Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Setting Goals and Making Resolutions -- Part II:
3) In the last post, I mentioned that the more specific a resolution is, the more likely you are to keep it. This is where goal setting comes in. A true goal is measurable, according to homemaking expert, Emile Barnes. It involves a specific action, and it has a time-frame. For example, let's say that I have resolved to get in better shape. A measurable goal would be to do 50 crunches a day, five days a week, until March 1. Or, I could set a goal of losing ten pounds by March 1 through a combination of diet and exercise. Whatever I choose, I need to be able to look back on my goal date and see how I'm doing.
Though we don't want to be overly methodical when it comes to relationships, setting measurable relationship goals helps us love others. For example, let's say that I want to be a more loving wife to my husband. That involves finding out what my husband's current needs are and thinking about how I might meet them. Then, I can set a specific goal. I could decide, for example, that I will ask him every Monday morning for a month if he would like me to run any errands for him, and I could fit these errand's into my week's schedule. Or, I could determine that I will prepare a candlelight dinner for just the two of us some time before the end of January.
Some resolutions may not lend themselves to being broken down into specific goals, but most do. Since goals are concrete, measurable steps toward a larger end, they can be the nuts and bolts of our resolution process.
4) No discussion of resolutions and goals is complete without talking about repentance. Making resolutions and setting goals are wonderful tools. Sometimes, however, we try to resolve ourselves out of situations where what we really need to do is to repent. If the issue involves putting away a sin and attaining to a righteous quality, repentance is called for.
The original Greek word in the Bible for repentance is metanoia, which means a total transformation of our mindset. (Meta means transformation, as in metamorphosis, and noia means mindset, as in paranoia). Metanoia follows being cut to the heart about our sinfulness before a holy God, and it involves our faith in the forgiveness offered through Christ. It is a change of mindset in which we urgently turn from sin and turn whole-heartedly toward the Lord. Repentance may be triggered by godly sorrow, but it does not end there. It ends in joy!
Some scriptures that help us understand repentance are Acts 2:36-47, Acts 3:19-21, I Timothy 1:19-21, II Corinthians 7:1-16, Matthew 3:8, and Luke 3:10-14.
Why is repentance important in a discussion about resolutions and goals? Well, here's an example. Every January, nearly everyone in the U.S. sets a goal to lose weight and get in shape. The question is, are we motivated by faith in the Lord, or out of selfish reasons ?* Are we relying on God's strength to help us change, or are we trying to gut it out (no pun intended) on our own determination? Most of all, are we confronting any underlying sins that might contribute to being overweight and out of shape -- such as gluttony or laziness -- and are we replacing sins with godly fruit -- such as self-control?
People can achieve a lot through determination. But, without godly repentance, whatever changes we make won't bear lasting fruit. As in our example of getting in shape, I have known people who have gone from flab to extremely fit, but in such as way that diet and exercise and even eating disorders have become their consuming idols.
It's interesting to study the topic of repentance in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. It's also helpful to note how many times in the Bible that this pattern is laid out for us: a) Remember our Lord and Savior b) put off the things in our life that are ungodly and c) put on the qualities that are like Christ.
When we are turning away from a sin and putting on righteousness, we may make useful goals and resolutions to help us carry out our repentance. However, these work only if we have first changed our hearts and if we are acting in faith.
5) That brings us to the next and final point: Understanding our ultimate priority. If we truly belong to the Lord, we derive our goals and our resolutions from him. Jesus gives us a guiding principle here: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33.
God is a loving father who wants our plans to succeed. Proverbs 16:33. However, he sees the big picture. Sometimes, we plan something and we want to see it come into action a certain way. However, God may know that it's better for it to happen another way. In setting goals and resolutions, we must stay flexible to the Lord's will, whether it's his direct will or if it's circumstances that he allows to come into our lives.
*We do look forward to the personal benefits of accomplishing goals like losing weight, and I think that's perfectly OK. God wants us to enjoy the blessings that come with achieving goals and from making wholesome changes in our lives. However, my point is that true repentance arises out of respect for the Lord.