Does the Bible teach anything about setting goals?
The Bible makes it clear that it is important to set goals and plan for the future, while at the same time having a humble attitude and trusting in God. We are to be intentional yet also open-handed—wise and diligent stewards who know that our trust and dependence is ultimately in God and not ourselves.
Setting goals is one way we can faithfully steward the resources and gifts God gives us. In all of our goal setting, we must be submissive to God. Our goals should line up with His plans for us and the things He esteems in His Word. We must also be humble. We may think things will look one way, but God can change our plans to accomplish His greater purposes in and through us (Proverbs 3:5–6).
In setting goals and plans to accomplish them, we need to assess what those plans will cost us, whether that be finances, time, or any other resource (Luke 14:28–33). We should ask ourselves if we are both willing and prepared to pay the costs. It is of crucial importance to ask wise people in our lives to give us advice on how to best create and follow a plan to achieve our goals: "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22).
Hard work is a necessity. When we set goals, we should work diligently in hopes of achieving them: "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5).
To best meet our goals, we should use the season we are in to prepare for the season ahead. We must not be like the lazy sluggard, but rather like the diligent ant:
"Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:6–11).
It should be noted that sometimes the season we are in is intended to be a season of rest and refreshment (Psalm 46; Mark 6:31). Time spent growing in intimacy with God is not idle. We need to seek God's wisdom on what He would have us do in any season—to rest, to prepare, to be diligently working, etc. Our ultimate goal, always, is to please Him and bring Him glory (Colossians 3:17, 23).
Remember, too, that good planning is not a guarantee that we will always achieve our goals. James warns, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'" (James 4:13–15). We must be humble enough to allow God to direct our steps in His own way, which may look different from what we thought. "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). We should strive to do our best, but also recognize that God is in control, not us.
There is no need to worry or fear a change of plans. God's plans are better than ours (Matthew 6:33–34). We can ask God to direct us in the way we should go and to turn our hearts toward the things on His heart. He can direct our desires so that we will set the goals He wants us to achieve (Psalm 37:4). David prayed, "Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul" (Psalm 143:8).
The important thing to remember is that ultimately God's purpose for each of us will prevail, even though the steps to accomplish that purpose may look different than we think. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). So set goals, but submit them to God and ask for His wisdom, enabling, and intervention to accomplish His purposes for your life.
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