“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
As we face the new year ahead and wonder what lies in store for us therein, many thoughts and feelings arise. We may be eager to accomplish new tasks and meet new goals. Actually, these may be tasks and goals we have set before ourselves many times before and failed to accomplish. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and we set our sights on finally eliminating these goals from a long and ever lengthening list.
But have you ever wondered what God’s goals for you are? They are not necessarily the same as yours. Our goals are usually quite short-term and limited. We want to learn to play the piccolo or remodel the bathroom or lose 10 pounds. Sometimes they are spiritual as well. We want to pray more, read the Bible more, witness to others more, get victory over a bad temper, etc. This is getting closer to God’s goal but is still too small and superficial.
God’s goal for us is nothing less than conforming us to the likeness of Jesus Christ, His beloved Son! We read in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” But what does this mean?
It doesn’t mean that God wants females to be males or people to walk around in robes and sandals or ride on donkeys instead of in cars. Jesus had a distinct personality and temperament that suited His mission and circumstances. What God is after, however, is that Jesus’ faithfulness and fruitfulness should be repeated in our lives. It was His “proven character” that blessed and pleased His heavenly Father. The Father said to the disciples, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”(Matthew 17:5) Jesus said, “He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29) He could say this without blushing or fear of contradiction. It was a simple and glorious fact!
And it is an equally simple and glorious fact that God’s goal is to make you like Christ. You may think this is quite impossible but that’s where your thinking needs to be changed. Of course, this does not mean you will be Divine like Jesus or that you can do anything apart from His power and wisdom. You will always be dependent upon Him. But that very dependency is designed to produce the same character and results that we see in Jesus’ life on earth. In fact, Jesus even predicted greater results than those He accomplished by those who believe in Him (John 14:12).
What a wonderful hope! But does it disappoint us, like many of our other hopes? Not if we depend on the two great agents of change that God has set in motion for us. The first is His providence, that is, the circumstances He allows us to experience. Instead of rebelling against these and resenting them, let us receive them as part of God’s plan to conform us to the image of His Son. These may include difficult people, painful afflictions and sore trials of faith, as well as happier circumstances and answers to prayer. This is what Paul meant when He said that God works everything together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) That is also why he said we should exult in our tribulations, knowing their purpose (Romans 5:3-4).
The second great agent of change is the Holy Spirit. Yes, God’s works everything together for the good of those who love Him, but how does this love get into our hearts? It is poured out within us by the Holy Spirit He has given us (Romans 5:5). Make this therefore your resolve in the new year: to let God pour out His love in your heart by the Holy Spirit and to receive with joy the circumstances He sends your way. Between these two instruments of His grace, you will be more and more conformed to the image of His Son!