I grew up in a spiritual environment that discouraged goal setting and godly ambition. The thinking was along the lines of, “You don’t want to act outside of God’s permission. Man devises a way but the Lord directs the steps and since our hearts are deceitful, it’s best to just wait for Him to act.”
The fear was that one would become proud and self-reliant so to avoid that temptation, you best do nothing. Have no vision, no ambition, no goals. Wait for God to smack you in the head with something repeatedly before taking any action. Be safe and err on the side of not doing anything.
My question for you is… Is this really what God wants from us? What role does goal setting play in the life of a believer?
Should we seek to move in a certain direction or pursue a certain “dream” or desire we suspect He’s given us?
Is God pleased when we plan and work hard? Or does He want us to wait on Him to drop something in our laps?
Well, over the years I’ve come to believe this isn’t an either/or kind of question. It’s a bit of a both/and.
Yes, God is pleased when we plan and pursue. Yet we are to do so in faith and in accordance with His will and purposes.
Basically, we need to make plans within the context of relationship with Him. Then, we can expect Him to open the right doors, make our paths straight, and give us the desires of our heart. It’s a wonderful thing!
As you can see, my theology has radically shifted as I’ve studied God’s word on goal setting and applying effort. I have moved from not setting any goals at all to setting what I call “Grace Goals” each quarter… a pretty radical shift!
**Hint, hint: Sign up for the Grace Goal Planner Sheets here to see my process- it’s FREE!
Here are 5 reasons why I believe Christians should set more goals:
1. Because good works glorify God.
In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus says “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Think about it: Our good works bring glory to God.
Every time you refrain from yelling at your child, your child sees it and God is honored in their sight. When you discipline your body so you can be a better steward of your health, work extra hours to pay down debt, set your clock fifteen minutes earlier to meet with Him in prayer, take a risk to start a ministry, or a million other things, those good deeds will eventually (if not immediately) bear fruit that glorifies God.
Understanding this key concept will empower you like nothing else in your goal setting! For me, it served as divine permission to start planning and setting goals for things like eating more healthy and contributing to my family’s budget.
2. Because good works don’t often occur by happenstance.
When I was in language school as a missionary, God used the story of Solomon to encourage me. Language learning was hard and slow going. It often felt I was making no progress. But learning the language was necessary part in order to have a local ministry.
Likewise, Solomon had a dream and planned to build a magnificent edifice to the glory of God. And he did… after seven years! The beautiful temple that brought God world-wide renown was built brick by single brick. It didn’t happen in a day and it wasn’t built by happenstance. It happened as they first devised the blueprint, then laid one brick on top of the other, day after day.
The same is true for us. Once we envision a good deed, a dream, an opportunity that God has placed in our hearts to glorify Him with, we need a blueprint on how to get there. We need an implementation plan. That’s what good goal setting will give you and why it’s so important. Just remember, failure to plan is planning to fail.
Oh, and by the way, I Kings 10 says that Solomon’s fame brought God glory. I “happened” to read that today in my daily Bible reading (God is good!) Look it up :) You never know what God will do with your obedience and hard work but He’ll honor Himself with it. You can be sure of that.
3. Because chances are, God has placed a godly desire inside you that needs fanning to come to life.
You know that light Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5? Well I believe it most often starts as a tiny flicker. It’s barely a spark. God puts it in us and invites us to exercise faith to grow it. It’s our responsibility to walk closely with the Lord and, in relationship with Him, fan the flame into a vision of God-sized proportions.
Ever wondered at the mediocrity and lack of godly vision in your own life? If so, it’s likely because your spiritual eyesight is weak. Try following Paul’s advice to Timothy and, “Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Setting goals is a powerful way to fan the flame and cultivate godly vision!
4. Because Jesus asked folks to name exactly what they wanted.
I was astonished when I realized a question Jesus asked several times in Scripture is, “What is it you want?” One such time was with the blind man in Mark 10.
Jesus obviously knew what this man wanted… but He wanted him to verbalize it. Why?
I believe it’s because until we have clearly defined and articulated our desires, we are incapable of stepping towards them in faith. In other words, faith follows focus. Mark Batterson said, “If faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unsure of what we hope for is the antithesis of faith, isn’t it?”
Really good observation. Faith pleases God, my friend, and Jesus knows when we can articulate a desire He has planted in our hearts, we move in the direction of faith. Setting goals helps you focus… and focus fuels faith. And faith? Well it moves mountains.
Bonus thought… research has shown goals that get written down are 42% more likely to be achieved. Just getting clear enough to write them down drastically improves your chances of accomplishing them. So get clear on what you want and write it down!
5. God gives us grace to fuel our godly ambitions.
This is one of the most powerful truths I think the Lord has ever shown me. It’s found in II Thess 1:10-11 which says, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Does that light your fire like it does mine?!! This scripture tells us God will fulfill our resolve- our godly ambitions and goals- for those good works we talked about! And He’ll do it by giving us daily, moment by moment grace.
Grace to say no to chocolate cake when we know it’s the best thing. Grace to say yes to fueling our body with what it needs.
Grace to refrain our lips from speaking in anger. And grace to speak up when we’ve been silent.
Grace to work long hours. And grace to stop working so much.
Grace to take that step of faith. Grace to trust in the waiting.
Grace to put the money down on the house.
Grace to enroll in college.
Grace to take the next step.
Friends, grace gets a bad rap. It is SO under-valued. We think of grace as forgiveness when we mess up. It is, but it’s SO much more than that. Grace is the POWER to do right.
In other words, grace is POWER, not just PARDON.
This truth will revolutionize your life when you let it get ahold of you! It sure has revolutionized mine.
Grace Goals is a goal setting process ( a series of 5 workshops) that incorporates these truths and more and fleshes out II Thessalonians 1:10-11.
The fun news is we have a Grace Goal Planner for you… and it’s FREE!
To grab the planner sheets, simply click the image below and join our community.
In the meantime, go in grace. And start thinking about those goals :)
For Further Reading:
How to Use Habits to Achieve Your Goals by Michael Hyatt
Setting Goals that Motivate You By Mind Tools