*** This is an expanded and updated verion of an article posted on this site last June.
I am of the firm conviction that God desires that we live in a way that fosters our spiritual development, increases our capacity to serve others, and instills a consistent sense of hope and optimism for the future. I also am convinced that a primary component of such a mode of living is the establishment and fulfillment of godly goals.
What is a godly goal? A godly goal is one that is first and foremost in line with biblical principles and leads us forward in pursuing the potential and the purpose that the Lord has for our lives. A godly goal acts almost like a magnet, pulling us toward itself, helping us to become more complete individuals possessing both confidence and a commitment to excellence. In short, godly goals enable us to become the optimal version of ourselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
Usually you can easily discern whether or not a person has goals in his or her life. A person with clear cut, reasonable, and obtainable goals will demonstrate a sense of direction in life. He will not be seen wandering willy-nilly about in life, going four steps in one direction, then three steps in another. No, an individual with godly goals will know where he is headed, what it is going to take to get there, and will have formulated an energy-efficient plan to arrive at his stated aim.
Recognizing that time and energy is a priceless commodity in today’s hectic world, a person with godly goals wastes neither.
Another quality seen in people with clearly established goals that are biblical and directed toward divine purpose is a sense of excitement. If a person has such a goal, she is usually passionate about it and approaches each day with optimistic excitement, realizing that the day before her will provide opportunities to move closer to the achievement of her goal. It is this very passion that fuels consistent motivation, especially during those times when events may be running counter to plans and expectations.
When I think of the sense of excitement and passion that comes from having clearly defined and obtainable goals in life, my friend Dale comes to mind. Dale is a person who seems to have a boundless supply of energy. Far from manic, Dale’s level of energy is high but it is also focused. In all the years I have known Dale, I don’t think I have ever heard him complain of being tired, overly stressed, or burned out. This is remarkable, considering the pace that Dale often operates at. I once interviewed Dale for an article I was writing for medical students in their first year of studies. In that interview, I asked Dale what was the source of his seemingly unlimited store of energy and stamina. At first he told me that he always approached each day with a sense of meaning and purpose in his life and that God had clearly given him that meaning and that purpose. However, he didn’t stop there.
“Having a God-given meaning and purpose for life is essential,” continued my friend. “But what really motivates me and fills me with positive energy is having clear-cut goals that I am working toward each day. Meaning, purpose, mission…those are all important but they are also abstract. I am the kind of person that needs something I can get my hands around to get me excited. Having those short-term, achievable goals gives me that.”
In short, having goals that are not only clearly defined, but that are also attainable provide us with several important components of a meaningful life. First, they give us direction and purpose. Knowing what we are shooting for allows us to be efficient with our personal energy. Instead of running in five directions at once, we move in a straight line toward our destination. Second, goals give us a sense of excitement and passion in life. We can wake up each day knowing that we are consistently moving toward the achievement of something that is important to us.
Charles Stanley speaks clearly to the fundamental principle that Christians should keep before them when setting goals in life, whether long-term or short-term, great or small:
Every other goal must be placed under this priority goal – to know Christ and to be conformed to His likeness. If you have set for yourself a goal that is not in line with this priority goal, God will not help you accomplish it because He didn’t encourage you to set it. If a goal cannot be placed under this supreme goal of knowing Christ and being formed to His character, that goal is contrary to God’s purposes for your life, and God will oppose you in your attempts to achieve it.
