Any time you pick berries, you will always see a handful of extra-large, juicy ripe berries just out of reach in the middle of the patch. They hang there teasing you as you search the perimeter for berries that are easier to reach, but probably smaller and less scrumptious looking.
You want to reach those big juicy black berries in the middle, but it appears impossible. The vines are thick, forming a seemingly impenetrable wall of thorns. There’s
just no way to reach them, you tell yourself. You would like to pick them, but with no way to access them, you’ll just have to focus on picking what berries you can reach near the edges of the patch.
My advice, at this stage, is to believe that the seemingly impossible is possible. Remember those boots, jeans, and long sleeves you put on before heading to the berry patch this morning? This was the reason for them. Raise your left foot high, press it against the nearest vines, and crush them underfoot as you wade on into the thick of the thorny vines.
Then stay put for a while. Yes, you’ve only taken one step, so far, and you have several more to go. That’s okay. See, you want to make sure you’re not crushing perfectly good berries underfoot as you proceed toward your goal.
Stop and look around you. You are now inside the berry patch. You have gained a new perspective of the situation. Berries that were previously completely concealed from sight are now visible and within reach. Pick every ripe berry that you can reach before taking another step.
When no more ripe berries can be reached, then return to your earlier goal of pursuing those delectable delights hanging high in the center of the patch. Raising your foot high, again, take another vine-crushing step toward the middle. Then pause, again.
Take time to search for, and pick, other berries as you gradually make your way to the middle. Each step you take toward the middle of the patch will require either pushing past thorny vines, or pushing vines down to walk over them. Inevitably, that process
reveals, with each step, new ripe blackberries that you could not previously see. Take the time to look for and pick all of those berries revealed as you make your way toward your goal of those giant luscious berries out in the very middle.
Eventually, you’ll come within arms-reach of those big, luscious, ripe berries hanging high in the middle. So, go ahead and make the reach to pick them. Stretch out, laying
yourself over the thorns, as you fully extend your reach, grasping those huge, luscious, ripe blackberries!
Did they fall apart as you touched them? Yes, that’s to be expected. They were beautiful, but over-ripe from over-exposure to sunlight.
Do you feel a little disappointed at finding the goal you so relentlessly pursued, with tenacious single-minded focus through an array of thorny obstacles has turned out to be of little value? Of course you do! It’s a bit anticlimactic, to say the least.
Now, at this point, you may be wondering why I encouraged you to pursue that goal with such enthusiasm. I, as an experienced berry picker, knew the big berries in the middle were likely over-ripe. So, why did I encourage you to pursue that goal? Why didn’t I tell you, up-front, that they were probably over-ripe, and save you all that trouble?
It may surprise you to know that I, an experienced berry picker, make it a rule to always pursue the big ripe berries in the middle of the patch. Yes, I know they are probably over-ripe, but I pursue them anyway. Why? Well, for one thing, sometimes they’re not over-ripe. Sometimes, they’re perfect!
But there is an even better reason for the pursuit of such a worthy goal. Take a look in your berry bucket. See how many berries you’ve collected? Do you see how many more berries you have now than when you were hovering around the perimeter of the patch? Those berries you picked up along the way, as you worked toward your goal…those berries are the real reward for your efforts!
The true benefit of pursuing a goal often has more to do with what we see, experience, and learn along the way than with attaining the goal itself. It’s not the diploma, but the education, the knowledge, the relationships built, and the benefit of learning to appreciate hard work.
If God gives you a heart for a given ministry, wade on in and give it all you’ve got!
Sure, it may turn out to be less successful than you had hoped or envisioned.
That’s okay! If you take the time to enjoy the many little treasures along the way, you will be richly blessed, as well as a blessing to others, regardless of the final outcome.
And look at the company you’ll be keeping!
Abraham, to whom God promised a vast estate as an inheritance for his multitude of descendants, never owned any land beyond what he purchased as a family cemetery.
But look at the rich blessings he gained along the way, and the legacy he left behind! That legacy led directly to the fulfillment of messianic prophecy with the birth of Jesus Christ, Abraham’s descendant.
Moses, who spent 40 years working toward entering the promised land, and was only able to see it from afar before his death. But look at the blessings along the way. He led God’s people out of the bondage of Egypt, and taught them to follow God. Moses spoke with God face-to-face, and saw God carve His commandments in tablets of stone!
What a blessing! What a legacy! For someone who relentlessly pursued a life goal that was never realized in his life-time, Moses sure did experience a lot of blessing and a lot of achievements along the way.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul opens the letter with a picture of our ultimate goal, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
What a mouthful! What a promise! As we read these words of promise, we have to
stop every few lines to digest it. The promises are so rich that we cannot absorb them in full sentences!
Paul is showing us both the goal and God’s promise of accomplishing that goal in our lives. He wants us to have a clear vision of the goal and a deep desire to pursue the goal with unrelenting tenacity.
Then, in the following chapters, Paul gets into the nitty-gritty details of what it means to walk in godliness. These are thorny issues that have to be dealt with. There is going to be some pain, and it will require a lot of effort.
We’re talking about changing ourselves…becoming different people with different hearts. Of course God does the changing, because we can’t. However, God does not wave a magic wand to change our hearts. Rather, he works through our own life experiences to accomplish His will and purpose in conforming our hearts to His image.
Then, in the final chapter, Paul reveals the armor of God, explains the purpose of each component, and advises its constant use.
The opening chapter sets the goal (berries in the middle of the patch) of fulfilling the destiny God established for us before the foundations of the world. The middle chapters explain the obstacles (seemingly impenetrable wall of thorns) between where we are now and the attainment of that goal. The closing chapter tells how to prepare for overcoming those obstacles (proper attire).
Will we see the complete fulfillment of that final goal? Yes, of a certainty, we will see it…but probably not in this lifetime. Which means it is easy to get discouraged, as though the fulfillment of the goal is always just out of reach.
The important thing, now, is to take one step at a time, stopping at each step to enjoy God’s blessings and gain a new perspective, before taking another step, always in relentless pursuit of the final goal. It is through those changes in perspective, those blessings along the way, those lessons learned in each step, that God is accomplishing His will in our lives.
Always pursue what goals God has placed in your heart. Always take the time, with each step, to stop and learn from the new perspective gained. Remember that those thorny issues standing between you and your goal are more than just obstacles to be overcome…they are also important steps in the fulfillment of your ultimate goal.
Don’t get discouraged when goals seem not to reach the expected fulfillment…check your bucket…it is now fuller than when you started!
(please add your comments to this post):
What goals have you pursued that led to disappointing results? What did you learn along the way? What relationships were built during the process? Are you glad, today, that you made the effort to pursue the goal, even though the outcome was not what you hoped or envisioned?
What godly goal has been set before you, today? Are you whole-heartedly pursuing it? If not, why not? Is fear of thorns holding you back, or fear of disappointment upon attaining the goal?
What about the ultimate goal of being conformed to the image of Christ? Are you still whole-heartedly pursuing that goal? What discouragements have you faced along the way? How has God used those disappointments to further mold your heart to conformance with His image?