Success and goals go hand in hand. You can be doing a lot of things, you can be very busy, you can have no time to even sit down and hear yourself think but it’s hard to know what success looks like if you don’t have an idea in your mind of the goal you are striving towards. When we have a goal in mind, the business of life can be reshaped, and the things we need to get done are slowly modified and replaced with new tasks, new ideas, and new work as we progress towards our new goal.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes some of the things that were important to people in their former lives. He will talk about the things that kept them busy, the things they used to think were important, and the things they used to let take priority over what really mattered. He says, “You yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters” (1 Cor. 6:8) and he calls them “thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers” (1 Cor. 6:10) mostly in reference to their past.
But for some in Corinth, they were having a hard time letting go of the old ways. Some liked things the way they were before Jesus. Some liked who they were before Paul. Some liked what they did before they became a Christian, and so, as immature followers of Christ, they followed after self and Christ. This is what Paul wanted to correct in what he saw in them.
Paul speaks plainly to them. He is clear and he is specific. There are things that have to change. The people, their behavior, their choices, their hearts all need to continue to change. After highlighting the issues, Paul then points to the goal. The Christians in Corinth weren’t finding much success because they had a different goal in mind. They wanted to have it both ways.
They wanted to live for Christ without dying to self.
Paul reminds them what Christ has done for them, and reminds them of their goal in Christ: sanctification, salvation, transformation – “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11b).
Pointing back to his prior admonitions just a few verses up, Paul reminds them of their goal, to put off the old self and put on Christ: “And this is what some of you used to be” (1 Cor. 6:11a).
If I am to be successful in Christ, I need to keep my goals in front of me and I need to ensure my daily routine, my tasks, my thoughts, my heart, and my actions are leading me towards that goal. Or, as Paul puts it a few chapters later: “do not run like someone running aimlessly,” instead, “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:26,24).