I used to struggle with the idea of setting goals as a Christian. Is it biblical to set goals? Can a Christian have goals that are not “spiritual”?
As I’ve studied God’s Word, I’ve discovered the Bible has a lot to say about goals. Let’s take a look…
Is it biblical to have goals?
Webster’s dictionary defines a goal as, “The end or final purpose; the end to which a person aims to reach or accomplish.”
Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to run the Christian life with the goal of obtaining a prize at the end (1 Corinthians 9:24). To the Philippians, Paul says he made every effort to reach the goal of knowing Jesus. He goes on to say, everyone who is mature in their faith should think this same way:
My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death…Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. (Philippians 3:8-15, CSB)
What kind of goals should Christians set?
The Bible gives several clear purposes or goals for the Christian life:
1. Make disciples—
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)
2. Love God and others—
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV)
3. Know Christ—
My goal is to know him. (Philippians 3:8 CSB)
4. Seek the kingdom of God—
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
We are to set goals which help us make disciples, enable us to love God and others, deepen our relationship with Jesus, and prioritize the kingdom of God.
Does this mean it’s wrong to set goals for physical health, work, or recreation?
I believe other goals can help us accomplish our main goal as Christians. For example, a goal to change careers can come from a desire to have more time to love your family. A goal of a healthier lifestyle can overcome idolatry, and steps towards a healthier body could better serve others. Nevertheless, these same goals could be self-serving if not rooted in glorifying God.
Biblically, all goals should serve the greater purpose of our lives—to know and love God, love others, and make disciples (Colossians 3:23).
Does the Bible give guidance for goal setting?
YES! Here are just a few guidelines for goal setting from Scripture:
- Do not depend on your own wisdom; ask the Lord for wisdom and direction.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV, also see James 1:5)
- Make goals in community.
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 ESV)
- Abide in Christ. (Without Him we cannot do anything of eternal value.)
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5 NKJV)
- Keep your goals in open hands.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ (James 4:13-15 NKJV)
- Set goals which help you love God and others, know Jesus better, make disciples, and prioritize the kingdom of God.
- Ask Jesus for wisdom and direction as you set goals.
- Make goals in community with others.
- Abide in Christ by meditating on His Word and working out of His enabling strength.
- Hold your goals in open hands recognizing God may ask you to change them.
About Katie; Loves an urban cafe as much as the smell of campfire and pine. Works in communications while studying business and non-fiction writing, and is most happy when leading worship and discipling others.