DOES THE BIBLE TEACHES US ANYTHING ABOUT SETTING GOALS?
The Bible makes it plain that it is necessary to set goals and prepare for the future, at the same time, remaining patient and trusting in God. We must be intentional— diligent and wise stewards who realize that our faith and reliance is ultimately in God and not ourselves.
Setting goals is one way we can diligently handle the wealth and gifts that God gives us. We must be submissive to God in all our goal setting. Our priorities should be in line with His will and the things He values in His Word. We must be modest, too. We may assume that things will look one way, but God will change our plans to achieve His greater purposes in and through us (Proverbs 3:5–6).
In setting goals and strategies to accomplish them, we need to determine what those strategies would cost us, whether they are finances, time, or other resources (Luke 14:28–33). We should ask ourselves if we are capable and willing to bear the costs. It is vital to ask wise people in our lives to give us guidance about how best to set up and execute a strategy to achieve our goals: “Without counsel purposes are disappointed, but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (Proverbs 15:22).
Hard work is a must. When setting goals, we should work diligently to achieve them: “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of everyone that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5).
To best meet our goals, we should use the season we’re in to prepare for the next season.
It should be remembered that often the season we are in is supposed to be a season of rest and refreshment (Mark 6:31). Time spent growing in intimacy with God isn’t idle. We need to follow God’s guidance in what He would have us do at any time — to relax, plan, work diligently, etc. Our ultimate goal is always to please Him and bring glory to Him (Colossians 3:17, 23).
Remember that good planning is not a guarantee that we can always accomplish our objectives. James warns in James 4:13-15, “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” We need to be humble enough to allow God to guide our steps in His way, which may differ from what we have in mind. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9). We should aspire to do our best, but we should also understand that God is in control, not us.
There is no need to worry or panic about a change in plans. God’s intentions are stronger than ours (Matthew 6:33-34). We should ask God to lead us in the direction we should go and turn our hearts to the things of His heart. He may guide our desires so that we may set the goals that He wants us to achieve. David prayed, “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” (Psalm 143:8).
The vital thing to remember is that eventually, God’s purpose will prevail for each of us, even though the steps to achieve that goal may seem different from what we think. “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21). So set goals, but make them known unto God and ask for His guidance, encouragement, and help to fulfill His purpose in your life.
GOAL SETTING CHRISTIAN
Should we try to move in a certain direction or follow some kind of “dream” or desire that we believe God has given us?
Is God happy that we plan and work hard? Or does he want us to wait for Him to drop something in our laps?
Indeed, God is happy that we plan and pursue. And we must do so in the faith and compliance with His will and purpose.
We need to make preparations in the sense of our relationship with Him. Then we can trust Him to open the right doors, straighten our paths, and give us the desires of our hearts. This is a wonderful thing!
GOALS VS PLANS
To align our goals according to God’s will and leadership, we must first understand the difference between a goal and a plan. We sometimes use these words interchangeably, but we shouldn’t. The desired outcome is a goal. The plan is a series of steps required to achieve the goal.
Both goals and plans are important to fulfill the call of God on our lives.
FIVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN GOAL SETTING AS A CHRISTIAN:
1. Because good works glorify God.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Talk about it: our good works bring glory to God.
If you discipline your body so that you can be a better steward of your health, work extra hours to pay off your debt, set your clock fifteen minutes early to meet Him in prayer, those good deeds can eventually (if not immediately) bear fruit that glorifies God.
Learning this main idea is going to motivate you like nothing else in your Christian goal setting!
2. Because good works do not often occur by happenstance.
Solomon had a vision, and he intended to create a majestic edifice to the glory of God. And he did that after seven years! The majestic temple that gave the world-wide fame of God was not built by a single brick. This didn’t happen in a day, and it wasn’t designed by mistake. It happened when they first formulated a plan, and then put one brick on top of the other, day after day.
The same is true for us. When we see a good deed, a vision, an opportunity that God has put in our hearts to glorify Him, we need a plan for how to get there. We need a roadmap for implementation. That’s what a good goal setting will give you and why it’s so important. Only note that failure to prepare is a plan to fail.
3. As the odds are, God has placed a godly desire inside you that requires fanning to come to life. God provides the goals.
Do you know the light Jesus was referring to in Matthew 5:14-17? I believe that most of the time, it starts as a tiny flicker. It is barely a spark. God puts it in us, and he encourages us to practice our faith to grow it. It is our duty to walk closely with the Lord and, in our relationship with Him, to fan the flame into a dream of God-size proportions.
Have you ever thought about mediocrity and lack of godly vision in your life? If so, it could be because your spiritual eyesight is poor. Continue to obey Paul’s advice to Timothy and, “Fan into flame the gift of God that is in you … for God has given us a spirit, not of fear but power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). Setting goals is a great way to fan the flame and develop godly vision!
