May 9, 2008


Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16, NIV

If you think about goals for a even short while, it should become apparent that all goals are not created equal. But what differentiates an admirable goal from a selfish one?

Take, for example the goal of a closer walk with God. Is that something we accomplish by hard work, or a gift God gives us? Will God open our eyes, or can we actually choose to see?

What do I know?
  • God wants us to obey his moral will.
  • We should read, listen to, study, meditate, and memorize His Word.
  • We are witnesses for Christ, always examples of what Christianity looks like.
  • We should always seek to glorify His name.
  • No goal can be achieved without God.
  • Goals based on pride ought to be shunned.
Starting with that, I think can make a few conclusions. For one, a goal such as: "I will commit to studying my Bible more deeply and paying more attention to what God is saying" is to be commended. A goal that decides our means of doing something is fine.
This gives birth to a new idea: We can make the our goals out of means, but God decides the end.

For example, just because John Q. Smith thinks that increasing the output of his Bible-printing factory by 500% in 3 years would ultimately glorify God, doesn't mean he should set those stats as his goal. If he did, he'd be more likely to be focused on worldly success rather than whatever God's plan for the company is.

Also, think about Joshua 1:8's promise of "then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success." If we make it our goal to be successful, God will probably frown on our self-aggrandizement. Yet if our goal is keep God's word constantly in our hearts, God will reward us with success.

Would it be right to aspire to convert 3 people to Christianity a year? No- because we can't really control the outcome of our actions. All we can do is to plant or water seeds. God is the one who yields the increase.

Even with all this cleared up, I'm still quite confused as to what goals are "good" and what are "bad."

What about making goals about Bible memory? Should you just attempt to memorize 60 verses and say "if the Lord wills it?" Or should you push back your low expectations, realizing it is completely possible to memorize the verses and that just attempting won't give you enough incentive to work harder.

I think the answer to these kind of questions is found the concepts of priorities and motives. Making it my first priority to memorize a certain number of verses will not benefit me much. Instead, I should aim first and foremost to bring glory to God, realizing that the reason I memorize is not to break records but to keep His word always available for use. Therefore, it doesn't matter so much exactly what goals you make, but with what motives and aims you have.

Finally, let's look at eternal significance. Will it matter in heaven exactly what I do? Not really, or else everyone who did follow an exact plan for their life would be condemned to Hell. Ephesians 2:8-10 say:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are saved not by what goals we make, but by God's grace. But since we are saved, we should follow the paths prepared for us by doing good works. Making goals is a wonderful way to push us toward excellence. Having competence will help us to do good works.

What do I want you to take from this?
  • Goals should only concern how something happens. God will decide what comes of our endeavors.
  • Our motives and priorities matter- they differentiate between a selfish goal and a godly one.
  • Finally, what are we trying to acheive? Our goals do not decide our salvation. Our sins have already been atoned for by the work of Jesus Christ. Nothing we do will change that. Setting goals is only useful if it makes us more able to impact the world for Christ.


Serfy said...

thanks for this post, Art; it really makes me think about why I set certain goals for myself.