The One Thing

Press on toward the goal to win the prize. . . Philippians 3:13-14

One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

"If only God would (fill in the blank), my life would be better!" Have you had this thought too? I have been a disciple of Jesus for over thirty years. Sadly, I often think, "Jesus, plus one thing else, will make me happy." And if I didn't get that one thing, I was unhappy. Mind you, it's never the same one thing—oh no, it changes. When I was younger, it was getting my first job, then a car, a husband, a house, and children. Now that I'm older, my one thing might be seeing my children's faith grow, having success in my professional life, or overcoming physical ailments. If only God would just do this one thing, my life would be better. You get the picture, as each one thing is satisfied, my "wanter" just keeps on wanting!

Other "one things" we often wrestle with are rejection of friends or family, broken marriages, mental illness, loss of a job, or the death of loved ones. Our lists are endless. If only I could have that, or this hadn't happened, then I could serve the Lord with gladness and start living life. If only . . . if only . . . if only . . . Sometimes the one thing looms so large it becomes an obsession. Like Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings," who didn't want to let go of his precious ring, we are held captive by our one thing. 

My ninety-two-year-old mother* lives with our family. She is healthy, but she has dementia and is in a constant state of confusion. Looking after her is one of the most difficult challenges I have ever undertaken. Fortunately, my husband (a former one thing) helps with her care. Although my mom often forgets that I'm her daughter, she can recite, word for word, John 1:1-17—it's remarkable! (Bible memorization was a priority in her younger days; a good lesson for us all.) Mom loves Jesus and is always quick to say, "I'm ready to go home to be with the Lord—when he is ready." The other day I caught myself thinking this would definitely make my life easier. In other words, "Jesus, plus one thing else, would make my life better." How can I stop the madness of this kind of wrong thinking? (Not on my own, that's for sure!)

The Apostle Paul pleaded with God three times to take away his thorn in the flesh. But God's response was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). 

Paul's disability—his very weakness—was an essential part of God's plan! 

That is why Paul could write, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). 

Not just in some things, but in all things, God works for our good! He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He knows the one thing that often holds us hostage, keeping us from joyful living. He knows our weaknesses and our strengths. He knows what we specifically need to learn, and the kind of training it will take to accomplish his plan in our lives. 

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Our life experiences will not make sense apart from the knowledge of God, which is why we he gave us the Spirit and the Word. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

A number of our questions might be answered here on earth, while others remain a mystery until we reach heaven's shore. Yet, there's coming a day when God will reveal how our disappointments, tragedies, and burdens had purpose, and why some of our plans failed.

God doesn't need us, but he allows us to participate in building his kingdom. As my pastor likes to say, "Everyday God says, 'Hey, I'm going to do something amazing today. Do you want to come along?'" The wonderful thing is we can say yes to God, knowing that his plan is best! Ultimately, all of life's trials come down to one thing: trust God. 

My mother remembers old hymns too. One of her favorites is "Trust and Obey."

Trust and obey for there's no other way. 
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Looking back, many of the one things I worried over, prayed over, or became sidetracked over, have taught me something about God's faithfulness. And because he's been faithful in the past, I can trust him for the present and the future. God is shaping me, more and more, into the image of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. For all those one things that are not resolved, I must lay them on the altar, because God has something else for me to learn. How exciting is it that I get to come along! 

Have you experienced similar struggles? Today's Bible verse encourages us and reminds us that the one thing we need to do is press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Dear Lord Jesus, Help me to lay my one thing on your altar today. Thank you for the promise, 'If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?' Lord, help me to fully grasp that it is you, plus nothing else, that satisfies me. Amen.

Copyright 2012 Sarah A. Keith

*My mother went to be with the Lord on October 24, 2013.

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