“The Wisdom of Setting Goals”
Each new year is an opportunity to hit the reset button and reach those goals we call resolutions. With that in mind, I want us to glean some wisdom today on setting goals or making resolutions from Proverbs 16.
When it comes to setting goals, we can approach them unwisely or wisely. Before we cover the wise approach to setting goals, let’s consider unwise approaches.
The first unwise approach is more of the functional atheist approach which says, “I must accomplish this goal at all costs.” Such a person is the fool that Psalm 14 speaks of when it says: Psa. 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
This statement “there is no God” isn’t a philosophical assertion, but more of an affirmation that God is not concerned with the details of life. Nor do adherents of this approach want God to “get in the way” of their plans.
The second unwise approach is what I call the “Nelly Naysayer” approach which says, “Why make a resolution, no one keeps them anyway.” Well, the issue may not be in the setting of goals but the lack of strategy to accomplish the goal. Or due to the fact that unrealistic goals were set in the first place. If you’re a “Nelly Naysayer,” the real issue isn’t the resolutions, it’s you. Choose a realistic goal and develop a simple plan to accomplish the goal.
The final unwise approach sounds very spiritual and wise. It’s the, “Let go and let God” approach. This approach says, “We shouldn’t make plans but just trust God.” After all, Proverbs says: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6). Sounds convincing. Case closed? Not so fast! We should trust God with our whole being and rely upon him. But, is planning necessarily an exercise in foolishness and devoid of trust in God? No. Consider the example of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1: 13 – “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” Paul planned but the Lord had other plans. Paul didn’t “let Go and Let God.” He followed the wise approach which Proverbs 16 commends. Proverbs commends the act of setting goals or planning. It assumes we will make and carry out plans. Look at these three verses:
Prov. 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
Prov. 16:3 Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
Prov. 16:9 The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
As human beings created in the image of God, planning is intrinsic to our nature. We are planning people whether we fear God or not. If we do fear the Lord, meaning, we have reverence for Christ as the Sovereign King and want to honor him with our lives, then we will want wisely follow these three fundamentals to setting goals.
The first step isn’t just to set your goals but also align your goals with the Lord’s will.
Prov. 16:1-2 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Verse 2 gets at motive. It implies that we are prone to self-deception. We convince that our goal is good and righteous when in reality it’s all about me! When we are setting goals we have to ask, “Is the goal simply about fulfilling my wants and desires or honoring the Lord? Let’s apply this to a common goal—make more money. If you want to make more money to pay down debt that’s great. That’s wise. Suppose, you have a good business. God has provided for your company and your family and but you want to expand your business. The hardest question you will have to ask yourself is why? Is it for you to grow richer and richer and make your name bigger and bigger? How will you handle the wealth, assuming God provides it? Will you hoard it or follow the instructions of 1 Timothy 6:18 and “be rich in generosity towards God and others.” You see, as followers of Jesus we are to be about seeking first the kingdom of God. Let’s make sure we set and align our goals with the Lord’s will. One we do that, we then commit our goals to the Lord.
Prov. 16:3 says Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
Once we set our goals that align with the Lord’s will, we entrust them to the Lord through prayer. This act of commitment acknowledges the Lord as the creator and sustainer of life. The emphasis in verse 1, 3, and in 9 is the sovereignty of the Lord. He has the final say. The Lord ultimately knows what is good for us. Rest in his power, wisdom, and knowledge.
Secondly, committing our goals to the Lord shows our dependency upon Him. We acknowledge that without his power, we can do nothing. If, God does establish our goals or plans we are to remain thankful with the utmost humility.
Finally, we would do well to remember that in the process of committing our goals to God, we are not necessarily promised the results we desire. Rather we are promised the results that God approves and allows.
Prov. 16:3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
Prov. 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps
Our grip on the pursuit of our goals should be loose. Pursue them with all diligence—but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you must make it happen at all costs. Instead, follow the third fundamental of a wise approach to setting goals:
Trust the Lord with the outcome.
We leave the results up to God. We rest in God’ sovereign care. This is where we must rely not on our understanding. As you focus on your goals for 2021 make sure they align with the Lord’s will, commit them to the Lord in prayer and finally trust the Lord with the outcome.