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When I was a child waiting for something exciting like vacation or Christmas, it seemed the days would drag on-and-on-and-on. It is different now. You’ve heard the phrase “time marches on”, but I picture it more like a sprinter than a soldier. Time runs, and it runs fast—Usain Bolt fast. (Although, if you have young children you may identify more with Gretchen Rubin’s view, “The days are long, but the years are short.”)
Time is limited. And as we become more aware of this truth, we feel the call to be intentional with our lives.
Intentional means designed, done with design or purpose, deliberate. Consider what that would look like. A designed life. A purposeful life. A deliberate life.
An intentional life begins by being purposeful about the minutes and hours, days and week, months and years that make up that life. In Part 1 of our series, we talked about choosing One Word in order to be more intentional with the time we have in the coming year. But as Yogi Berra put it
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
Ahh, the wisdom of Yogi. I don’t want to end up end up someplace else. And I prefer at least have a destination in mind. Paul knew where he was going. Somewhere to press on toward.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14)
Yes, Paul had a goal. Do you?
A Starting Place
Often when we think about setting goals, we begin by asking questions. What do I want for the coming year? What do I want to change about myself? About my life? What do I desire?
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Delight means “To have or take great pleasure.” What happens when we take great pleasure in the Lord? I believe our hearts become aligned with His. Jesus expresses a similar idea,
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
The Greek word for wish can also be translated desire. But first comes the abiding. So let us start with delighting and abiding. And then we can ask different questions as we approach goal setting this year: What does God want me to do this year? Is there an area of my life He wants to transform? How does he want to mold me to be more like Him? To love more like Him?
And when we change the questions, we change the focus of our goal setting. It isn’t just about us anymore.
Map It Out
1. Set goals for your whole life.
If the focus of our goal setting is about Him instead of us, does that mean we should only set goals having to do with our spiritual lives? Things like how much time we will spend in prayer or Bible study, how many verses we will memorize? Of course not. The truth is as Christians all of our life should glorify Him.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. And He has already prepared the good works we are to walk in.
And as we read in Luke,
… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)
2. Search out Scripture to learn His will.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2, emphasis added)
How do we transform our minds? By saturating it with His Word.
Often we treat finding God’s will for our lives as something mysterious. Something that requires hours of prayer (though we will want to spend time in prayer) where God speaks to us to tell us something to do, some decision to make. But if we want to know what God’s will for us, we should start with the obvious—what He has already revealed to us through His word. Often he spells it out for us,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)
For the LORD gives wisdom;from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; (Proverbs 2:6)
I know, it sounds so obvious. And yet I can get so busy doing that I forget about just being. Being with Him, in His presence. Seeking Him and His wisdom. But I need God; I need His wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to live life skillfully, and I can’t do that on my own.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
Enjoy the Scenic Route
I truly believe that God wants us to be intentional with our lives, for us to “number our days” and live wisely. But let’s not forget: We can choose a word and we can make goals, but we are not the Blessed Controller of all things. (And we wouldn’t want to be!)
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
People will always come before plans. God before our goals. So may we always be sensitive to His leading.
People who understand the importance of setting goals have been writing about it for years. People I’ve learned from and followed. So if you want to learn more about the how of goal setting, check out the following resources:
How to Change Your Life by Setting Goals by Crystal Paine, Money Saving Mom
The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting by Michael Hyatt
2018 Goal Setting Series by Lara Casey
The Right Questions to Ask When You Miss the Goal by Michelle Myers, She Works HIS Way
One Last Thing
A goal without a plan is just a wish.― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
To live an intentional life we can make goals. But without a plan, it simply won’t happen. Something I’ve learned the hard way. And that is the topic of the next post in this series: prayerful planning. And if you missed it, check out Part 1 of this series: An Intentional Year: Choose One Word.
Do you have goals for the coming year? I would love for you to share them with us!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
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