Ah, New Year’s resolutions. About 80% fail by the second week of February (U.S. News), and only 8% succeed in any given year (University of Scranton). And yet, come January 1, we keep doggedly showing up, writing down, and wondering what went wrong (curse you, Valentine’s Day candy!).
Resolutions are dreams. Goals are dreams with abs.
Somewhere along the journey, I think believers picked up the idea that if God wants something to happen, it will just fall into our lap without any effort on our part. Besides the very obvious exception of salvation, I don’t see that in Scripture. Paul, whose life sang of nothing but grace, was a hard worker with ambitious plans. He verbalized a go-getter mindset publicly and often as he considered the gospel’s impact on his life:
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:9)
As we submit to the Lord’s leading, we find a vision worth straining toward (the life purpose from yesterday’s post) and set goals to intentionally take ground in seeing that grand task accomplished. Far from “planning God out of it,” this process itself is how we are invited to cooperate in the rescue mission He delights in so much. Like Johannes Kepler, we find that by staying in step with the Spirit in putting dreams and dates on paper, we’re simply “thinking God thoughts after Him.”
My favorite goal-setting method was inspired by a book on vision casting for churches (Will Mancini’s God Dreams). He suggests identifying four tiers, each narrowing to the next:
Your long-range vision (the unique purpose statement you created yesterday with enough detail and oomph to keep you inspired for the rest of your life)
Your mid-range vision (four specific goals that make up where you need to be three years from now to stay on track for living out your big purpose)
Your short-range vision (where you need to be one year from now to set yourself up for success in the three-year goals)
Your immediate vision (four specific 90-day goals to propel you toward your one-year goal)
Here’s an example:
Long-range vision: To spend my life discipling believers, helping them grasp the beauty of Christ to the praise of His glorious grace.
Mid-range vision: Three years from now, I’ll have sent my first Bible study to be published; have discipled ten women who can turn around and mentor others; be wrapping up seminary training in biblical languages; and have committed to a long-term coaching relationship for personal growth.
Short-range vision: One year from now, I’ll have a full-blown website with tools and resources geared toward discipleship targeting different levels of maturity.
Immediate vision: During the next 90 days, I’ll need to research website platforms; apply for seminary; begin networking with other like-minded teachers; and gather ideas for original content development.
This isn’t my actual plan, but I do hope it gives you a starting point for yours. As you pray for the Lord to prompt you in specifics, listen attentively and don’t give fear a foothold. Kingdom endeavors are no place for the enemy’s influence. Stay humble. Be brave. We follow a great Adventurer, bent on invading a world in need. Let’s build our dreams with abs in them and see what God will do for His glory and our good.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.