Goals. The mere word makes me panic.
My distaste began in the summer of 1977. I had just finished 7th grade and purchased a large sheet of poster board. I wrestled it home on my bike. Then I drew horizontal lines across the page and scrawled Ten Daily Goals, and for good measure added four character flaws I hoped to change. With that, I discovered resolutions and the “to do” list. Each night I pulled the chart out from behind my bed, checked off the accomplished tasks, and returned it to its hiding place. The plan went fabulously—for three days—then fizzled out in failure.
How about you? Do you march into January with a pocket full of resolutions? Exercise regularly, read more, secure that promotion, earn better grades. Do you get fired up about that new diet even though last year’s was a bust? And the year’s before that?
The Apostle Paul experienced and wrote about this kind of struggle. In Romans 7:19 he said, “…for to will is present with me, but to work out the good is not.” To that, I say a hearty, if not triumphant, amen.
So the other day, toward the end of a nice visit with my friend she asked me if I had any goals for the upcoming week. I froze. Romans 7, I silently shrieked and searched for my purse and keys.
Later, I was troubled by my reaction. Doesn’t everyone have goals? I wondered. Without them, we aimlessly buzz around and exhaust ourselves.
Then one morning as I prayed, I realized that setting goals wasn’t my problem, it was how I set and held them. My good intentions had gotten in the way of my walk with the Lord. Past failures had been a result of attempts to “do good” apart from God. I held my plans with clenched fists and with every goal I set, mired myself deeper into the experience of Romans 7.
But the book of Romans goes on.
In Romans 8:6, the apostle Paul gloriously exits his wretched state and by doing so shows us the way out. He writes, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” The way of life and peace is the way of holding Christ as our head. There is no problem with setting goals if we do so in fellowship with Him.
We can simply ask what His heart for us is in a matter and then move forward in fellowship with Him. This propels us out of Romans 7 and we rely on God as our strength, rather than ourselves. Here we come under God’s throne. “Lord, here I am. Are You happy here? Am I still one with You in this?”
We can also check with ourselves. What is our sense within? Is it life and peace or grinding gears? If there’s no peace, we may have veered off course. We don’t owe the goal anything. If there is a sense of life within, we will find ourselves strengthened and joyful and can simply continue on. This is Christ living in us. This is walking according to the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 confirms that this kind of walk is in Him. It states, “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,..” We are reassured that we are under God’s throne when we enjoy the fruit of the Spirit. Our goals or will-power do not rule us here.
And this is where the miracle occurs. As we set our goals in Him and hold them in His presence with open hands, He accomplishes HIS goal in us. He makes our heart His home, day by day and bit by bit. Whether He leads us in the direction we expected, or another way, there is no failure only gain. We gain God and He gains us.
Forgive us Lord for living apart from You. Teach us to take You as our source, and fellowship with You over the details of our week. Help us hold our goals before You with open hands.