‘Tis the season for New Year resolutions!
While driving by the gym this morning (let that sink in a minute), I noticed that the parking lot was packed. I then had a brief, yet sublime vision of all the personal trainers falling asleep on huge piles of cash… And, not coincidentally, the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot had plenty of spaces. I then had an equally sublime vision of me enjoying a glazed donut (sadly, it was just a vision).
Then there’s my social media feed. It has been inundated with goal-setting courses and step-by-step methods to help me achieve my personal and professional goals in 2017. While many people roll their eyes or simply hit ‘delete,’ I love this stuff. I love the opportunity to reflect on where I’ve been and look ahead to where I want to go.
Setting goals for my life has had a tremendous impact on my ability to go further, faster. Michael Hyatt is one of my personal favorites–and he has a fantastic course on how to leverage goal-setting to design the life you want. Again, it’s great stuff that I personally use. But (and this may sound strange) as a leader and a pastor, it feels like much of the goal-setting, resolution-making advice is still too ‘me’ focused.
I’m all for self-improvement. In fact, I’m currently working on some health goals for 2017 after suffering a debilitating back injury in 2015. But, my self-improvement is still subject to–well–myself. As a follower of Jesus, by definition, my first question should not be, “What do I most want in 2017?” but “What does God most want for me in 2017?” Because, let’s face it, God’s version of me is supremely better than my version of me. It may seem like a small thing–but the way you frame your goals makes all the difference.
What God Wants
I can’t think of a single instance in the Bible where God wants everyone to just stay the same. God is always about shaking us out of our routines so that we are compelled to trust. It’s odd isn’t it? God is eternal and unchanging, yet is constantly pushing us to change, to draw closer to Him, so that we grow and bear fruit (see John 15, Gal. 5) for His Kingdom. What do growing things do? They change.
The Unchanging God is a God of change. What is transformation? Redemption? Forgiveness? It’s change. It’s a movement from one way of being to another. Check out this passage from Isaiah 43:16-19:
“This is what the Lord says–he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.
‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
This is how God leads us. God has an entrepreneurial Spirit. He asks us to trust in Him because of what He has done, and move toward the new thing He is doing in our lives. And, more often than not, it is directly through the wilderness. Why? I think it’s because we are motivated to get out of that wilderness, and therefore, ready to listen!
If you are a leader, I think there are some crucial leadership lessons here. If you’re not a leader, but are looking for some personal growth, I think these principles will still make all the difference in helping you achieve your goals.
3 Steps to Crushing Your Goals in 2017
Step #1: Be entrepreneurial too
I’m not going to do the cliche and quote Einstein here, but you know the definition of insanity. The truth is you won’t get where you (or God wants you) to be without doing something different. As a leader of a church that’s been around for over a hundred years, there is a level of resistance to every new idea. The first response is usually, “that will never work,” or “we tried that once and it failed.” My response to them is usually, “I know it can’t work… but what if it could?”
In other words, I immediately try to help them reframe the thought. What this does is open their brain to a possibility they would not have considered. Not all new ideas are good, and not all old ideas are bad, but if I never allow myself the possibility, I will never allow myself the openness I need to be changed by God.
What mountain are you facing? Is it a marriage on the rocks? Is it a job that’s killing your spirit? Is it suffocation by debt? Whatever it is, God wants to show you the way out of the wilderness–but it starts by being open to the “new thing.”
Step #2: Live out of God’s economy
Most of us make decisions based on the quality and quantity of our own resources. This, in one sense, is the difference between wisdom and foolishness. If I have a scarcity of resources, I should be wise about using them. There is a very real principle of “counting the cost” before we build the tower. That is, of course, what it means to live out of one’s own economy.
But when it comes to God’s purposes, we operate out of a different economy. An abundance economy as infinite and vast as the Kingdom of God. In other words, if God wants you to do it, the resources are there. Just because you are afraid you can’t finance it, doesn’t mean financing isn’t waiting on the other side of your faith.
Of course, this can be dangerous if we’re not careful. We shouldn’t go bankrupt buying a bigger house because we think God will use His resources to save us. This is something done with care, conviction, discernment, and prayer. But when we feel God spurring us on–leading us with His entrepreneurial Spirit, we must trust that He will fuel it with whatever resources we need. But it rarely happens without a very vulnerable leap of faith.
How do you know an idea is from God? Well, first off, it has clear Kingdom consequences. Some are immediately obvious like starting a homeless shelter, food bank, or planting a church. Some are less obvious. Maybe it’s working for a job promotion so you can have a larger influence or platform to do God’s work. Maybe launching a book or breaking into the film industry is just as Kingdom-minded as planting a church. The thing is, whatever the idea, it must have the possibility of bearing Kingdom-sized fruit.
Remember Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all of your needs according to His riches and glory.”
Step #3: Remember discernment is a team sport
And all of this is made possible by discernment. Jesus set up discernment to be an activity of the community. There are no lone rangers in discernment. Jesus wired us this way. He’s the one who said: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them…” In fact, Jesus talks very little of individual faith compared to the faith of the community. The New Testament refers to the Church as the Body of Christ–a collection of individuals who work best as an integrated whole.
We all need Christian brothers and sisters to pray with us about what we think we’re hearing from God. We also need them to tell us when they think it’s not God. We need to hash out our goals/resolutions/desires with the Body so we can help us see a bit more clearly into that leap of faith.
Are in involved in a small group, a bible study, or a fellowship group with other believers? If not, you should strongly consider joining one. The truth is, I can’t always tell if it’s God’s voice or mine. That’s why I need some help listening. Because, if I go taking a big leap and God’s not behind it… well, it’s not good.
What about you? What else would you add to this list?
Here’s to your God-given and God-driven resolutions!