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Recently I posted about step one in the goal-setting process: looking back. We examined some Biblical examples and I listed some questions to help you look back. Today, we are looking at Biblical principles of goal-setting.
Making goals is relatively easy. Making God-honoring goals is slightly more challenging. It requires prayer, time, and an understanding of the Word and how it applies to your life at this moment in time. I hope that some of the verses, passages, and principles I’ll discuss today will help you be better prepared for setting God-honoring goals.
Now, let’s look at some Biblical principles of goal-setting, in both the Old and New Testaments. And remember, this is not an exhaustive list of applicable passages.
Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—
Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man.
This passage directs us to learn from the wisdom of ants – who plan for the long winter by gathering food in the bountiful summer and autumn. Furthermore, the passage continues by instructing us that laziness brings nothing good with it – only poverty and need. The gist of the passage, taken together, is that planning and working [the plan] will lead to a much better life than just living ‘in the moment.’
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Now, this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.
At first glance, this passage on giving might not seem to have much to do with goal-setting. But let’s look a little deeper. First, there is the principle that we reap what we sow – in giving as well as in all other matters of life (compare Galatians 6:7). In other words, if we sow planning and purpose, we’ll reap the benefits of meeting our goals and progressing towards our dreams. If we sow lack of planning, we reap a ‘what-happened-to-my-life?’ bewilderment.
Next, we are instructed to do as we purposed in our hearts – meaning we must first have planned for our giving as well as our lives. Finally, God makes grace abound because of our giving so that we may excel in good works. Compare that to Ephesians 2:10, where we are told we are created for good works. Again, planning for good works is required. You cannot just wake up one day and decide to do ‘good works.’ You must arrange your schedule, your family commitments, your finances, and your work obligations so you have time and money for good works – whichever good works God directs you towards.
James 1:5 – 6
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
Our planning and goal-setting, to be Biblical, must always begin with seeking the wisdom, plan, and face of God. To do otherwise is to plan in our own wisdom, and James says earthly wisdom results only in disorder and evil (James 3:15 – 16). God gives generously to all who ask in faith. So, begin your planning and goal-setting with a session of prayer. If your goal-setting is spread out over several days, start each day with prayer.
Comparing these verses with Proverbs 8, where wisdom is heard calling to all people, we see that it is by wisdom that kings rule, by wisdom the righteous judge, and by wisdom all people gain good advice and counsel. None of these things happen in a vacuum. They all require planning.
Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
But with many counselors they succeed.
There are other verses in Proverbs that make the same point: plans made without guidance often fail. In relation to goal-setting, this means that plans are not inherently bad, but that we all need to seek guidance in making our plans and goals. Guidance from the Lord, from our family, from our friends.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
This verse, perhaps, should guide our goal-setting and plan-making more than any other. I am dead, and Christ lives in me. The life I live should reflect that truth. My goals and plans should reflect that truth. Am I making goals to get rich, so I can spend more on myself? Not a Galatians 2:20 goal. Am I making goals to make more money, so I can give more and serve more? That is a Galatians 2:20 goal.
Proverbs 3:5 – 6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Acknowledge the Lord in your goal-setting, and He will give you the wisdom to make goals that reflect His desires for you. He can make your paths straight only if you are on His path.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
The Lord is in charge – we may plan to build this or that, but it is He who enables the planning and the doing.
Psalm 37:3 – 5
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Such riches here for life, not just for goal-setting. A great verse for memorizing. But in the context of goal-setting, we look at doing six things: trusting the Lord, doing good, dwelling in the land, cultivating faithfulness, delighting in the Lord, and committing our ways to Him. Then – He does it. Because then we are on His plan and He will give us what we desire – because what we desire is what He desires!
Proverbs 16:1 – 3, 9
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established…
The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
The plans are ours, but the way is His. God’s will in our lives is not directed by our goals; our goals are directed by His will.