While we often wait for the beginning of a new year to think about it, setting goals, evaluating goals, and refining goals is a worthy task for most any day.
Many decades ago, Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, “The perfection of means and the confusion of goals is the hallmark of our time.” I suspect that is even more true of our age, as well as most individuals in today’s age. So we do well — especially as believers — to think about the priorities the Lord would have us pursue.
Many resources are available to help you think about your goals, but the Scriptures speak frequently to the goals, priorities, desires, and longings that inform what we do. Several years ago, I formulated the following questions to help establish and then evaluate goals. Perhaps these will help you today, or in a couple of months when the calendar turns to 2022.
First, what are some of the principles one should consider as he establishes his priorities?
- Do the goals bring glory to God (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 8:6)?
- Are the goals righteous and will they encourage or produce righteousness (Romans 8:12-14; 6:20-22)?
- Do the goals help me grow in Christlikeness (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 12:1-2)?
- Are the goals pleasing to the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9, 15)? Do the goals reflect God’s standards or my standards? God’s honor or my honor?
- Are the motives of the goal to please men (including my own pleasure, Galatians 1:10)? Do the goals seek value and worth from what God says about me or from what I think about myself?
- Are the goals a form of self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) or are they a means to indulge the flesh (Romans 6:12; 13:14)?
- Are the goals presumptuous about the future (James 4:14-16)?
- Do the goals help me mortify sin (Romans 8:12-13; 1 Peter 2:11)?
- Do the goals help me fulfill my relational callings in my home (Titus 2:2-8; Ephesians 5:22–6:4), church (Romans 12:3-18; Colossians 1:28-29), work (Ephesians 6:5-8; 1 Timothy 5:8), and culture (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 4:5-6)?
- Do the goals prioritize things that are eternal or temporal? If the goals are temporal (e.g., some form of “self-improvement”), do they reflect an awareness that they are not of ultimate value (1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2:1-3)?
- Do the goals include a plan to develop and mature my spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8)?
- Are the goals primarily self-serving, or are they made with the priority of serving Christ and others (Mark 10:45; Romans 12:9-13; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Peter 4:10)?
- Do the goals reflect awareness that Christ is the end and purpose of all things (Philippians 3:13-14)?
Having established goals, it is appropriate as well to evaluate those intentions. Sometimes we meet and sometimes we fail to meet our goals. If we succeed there may not be as much opportunity for evaluation; but failure provides ample opportunity to examine both ourselves and the goals. Here, then, are some principles for evaluating failure in achieving goals:
- Were the goals God-honoring?
- Did sin prevent me from achieving the goals? (If so, was the sin confessed and repented?)
- If the goals changed, was it due to laziness (I became unwilling to sacrifice to meet appropriate goals)? Or was the change in goals the result of new biblical instruction? Or wisdom from a godly friend/discipler?
- Were the goals presumptuous (e.g., about the time involved to attain the goals, James 4:14-16)? I.e., was the failure because there was not a realistic ability to attain the goals?
- If the goals were temporal (e.g., “for bodily discipline,” 1 Timothy 4:7-8), did they obscure the greater priority of godliness (and thus it became wise to set the goal aside)?
Whether you are thinking about your life goals this week or planning to do it in the future, life is constantly giving us opportunities to evaluate and adjust our goals. Like a dart board that is filled with holes from previous throws of the dart (most of them away from the central target!), so we have opportunities every day to move towards the goal of Christlikeness and pleasing God in all the activities of our day. How are you doing in that quest?