What spiritual goals do you have for the year ahead? I am writing this in the first week of January. Over the past few days, I’ve done a thorough review of last year and created some goals for 2018.
“If you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it”. But, when it comes to spiritual goals it can be tricky to know how to aim, let alone what to aim at.
Spirituality, and growing in it, is about character, integrity and relationship. As such, it can be tough teasing out specific goals that don’t become ‘rules’. The actions endanger the relationship or the substance of the goal. What’s the answer? Firstly, we need to remember the point.
What is the point of a goal? The goal is never the thing. The goal is a tool. A means. A method. The point is God. Or Jesus.
Is this what lies behind Paul’s desire expressed in Philippians?
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11 NIV11)
If the point is to be more like Jesus, how do we get there?
All healthy aims need a strategy. Here are four steps for developing a sound strategy for spiritual growth.
- Aspiration. Clarify your aspiration. This is not the ‘goal’. Goals change, but aspirations remain. We’ll never achieve full Christ-likeness in this life, thus we aim to grow, not arrive. Examples of aspirations would be to have the compassion of Christ, the courage of Christ, the faith of Christ. Which particular aspiration is right for you, right now, at this point in your life?
- One. Find the one tool that will move you in the right direction. That tool becomes the focus of your goal. It could be the Bible, prayer, friends, books etc. Choose only one. Life has enough complexity already.
- Action. Now we have an aspiration and a tool we need an action. Make it simple. Include a verb, and make it daily if possible. The action is not the point, but it will move you in the right direction.
- Goal. Your goal is to execute your action connected with your tool in pursuit of your aspiration. What is your goal?
Here is my focus for growth this year:
- My Aspiration: To be like Christ in that he found spiritual food, fuel, and faith from God’s Word. Last year saw significant growth in my prayer life. My Bible focus was OK, but only OK. Not where I think it could be, nor where I want it to be.
- My One Tool: The Bible!
- My Action: To spend the first 30 minutes of my day in Bible study before anything else (other than ablutions, a cup of tea and a five-minute gratitude journal).
- My Goal: To do this every day for 90 days from January first (four days ticked off so far as of 4 Jan 2018).
Knowing your motivations is vital to maintaining growth. You will get tired at some point and tempted to give up. Here are mine:
- To feel close to God and provide me with prayer fuel
- To feel spiritually fed and focussed at the start of the day
- To have integrity as I teach other people
Write your aspiration, tool, action and goal down. Put them somewhere you will see them. I have three ways of staying connected with mine.
- A daily reminder in OmniFocus
- A tick-list in my Full Focus Planner
- A reminder in the Coach.me app.
If I forget to look in one place, the others should catch my attention!
Christians follow Jesus. We think he is amazing. He is our inspiration. Therefore we are aspirational people. God does some of the growing of us whether we plan for it or not. But what better way to honour God’s hopes for our growth, than to make plans in that direction.
What is your greatest aspiration for the year ahead? What ideas have I missed? Let me know your own goals, and feel free to comment on mine.
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
I hope you have a wonderful week of quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm