How to Set Godly Goals

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We all want to be productive, but New Year’s resolutions can be so empty and often pointless. We have good intentions, but our vague ‘good ideas’ on how we need to be better in the new year often bring us nowhere. So as believers, how should we grow and challenge ourselves?

godly goal setting

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a while ago because I never keep them.  Why start something I going to abandon in a week, right?

Instead of making a resolution, I started thinking about where God is calling me to go and who God is calling me to become.  When you start asking that question, the answers are humbling and challenging.

Goal setting (specifically godly goal setting) will help us be productive in the right way.

Proverbs 16:1-9 can help us get our mind around godly goal setting.

1 The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Commityour work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.

The Lord has madeeverythingfor its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Everyone who is arrogant in heartis an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
    and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.

When a man’s ways please the Lord,
    he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.

The heart of man [humanity] plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Solomon shared some wisdom: if we strive after the plans of God, God will establish our steps.  We still have to decide what we’re going to strive for and how we’re going to plan to get there.  But if we humble ourselves before God, and commit that work to Him, God will arrange our plans accordingly.

I’m a planner.  I like to know how and when things will line up so our goals are achieved.  Its basic math: a + b = c.  And good news to me, verse three reads, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Sounds simple.

But when I continue in Proverbs and read, “Many are the plans in mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (19:21), I know that I must also ask myself, “Do my plans line up with God’s plans?”

I plan and God produces, as long as I’m willing to give up my plan for His plan. #settinggodlygoals Click To Tweet

So as I write my goals, I have to put the two ideas together, and think: I plan, God produces, as long as I’m willing to give up my plan for His plan. That can be a challenging thought. It’s founded in selflessness and humility – two concepts that don’t often go with goal setting. Not to mention, all the life changes we experience along the way that cause us to adjust and reevaluate.

So, the question is how do we set godly goals?  Let me offer you seven important things we have to keep in mind when setting healthy godly goals:

1)     Stay in line with SCRIPTURE

It might sound simple, but don’t let yourself set goals that bring you away from God’s Word. 

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy goal for you.  In the same way, setting a healthy goal may not be popular, but a biblical goal will always make you stronger.

I see this in the concept of verse 8:

Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.

Setting a healthy goal may not be popular, but a biblical goal will always make you stronger. #settinggodlygoals Click To Tweet

This isn’t just true for money, but with the concept of goal setting in general. Sometimes the popular goals are a little easier, and will help you fit in, but may not help you in the long-term.

Whether in business or family, make sure to set goals that line up with Scripture so that we don’t derail ourselves.

2)     ASK GOD for Direction

No, God is not going to give you a list.  But he does expect you to pray about what inspires you.

If a goal challenges you’re status quo and makes you a little uncomfortable, pay attention. #settinggodlygoals Click To Tweet

Reflect on the past year and dream about the future.  It will amaze you how God’s Spirit will help direct you. 

I’ll give you a hint: If a goal challenges you’re status quo and makes you a little uncomfortable, pay attention. God is probably trying to help you grow.

If we humbly plan, God will faithfully direct us accordingly.

3)     Ensure ACCOUNTABILITY.

Accountability isn’t always fun, but it’s certainly needed. In fact, it might actually be the only way we can succeed with our goals.

In terms of goal setting, we need to make sure we are held to account in two ways:

  • We need to ask God’s Spirit to keep us accountable; AND,
  • We need to ask someone else to hold us accountable.

There’s a reason why The Church is made up of a group of people – just as iron sharpens iron, we help each other grow.

Their physical nudge will help the Spirit’s nudge stand out. We know we need it, but we don’t usually like it.

4)     Include ALL ASPECTS of life.

Too often we focus on one part of our lives (ie. Weight loss or spiritual discipline). It’s a bit of an all or nothing approach, and I think it actually derails us most of the time.

