It's January 2nd, 2014. I think it's safe to assume that most of you reading this have thought about your past year and established a resolution or two for the year ahead. Can you do me a favor this year? Can you and I resolve to not use the word resolution? Let's change that dialogue to read "goal". Resolutions once a year are doomed to fail. Goals are to be reestablished daily. Goals are to be anchored in where you are now, forgetting about what is behind and striving to press on in God's will. As Kathryn reminded us this week, it's not always glamorous or as exciting as we might like. But striving to remain in God's will is the root of successful goal-setting:
He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then He said, 'write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true'. - Revelation 21:5
I find these words so entirely reassuring as we journey along the untraveled trail of a new year. God is the one ahead of us and making things new. What He deems new and relevant and right for us may be different than what we think, but He is the Almighty. He is seated on the throne. It would be in our best interest to follow His will.
Here are 5 questions to ask when you are sitting down to establish your goals:
- What does God say about setting goals?
- What are God's goals for me?
- How do I find God's goals for me?
- What if I fail? What if I let God down?
- How can I glorify God with my goal setting?
1. What does God say about setting goals? An Old Testament story that came to mind for me was the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). We can learn a lot about what God has to say about goals from this story . I encourage you to add reading this section of Scripture to your to-do list today. What we think we should do for ourselves out of our prideful, sinful nature does not reflect what God wants us to do. God dispersed the people in this story because of their rebellious pride. Even the greatest of human powers cannot defy God and long survive. Matthew 6:19-34 reminds us about our treasures in heaven compared to storing up for ourselves things of this world. Verse 34 reads:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Worry is defined in the footnotes of my Bible as "undue anxiety, not a legitimate concern to provide for one's daily needs". Worry does not provide anything constructive or beneficial to your goal setting. Even though I understand facing new challenges, revisiting old failures, and stepping into the unknown is scary. But worrying about it will be of absolutely no help. In fact, it will just hurt your progress. Trust in the LORD. He is the Almighty.
And when you're establishing goals remember Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
2. What are God's goals for me? God demands holiness. 1 Peter 1:16 says
for it is written, 'Be holy because I am holy'.
To be holy is defined as set apart - separated from sin and impurity and set apart to God. Again in my Bible footnotes it says, "The complete moral perfection of God whose eyes are too pure to look with favor on evil (Habakkuk 1:13), should move his people to strive for moral purity." Now, that seems rather daunting if not downright impossible. We all have a sinful nature and can in NO WAY do this by ourselves. Thankfully, God looks at us through the lens of Jesus, who was punished for our unholiness and suffered on account of our imperfections. We can certainly set ourselves apart (be holy) by what we choose to watch, listen to, become a part of, who we hang out with, what we read and what we allow to penetrate our senses. Strive for holiness, not perfection.
3. How do I find God's goals for me? The apostle Paul is a great resource for us when we are sitting down and establishing goals. Paul's goals are Christ's goals for him and Christ supplies the resources for him to attempt to attain them. More often than not we do not seek out what God's goals for us are before we start creating that "I want" list. Typically our goals do not align with God's goals for us. Discerning what God's will is in our life will make our goal adherence so much easier. Not only that, but the goals we resolve to accomplish will be manageable, timely, appropriate and God-pleasing. Philippians 3:12-21 says:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
And Philippians 2:13:
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Christians should seek out goals that will be of spiritual benefit to the kingdom rather than the material goods of this world. If our goals have a spiritual basis, they will be in alignment with what God's goals are for us and will be beneficial for us. Seeking out spiritual benefits and goals for the kingdom must also be our top priority, not somewhere down on the long list of goals for ourselves. Matthew 6:33a says:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness
4. What if I fail? What if I let God down? First and of utmost importance, give yourself grace. How can you ever let God down if you are not holding Him up? God is the one holding you up, not the other way around. Maybe the goal you set for yourself was not the right goal, so when it was not achieved, you felt as though you failed. Remember God remains in control. He will help you establish new goals, daily. Your worth then will be defined by being his child, not in the sense of accomplishment any earthly achievement gives.
5. How can I glorify God with my goal setting? Have your first mentor be Jesus, then reach out to others you trust. Others who love Jesus. Others who will hold you accountable and also, if need be, rebuke you in love and help you root your goals in Jesus and His kingdom. Do not attempt to navigate the open waters of 2014 alone. Have Jesus' life's example be the type of life you strive for and the goals you set for yourself reflect that. You will not need to worry or struggle with knowing if your goals are God's goals for you if this is your basis.
I encourage you to write out goals for yourself, if you haven't already - long term and short term goals - and ask yourself these questions as you are doing so. Things you want to do to glorify God, advance His kingdom, uplift your friends, affect your sphere of influence and amaze yourself. You all have something to offer. You all have something you can bring the King this year.