athlete, the apostle Paul - "So run that you may obtain" (1Corinthians 9:24).

As a young Christian I prayed to be "used" thinking that this was the greatest and most important thing in life. Now my one prayer is that I may be like Him. This is God's plan for me, and if I embrace that plan with all my heart all lesser things will fit into place, and He will be able to use me to His glory, if He pleases to do so.

One last verse as our little book is completed. You will find it at the end of Psalm 17. David has been seeking deliverance from his enemies, from "men of the world, which have their portion in this life" (verse 14). Then he ends his prayer with a bold declaration of his purpose to reach the goal:

"As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake, with Thy likeness." May this be the cry of our hearts, and the purpose of our lives "until He come".

The End