Sometimes we get so focused on our intended destinations in life, we forget who we are supposed to be following. We set personal goals . . . professional goals . . . family goals. Goal setting is not only good, it’s completely biblical! Throughout Scripture we read of individuals who planned for the future, set goals, and worked toward accomplishing them—including Jesus.
The key for the committed Christian is to set goals with God in view and to follow God with the goals in view. Proverbs refers to the one who is not setting goals as a “sluggard” who cares not for the future. In fact, this sluggard is instructed to pay close attention to the ant, which “prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:8). Goal setting is a good thing . . . just as long as we keep in view the One we are to be following.
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.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)
Surrendering to God and submitting to His will is the foundation upon which to set all of our goals, regardless of the area in life. When we are following God, we can rest assured that we will get to the place He wants us to get to and in the best way possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean the shortest way, or the easiest way, or the safest way! God took the Israelites the long way, the tough way, and the risky way through the desert in order to bring them into the Promised Land. And God knew exactly what He was doing the entire time.
When it comes to goal setting and making plans, we must remember that it is God who has the final say in the matter. Peter learned this lesson well and often. After a full night of fishing without catching any fish, it was time to clean the nets and go home. At least, that was the goal Peter set. Jesus had other plans, and He told the disciples to go out into the deep water and let down their nets (Luke 5:4). You know the rest of the story: practically every fish in the lake swam straight into their nets!
After Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die for them, Peter rebuked Him (Matthew 16:22) with what he thought was a better plan for Jesus to accomplish his earthly mission. Once again, Jesus got the last word and showed Peter and the whole world that God’s plans are always better than our plans.
And in Matthew 26 we find Peter saying to Jesus that “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And yet Peter did just that—not once, but three times, just moments later. Jesus, of course, had the last word when He told Peter that He had prayed for him, and that when Peter turned back to Jesus he was to feed His sheep—stronger and more prepared for the work of the Lord than he was before he denied Him.
So what plans have you made? What goals are you going after in life? What have you resolved to do and not to do? Remember: it’s not where you are going, but who you are following! And when you are following God, you are sure to get to His intended destination. It may not make sense to you, and it may be a whole lot harder than you thought it would be, but you can be assured that “He who began a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6), regardless of the cost or circumstance.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!