So often, we make short term goals for our new year without looking multiple steps ahead to see where those goals are going to take us. Multiple years ago, at the encouragement of a spiritual mentor, I made ten lifetime goals instead. Rather than thinking about what I wanted to have done by the end of the year, I started looking back on my life from the very end. What sort of woman did I want to become? Which accomplishments mattered the most to me? What did I want to be known for? What was God directing me towards?
After all, the Bible is full of encouragement for us to live intentional lives.
In Proverbs, King Solomon gives us encouragement on making plans: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance" -Proverbs 21:5 & “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure." -Proverbs 4:26
Jesus came with a clear goal in mind: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." -Luke 19:10
You can see his focused life throughout all the gospels, as he keeps his eyes straight on what God has sent Him to do.
After Jesus, Paul was one of the most intentional men we see in scripture. He says, "I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control…” -1 Corinthians 9:26-27
Paul also tells us in Ephesians 5:15-16 to “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time….”
The same goes for us! We don’t want to be women who drift along year to year, spinning our wheels, running aimlessly. Instead, we want to plan noble things (Isaiah 32:8) & run fiercely towards Jesus and His Kingdom.
To help us do this, we can pray, ponder, plan, and participate :)
#1 Pray: Ask God for specifics on how to live your days, ask him to highlight your strengths, to give you clarity as you move forward, etc. He is a God of order, intentionality, and plan; He will help you as you long to offer each day to Him!
Don't skip this step-- without it, you'll be tempted to make goals just for yourself instead of for God's Kingdom and glory.
#2 Ponder: Think through things like:
- What dreams carry you from day to day?
- What gifts/ resources have you been given?
- What excites you most?
- At the end of your life, what do you want to have accomplished?
- If you could listen in at your memorial service, what would you like to hear people say?
Start brainstorming-- you'll probably start to see some themes!
#3 Plan: Create goals that fall under three categories- God, God’s people, & God’s mission.
God tells us that the greatest command is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (God), and then to love our neighbor as ourselves (God’s people). He also tells us to make disciples of all nations (God’s mission).
Remembering these three topics keeps us Christ-focused. It’s not that we can’t have a goal to, say, lose twenty pounds… we just want it to stay intentionally under one of these categories. Otherwise, we start making self-focused goals, which will always fail us. Losing weight just to look better? Vanity. Losing weight because we want to use the resources we've been given for God's glory (which includes caring for our bodies)? Absolutely.
Make a few goals for each topic and give each a what (the goal), a why (a verse or motivation- this part is so helpful!), and a how (an example or short-term goals).
Here's an example:
What: Become a woman of prayer, trusting that God hears & works through my prayers
Why: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." -Mark 1:35
How: Set up a prayer journal, research fasting, find time to pray out loud five minutes each day, etc
What: Train up my children in the ways of the Lord, joyfully pouring the gospel message into them often & actively teaching them the character of God
Why: "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done… so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" [Psalm 78:4,7]
How: Read the Bible during dinner, sing hymns together, pray together often, etc
We can have goals for God, the Bible, prayer, our marriage, our children, our homes, discipleship, missions, friendships, etc
Which topics jump to mind immediately? Press in there!
#4 Participate: We can’t just write the goals down, we have to actually take steps forward. As one of my favorite quotes by Mary Oliver goes: "How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.”
This is where we begin to write short-term goals. Maybe this year, you want to work towards your prayer goal and your marriage goal. In January, you decide to set up a prayer journal (this might help) and go on one date with your spouse.
Because these are lifetime goals, it's okay if you don't focus on all of them all the time. Take one bite each day, week, month, year at a time. If you continue to keep your long-term goals in mind, you'll get there. No pressure, just God-focused direction!
I challenge you to take time this month to create five lifetime goals. If you do, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org-- I'd love to hear them!