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Go for the Gold: How to Make Spiritual Goals

Go for the Gold: How to Make Spiritual Goals
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

Someone once said that if God showed us every detail of our lives - all at one time - we would sit down and refuse to face another day. We were not created to be omniscient like God. He reveals our future to us in portions we can digest - like loving parents feeding their child only the type and amount of food that the child can handle. God only reveals what we can understand, perceive, apply and digest at the time.

"Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace." (2 Corinthians 1:12, NIV)

I am always amazed by how much Olympic athletes are willing to train in order to win a medal. If Christians were willing to make the same kind of investment in running the race of life, I believe the world would be a vastly different place. How important you consider a race to be influences how hard you will run it and determines the goals you will set to win that race. I believe every follower of Christ should have clear life goals based on clear spiritual truths. Many Christians are floundering because they have no spiritual goals. If you want your relationship with God to be motivating, it has to make progress, accomplish something, and steadily grow; this demands meaningful goals that honor God.

The world's wisdom is often in direct opposition to the grace of God. In 2 Corinthians 1:12, the apostle Paul reminds us to keep our gaze on God, our glance on our circumstances, and our path in His will. One of the most comforting thoughts about setting goals is that God is more concerned about my future than I am. When I think about the fact that God has planned out every day of my life, setting goals becomes the daily quest of discovering that plan and choosing to follow it. Setting goals is the mark of a seeking heart that longs to please God and experience the full and abundant life God wants us to live. A friend shared with me the idea of making life goals "S.M.A.R.T." Over the years, this idea has become a practical and powerful tool for me in learning how to set meaningful life goals. I hope it is helpful to you.


Psalm 139:16, NIV "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."

Life goals must be specific. Determine precisely what your goals are. What would you do if money and time were not an issue? What do you want to accomplish in the next five years? What do you think God wants you to do that you are not doing?

Break down each goal into a series of smaller accomplishments that, when completed, would result in achieving your primary goal. Breaking goals into bite-sized pieces makes them seem less overwhelming.

Don't forget to celebrate each time you achieve one of your goals. Sharon Jaynes is a good friend and awesome ministry partner. I will never forget the day she walked into the office where we both worked, holding what looked like a baby wrapped in a blanket.

Sharon's son was in college - but a new baby? I was a little confused - until she unfolded the blanket and said, "I just gave birth." Her "bundle" was actually the first copy of her new book, and she was celebrating. I joined her in praising God for the goal she had met! Praise and celebration can help motivate you to achieve the next goal on your list.


Luke 11:28, NIV "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

Can you tangibly show how you met your goal? Goals must be specific to have life-changing value, and you must be able to tell whether or not you have reached each goal. What specifically do you want to accomplish, and within what time frame? It is so easy to set ambiguous life goals. "I want to get more involved in my church" instead of "I will attend the 10:30 worship service each week."

Ask God for wisdom as you begin to plan and set specific goals. Involve Him every step of the journey. We sometimes allow sin to influence the goals we set, but if we submit each goal to God, He will guide us back onto the right path and lead us to re-evaluate each goal.

Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."


Proverbs 16:3, NLT "Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed."

If you have seen the movie "Miss Congeniality," you will remember when each contestant was asked about life goals. "I want to achieve world peace" was the popular answer. World peace is a great goal but not attainable by one person. Perhaps a better individual goal would be to make peace with your neighbor.

I sometimes think we set life goals that are lofty and unattainable because then we really can't do anything to reach that goal. Reaching a life goal requires action. We are called by God not only to hear His Word but to put it into practice - to do something about it through setting goals. A goal should not be set to authenticate what you have already been doing or want to do. God created us to mature, to grow and change, not to stand on the sidelines of life. God wants us in the game and on the field of life.

Godly goals will push us beyond where we are and what we are capable of. If no effort is required to reach the desired outcome, then it really isn't a goal. When I was in college, I sensed God leading me to take organ lessons. I had played the piano for years but, for some reason, suddenly wanted to play the organ as well. After a few months of lessons, I was asked to play the organ for a countywide crusade held at the convention center of the small town where I grew up. Hundreds of people would attend the crusade, and the guest speakers were well-known across the state. I was terrified but began to practice the organ every spare minute of every day. By the time the crusade came, I was able to play each song that was handed to me. It was definitely "a God-thing."

Sidebar: Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable in each area where you want to improve, grow, or achieve. This should be a same-sex friend from whom you can easily take criticism and who will feel comfortable pushing you a little when you aren't following through on your goals. When we involve others, we tend to feel a greater sense of responsibility and accountability. Run your plans and goals past other people. You don't want to do this with every goal and at every step along the way, but you should with big and important plans, especially if they impact other people.


Hebrews 11:6, NLT "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him."

It is easy to establish a goal that is totally unrealistic. In doing so, we are setting ourselves up to fail. I once set a goal to read and memorize at least two chapters of the Bible each week. Yes, it was a great goal but unrealistic for that season of my life.

I had two small children and was directing the women's ministry of the church where my husband was the lead pastor, teaching a community Bible study, teaching 20 voice and piano students each week, and had begun traveling and speaking for women's events. When I did not reach that goal, I beat myself up with guilt, and God was not honored. A more realistic goal would have been to memorize a few verses each week.

At this point, it is good to examine motives brutally. Are the goals we are setting from God or from our own selfish desires? Do I want my relationship with God to grow, or do I want others to think I am godly?

Consciously decide in light of Scripture which goals you will prioritize, or you will most likely end up surrendering to the "tyranny of the urgent" or just doing the next and easiest thing.


Ephesians 5:15-16, NIV "Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

I have to have deadlines to achieve goals. When someone books me to speak for an event, I always ask them to give me a deadline for submitting handouts and slides, shipping resources, etc. I then record those deadlines on my calendar.

If I don't have a deadline, I often find myself scrambling to get books shipped in time for the event and end up paying extra postage or have to download slides onto a memory stick to take with me to the event. If you give yourself a deadline, you will get more done.

Write out a list of things that would need to change in your life in order for your goals to come true. Sometimes the only reason we don't accomplish our goals is that we don't have a written plan of what needs to be done. Without having the ability to review the goals regularly, we tend to lose our focus. Before we know it, a month or two has gone by, there is no progress, and we are frustrated that we are no closer to the realization of our goals.

Pray! Ask God to give you direction to create goals and help you to reach them. He has plans and purposes for our lives. Success and purpose come when we find out what they are and go after them wholeheartedly. Surround your goals and plans with prayer and ask the Lord to bless you as you work toward each one. We need to order our lives in a more conscious way. Set forward-focused, spiritually sound goals and be delivered from the futility of a life with no purpose. Now that is a smart way to live!

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/FOTOKITA

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.