175. Eye on the prize

Wisdom is one of the most positive words on the planet – no doubt.  I want to be wise – period.  It is joined by the hip with the word: excellence – a word that stirs my heart and desire to do better.  The powerful work of the Holy Spirit keeps us focused in our search for excellence as a lifestyle.  My personal desire is to walk wisely with the equipment of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living and breathing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, always knowing what is important and how to respond to life’s complexities.  WOW!  To live a life of excellence is a mouth full of the right words, a mind full of wisdom and heart full of love and grace.  The amazing thing about all this, is that it is possible!

In the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48:

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

I have to admit, that I skipped over this passage for most of my life.  How on earth could it have anything to do with me?  The word: perfect, is not so positive in my mind.  Just hearing it immediately calls judgement on my failures and struggles.  Among the commentators of the New Testament, it is usually recognized as one of the difficult passages of the Bible.

The Greek word for perfect is teleios.  It is a word that is used in a very special way.  An animal that was fit for sacrifice, thus without blemish, was called teleios.  A man who is fully grown and mature, was called teleios,in contrast to a young boy.  A student who has reached a comprehensive knowledge of his subject was called teleios, as opposed to a young beginner with lots to learn.   It was not used to describe faultless living.

In the minds of the Greeks, perfection was functional.  A perfect object was judged on design and functionality.  A perfect person was someone who fully realized the calling, purpose and potential of his life.  The adjective telos, derived from teleios means an end, an aim towards a purpose or a goal.  To realize a goal and purpose is perfection.

When we need to fix anything around the house, we go out and get the right tool for the job.  When the work is done and the goal is reached, the tool has served its purpose.  We could call the tool teleios, as it was applied according to its purpose of creation.

Jesus says: Be perfect.  What then was our purpose for which we were created?  Genesis leaves no doubt.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

We were created to be like God.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.  (Luke 6:40)

One of the principal characteristics of God is wisdom.  To become like our Father, our search for wisdom and wise living should be at the forefront of our pursuit of perfection.

We will be camping in the book of James for a while.  He writes quite a bit about wisdom and the requirements for right living.  Right there in the first chapter he mentions the testing of faith, which is a solemn topic for the beginning of a letter.  He writes to the Christian Jews all over the world: To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:

The history of the dispersion of the Jews, was always accompanied by great loss and immense cruelty.  The very fact that they are scattered over the earth implies a deep and difficult trial.  James encourages them with these words:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Here we are again – perfection. Just as we have discussed above, this word meant something quite different than in our culture today. Trials and the testing of faith it denotes, should be regarded with joy.  Difficulties in life works patience in our inner being and patience works in us to perfect us.  This is quite a mouthful and if I read it correctly, I should joyfully welcome problems with an expectation of the shaping and moulding of my inner being by the Potter’s Hand.  What an awesome counter-intuitive way of living to work glorious excellence into our thinking and doing!  It is submitting gladly to God’s wisdom for me.

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.  (Jeremiah 18:3,4)

Regarding trials and tribulations as joy, should mean that we have control over the situation.  Again, it is emphasized, that a child of God is never a victim.  God is in control of our lives.  He is mighty and good and He will shape our trial into victory.  (Romans 8:28)

The joy in hardship is not an emotional reaction.  It is a deliberate, intelligent appraisal to the matter at hand from God’s perspective.  We see our circumstances shaping us into genuine, victorious living in the invisible Kingdom of God on earth.  Victory is only possible when our souls are purged from the dross and stripped from anything false weighing us down in our journey.

See yourself with a cloak of stinking, rotting spiritual rubbish on your back.  “See” in faith how you can rid yourself of all this, when the Holy Spirit helps you to forgive and let go of the anger and fear that dominate your thoughts.  Now “put on” Christ – the shining pure white linen that will adorn your soul with glory. (Revelation 3:18)

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)

Patience is not a passive resignation to adverse circumstances, but a positive steadfastness that bravely endures.  Patience is powerful.  It elevates our souls into the realm of heavenly living, expecting results from God, before a change in circumstances.  Our journey is on the holy highway, a life path taken by choice to live in God’s ways and thoughts.

highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.  (Isaiah 35:8)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
  (Isaiah 55:8,9)

Heed the call – a call to higher living.

Next time we will begin to explore the magnificence of wisdom.

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