The truth is, all areas of our lives impact each other.  Our spiritual, family, social, physical and work lives all work together to keep us healthy.  Make sure to think about balance when setting goals.1

If I were honest, that’s something I need to think about moving forward.

We can’t let it become crippling (i.e. throw our hands up the air and give up), but we need to set goals that work together to help us stay healthy.

In other words, it’s no good to set a goal of being more successful at work, if you end up gaining weight because you’re not eating properly, or your family life falls apart.

Likewise, we can’t set get a family or social goal that unhealthily limits work productivity.

We need balance and healthy attention towards all areas of our lives.

5)     Be REALISTIC.

Remember you’re on a journey.  There’s no need to set 10 goals and try to achieve them overnight.

You would be better to focus on two or three at a time and accomplish them, rather than set a large number and lose focus.2

It’s true for eating habits, sleep habits, schedules, devotional life…you name it. It’s better to start small and be realistic with ourselves, then to start too big, lose focus, and quit.

Be realistic with yourself!

6)     SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE  ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, and TIMELY (“SMART” Goals). 

I learned this concept from Micheal Hyatt (he’s a great leader and author on his topic – in fact, he has a book out called Your Best Year Ever).  He’s a believer, but is able to speak to a much wider context (with biblical principles).3

Anything worth completing, is worth writing down in detail. 

  • Specific. Don’t be vague – use detail.
  • Measurable. We need to know what success looks like.
  • Actionable and Attainable. Able to achieve it and take responsibility.
  • Realistic and Relevant. Helpful in our growth, but not to the point of losing focus.
  • Timely. Every goal needs a date attached to it. It can be adjusted, but a goal without a date is a just a dream.

So, in order to succeed, we need to make some changes to our ‘typical goals’ and ‘resolutions’…

“Make exercise and physical activity a priority,” turns into “Walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, three times a week, and make it a regular routine by June.”

“Be a better person,” turns into “I will work on 3 characteristics (list them), over the next 6 months, and ask the Spirit and (name your person) to keep notice and hold me to account.”

“Be more generous,” turns into “Increase my charitable giving from 7% of my income to 9% by June.”

“Write my first book,” turns into “Write 500 words a day for 60 days, or until draft one is completed.”

7)     CELEBRATE the win; learn from the FAILURE.

We tend to spend so much time on exaggerating failure that we often forget to celebrate a success.

On the flip side, we try to forget failure sometimes so that it’s not a negative experience. But we lose out on the value of what could be learned through failing.

Thomas Edison, when responding to his many attempts to invent the lightbulb, said this:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.         

If you ignore the failed attempts, you may miss out on what’s actually needed for the win. #settinggodlygoals Click To Tweet

We have to find some form of balance. Celebrate the win and learn from failure. If you ignore the failed attempts, you may miss out on what’s actually needed for the win.

And when we win – celebrate the win!

I think of someone like King David.  He celebrated with dancing and song when they recovered the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6); but humbly faced his failure with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12).

Your turn…

Get out your notebook or smart phone and start brainstorming things that you are inspired to accomplish this year.  Let’s ask ourselves:

Are we pursuing God’s purposes for our lives?  Are we ready to give up our plan for His?  Do we trust God’s faithfulness?

  • Maybe you need to start a relationship with Jesus.
  • Maybe you need to set a new goal for yourself.
  • Maybe you need to re-evaluate your current goals.
  • Maybe you need to simply challenge yourself.

Let’s be productive together! 

Further reading…

Michael Hyatt – “The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting

Dr. Edwin Locke & Dr. Gary Latham – “Locke’s Goal Setting Theory

Shana Schutte – “Setting Goals to Fulfill Your God-Given Purpose

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

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Andrew currently lives in Paradise, Newfoundland with his wife, Deidre, and two children (Rae and Pierson), where they are life group pastors of an independent church called True Life. He is a graduate of both Memorial University (BBA) and Tyndale Seminary (MTS). His passion is to help people become true disciples of Jesus.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.