Goal-Setting God’s Way

My husband hates the idea of setting goals. And although most of the time I roll my eyes at him and continue my perfectionistic, categorized list of ambitions, this year, I heard him out.

Why do we set goals?

For me, it is a deep need to “get stuff done,” to check off a list, to feel accomplished. I justify this compulsion by adding spiritual goals such as “pray more” or “read through the New Testament.” Although none of these things are wrong or bad, I never realized how opposite they are of a Biblical “goal setting” perspective.

Let’s take a look.

I typed “goal” into the biblegateway.com search line and 8 results popped up. The results fell into 5 different categories. The goal is:

  • To win/take hold of a heavenly prize (Philippians 3:12, 14)
  • To encourage and unite others in love (Colossians 2:2, 1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Corinthians 8:14)
  • To please God (2 Corinthians 5:9)
  • To attain righteousness (Romans 9:30-32)
  • To accomplish ultimate healing work: resurrection on the third day (Luke 13:32)

How many of your new year’s goals look like that list above? Mine don’t.

It was humbling to see this list of goals the early church proclaimed and examine my own selfish heart in comparison. Sure, it would be nice to save $X this year or mentor X new people or even to read through X books of the Bible, but those things are not what matter in eternity.

Here’s all I ask: consider making these Biblical ambitions your own in the new year.

You may be thinking, “These verses are all nice and good, but they don’t fit my measurable, specific, check-able goals.” You would be right. Let’s take a moment to look at each “goal” and what it looks like practically and daily this year.

  1. Strive towards your heavenly prize.

Stop accumulating your treasure here! Stop thinking that MORE is BETTER! Stop thinking of yourself FIRST!

This goal may mean scratching off a few of the materially driven ones you wrote down last week. Although this is different for everyone, a practical application of this is to invest your earthly resources (money, time, energy) into kingdom endeavors rather than material ones. That sentence made me cringe to write because I have so many material things I want and think I’m entitled to in the next year (a house, a new car, furniture, etc.). Embracing this Biblical ambition—striving towards my heavenly prize—may mean those things don’t happen. But it also means that my heart, mind, and attitude will be better equipped with focus, humility, and purpose to serve others. That ambition is worth the trade.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[b] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-20

  1. Encourage and unite others in LOVE.

Love was a recurring theme in my Biblical “goal” search, which is funny because “love” to me isn’t something measurable. I can’t check it off my list. Rather, it’s CONTINUAL action and selflessness. That sounds harder than the other goals I had for myself! But isn’t that the point? The goals the Lord impresses upon our lives are IMPOSSIBLE to achieve without His slow and purposeful molding of our attitudes.

Practically, this goal means looking for ways to build up and become one with others in word and deed. It means not letting the little annoyances or jealousies or comparisons take root in your heart. It means turning the other cheek DAILY. Preparing for this goal means DAILY surrender of your own preferences to give preference to others. But isn’t that what Christ did for us?

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3

  1. Please God.

Those two words sober my heart quickly. I know that I cannot “please” God of my own accord. My year—my entire life—would be a FAILURE without the opportunity for salvation through Christ’s sacrifice. This box would never be “checked” without the forgiveness He offers, and without that, all other efforts are meaningless.

However, now that I have been redeemed, things I do can be pleasing to Him. But there are also things I do that are not. Our desire ALWAYS should be to please (glorify) Him. Notice this too is not measurable. God crafted it that way because no measurable works can earn us that ultimate “check” of salvation. Each day’s surrender, trust, and obedience give us an opportunity to please the Lord with our actions.

Practically, this ambition may incorporate goals like eating healthier or exercising to care for your body. This may mean setting strict financial goals to get out of debt. This may mean setting aside intentional time to repair a relationship. Whatever Scripture identifies as “God’s commands” are what we should pursue. However, it is important to identify “pleasing God” as your aim rather than “bettering self.” After all, the fulfillment of all of our striving is found in Him.

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:8-10

  1. Attain righteousness.

This goal goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Pleasing God leads us to pursue a righteous life. Doing “right” is not easy, and it goes against our earthly tendencies, but as we are sanctified, the flesh is replaced by guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

  1. Experience and share the ultimate healing work: resurrection.

You may look at this goal and identify it as Christ’s purpose on earth, not your own. It is true that the overarching reason for Christ’s coming was to die and rise again as the payment for our sins. But I encourage you to look closer. This goal is ours to claim too. No dream, desire, or aim on this earth surmounts our eternal purpose. For those of us who are in Christ, we WILL experience the healing work of resurrection at His second coming! What a glorious day that will be! All the previous goals prepare us to experience and embrace this moment. But what does this goal have to do with our daily lives?

We are called to SHARE it! Share the story of Christ crucified, resurrected, and coming again! Share the story of how Christ saved YOU! Share how this same Christ can rescue anyone—regardless of their past! We can do this EVERY SINGLE DAY of the new year.

Jesus had important work on earth and so do we. If you think you have nothing worth accomplishing this year, think again.

I must agree with my husband, I hate setting goals, at least in the way the world does it. Those materialistic, vague, fleeting checklist items I wrote down seem pathetic in comparison to what Christ has called me to do in this new year. I’m ready to instead commit to these five Biblical ambitions that will revolutionize the way I plan, pursue, and prepare for what is to come. Will you join me?

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