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Daniel Plan #3: "Setting Goals in Faith"

Php.3:7-16 October 25, 2015

(adapted from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church; used by permission)


What does it really take to make permanent change in your life? All of the things that you want different in your health, your finances, your relationships, your marriage, your career. What does it take to change? You have to not only see the possibility; you must believe it is possible. You need to have faith that you can change and set some faith goals.

A famous psychiatrist was once asked, "In all of your practice over the years, what's been the most helpful thing you've given to people that's made a difference in their lives as they were seeking change?" He answered, "There's no question about it: I've discovered the most helpful thing I can do for people in a personal or relational problem is help them to set personal goals."

Why do I need to set personal goals? The Bible gives us five reasons.

1) Goal setting is a spiritual discipline.

It's far more than just a good idea; it's a spiritual discipline - like prayer, fasting, spending time alone with God, or giving. It can be an act of stewardship to say, "God, I want to make the most of what I've been given." An act of worship saying, "God, I give you back the life you've given to me and I want to use it for you and go Your direction." An act of discipleship. When you do it with other people, it's an act of fellowship. Setting goals can actually fulfill all of the purposes of God in your life. It's a spiritual discipline.

You can waste your life, spend your life, OR invest your life. If you want to make the most of your life, you invest it in that which outlasts it. That takes intentionality, purposefulness, focus, setting goals with God's help. God sets goals. God has goals for history that haven't happened yet. God has goals for his family, the church, that haven't happened yet. God has goals for your life that haven't happened yet. God's a planner, a goal-setting God. God wants you to set goals too; God wants us to be like himself.

For example. Ephesians 1:10. "God plans to bring all of history…" Circle the phrase "God plans". He doesn't just sit around and let things happen! God plans what's going to happen; He's a planning God.

Some people think, "I'm not going to plan; I'm just going to trust God.I'm not going to make any plans for my life - I'm just going to kind of go with the flow." Friends, that's not 'spiritual' - that's stupid! And slack. The Bible says God plans, so we infer from that, you should make some plans too, otherwise you're just drifting. The verse continues, "God plans to bring all of history to its goal [there's the word "goal"] in Christ.Then Christ will be the head of everything in heaven and on earth!" History is moving to a climax: there's going to be a judgment day where every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. History's moving toward a goal. The movie The Lion King popularized the song "The Circle of Life;" but that's a Buddhist concept. Reincarnation is a pipe dream (or nightmare): Hebrews 9:27 "man is destined to die ONCE, and after that to face judgment..." The Biblical view is that life is linear, it's moving toward a goal; history is HIS story. One day the earth is going to end, and God's going to create a new heaven and a new earth. Life is purposeful, moving toward God's ends, under His direction; not just a repetitive circle. So God is a goal setter, and goal setting is a spiritual discipline.

2) Goals focus my energy.

Energy that's not focused or directed is diffused and doesn't have much power. Energy that's focused has enormous power. Soon one of our relatives is going to have laser eye surgery to remove cataracts; in a laser, the light beams/particles are all moving in one direction, focusing intensely the energy, giving it power to cut. Paul illustrates energy focus in 1Corinthians 9:26: "I do not run without a goal.I fight like a boxer who is hitting something - not just the air." I'm not just out there running around in circles: he says I'm running toward a goal, I run to win. Don't just be boxing the air and not hitting anything! Paul says I have a purpose; I have a goal in everything that I do.

You don't have time for everything; that helps you focus. God doesn't expect you to do everything because not everything is worth doing in the first place. There's a big difference between what's urgent and what's important. What's most important in your life can also be easy to set aside. We want to spend time with God, with our family, but sometimes we set it aside for what's urgent. Goals focus my energy, help us prioritize and stick to the "important" even when it's not "urgent". Eph 5:16 "Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days." Let's not waste our time on non-essentials! We need to know the difference between pressures and priorities; we need to know what matters most. The secret to an effective life, if you want your life to count, is focus. Don't try to do fifty things that you dabble in! Know what's most important and do those things and let the rest go.

So, goals are not only a spiritual discipline, and focus my energy...

3) Goals stretch my faith.

Godly goals are statements of faith: they affirm your trust in God. When you say, I believe God wants me to accomplish this by this date, that's a statement in faith.

There are dreams and then there are resolutions and then there are goals; the best of all is goals. A goal is a dream with a deadline. A goal says by such-and-such a date, by God's grace, I'm going to have this job, or weigh this amount, or have read this number of books. It's specific, it's measurable. In business lingo, we're talking "SMART" goals: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound.

God wants us to set goals because it stretches our faith. Faith is important, as Hebrews 11:6 tells us: "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Matthew 9:29 "According to your faith will it be done to you." You haven't really trusted God until you've obediently risked attempting something He wants that can't be done in the power of the flesh, your ordinary mortal resources. What you can do on your own power, you don't really need faith for. So faith goals are those that are so big, so hairy and audacious, they force you to depend on God.

