One of our church’s elders often points out the importance of the phrase “so that.” Those two little words can keep business meetings from drifting into aimless meandering. They compel the group to ask, “What is our objective? What are we trying to accomplish?” When church leaders meet, even to talk about minor matters, our purpose should be clear. We gather together to pursue noble goals so that God will be glorified, so that the gospel will be preached, so that personal relationships will deepen, so that families will be strengthened, so that God’s truth will be proclaimed and his love will be expressed.
The “so that” principle applies on an individual level as well. What “so thats” are you pursuing?
One way to approach life is to view it as a series of problems to solve. Our problem-solving skills are tested every day by challenges as small as, “What should I cook for supper?” and as large as “How should I invest my money?” “How can I encourage my kids to love God?” “What does that puzzling Bible verse mean?” “What will happen to me when I die?” Wrestling with life’s challenges can sharpen our critical thinking skills, but if we see the world only through the problem-solving lens, we’ll become cynical and pessimistic—especially after encountering dilemmas we can’t resolve. The idea that life is nothing but a problem-solving exercise doesn’t square well with Jesus’ promise of an easy yoke and a light burden (Matthew 11:30).
A second approach views life as a series of gifts to receive. Every day we benefit from God’s good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). However, there’s more to life than what we personally get out of it. God blesses us with many comforts and joys, but he created us for a higher purpose than our own individual happiness. We’re here to bear fruit for God, not merely to indulge ourselves.
Here’s a third approach. What if life is mainly a series of growth steps to take? What happens to us doesn’t matter as much as what happens in us. Problems arise in every season of life, but they don’t have to destroy us. Setbacks can lead to step-ups. Obstacles create opportunities to grow. Even the good gifts we enjoy are not mere luxuries for self-indulgence; they are tools for expanding God’s kingdom. Through it all, the Lord keeps us growing until we are “fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
Remember the little phrase “so that”? The apostle Paul used those words when he instructed church leaders “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12, emphasis mine). Later he reminded Timothy how Scripture is God-breathed and useful, “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, emphasis mine).
Life is a series of growth steps. Every day we get to untangle problems and enjoy God’s pleasant gifts. Every day we can grow in our faith. Through life’s ups and downs we’re called to love the Lord, serve others, and build up the church “to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)—so that God receives the glory.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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