Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
- Mark 6:45-50
“We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.
“What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see ‘Him walking on the sea’ with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see ‘Him walking on the sea’ (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.
“God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.
“God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (devotion for 25 February)
Getting back to the first catechism question, what is man’s chief end (or purpose)? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Thus, as Rev. Chambers describes, our purpose is the process of us achieving the goals that we feel God wishes us to accomplish. Our purpose is not the goal, but our learning to trust God more in the accomplishment of life’s goals. In so doing, we become more like Jesus. Can I walk on water? Not hardly.
I saw a series of skits at a church retreat and I modified them for a Cub Scout day camp. There was this larger than life hero who spoke in a falsetto voice. He would come to the front of each morning formation at the camp. He would say, very slowly, “I am Doctor Baydos, and I can do amazing things.” The camp director or his assistant would discourage this strange fellow, dressed from head to toe in white, face totally covered. But it would eventually come around to “Okay, Dr. Baydos, what amazing thing do you think you can do?” One day, Dr. Baydos said that he could walk on water. He took out a glass of water. He poured it on the ground, and then walked on the resulting mud. He would then would raise his hands in victory and say, “There! I did it!” And then he would run into the forest and disappear. Being the camp director, I would make some comment that he really had not done what he said he could do, but to no avail. The hundred plus boys from 7-10 years old would be laughing and cheering each time Dr. Baydos returned. What goofy thing would he come up with next? He might make a banana disappear – by eating it. He might walk a tight rope – as long as the tight rope was laying on the ground. He might levitate – not for long in that he only jumped (he never said he could levitate for any length of time). But then the morning of the last day, he said that he can disappear. We took a once-folded sheet and placed it between Dr. Baydos and the boys. Dr. Baydos slipped between the two sides of the fold. We dropped the sheet. The crowd roared! Then the assistant camp director asked me why there was a lump in the sheet. I picked up the sheet to show Dr. Baydos as a fraud and he ran away. I was booed as a result. Then that night, at the closing campfire, the camp ranger, the person that maintained the camp full time, came by to give us a going away gift. He complained about how noisy the boys had been and how he was glad we were leaving so that he could have some peace and quiet. The camp ranger then left. We unwrapped the gift to find a bomb with the clock ticking. (The bomb was a fake, but the little boys thought it was real. And the camp ranger really loved the sounds of the boys having fun. He was just following the script.) I tossed the bomb to the assistant saying that he was more disserving, and we would toss it back and forth. Then Dr. Baydos arrived. He slowly started his opening remarks, even slower than he had each day of the week. We told him that his timing was terrible. We had no time for his antics, but then Dr. Baydos said that his next trick was to save the camp. He grabbed the bomb and ran into the forest, where the camp ranger was hiding with a loaded shotgun. One blast of the shotgun into the air, and the crowd, all the boys and their parents, gasped. My assistant and I started saying that Dr. Baydos had been an interruption, but he was not that bad of a guy. Then, with clothing torn and covered in soot, Dr. Baydos returned, staggered, and said, “There! I did it!” and then fell face first into the dirt near the campfire.
Sure, I can walk on water, as long as I pour the water on the ground. But even walking on water is not the goal. Seeing Jesus walk on the water and praising God… That was the purpose of Jesus sending the disciples ahead of Him on the boat.
Relying on God more every day, until we rely on God for our next breath… And glorifying God in the process. In following Oswald Chambers’ lead, the process is the goal, not accomplishing the task. Learning to love Jesus and trusting Him along the way. That is the goal for every Christian.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.