What are your high hopes? A good education? A better job? To get out of debt? (for you clergy out there) to get a "better" appointment? As far as the church goes, what are our hopes? Does the church hope for a new building (or repairs on the old one)? For a new pastor who will somehow lead them in a new direction? For young people to not leave the church when they graduate high school?
I think we often set our hopes too low. We have life in mind, not eternity. If we aim low, we'll reach low. Sure, we can get great educations (even great theological educations). We can climb the corporate ladder. We can get appointed to the "best" church out there. We can put up buildings (or fix current ones) so they look really nice. We can get the best pastor appointed to serve in those really nice churches. We can attract young people.
But do these things result in transformed lives*? Are these things the goal, or are they signposts along the way to the goal (or, in some cases, detours from the goal)? When I ran the marathon, there were some different milemarks - some were for the marathon, while others were for the half-marathon. It was sometimes confusing to understand which was which, but the telling one said, "This way to Half Marathon Finish." I could have selectively read, "This way to... Marathon Finish" and would have come up short by 13.1 miles.
Look at the Scripture I'm preaching from on Sunday (if you're part of the NK UMC, this is just a teaser - I'm not giving you the whole sermon here, so you still have to come Sunday to hear it!).
Jeremiah 33:14-16 (New Living Translation)
14 "The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.
15 "In those days and at that timeI will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.He will do what is just and right throughout the land.16 In that day Judah will be saved,and Jerusalem will live in safety.And this will be its name:‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’
The day will come when the Lord will do all the good things He has promised. Was that simply a comment on the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and the Babylonian exile? Did He mean that He would simply return a united Davidic monarchy to Israel & Judah? We see this as something bigger. This is a Christ-promise, a promise to transform the world. Not just Israel & Judah. Not just Babylon. Everyone. Everything.
Don't set your sights low. Don't be content when there are small victories, thinking you've won the war. Instead, know that through God, all things are possible.
*Please note that I am not coming out against the examples I gave, and I don't think they are antithetical to life transformation. It's just that if we aim simply at these things, we'll reach no higher than these things.