Goals are Good but they are not God

By Ryan Dawson

Happy New Year!  It’s normal at this time of year for people to make many resolutions and some goals for the upcoming year.  Sadly, most of these resolutions don’t make it out of January.  Last year I set the goal to memorize more scripture and I really struggled to make this a priority in my time (true confessions as a pastor!).  

I’m sure if you are a regular at the gym you have noticed a huge influx in the number of people working out, but I wonder how many of these people will still be going strong in March, June, or October of this year.   I’m not suggesting that goals are not helpful and that we shouldn’t take time to establish some milestones thoughtfully and prayerfully for the year.  I like to reflect on the previous year, then set goals for the new year, because clear goals help me focus on the important things, persevere when it gets tough, measure my progress, and grow as a person.  

I do believe goals are good, but they are not God.   Goals do not define who we are as a person – only God can do that for us.  Our goals shouldn’t overwhelm us or condemn us when we fail to achieve them, but they should help us grow as people and ultimately become more like Jesus.  

It’s quite likely that the most common goal for people at this time of year involves health and fitness.  Again, I applaud development in these areas, but I wonder how many of us have goals in terms of our character, deepening our friendship with Jesus, and growing in Christ-likeness.  Shouldn’t this really be our focus as we prepare and plan for a new year?  Asking the question: “How will I grow in love for God and become more like Jesus this year?” is an integral question to focus our lives.  

The apostle Paul was a man who set goals and worked hard to achieve them (you don’t plant that many churches without setting some goals), but his highest goal was to know Jesus and to be more like Him.  He writes in Philippians 3:10-14:  

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Paul’s driving passion was to know Jesus, to become like him in every way, and to be faithful to the call on his life.  I’m challenged by this passage, and I suspect you are as well.  Do you share this same passion as Paul?  Is this pursuit reflected in your goals for 2023?  By all means, set some goals, but make sure you are working towards the highest goal and that is to know Christ and to become more like Him.  

This Sunday we are starting a new sermon series called Onward: Launching into the New Year, which will help us prioritize our relationship with Jesus and give us tools for the journey.  I want to invite you to  join us on Sunday for our services as we begin this important series.   It’s going to be a great year so let’s trust God to continue the work that He has started in each one us, as we pursue Jesus Christ as our highest goal.  

Happy New Year!  Blessings, Ryan