I am a task-oriented individual. I believe laying out tasks (or goals, if you prefer) for the week, month, or year is a healthy practice. Goals and expectations keep us focused on a particular aspect of our life that we want to improve upon. For instance, I set a goal this year to read 40 books, and that goal has driven me to read more than I ever have in a year’s time. Tiffani and I have yearly goals that help us stay grounded and focused on what we want to accomplish. Goals are good.
There is a danger, however, I have noticed with having goals, tasks, or expectations. We often allow the tasks we have laid out for our lives to become a means to an end. In other words, the goals themselves determine whether we had a successful day or not. In addition, there is often little flexibility in our lives to operate outside of the tasks we have created, whether these tasks are written down on paper or in our minds. Some of us are so focused on marking everything off of our list, we fail to see someone in need around us. That is the downside of goals and expectations.
Recently, I was eating lunch with a friend who preaches in Memphis, TN, Josh Ross, and he reminded me that goals are good, but they are ultimately designed to draw us towards something larger. This is true for all goals, but it is especially true for our spiritual goals. The Israelites struggled to see this. They allowed the Law to become a means to an end. They focused on obeying commands. God was not concerned with the Israelites obeying commands if those commands did not draw them closer to Him. This is what Josh was trying to tell me. Have goals and expectations for your day and your life and do everything you can to complete those goals, but never allow the goals to become your god. Never allow the goals to terminate on themselves. When we do this, frustration and disappointment ensue. Sometimes life happens, and we need to have the flexibility to switch gears. Sometimes you wake up at 6:30 a.m. intending to start your day by spending some time alone with God and your 5 month old son wakes up at 6:35 a.m. Maybe you have multiple children and every time you sit down to spend some time with God one of them demands your time. The next thing you know it is 11:00 p.m. and you cannot hold your eyes open. Do you really think God is going to strike you dead because you decide to get some rest? Let’s be honest, what are you actually accomplishing by reading God’s word while dozing in and out of consciousness? Should we constantly be in God’s word and in communication with him and in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ? Absolutely, but do not allow your inability to do what you had set out to do destroy your day. Sometimes things simply do not go as planned.
Or maybe it means we adjust what it looks like to spend time alone with God and fulfill our goals. Maybe your drive to work has to become your alone time with God and not your back porch. Maybe it means your time in the Word (the Bible) comes during your lunch break and not 6:30 a.m. On a personal note, I have had to come to grips with this. I like starting my day with the Bible and some time in prayer. I have realized, however, waking up at 5:30 a.m. is not conducive for quality time with God. Some people need 6-8 hours of sleep a night. That is not a sign of weakness…it is a sign that some people are different than others. The boys wake up by 6:30 a.m., so it is almost impossible for me to spend alone time with God in the morning. It does, however, take me 20-25 minutes to get to the office, so I choose to spend that time with God. God is not looking on me with disdain because I choose to spend my travel time with him. Be flexible. Be willing to adjust.
Regardless of what the goals and expectations are for your day and life, do not allow the fulfillment of those goals to determine your productivity and worth, and we certainly do not need to allow our goals to prevent us from responding to the needs in the world.
Goals are good, but they are not ultimate…God is ultimate.
Goals are good, but they do not determine our worth…God determines worth.
We have goals and expectations to draw us towards something larger. When the goals for our lives cease to do this, we need to do some introspection.