4. Because Jesus asked people to name exactly what they wanted.
I was shocked when I realize that Jesus asked a few times in the Bible, “What is it you want?” One of those occasions was recorded in Mark 10 of a blind man in need of his sight.
Jesus knew what he wanted, but he wanted him to verbalize it. Why?
I assume this is because, once we have identified and expressed our desires, we are incapable of walking in faith towards them. In other words, the emphasis is on faith. Mark Batterson said, “If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unaware of what we hope for is an antithesis of faith. It’s a really good insight.
Faith is pleasing to God, my friend, and Jesus understands that when we can express the desire, He has rooted in our souls; we step in the direction of faith. Setting goals helps you focus, and being focus triggers your faith. And faith does what? Well, faith moves mountains.
Research has shown that the goals that are written down are 42 percent more likely to be reached.
Even being clear enough to write them down would greatly boost the chances of achieving them. So get on with what you want and write it down! It’s all about God and the goal.
5. God has given us the power to fuel our godly ambitions.
It is one of the most powerful truths that I believe the Lord has ever shown me.
It is found in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, which says, “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Does that light your fire like it lights mine? The scripture assures us that God will fulfill our godly goals and ambitions for the good works we spoke about! And He’ll do it by giving us grace daily, moment by moment.
HOW TO SET GOALS AS A CHRISTIAN
The Bible speaks very highly of planning and preparation.
For example, Proverbs tells us that “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3) And that “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of everyone, that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5). Therefore, Paul planned (Romans 15:20-28), Jesus planned (Luke 9:51), and God planned (Isaiah 46:9-10; Ephesians 1:9-11; Acts 2:23).
If we reflect God’s image and glory in the world, we cannot run our lives on the fly. Like God, we’ve got to plan.
Many people make New Year’s resolutions, only to set them aside within a few weeks.
Research reveals that 81% of the people who set New Year’s goals are unable to accomplish it. Why should we take advantage of the “new start” of a new year to set goals and make preparations that we’re going to abandon right out of the gate?
I would suggest that the secret lies in simplicity. It is impossible to keep fifty goals in front of you, but you can keep three goals in front of you. When you add to this the practice of regularly reviewing and modifying your goals, then through meditation, practice, and imagination, it is possible to achieve your goals.
With that in mind, here’s what I call the “3-3-4” method of setting goals that you can accomplish.
1. SET THREE GOALS FOR THE YEAR.
That’s what the first “three” in the numbers mean: three goals for the year. One should apply to your professional life, one to your personal life, and the other should be a learning goal.
For example, this year’s learning goal may be to learn more about ending extreme poverty. It may sound a little ambitious to believe that this is feasible. Still, as many have pointed out (such as Scott Todd of Compassion International’s Live58 initiative), it is certainly possible to end extreme poverty in our generation.
2. BREAK ALL THREE OF YOUR GOAL INTO SMALLER BITS.
In particular, split each goal down into a sub-goal that you can be accomplished over the next three months. This is the second “three” in the system — so take the three overall goals for the year and split them down to three for the first quarter of the year. With the learning goal, for example, that might mean the goal for the first quarter is to read five of the books on ending poverty by the end of March.
3. REVIEW YOUR PRIORITIES AND BUILD SUB-GOALS FOR THE NEXT QUARTER.
After each quarter, revisit your annual goals and break down another piece, making it your sub-goal for the next quarter.
For example, with the learning goal, the second quarter’s goal would probably be to “read the next five books.” If you hadn’t achieved the goal of getting the first five books read yet, the target would be to “read ten books this quarter.”
Alternatively, you may realize that fifteen books are too many (unlikely!), and realize that you have to change your target for the year. That is the strength of the system: it helps you set specific goals while adjusting and staying flexible — which is the essence of effective planning.
You then repeat this cycle every quarter, which is the number “four” in the “3-3-4” system: do so for each of the four quarters of the year.
In other words, because there are four quarters a year, you set three goals for the year (the first “3”), split them down into three sub-goals for the first quarter (the second “3”), and repeat that for each of the four quarters of the year (the “4”).
BEFORE YOU START TO PREPARE
The last thing we need to note here is that, even with the best preparation and discipline, our goals cannot always turn out to be the way we expected. Even Paul, the most powerful church planter in history and model of preparing and setting goals (Romans 1:10-13; 15:20-33), evidently did not achieve his goal of reaching Spain. But his plans were also an important component through which God brought about what he had planned for Paul.
God will always bless our plans and make them happen (Proverbs 16:3). But we must remain versatile and prepare in total dependence on God, knowing that “heaven is the ruler” (Daniel 4:26)—not us.
It doesn’t make our preparations irrelevant, but it does mean that we can expect a few twists and turns. God is also going to do some extraordinary things that may seem like failures. But in fact, they’re going to take us way beyond anything we might have expected or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).
I’d say, it is precisely the preparation that we’re going to make that equips us and makes us ready for the awesome opportunities that God brings our way.