I love lists. Making them. Reading them. Checking things off of them.
There is something that excites me when I read the title, “6 Ways to Read the Bible” or “10 Ways to Pursue Your Wife in the New Year” or “4 Ways Not to Waste Your Singleness” It awakens some faint hope that if I read this article, I might just find the silver bullet. I might have that great epiphany that changes everything. And I’m not the only one. Take a quick look at your Twitter and Facebook feeds, and you will quickly see that one of your friends has probably shared a list. We want to reach our goals, we want to improve, and we want to change. And we want all of it quickly.
But for all the good that lists can give us, there is a subtle poison I have noticed in my thinking. I have developed a “quick fix” mentality. Best practice replaces conviction; behavior replaces motivation; doing replaces being. But apples don’t grow on trees that don’t have roots, and our behavior won’t change unless our hearts do first.
The barometer of my life is not my resolves for this year, but my reasons for living. Our thinking is warped when our goals and lists don’t have the deep roots of conviction nourishing them and giving them life. Although Jesus calls Christians to specific actions and steps of obedience in this life, he first calls us to believe. Before we act, we abide. Roots before fruits.
Don’t settle for a quick fix. By all means: make the list, and be filled with resolve. But let your resolve be the overflow of a heart that is rooted and grounded in deep love for Christ and faith in his promises. Because, as C.S. Lewis said, “sometimes the longest way around is the shortest way home”
Year after year you make resolution after resolution, and if you are like most people you failed to keep the majority of them. Your diet lasted two months, your monthly gym fee was not representative of your attendance, and you almost made it to the Minor Prophets in your Bible reading plan. Why do the majority of people seem to fail their goals every year? And if this is not true of you then maybe you are at the other end of the spectrum—a modern day Pharisee. Because you find worth in your accomplishments, you stop at nothing to keep the resolutions that you have set.
This conversation can quickly become discouraging, even depressing. The purpose in this post is not to discourage; in fact, it is the opposite. I want to think about goals (resolutions) from a Christian perspective. Whether you are a Mr. Fickle or a Mr. Peevish, hopefully you can walk away with two things from this post: a theological and a practical understanding of goal setting.
Meet Mr. Fickle:
It’s New Years day and he has already thought through his goals for the upcoming year. The irony of his goals is they’re not much different from the years before. The mystery, of course, is whether he will break his record. Will he actually keep one of his goals for more than four months this time? You see, Mr. Fickle doesn’t think much of the goals he sets. In fact, he will soon forget that he even set goals until the smell of cabbage and black-eyed peas fill the room next year
Meet Mr. Peevish:
It’s January 1st and he is sitting at Starbucks. Two refills later and he is still going strong. His pen pours out ink as he charts out timelines for the sub-goals of his goals. Determination drives the movement of his hand as he regrets his imperfections in keeping his goals the previous year. How will he respond this year when one of his goals is slightly held back? Will he despair or explode with anger? You see, Mr. Peevish has a self-worth meter that is determined by his ability to keep his goals.
Who are you? Fickle? Peevish? Both?
For the Christian, goals and God are not mutually exclusive. God does care whether you fail or not; yet, God does not view you according to your failures. God does want us to set goals and work hard to meet them; yet, he wants you to find your ultimate worth and identity in the death and resurrection of his Son. Brothers and sisters, meditate not just on your goals, but how God views your goals.
So then, how are you to think about goals? Mr. Fickle doesn’t get much beyond talking about his goals; Mr. Peevish often spends more time planning rather than doing his goals. I believe there are three important things for both the fickle and peevish to think through. The majority of this section is a summation of C.J. Mahaney’s teaching on roles and goals.
What are my roles?
To put it simple: there are some things you were created to do, and other things you were not created to do. You must first understand what you were created to do. Start by simply making a list of your different roles in life. Mr. Fickle: you need to write it down. Mr. Peevish: you need to keep it simple. Here is an example:
Child of God
How will I produce my goals?
Now that you know your specific roles you can begin to set specific goals according to your roles. Mr. Fickle: start out simple; one goal per role is a great start. Mr. Peevish: you need to eventually put your pen down and do something; there is such thing as too much planning. Here is an example of what your goals may look like:
Child of God Goal: Memorize Ephesians 1
Student of… Goal: Plan three hours a day to concentrated study.
Friend to… Goal: Have coffee with this brother once a month to intentionally encourage him.
How will I prioritize and test my goals?
You may be surprised at how quickly your list grows. This step is very important unless steps one and two begin to stress you out. First, you must ask: what are my most important roles? Second, test your goals. Mr. Fickle: have you put your goals down on paper? Have you thought through practical ways to hold yourself accountable to your goals? Mr. Peevish: are your goals more Christ-centered or man-centered? Have you scheduled more time to do your goals rather than plan them?
Mr. Fickle, let the aroma of beans and cabbage remind you of your goals. Mr. Peevish, enjoy the Verona blend at Starbucks. But this year let your goals be saturated with the thought that God really cares. Go, plan, and do remembering that God wants you to create goals.
Coty Hoskins is a student of Biblical Counseling at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the Administrative Assistant at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church. He loves traveling, coffee, and spending time with friends.