It’s December 31st, and you’re about to usher in the new year with all your family and friends surrounding you. Each of you is pondering on what this new year will look like. It could be the year your little start-up business becomes a success or the year you finally finish that novel you’ve been working on for 10 years. No matter what, you’re determined to set a goal and go for it; but then reality sets in, and you realize you aimed too high. All the goals you thought you would achieve in the new year ended up joining the dust on the shelves with the countless others you made and discarded back in 2015 and 2012 and 2001.
This is when you start to listen to the negative Christians who might tell you New Year’s resolutions aren’t Biblical or even needed; so you decide to continue doing what you’ve always been doing, comfortably cycling through life with no goals in sight.
However, New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be some silly ritual of pointless words only non-Christians muddle out at the end of each year. Instead, if you take a moment to reflect on what the Bible has to say about making resolutions and how to keep them, you’ll not only appreciate setting goals, you’ll most likely be able to tackle them like you’ve never been able to do before.
Re-evaluate Your Motives Behind the Goal
As a Christian, you’re tasked with many traits to aspire to such as: love, peace, kindness, honor, purity. God knows you won’t be able to easily conquer all of these characteristics, that’s why laying out goals is a great way to push these into the forefront of your life and make them a priority. But first, you have to figure out what your motive behind this new goal is. If you’re just choosing a goal for the sake of choosing or just to fit in with the rest of the New Year’s resolutioners (this should totally be a word), step back and re-evaluate your purpose. If you have no purpose behind the goal, then you’ll have no motivation to achieve it. As a follower of Christ, you have a higher calling placed upon your life which means all of your goals and desires should be made through deep prayer and communion with Him. And when this has been achieved, you can walk in a more resolute manner knowing you’ve placed your goals under the wings of your Father who can help you put purpose behind them.
You might be asking, “What if my goal is simply materialistic? What if all I want is to lose weight or make more money or find my soulmate?” No matter the goal, if you’ve taken the time to pray about it, God will give you the peace you need in order to pursue it, or He’ll direct you toward an even better goal He knows will bring a heavenly outcome. He’ll show you your motives, whether they’re shallow or meaningful, and will give you the direction you seek. And once He does so, you’ll feel even more motivated than ever before knowing your Heavenly Father has commissioned your goal with purpose. That’s the beauty in making goals. You get to spend even more time connecting with Christ and listening to Him speak. And when He gets you to the other side of that goal, you have no one but Him to thank and praise.
But if that doesn’t get you inspired enough, remember Paul’s words, “…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 3:13b-14, ESV) See, even Paul had a goal set for his own life, and God gave him the strength to conquer that goal because he relied on Him. If it’s a calling from God, you can’t go wrong. In fact, that goal you set for the New Year could end up being achieved if you let go of your past, take hold of your future and give God the glory as Paul did in his own ministry. You could be the next Paul!
Don’t Aim Unreachably High Within the Goal
There’s no better verse in the Bible that expresses why Christians should create goals than Proverbs 21:5. Solomon’s wise words state, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”(ESV) Diligent planners have goals they set for their lives; they don’t make impulsive decisions without thinking them through. Sure, setbacks will come, but a diligent planner knows and prepares for these setbacks. They don’t hastily set a New Year’s resolution with no thought for what God wants for their lives. Instead, they do everything with prayer and well-thought out planning, readying their minds and hearts for Him to speak. They figure out what areas in their life need to be reformed; and they start small, working their way into bigger goals as each one is conquered.
So many people feel the need to set an unrealistically high goal that goes far and beyond what they can even achieve in just one year. Don’t be one of those people. Start small. You might think you have to aim as high as the stars in order to impress your over-bearing boss or strict father-in-law, but goals shouldn’t be made for that purpose. Goals should be made because you’re truly willing and ready to make life changes, not because someone else wants you to. God’s first desire for you is to have a relationship with Him and then to love others in turn; but if you’ve set your goals too high, you may come to find that you have zero time to spare for God or for His people. By doing this, you’ve missed the main purpose of your existence. Set goals, but don’t over-set them, pushing relationships away in the process. Probably the greatest goal and mandate from God is love. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.
Lean on Christ to Achieve the Goal
I love how the Bible shares multiple stories of men and women relentlessly pursuing God-given goals for their own lives. There was Joseph who knew God was calling him to a bigger purpose so he resolved to patiently wait through each trial. There was Esther who wanted to save her people and would even go so far as to give up her life for them if the goal required it. There was Daniel who purposed to maintain a relationship with God even when it meant being thrown into the lions’ den. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Paul – each of these individuals was filled with purpose and a goal that God placed in their hearts and that they were willing to lose everything for in order to see through to fruition. At some point in their lives, whether at the beginning of a new year or in the middle, they each had to take a moment to ponder on their purpose and decide what goal God was calling them to complete. And when they found that goal, they didn’t shy away from it; instead, they forged the path they needed to take and let Christ lead the way.
Sure, each of them faced a moment where they felt alone and afraid and unsure of what God was doing with their story. But they didn’t lose sight of the goal. They hung tightly to it, even when they wanted to give up or it seemed impossibly unattainable. If God hadn’t been in the midst of their goals, do you really think they would have been able to achieve the miraculous outcomes on their own?
You might be afraid to pursue the goal you know God is calling you toward due to overwhelming fear that you won’t be able to accomplish it. However, take a look at this great verse for a true perspective change, “Instead you ought to say, “’If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15, ESV) If God has called you to a goal or a New Year’s resolution, than you better believe He’s going to be working behind the scenes full time to help you accomplish it. If it’s His will for you to bear it, then it stands to reason that it’s probably His will to see you through it. So quit worrying about how hard it’s going to be or how scary or how little time you have to pour into it. Let God’s will be done. Lean on Him, and He will help you achieve the goal.
Whatever goal you choose to tackle this upcoming year, don’t forget to first re-evaluate your motive behind the goal. Make sure there’s actual prayer and purpose going into it or else you’ll lose sight of it pretty quickly. Then remember to be a diligent planner, not aiming unreachably high. And most importantly, when you choose your goal, lean on Christ all the way through it. He’ll guide you and lead you if you trust in Him and follow His will. And don’t forget to use the Bible as your greatest resource in order to motivate you to achieve the goal.