We have a big God so we can set big goals. We don't have a puny God! So we can set big goals and watch God work in a big way. Set bigger goals and then spend the rest of your life going after them...If it's not worth the rest of your life, it's probably not worth five minutes! Set big goals. Ask God, "What would require me to have faith?" Romans 14:23, "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." Unfortunately, most of what we do doesn't require any faith. How do you know when you're operating in faith? You usually can tell you're taking a risk. That forces you to trust God, depend on Him.

Goals are a spiritual discipline. Goals focus my energy. And goals stretch my faith.

4) Goals build my character.

They build, develop, cultivate my character. Goals aren't just important for what they help us accomplish, but also for what happens in us on the journey, what we become on the journey.

God wants you to grow up. Because really, when you get to heaven, you're not taking any of your accomplishments to heaven! But you are taking YOU. You're taking the character that you've developed here on earth. The reason God put you on earth instead of taking you directly to heaven is to develop character, Christlikeness.

One of the ways we develop character is by setting a goal and going after it and not giving in despite encountering all kinds of difficulties. It's in that process, that struggle, we develop the kind of character God wants us to have. While you're working on the goal, God is working on you!

Paul is honest about this, about growing in character, becoming more and more like Christ, maturing and the struggle that it is. Php 3:12 "I do not claim that I've already succeeded [In other words, reached my goal] or have already become perfect [complete, having reached the end - that my character is fully developed].I keep striving toward the goal for which Christ Jesus has won me to Himself." What's that goal? What's God's number 1 goal for your life? It's not to make you happy, or comfortable, or secure; God's number one goal in your life is to make you like Jesus Christ. He wants you to grow up in character, to learn to respond to everything the way Jesus did - to trials, to troubles, to difficulties, to problems. He wants you to know how to handle criticism and enemies, to know how to be kind to people who can't pay you back. He wants you to learn how to love people who are unlovely, to forgive the people who have hurt you. He wants to grow in you the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That's character; becoming like Christ. God's goal, what He wants for you, is to become like Jesus. Eph 4:13 "Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him." There's no pill I can give you that will make you instantly mature, and all of a sudden you're not worried any more - you're patient; you're loving to everybody, never get upset, are never afraid... It's going to be a process: that's how goals build our character. Good goals build my character, make me more like Christ.

5) Goals give me hope.

You have to have hope in life; you must have hope to cope. Consider the holocaust survivors, people who went through hell in Auschwitz and the other death camps where the smell of death was literally in their nostrils. Thousands were dying every day. How in the world did some people survive the death camps? Researchers studied various people who actually made it through; the one common denominator was this: Those who survived had something to look forward to. That's what kept them going. The people who had nothing to look forward to tended to just give up and die, and became very passive, resigned. But the people who had something to look forward to, they had a goal - that kept them going; it gave them the hope to endure.

The fact is, life is tough; it's not easy. Life is full of losses and accidents and illnesses. You're going to go through difficult times. But if you've got goals, goals give you the hope to keep moving forward even in the losses of life, when you feel like giving up. Job is the classic Biblical example of suffering. When Job lost everything in his life, he admitted: Job 6:11 "I do not have the strength to endure.I do not have a goal that encourages me to carry on." Yet he discovered a yearning, a burning, to confront God and seek answers, to make his appeal to the Almighty.

When you're going through hell in this life, you keep going, you eventually get out of it. Psalm 23 (as I was singing to an unconscious person this week shortly before they died), "Yea, though I walk through death's dark vale, yet will I fear no ill: for Thou are with me..." We're not going to camp out in the valley of the shadow of death, but keep walking with our Shepherd, go through it.

You need a goal. If you aim at nothing, you're going to hit it every time! Long term goals keep us from being discouraged by short term setbacks. There's a verse my wife has been holding on to for a dozen years now through her brain tumour trials, Jeremiah 29:11 "The plans I have for you are plans to prosper you, not to harm you.They are plans to give you a hope and a future." You need to have some plans that coincide with God's plans for your life.

Let's clarify - you need to set long range plans big life-consuming goals, but goals can also be intermediate steps. When you're in the hospital recovering from surgery, you don't start by saying, "My goal today is to run a marathon"! No, you take one goal at a time, bit by bit.


It's important to realize that not every goal is a good goal, a godly goal, one that gets God's blessing. Obviously we'd want God's blessing on our goals, so what kind of goals does God bless? 5 qualifiers...

1) Godly goals, the kind that God blesses, bring glory to God.

