It’s the beginning of the year: a time of goal setting and resolution-making- or, if you’re like me, a time to want to crawl under the covers, escape the failure of unchecked boxes, and hope change will just magically fall upon me.
I find all of us fall into one of two categories. There are those who hear “goal setting” and excitedly scream “yaaaaas!” and make rigid plans, perfectly color coded and dated. Then there are those who post sarcastic memes to social media. You know the ones. “I don’t make resolutions so I don’t have to feel like a failure in a month when I break them all.”
A few years ago, I found myself bouncing between sarcastic meme poster and rigid goal maker. One moment I’d be whispering, “Why even make goals when all plans belong to the Lord? It doesn’t matter. “ The next moment I’d be planning my entire year of goals and weeping over every unchecked box.
We find ourselves in one of the two extremes when we fail to view goals from a biblical perspective. Here are 5 biblical truths of goal-setting that will set your soul free.
1. Goal-Setting is not bad.
Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance…”
If diligent plans lead to abundance, then goal setting cannot be bad. Let’s not forget about the rest of this verse: “but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” We must remember goal-setting is good, but any valuable work takes the entire time allotted. Some change will come quick, but some will take a long time.
2. Knowing Christ is the Ultimate Goal.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. “
Our prize of the upward call is knowing Jesus and being made more like him. It is God who sanctifies us, making us more like Christ. We have a responsibility to seek him.
Knowing Christ must always be our ultimate goal or all other goals are futile.
Knowing Christ requires putting the past behind us- repenting from sin and accepting forgiveness- and looking forward- having fellowship with Jesus through prayer and his word.
When knowing Christ is our ultimate guide for goal-setting, we are free to focus on what really matters and chuck all other things to the side.
We can evaluate our goals asking these three questions:
a. How does this make me more like Christ?
b. How does this goal make room for more joy in Christ in my life?
c. How will this goal make space for what really matters?
This doesn’t mean every goal has to be “spiritual.” Organizing your house can make space for more joy. Phone-free time can make space to spend time in prayer or be present with loved ones.
3. Christ-centered goals require seeking God’s Kingdom and not our own.
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
This verse specifically talks about material provision, but the principle can still apply to goal-setting: seek God first and HIS righteous, not a righteousness we manufacture by checking boxes. We have to evaluate our goals and ask if they are God’s desire for us or our own desire. This gives us the freedom to try and fail! Unchecked boxes hold no power over a soul finding her worth in Christ.
4. Goals must be set with open hands and in humility.
The Bible tells us in many places that we can make all the plans we want, but God’s plan will ultimately prevail. James 4:13-15 says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Goal-setting is good, but the future is in God’s hands and not our own. We can make plans, but we have little control over how they turn out. This freaks us out and makes goal-setting seem futile, but it is not. It’s a relief to know our good and perfect God, who knows everything we need, is in complete control. Set goals,but set them with humility and dependence on God.
5. It is useless to desire change, but make no effort.
Proverbs 13:4 says “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
Proverbs are usually advice and not promises, so this isn’t always true. You may witness someone lazy get what they want and you may witness someone work hard and have nothing physical to show for it. This is not the norm. Ultimately and usually, desire with no effort is fruitless. Personal change is a partnership with God-He changes our hearts, but we must respond in action.
In light of these five truths, we must be careful not to fall to the two extremes: hoping for change with no action or plans OR making such rigid goals and plans, we make no room for the Holy Spirit to move and for God to speak to us. We make no room for change in one extreme and no room for grace in the other.
Here are some resources I recommend for setting Christ-Centered Goals:
Powersheets is a grace-based month by month goal planner. It contains space for you to name and release the things that are holding you back and space to seek what really matters. This system is also set up for you to see and celebrate progress and growth and not just completion.
As much as I love powersheets, it can get a little pricey with a year planner costing $58. It is totally worth checking out, though.
Goals with Grace is a grace-filled, intentional, and life-giving approach to goal-setting. It helps you explore what is pertinent to your current season of life. The cost is a one-time investment of $35 for a life-time access to all the materials and future updates to materials.
This system is not specifically for or by Christians, but it is a practical free resource for how to set goals.
She sells these beautiful goal planning guides for just $2 for access to the file and her blog has many tips for setting goals.