Perhaps the answer seems obvious to you, but I wasn’t so sure. Does a lot of intense personal goal-setting suggest a lack of confidence and faith in Him to direct our lives? Or does sitting back and waiting for Him to work His Will for our lives represent a misuse of our gifts?
Before I launched into another year of resolution-chasing, I decided to do what I had never done before, and look at what the Bible has to say.
When I look at God as He reveals Himself to me in the Bible, I see a Planner.
When God undertook the astounding task of creating the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), He made progress each day toward His ultimate goal, and even left Himself an opportunity for rest once the task was completed (Genesis 2:2).
When, in spite of eternal life, blissful paradise, and daily face-to-face communion with God, Adam and Eve misused their circumstances to try to attain wisdom equal to their Creator, God already had a plan in place for the redemption of humankind when He uttered these words to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head…” (Genesis 3: 15).
When the Israelites were making their way toward the Promised Land, God planned for ways to guide them (as a pillar of cloud and fire), and to feed them (with quail and manna), and to make the promised lands available for them (in the defeat of the people who were living there).
Rick Warren points to Ephesians 1:10, in which God’s plan is
revealed to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ,” to
demonstrate that God Himself sets goals, in addition to making plans. “God has goals for history that have nothappened yet,” Warren writes. “God has goals for his family—the church—thathave not happened yet. God has goals for your life that have not happened yet.”
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If God Himself sets goals and makes plans, then I think we can feel comfortable moving forward with New Year goal-setting.
When I look at the people of God in the Bible, similarly, I see planners.
I see Jesus setting out a detailed plan for his disciples when he sends them out to teach and heal on their own for the first time (see Matthew 10:5-15). He also seems to understand his Father’s plan for his life and death as he makes his way towards Jerusalem and predicts his death to his disciples (see Matthew 16:21). He has very specific plans in place for his final Passover meal with his closest friends (see Matthew 26: 17-19).
I see Jesus’ disciples making plans for how to provide for
themselves as a new kind of religious community; they shared all possessions in
common, and by doing what was necessary to support themselves, they ensured
that there were no needy people among them as they testified to the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus (see Acts 4: 32-35).
Further, when it became necessary, they developed a plan so that some leaders could focus on providing for followers’ physical needs, while other leaders continued to focus on the ministry of the word of God (see Acts 6: 1-6).
I see Paul making travel plans to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, as well as plans to revisit the churches once he has planted them (see Acts 15: 36, for example). Sometimes his plans were thwarted, because of earthly circumstances (see Romans 1:13) or divine intervention (see Acts 16: 6-7), but that did not keep Paul from “press[ing] on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 14) in the best way he understood.
If Jesus and his followers set goals and made plans, then I think we can feel comfortable moving forward with New Year goal-setting.
When I look at Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, I see instruction related to setting goals and making plans.
In Luke 14, Jesus uses two different examples to show that his disciples need to count the cost of choosing to follow him, rather than making the choice rashly and without serious consideration. In verses 28-30, he points out that anyone planning to build a tower would sit down and estimate the cost of the project to be sure he has enough money to complete it, rather than laying the foundation and then running out of money to finish.
In verses 31-32, he points out that a king planning to go to war against another king would sit down and figure out if he has any chance of winning based on how many men he has to fight with compared to his opponent. If he determines that he has no chance with his smaller numbers, then he will send a delegation asking for terms of peace, instead.
If this type of worldly goal-setting and plan-devising is advisable, Jesus is basically saying, how much more so should we be basing our decision to follow him on a well-considered understanding of our true commitment to being his disciples.
These examples make me think of Jesus’ parable of the wise
and foolish builders, recorded in Matthew 7:24-27. In this parable, he is saying that someone
who hears Jesus’ teachings and puts them into practice is like a man who builds
his house on solid rock, which can withstand the rigors of the wind and rain,
while someone who hears his teaching and does NOT put them into practice is
like a man who builds his house on the shifting sands that cannot withstand the
eventualities of nature.
Because Jesus’ parables used the truths of nature to lead his listeners to understand spiritual truths, I am led to believe that good planning, and the goals made attainable through that good planning, is a practical necessity that he embraces for our natural lives.
With God as our solid foundation, as we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), we set our goals; we work towards our goals; and God brings about His great purposes through us.
God cares about our eternal destination, but I believe He cares about our day-to-day decisions, as well. Because we are His children, I believe our goals, our plans, and our choices matter to God. As blogger Kristen, from Celebrate Every Day With Me, writes, the Bible verses we read about making plans and setting goals “aren’t just for salvation. They are for how we live now, too. Are we committing our ways to Him? Are we thinking on godly things? Are we persevering? Are we seeking Him? What is the attitude of our heart?”
There has been so much enthusiasm at my church around the Word for the Year concept. We are getting a group together to meet periodically through the year, and stay in touch via email so that we can use our chosen words to help us focus on our goals for 2016. Here are a few resources you might check out if you would like to pursue your own Word for the Year program:
I will also share with you on this blog the progress that our women's group at church makes during our local effort to commit to a Word for the Year!