Home | BGAV Blog | Joe McDowell: Set Challenging but Reasonable Goals

Joe McDowell: Set Challenging but Reasonable Goals

Posted 1/9/18 at 8:35am. Column by Joe McDowell

Setting goals for ourselves can be overwhelming. The possibilities are just about endless.

Some goals are set for us. Usually these are set by our employers. They may be related to sales quotas or the number of contacts made, etc. In this series, I’m not talking about the mandatory goals placed on us by others, though some of the principles I discuss may be helpful with those goals.

My focus is on goals that we make for ourselves for personal growth. I will address goals we may make in three areas of our lives. They are spiritual goals, intellectual goals, and physical goals. These goals are typically not mandatory (though there may be some cases when they are) and these are areas of growth the Bible places emphasis on in some way. 

Of spiritual growth, the Bible says: 

  • Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4). 
  • And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
  • Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). 

Of knowledge, the Bible says: 

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). 
  • Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold (Proverbs 8:10). 
  • The wise lay up knowledge (Proverbs 10:14). 
  • When a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge (Proverbs 21:1). 

Of the body, the Bible says: 

  • Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19). 
  • Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16–17). 

These are but a few verses that pertain to growth in these areas. We can also see from scripture that Jesus as a young man was focused on these areas of life and grew in them: 

  • And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40). 
  • And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). 
  • After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart (Luke 2:46–51). 

What are some goals you might challenge yourself to set in these areas of life? 

For spiritual goals, perhaps you’ll want to read your Bible more, spend more time in prayer, be more involved in church, or act on certain biblical principles you know are missing in your life. 

For intellectual goals, perhaps you want to read more or take a class related to a particular subject or to be better informed on local, national, and world news.  

For physical goals, perhaps you want to lose weight, exercise more, or eat in a healthier way. 

Start simply! It is often a good idea to set your goals in incremental stages.

As you ponder these three areas of your life, jot down the potential goals you might set for yourself. After you have written down your goals, you may have several under each heading. If you are not careful, you can overwhelm yourself with goals. I suggest that you choose one or two from each area and develop your plan to accomplish these specific goals. Start simply! It is often a good idea to set your goals in incremental stages. 

For example. let’s say you want to read your Bible through in one year. To do this, you choose a Bible reading plan. First, choose a simple one—one that goes though each part of the Bible once. The “M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan” takes you through the entire Bible but it also takes you through the New Testament and Psalms twice. This plan may be a bit ambitious for your first try. So choose a basic Old Testament/New Testament plan, a beginning-to-end plan, or a chronological plan.

If you can complete each reading every day that’s great, but it might be good idea to begin with a time limit. Begin by reading 15 minutes each day. Plan to do this for two weeks. Keep track of where you are in the reading plan. After two weeks, increase your reading time to 20 minutes each day for another week. Then move up to 30 minutes each day. Read for 30 minutes each day for several months. You will probably soon catch up with where your reading plan says you should be. If you want to read longer than 30 minutes each day, after several months, increase your reading time 10 to 15 minutes. Do this until you reach your goal for daily reading time. But keep the maximum time reasonable for your overall schedule. 

Setting your goals up in an incrementally increasing way can help you be successful in reaching them. This process can help you with any goal you may set in any of the growth areas we are discussing. 

Remember, goals can have a biblical perspective! Make your goals with biblical principles in mind and choose Bible verses that pertain to the goals you are setting. Make your goals challenging but reasonable, and you will be successful. 

Rev. Joe McDowell is the Concord Baptist Association director of missions. You can read his past columns here, and you can reach Joe at jmcdowell@concordbaptistassoc.org