Therefore, leaving the beginning of the message of Christ, let us carry on to maturity . . . — Hebrews 6:1a
I keep on running toward the goal for the prize of God’s high calling in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:14
Note from Henry: Jody and two friends will be leaving tomorrow to go to Rockledge UMC, Rockledge, FL to teach at a womenâ€™s retreat. Please be in prayer for all three of them, and for all who will attend this retreat as well as for Rockledge UMC, their pastor Ted Wood, and retreat organizer Liz Bishop.
There’s a great deal said in the Bible about goals. Life itself is filled with the need for goals. Whether we think about it or not, we constantly set goals and then take actions to fulfill those goals. It can be as simple as going from one room to another, getting to work this morning so you can earn that paycheck, or getting in the car and going shopping for the groceries.
We often don’t think about those goals because we’ve gotten into the habit of doing them, and they are just things we do because, well, we’ve always done them. It doesn’t matter whether we enjoy them or not, they have to be done and we automatically set the goal and take those little steps that are required to fulfill it.
But each one of us probably knows somebody whose thinking and goal pursuing has failed at some point. It might be a friend or relative who no longer bothers to get up and go to work, or perhaps has become consistently late. Perhaps it is someone who has gotten depressed and no longer sees the purpose in those simple actions.
In our daily lives, a key element in â€œkeeping on running toward the goalâ€ is keeping the goal in sight. There are two elements in this: 1) The long term goal and 2) All the smaller goals between. If we lose sight of either element, we’re going to tend to get discouraged. In climbing a mountain, for example, it’s easy to get discouraged if you think of all the miles of climbing and all the obstacles to be overcome. But if you keep thinking of the peak, which is where you want to go, and then focus on just the next obstacle, soon you’ll find yourself at the top. That’s a good feeling!
I’m sure you all know this about our physical lives, but I want to apply it to our spiritual lives. This is something we all know so well physically that many of you may have even been asking yourselves why I would hammer on such an obvious point. But do you apply it so simply to your spiritual disciplines?
First, what are your spiritual goals? What is God’s call for your life? If you don’t know, make it a goal to find out. That will serve as a guiding star for the moment. Then ask yourself what needs to go into that. Let’s suppose that you decide you need to know your Bible better, to spend substantial time with the Lord in prayer, and to reach your neighbors for Jesus. What do you do next?
Now’s the time to set the smaller goals. Break down the big stuff. â€œReaching my neighborhood for Christâ€ is a good goal, but it won’t happen by wishing. Neither will any of the others. So let’s break these down just a bit.
I often tell people I have no five minute a day plan for knowing your Bible. But I do have a plan that starts at five minutes. If you aren’t reading your Bible daily, and would like to know your Bible, set a goal of becoming a Bible student, but then break that goal down. An intermediate goal might be to read your Bible through in a year. But many people get discouraged at that. How about starting at five minutes a day. Make your initial goal be to open your Bible once a day and read for five minutes.
You want to be a prayer warrior and spend hours in prayer, but you don’t know how to do it. How much time do you spend with God now? I’d suggest taking on one new prayer discipline. (See my previous devotion on this.)
But let me cut the goal of reaching the neighborhood for Christ down to size. Today I want to talk to just one person in my neighborhood (or at work, on the internet, wherever you’re called to be) about Jesus. But supposing even that goal sounds too big. Don’t get discouraged or beat yourself up. Perhaps you’re wondering just how you can get into a conversation about Jesus with your neighbor. Break that down. 1) Watch and listen to learn your neighbor’s wants and needs. 2) Find a way to fulfill one of those needs. 3) Get into a friendly conversation about a topic that interests you both. 4) Bring up Jesus when it comes naturally to you. Now for today, just concentrate on the first step. Your goal for today can be this: I’m going to listen to what my neighbor (or coworker or even family member) has to say, looking for a way I can make their life better.
Now remember the bigger goals. You have an intermediate goal of being a witness for Jesus, and a long term goal of reaching your neighborhood. But those bigger goals will only be accomplished one step at a time.