Do you make New Year’s goals?
For the past several years, at the end of December, I’ll sit down and write out my plans, dreams, and yes, goals, for the brand new year in front of me. It works great—for the first two months. I’m inspired, motivated, and have a sense of direction. But somewhere between February and March, my list flies out the window until ten months later, when I pull it out and see how I did.
I usually laugh at the ambiguous goals I set, like, “be more productive” and “have better time management,” without putting any kind of action plan in place. (That might be why I’m still struggling with them…). Then I cringe at what I didn’t come anywhere near achieving. But my favorite part is putting a nice, neat checkmark next to the things I did accomplish.
But in my goal-making, there’s one mistake I’ve made.
Looking into 2019, I’m excited about the possibilities. There’s so much I want to do, so much I want to experience—both big things and small. I (still) want to be more productive, have better time management, and turn into a morning person. I want to write another book and get articles published. I want to travel to Europe. I want to exercise more. I want to experience new and exciting things. I want to meet the man of my dreams and fall madly in love.
I want…I want…I want…
The key word here is “I.” I want this. I want that.
But I can’t write the story of 2019. No matter how many good ideas I have. Only God can do that. Only God is really in control. And I’m pretty sure he won’t be consulting my list when he unfolds his plan.
The mistake we make when setting goals is overestimating ourselves, and at the same time, underestimating God. My plans for 2018 looks pitifully small compared to what God had in mind. I never planned on getting a book contract or writing a book this year. I did plan on starting a YouTube channel, and aimed to make six videos. Go check out my channel—there’s currently zero. I accomplished a few things on my list, but overall, God had a different plan.
This year was harder, better, more amazing, and also more painful, than anything I had planned. But God was, and is, faithful.
That makes me wonder: what if we’re so busy planning our own lives and setting our own goals, that we push God out of the way and don’t even ask what his plans and his goals for our lives might be? What if, consumed with our own agendas, we miss out on a better plan and forget the discipline of seeking God?
Talking to a friend a few months ago, she shared how discouraged she was because she didn’t have a clear life plan. Unexpected health struggles had made her plans and dreams impossible for the time being, and she was left with a void, uncertain what to do. When people asked her what her future plans were, she replied, “Well, I’m seeking God.” But people didn’t understand that. They needed a job description. She didn’t have one. She was just waiting on God and serving him the best she could.
While most people considered that ridiculous, I didn’t think so. Because she didn’t have a clear plan, because her hands were empty and she didn’t know what to do, she was in the perfect place of submission and obedience for God to reveal his plans. Proverbs 16:9 talks about this. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
That’s where I want to be. I want God to establish my steps. No matter how many plans or goals I have, I want to learn the discipline of waiting on God. I want to quiet the noise, empty myself of myself, and honestly ask God, “What’s next?”
That’s why before I write down any goals for 2019, I need to realign my perspective, center myself on God, and place one goal above all others–Jesus Christ.
Knowing him better.
Following him closer.
Loving him more.
These three phrases encompass my goal for my days, weeks, months, years, and ultimately my life. There is no greater goal than to know, follow, and love Jesus Christ. He is the One goal worth striving toward. And as I press on in my pursuit of knowing and loving God, he’s working out his goal for my life—to perfect and sanctify me, and help me grow into the image of his Son.
Heart-Checking Your Check-list
There’s nothing wrong with making plans. In fact, I think it’s a great idea! But before we make plans, we need to check in with our main goal and do a heart-evaluation, asking questions like:
Will this plan hinder or distract me from my relationship with Christ?
Will this goal draw me nearer to Jesus?
Who will receive the glory when I accomplish this goal?
Am I okay with God having a different plan?
If this isn’t his plan, will I be able to submit to that, trusting he knows best?
In all our goals—whether spiritual goals, character goals, work-related goals, physical goals, ministry goals, or personal goals—they need to be able to point back to our main goal of loving and serving Christ.
If our goal is to write and get a book published, let’s make sure it’s to draw people closer to God and bring glory to the name of Jesus. If our goal is to read more books, let’s make sure they’re books that will teach us and enhance our lives and lead us to read the best Book—the Bible. In all our planning, let’s strive for treasures in Heaven, instead of fading treasures on earth. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
When we’re struggling in the middle of our goals, when they seem too hard, let’s remind ourselves of the why and keep pressing forward. And ultimately, keep pressing toward Jesus.
When God disrupts our plans, let’s remind ourselves that every plan we make should bring glory to God, and if a different plan than our original one could do that better, that’s okay with us. When we’re standing in the wreckage that once was our life, crying out in pain and heart-ache, let’s not forget that Jesus is there beside us, and he hasn’t lost sight of his plan—or lost sight of us.
When we accomplish a goal, let’s remember Who receives the credit. And when we fail on a goal, let’s remember that God gives second chances. Or maybe, that goal wasn’t his plan to begin with.
I don’t know what 2019 holds. It’s big and scary and exciting. But we never have to be afraid, because the One who holds our future is right there beside us, and promises to give us hope, and be our hope. Let’s chase hard after that hope, but most importantly, let’s chase hard after the Hope-Giver.
So go ahead, set goals. Make plans. Dream big. Strive to make 2019 the best, most productive, most God-glorifying year you can. But hold every plan, every goal, and every dream with an open hand. Submit them to Christ and let him consume your life.
Let’s make Jesus our number one goal in 2019.
Do you set goals? What are your goals for 2019? How can you keep Jesus at the center?