Search the Internet for goal setting and you will find thousands of entries from thousands of sources. It seems that everyone has an idea of how to set and achieve goals. There are personal goals, occupational goals, educational goals, spiritual goals, family goals, retirement goals, project goals, company goals, goals goals, goals. As Christians we know that we should set goals in and for our lives. Our goals include all those that I mentioned, but should also include a the goal of getting closer to God in our relationship with Him.
Everyone knows that although we set goals, and develop strategies and tactics to reach them, things outside our control can impact how or if we reach them.
Luke 14:28-30 (NLT)28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
James 4:13-16 (NLT)13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
Ten Steps for Setting God-Ordained Goals
A few days ago, in my quiet time, I found another list. This one is by by Mark Batterson, from his book The Circle Maker. While I think Mark’s list is a very good one it didn’t include any scriptures. I’ve learned, through personal experience, that the Scripture in James that tells us that we should depend on God for the success of our goal setting is great advice. I try to always look into God’s Word for direction in all aspects of life, including goal setting. So I have added scriptures to Mark's steps. The ten steps are from Mark I added the scriptures.
Goals are as unique as we are. They should reflect our unique personality and passions. And we arrive at them via different avenues. But these ten steps to goal setting can guide us as we circle our life goals.
1. Start with Prayer
Prayer is the best way to jump-start the process of goal setting. If you set goals in the context of prayer, there is a much higher likelihood that your goals will glorify God, and if they don’t glorify God, then they aren’t worth setting in the first place.
So start with prayer.
James 1:5-8 (NLT)5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
2. Check Your Motives
If you set selfish goals, you would be better off spiritually if you didn’t accomplish them. That’s why you need to check your motives. You need to take a long, honest look in the mirror and make sure you’re going after your goals for the right reasons.
Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)1 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Galatians 1:10 (NLT)10 Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
3. Think in Categories
It is hard to pull life goals out of thin air, so I recommend looking at the life goal lists of others. Don’t cut and paste someone else’s goals, but it’s a great way of getting your own ideas. Any goal that cultivates physical discipline will cultivate spiritual disciplines too.
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (NLT)31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
Hebrews 6:11-12 (NLT)11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
4. Be Specific
Just like our prayers, our goals need to be specific. If a goal isn’t measurable, we have no way of knowing whether we’ve accomplished it. Losing weight isn’t a goal if we don’t have a target weight within a target timeline.
And it’s OK to make revisions to our visions.
Mark 10:51-52 (NLT)51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.
Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
5. Write It Down
I have a saying that I repeat to our family and our staff all the time: “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” If you haven’t written down your goals, you haven’t really set them. Something powerful happens when you verbalize a goal, whether in a conversation or in a journal. And it’s more than a good idea; it’s a God idea: “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets.”
At some point in the process of goal setting, you need to muster the courage to verbalize it.
That act of verbalization is an act of faith.
When you write down a goal, it holds you accountable. A written prayer requires more faith simply because it’s harder to write it than to say it. But the beautiful thing about written prayers is that you have a written record of your prayer. Too often we fail to celebrate an answer to prayer simply because we forget what we asked for before God answers!
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT)2 Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.3 This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NLT)4 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
6. Include Others
Goals are relational glue. And God set the standard with the Great Commission. If you want to grow closer to God, go after the God-sized goal He set nearly two thousand years ago.
Psalm 55:14 (NLT)14 What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.
1 John 1:7 (NLT)7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
7. Celebrate Along the Way
When you accomplish a goal, celebrate it. When God answers a prayer, throw a party. We should celebrate with the same intensity with which we pray. One of my favorite Hebrew words is ebenezer. It means “thus far the Lord has helped us.” When you accomplish a God-ordained goal, it is an ebenezer moment. You need to find a unique way to celebrate it and commemorate it.
Setting goals is the way you turn imaginations into memories, and once you do, you need to celebrate them.
Psalm 150:1-6 (NLT)1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven!2 Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NLT)4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
8. Dream Big
Your life goal list will include goals that are big and small. It will include goals that are short-term and long-term. But I have one piece of advice: Make sure you have a few BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) on the list. You need some God-sized goals that qualify as crazy. Here’s why: big goals turn us into big people.
Philippians 4:13 (NLT)13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Matthew 17:20 (NLT)20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
9. Think Long
Most of us overestimate what we can accomplish in two years, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years. If we want to dream big, we need to think long. Big dreams often translate into long goals.
If you want to dream until the day you die, you need to set goals that take a lifetime to achieve.
And it’s never too late to start.
Hebrews 6:13-15 (NLT)13 For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:14 “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”15 Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
Isaiah 40:29-31 (NLT)29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
10. Pray Hard
Goal setting begins and ends with prayer. God-ordained goals are conceived in the context of prayer, and prayer is what brings them to full term. You need to keep circling your goals in prayer, like the Israelites circled Jericho. As you circle your goals, it not only creates God-ordained opportunities; it also helps us recognize God-ordained opportunities by sanctifying our reticular activating system.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)17 Never stop praying.
Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT)35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
Excerpted with permission from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, copyright Zondervan.
Yes we should set goals and with the help of the Holy Spirit work with all our strength to reach them, however failure to reach a goal does not mean that we are failures. God often uses the failures in our lives to accomplish His purpose for us in His Kingdom (No Failure Is Fatal).
Romans 8:28 (NLT)28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
He will do the same for you so rejoice even in your failures.
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.