Research tells us that more people struggle with setting goals than they do accomplishing them. Sitting down and actually thinking about what God wants us to do with our lives is often the hardest part.
Yet the biggest differentiator between those who were moderately successful in life and those who were highly successful is whether or not they had definable goals written down.
The Bible isn't silent about goal setting either. Proverbs speaks frequently about setting goals:
—"If your goals are good, you'll be respected" (Prov. 11:27, TEV).
—"We should make plans, counting on God to direct us" (Prov. 16:9, TLB).
—"Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts" (Prov. 24:3-4).
God considers it helpful for us to have goals in every area of our lives (marriage, family, work, financial, physical and so on) and for us to work toward those goals.
The Bible doesn't just tell us to set goals though. It gives us a goal-setting model.
Look at the story of Abraham and his servant in Genesis 24. In the NIV version, you'll see the word "success" five times in the text. This is the success chapter of the Bible. The passage teaches us how to set and reach goals.
As Abraham's servant, Eliezer, set out to find a wife for Isaac, he followed 10 specific steps. These 10 steps work today just as much as they did in Abraham's time.
I'll share the first five steps this week and the remaining five next week.
1. Determine your position. Before you set any goals for yourself, understand where you are now. If you were lost on the way to my house, I'd first need to ask your location in order to help you get where you needed to be.
That's true in any area of life. Before you can know where you want to go, you need to know where you are. The same holds true for your spiritual life. I do a spiritual checkup about once a quarter.
Abraham did this before sending Eliezer on his mission. Genesis 24:1 (BSB) says, "Abraham was now old and well along in years, and the Lord had blessed him in every way." Abraham knew God had promised to multiply is descendants through many generations, but his son didn't have a wife yet. He decided he'd better do something about it before it was too late.
2. Define your purpose. Picture your goal. Abraham said, "But you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac" (Gen. 24:4, NASB). Abraham clearly defined what he wanted. Later, he adds some other conditions. He wanted Isaac's wife to be of the same nationality, from the same home town and from the same faith.
You'll never accomplish a vague goal. A vague goal has no drawing power. Plus, you'll never know if you've accomplished it.
For example, when you're trying to nail down a goal, ask yourself three questions:
—What do I want to be?
—What do I want to do?
—What do I want to have?
After you answer those questions, get even more specific. Want your church to reach more people? Ask yourself, "Who do we want to reach?" Want to start a new church? Ask yourself, "Where?"
3. Discover a promise. Often, when you start setting goals, worry will set in. You start thinking of everything that could go wrong.
Never confuse the decision-making phase with the problem-solving phase. Make the decision, and then solve the problem.
Worry and fear can paralyze you. That's why you shouldn't focus on the "how" at this point. Instead, focus on how God will accomplish the goal.
In verse 7, God gave Eliezer a promise. Abraham says, "The Lord ... spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, 'To your offspring I will give this land.'" This is the difference between non-Christian and Christian goal-setting. Christian goal-setting is always based on a promise of God. Let the size of your God determine the size of your goal.
4. Describe the profit. Every goal must have a payoff or reward. If there's no reward, you won't be motivated to fulfill it. Abraham clearly described the payoff to Eliezer in verse 7b (GW): "You will get my son a wife from there."
Eliezer was motivated to get a wife for his master's son. When that happened, his master would be pleased, and he would be rewarded.
Ask yourself three questions:
—What is the reward?
—Why do I want it?
—How will I feel when I get it?
When you settle the why, God will show you the how.
5. Demonstrate desire in prayer. When you pray for your goals, it does two things.
First, it reveals desire. Often, God delays a goal you are working toward to see how badly you want it and distinguish it from a whim.
Second, it shows your dependence. It demonstrates to others that you're placing your trust in God to accomplish the goal.
Eliezer prayed continuously throughout this entire process. He prays before he goes on the trip to find Isaac's wife (v. 12). He prays after he arrives (v. 15). He prays in front of the family of the girl (v. 52). He's constantly bathing his goals in prayer. That's how all Christians should engage their goals.
Next week, I'll give you five more goal-setting strategies from Genesis 24.
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