“Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same” (Matt 26:35)
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51)
“When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy” (Acts 23:12-13)
“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” (1 Cor 9:24)
“Not that I have already obtained this [the resurrection of the dead] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: 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” (Phil 3:12-14)
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7)
Goals. We all have them – lose weight, make more money, retire early, raise faithful children, live faithfully to God. Some of our goals are noble and worthy, some are not.
Biblical characters also had goals. Peter – and the other disciples – had a goal of remaining faithful to Jesus even if they needed to die in fulfilling that goal. Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem even if it meant the cross. More than 40 Jews resolved not to eat until they had killed Paul. Paul urged the Corinthians to set a goal of receiving the prize and to run the race in a manner to obtain the prize. Paul had the goal of obtaining the resurrection of the dead, and, as his death approached, he was able to say that he had “fought the good fight,” “finished the race,” and “kept the faith.”
From the examples of biblical characters in holy writ, I believe we can learn much about setting goals. I want to share some observations with you about setting goals.
- Know what you wish to accomplish.
In every single example listed above, those making goals knew exactly what they wanted: Peter wanted to keep from denying the Christ, Jesus wished to go to Jerusalem and fulfill His mission, the Jews wanted Paul dead, Paul desired to obtain the resurrection (a goal he accomplished), and the Apostle to the Gentiles wanted the Corinthians to press toward the prize of Jesus Christ. If you are to set any goal – whether spiritual or physical – you must know precisely what you wish to accomplish.
- Know your own limitations.
Peter boasted that he would never deny the Lord – death would come first; the other disciples made the same boast. Nope. Didn’t happen that way. Peter, while warming himself by a fire, denied three times that he knew Jesus. Jesus had warned Peter that he would stumble, so why didn’t Peter take Jesus’ words to heart? Peter, in his arrogant pride, believed he would never succumb to that temptation. If Peter had taken Jesus’ words to heart, how might the situation have been different? Maybe Peter would have stayed out of the courtyard of the high priest, maybe he would have left when the slave girl recognized him, or maybe he would have taken some other action to keep from denying the Lord. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t set such lofty goals that you set yourself up for failure. Don’t forget that you are a frail human being apt to sin and to fall.
- Know right from wrong goals.
The Jews determined not to eat until they had killed Paul. Not a lofty goal. Not a proper goal. Not a right goal.
Above I mentioned some goals that might be right or wrong: losing weight and making more money. Why would I wish to achieve those goals? Do I want to lose weight because of my health or do I want to lose weight to “look good” in immodest clothing and become a “sex object” for lust? Do I want to make more money to support my family more fully or to help the Lord’s work or do I wish to make more money because of my greedy wishes? An examination of my heart is in order for any goal.
- Know your goals can have eternal consequences.
Sure, setting immoral goals can – and will – have eternal consequences. Positive goals can have eternal consequences, too. Jesus determined to go to Jerusalem and die for the sins of all the world; every person in heaven will owe his salvation to that goal of Jesus. Paul urged the Corinthians to set the goal of running to obtain the prize. Paul himself sought and obtained the goal of the resurrection of the dead.
Make goals that will have eternal consequences. Set your face toward heaven. Determine to put away the sin in your life. Strive to live like Jesus. Lead your children to heaven. What better goals could you ever set?
Take some time today to write down your goals. What is it that you wish to accomplish in your life? Tomorrow, I’ll discuss how we discover the holiness God requires us to obtain and setting God’s holiness as a goal in our lives. Until then, be blessed as you walk with God!