The setting of godly goals should not be such a difficult process, yet many of us make it more complicated than it actually is. A Christian goal, as mentioned earlier by Charles Stanley, is based on the reality that each of us called to be conformed by the Holy Spirit into an increasingly likeness of Jesus Christ. With that matrix as a workable backdrop, we can say that we are to have goals that place us in a receptive position whereby the Holy Spirit can do the work on us that He wants to do. Charles Stanley lists the following generalized Christian goals:
- To walk in the Spirit daily
- To experience the same kind of awesome Holy Spirit power that Jesus Christ experienced
- To serve God in the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power
- To maximize my full potential
- To use all of my talents and abilities in the way God created them to be used
- To fulfill God’s purpose for my life
- To experience and enjoy life to its fullest
- To have a feeling of deep and abiding satisfaction that I have fulfilled God’s goals for my life
Returning to a theme mentioned in the initial paragraphs, as Christians we can only expect these positive results from godly goals – goals that are biblical and in line with God’s overall purpose for life. The significance of setting biblical goals should be obvious. By pursuing godly goals we are making every effort to become the optimal version of ourselves. We are, in summation, working toward not only our specific goals in life, but we are also moving toward becoming the best that we can be, all for the glory of God. Here are just a few of the spiritual benefits of working with biblical, godly goals:
We will consistently walk according to the Spirit rather than the flesh.
We will make steady progress toward realizing our God-given potential.
e will utilize our spiritual gifts in effective, Spirit-directed ways.
We will expend our personal energy in an efficient manner.
We will be a vital part of the process of establishing God’s kingdom on earth.
We will experience life to its fullest and enjoy life more.
We will become increasingly optimistic.
Pursuing godly goals that are aligned with biblical principles is the task set before each and every one of us as Christians. Many say that setting and achieving goals is important in life. No doubt this is true, but I think it goes much farther than that. I think setting and realizing godly goals is a mandate for followers of Christ.
Why do I say this? It is simple, really. God has given each of us a unique and vital purpose in life. In order to meet that purpose, I believe it is critical that we become the optimal version of ourselves. If we are to become the best that we can be, we have to set goals and achieve those goals. That way, we not only improve ourselves (with the help of the Holy Spirit), but we also glorify God by becoming all that we can be. Further, we grow into a position where we can be useful servants, working toward making life better for others while, at the same time, bringing God’s kingdom into concrete realization here in this world.
One other aspect of Christian goal setting and personal development should be mentioned and it has to do with the necessity of “stretching” ourselves. Basically, our goals should be ones that force us to grow by increasingly taking steps out of our comfort zones. For example, when I taught English in China I often told my students that they should always seek out conversation partners for practicing English that were slightly better than they were. The reason for this should be obvious. If a student practiced with someone who was at their same level or below, they would never be forced to improve. However, if they consistently practiced with a partner who had skills that were slightly above theirs, they would repeatedly be forced to expand their own skills. Granted, practicing with someone far beyond their language skills was not recommended. However, regular practice with a partner who was only slightly better was a sure way to improve their own skills.
There is an old saying: “Never rest on your laurels.” Basically, this means that we should never be satisfied with what we have accomplished. Reaching a goal is satisfying, but we shouldn’t allow this to be the final act in the play. We must continually press forward toward new goals that will allow us to manifest the best version of ourselves. Also, it is important to keep in mind that we should never focus our mental energy on what it is we think we cannot do. Rather, we should believe in ourselves and always refuse to let what we cannot do interfere with what we can do. By focusing on doing what we can do, and doing it better, we make progress. Moreover, we facilitate our continuing spiritual development by challenging ourselves to reach higher. Both personal experience and deep study has taught me that the optimal method for moving beyond where we are is by “stretching ourselves.” By this I mean it is highly advantageous for us if we encourage ourselves to move beyond what we are now capable of, even if only to a small degree.
For example, I enjoy playing table tennis. I am far from a great player, but I can achieve some degree of success when I am at the top of my game. (Of course, I played much better when I was younger and my reflexes were quicker.) Early on, I discovered I could not improve my play by competing against players who I could easily defeat. By the same token, I could not get any better by playing against opponents who were my equal. If I wanted to improve, I had to play against competitors who were more skillful than I was. I soon discovered that if I took on players whose skills were slightly above mine, my play gradually but consistently improved. The same is true in terms of realizing our potential in any endeavor. If we want to improve at something, we have to challenge ourselves; we have to stretch ourselves to get to the next level.
Interestingly, we begin this process with the setting of sound, biblical goals. And, it is the continual setting of these godly goals that carries the whole mission forward. In this sense, biblical goals are both a means and an end.
© L. Dwight Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved