At the start of a new year, we make goals, resolutions, or commitments. And we sincerely want to transform them into reality over the coming months.
Very often, however, there is a disconnect between the internal commitments we’ve made and our everyday living. This can be the case for every kind of goal—from spiritual goals to physical goals. We may have positive thoughts, but we keep ending up with negative results. Why?
Reaching a goal requires more than good intentions. We have to make changes in our lives that align what we do with what we plan. In other words, we must align our external world with our internal commitments. How?
- Read God’s Word daily. God’s Word has the power to renew our minds and transform our thinking, aligning our thoughts with God’s will. There is no substitute in the Christian life for regular hearing, reading, and studying God’s Word, and allowing it to change our lives.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.—Romans 12:2
- Memorize Scripture. Committing Scripture to memory is one of the best ways to be able to think on it throughout the day and for the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind as needed. Choose verses to memorize that are specific to the changes you are trying to make in your life.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.—Psalm 1:2
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.—Psalm 119:11
- Write a self-review as part of your daily devotions. Don’t become overly introspective, but do make daily evaluations. Ask the Lord to search your heart for unconfessed sin, and check to see how you’re doing in the habits you are working to develop.
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.—Psalm 139:23–24
- Ask someone to help you with accountability. One of God’s greatest gifts is Christian friendships. Whether this be your spouse, a spiritual leader, or another friend, share your goal, and ask for encouragement and accountability. (It usually works best if this is a person who has already grown in grace in the area in which you are setting a goal.)
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.—Proverbs 27:17
- Seek input from your spouse or a family member. Your spouse has insight from a vantage point you don’t have. Share your goals with one another, and ask your spouse for his or her input on what it will take for you to reach them. You may be surprised at the help your spouse can and will give if you will share with transparency and humility.
…as being heirs together of the grace of life…—1 Peter 3:7
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.—James 4:6
- Understand your roles, and set goals related to them. The God-given roles of my life (Christian, husband, father, grandfather, pastor, college president, etc.) help to direct the focus of my goals. I write out my yearly goals related to each role God has entrusted to me. Take a few minutes to write down your roles, and then set goals for the coming year in light of those life roles. (This is a process I describe more thoroughly in The Stewarding Life Planner.)
- Review goals according to roles, and set action items. As part of my daily devotional time, I review both my roles and my goals. Specifically, I ask the Lord for discernment in which life roles I need to give more attention, and then I set action items for the day or week related to that role. For instance, as I review my roles right after graduation week at West Coast Baptist College, I likely have not spent much time with my grandchildren over the previous several days. An action item may be to take one of them out for a Coke.
- View life as a stewardship for God, not consumption for self. The mindset with which we view our life has a great bearing on how and which goals we accomplish. If I see my life as belonging to me, I may accomplish the goals that bring me personal satisfaction. (And those may even be career or hobby goals that require tremendous discipline.) But I will probably neglect goals that relate to seeking God’s kingdom first. If, however, I see my life as belonging to God and as a gift to steward for Him, I’ll direct my energy to seek first His kingdom and will have a higher motivation for pressing forward even when I don’t see immediate results.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.—Matthew 6:33
- Pray daily and specifically for a pure heart and clear testimony. Where the heart is pure, the vision is clear. Ask the Lord to reveal impure motives and to help you to daily walk in the Spirit in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.—Matthew 5:8
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.—Galatians 5:16
- Exercise integrity at the moment of choice. It is impossible to live the Christian life or to reach spiritual goals in our own strength. This is why God calls us to daily die to self and yield to the Holy Spirit. This isn’t just a matter of praying along these lines in the morning (although that is a great start), but it is a matter of yielding to the Holy Spirit as He convicts and leads.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20
The process of growth is never as easy as simply writing goals on paper. Yet, change is possible as we allow God to realign our inner commitments with our daily actions. I pray that the coming year will be one of growth for you in each of the goals God has placed on your heart.
Happy New Year!