The goals that God blesses are those that bring glory to him. 1Corinthians 10:31 "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." That's our main purpose as humans, our chief "end": to bring God glory, display His beauty and excellence. The apostle implies here that anything can be done to the glory of God if you do it with the right attitude and the right motivation. What's the right attitude? Gratitude. And, "I want to bring honour to You." For instance, when you take the garbage out, you say, "Lord, I'm taking this garbage out and talking to You at the same time." You just keep this running conversation in your mind, practicing the presence of God all the time. Even menial tasks can be done for the glory of God. (Samuel Logan Brengle - polishing recruits' boots)

What kind of goal brings glory to God? Any goal that causes me to love Jesus more is going to bring glory to God. Any goal that causes me to be more grateful to God, that causes me to want to serve God, to be more drawn to Him, to want to brag on God to other people and share testimony and say, "Look at what God did for me!" - that's a godly goal. So that gives you a whole lot of room. You want to bring glory to God by loving and trusting and serving and obeying. 2Cor 5:9, "We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." Whether we're here on earth or in heaven.

2) Godly goals, the kind of goals God blesses, are motivated by love.

God's keenly interested in why you do what you as well as what you actually do. He's more interested in your heart, than your actions. He wants to know why you do what you do. Why did you set this goal?

God's not going to bless a goal that is motivated by fear or guilt or pride - wanting to be better than everybody else. Some people set goals by peer pressure - everybody else is doing it; they're all upgrading (latest iPhone) - I need to upgrade. Some goals are motivated by jealousy and envy. God isn't going to bless that kind of goal. Or goals are set because of materialism and greed.

No; God blesses goals that are motivated by love. 1Cor 16:14, "Everything you do must be done with love." God is love and He put you on earth to learn how to love. And if you don't learn that, it doesn't matter what you accomplish or acquire or do or experience, because God put you here to learn love - to learn to love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and to learn to love your neighbour as yourself. Learn to love God, and learn to love others. That's the main point, the greatest commandment, the big lesson. So if you're not learning love in your goals, God's not going to bless it.

There are two kinds of love that motivate us to set goals: our love for God our Heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus, and our love for other people. When you use those two motives to set your goals, "Lord, I want to get in shape because I want to give you, maintain as a steward for You and serve You in, a healthy body.I want to get in shape because I love my family and I want to last and not die prematurely. I want to get in shape because…" And you're doing it for others and for God, not simply because, "I want to look sexier" - you've got a better goal and God can bless that.

Worthy goals bring glory to God and are motivated by love…

3) Godly goals fulfill one of God's purposes for your life.

If you want to have a goal that God is going to bless and help you with, you need to set a goal that fulfills one of God's five purposes for your life (recall Purpose-Driven Life: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism). Romans 6:13 "Do not use any part of yourselves to sin or to be used for wicked purposes.Instead, give yourselves to God…surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes."

Paul did this. He put it this way in 1Cor 9:26, "I run straight toward the goal with purpose in every step." Paul's saying, "I want to please Christ.I want to follow Him, to do what God wants me to do." He refuses to be distracted. Worthy goals fulfill God's purposes.

4) Godly goals are set in faith.

God-honouring, God-exalting goals are big enough that they require faith: they force you to rely on God, so HE gets the glory when they are accomplished. If you set a goal that's small enough for you to do it in your own power, that's not a goal; that's just a to-do list! A goal is big enough that you're going to have to trust God and depend on Him in order to make it. Hebrews 11:6 "Without faith it is impossible to please God." So you've got to set a goal that's stretches you, maybe scares you a little bit, that forces you to trust God.

Worthy God-glorifying goals are motivated by love, fulfill His purposes, are set in faith…

5) They are achieved with God's power.

They're not achieved by your own power. The kind of goals God blesses are so big that God has to step in and help you and give you the strength and energy to do it. Godly goals are achieved with God's power. Proverbs 16:9 "We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it." That's why we fail at our resolutions sometimes - we don't depend on Him. Zechariah 4:6 "You will not succeed by your own strength or power, but by my Spirit says the Lord." And Prov 3:5f (a CLASSIC!) "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do [That means in your finances, in your sex life, in your health, in your career...], Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths."

Many folks are tired all the time even though they're living on Red Bull and Tim Horton's coffee - depending on their own devices. You know what? If you do it God's way, tap into His purposes and power, you're not going to need to depend on Red Bull and java. First, you've got to trust the Lord with all your heart. Then you've got to get some spiritual partner in your life, another member of the body of Christ. You can't do this on your own! You're going to have to get a partner, whether in your small group or in a pair or huddle. Say, "I want to do this Daniel Plan with you.We'll check up on each other and help each other out." Invite a friend and do it.

Allow me recommend to you a new goal: I want to challenge you, for the glory of God, to consider what might happen in your life if you'd believe that you could be, ten or 12 months from now, healthier and fitter more deeply spiritual and loving and Christlike than you were ten years ago - because you did it God's way, depending on God's power, in partnership with His people. Let's pray.