If we could make just one resolution, what would it be?
God is hugely supportive of making plans. It shows seriousness, intentionality, wisdom, and, at minimum, mitigates against sloth and laziness. God is not offended by ambition. In fact when two of Jesus’ disciples showed ambition for power and position in His coming Kingdom, Jesus did not say ambition was wrong but warned against the attitudes that could guide ambition—lust for power and control over others. His counsel in regards to ambition was that it is to be tempered with a heart totally given over to humility and serving others— then ambition is safe to wield and desire.
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 20:18 Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.
In all of our goals and plans there should be a common thread—the sovereign will of God. We must recognize that His purposes, plans, and will are superior to ours. That whatever we plan to do or have as a goal must be in compliance with His character and nature. The proverbial injunction that the “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” is front and center of how we are to plan and set goals. The more we know God, are intimate with Him, and desire His will above any other, the more successful we will be with goal setting and planning.
In fact, Paul discusses this powerfully in Romans 12:1-2. if we pursue and fulfill the first part of verses 1 & 2, we are able to do the last portion of verse 2: Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Imagine that! God desires that we get to a place of obedience, intimacy, and faith where we can TEST God’s will and even declare it good, pleasing, and perfect. (Seriously, who are we in our base human nature to test God or even be in a position to approve of what God does?) The following are additional verses to guide us in the attitude God wants us to cultivate in goal setting and planning.
Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
James 4:13-15 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
How then can we have practical, day-to-day guidelines to help us keep our goals and plans in keeping with what God would desire? Below is a four step process I have developed in both decision making and goal setting and planning. There is nothing “magical” about this method. It is just a simple and concise way to bring wisdom and accountability to what we set our hearts and efforts to.
Step one: Successful
Questions to consider: Does it have a reasonable chance of success? Is it something that God can bless? (Companion questions: Does this appeal more to my/our ego or does it have significant benefits for others? Do I strongly sense God’s leading? Is there a compelling need for this goal, plan, action, or decision? Is this the right time to do this?)
Step two: Sustainable
Questions to consider: Is this something that is truly sustainable? Can it be done practically and resourcefully for an extended period of time? Does it cost more in time, energy, and resources (people and money for instance) than it seems to return back (this is called “return on investment”)? Do you enjoy it enough or see it as worthy enough to keep investing in it? Do others? Is there a danger of it being a fad? Is it something Jesus would have you do for a season? Until He returns?
Step three: Measurable
Questions to consider: Is this producing the results I/we were expecting or hoping for? [It is important to note here that the Law of Unintended Consequences can have significant impact at this point and further pursuit of this goal/plan may need to be altered or changed] Is it really working or are we “spinning” the results? Would others be able to confirm the success of this goal or plan?
Step four: Transformational/Transferrable
Questions to consider:
Transformational: Is my life or are other people’s lives being positively impacted by this goal/plan? Are there changes that are long lasting or eternal that have taken place? Is there true transformation taking place—culture, life, body, soul, spirit, etc.? Is it making a difference in life/lives? Do others believe it is transforming conditions or things?
Transferrable: Is it something you or others want to keep doing? Is it something that can be given away? Is it something others will do when you aren’t there to drive it? (Is it something that others can readily desire to do themselves?)
These are just four simple steps that we can use not only to plan but to monitor goals and plans along the way. These steps can be used at any age and at any level of decision making.
Remember (from the December 30, 2018, sermon) that in general goals are those things that only we or God can keep in motion or stop (my desire to eat healthy and exercise effectively, for example). Again, the success and sustainability of goals is up to us and God. Desires are those things in which others have considerable impact on their fulfillment (children coming to faith in Christ— they can resist; finding a wife—the woman could say “no,” and so on). Both the pursuit of goals and desires are subject to the sovereign will of God and the deeper our obedience and intimacy is with Him the more our goals and desires will reflect His character, nature, and purposes.
As we consider how God would have us live and invest ourselves this year, let’s not only plan and set goals but also invite others to counsel and encourage us as we do so!