As we near the end of January, I would ask you… how are you doing with those resolutions you made back on December 31st or January 1st?
Research tells me that you are probably not doing so well with them. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are ultimately successful with their New Year’s resolutions. Furthermore, the average person makes the same resolution ten separate times without success. Then they give up.
How many times have you said, “I will never do that again!” only to do it again and again?
Good news! There is a better way.
It’s called GOALS.
Setting and pursuing goals is far more effective than making resolutions. Research says that you have a 42% greater chance of achieving your goals by this one simple action: WRITE THEM DOWN.
That’s right. There is something powerful about writing down goals.
A couple of years ago I was cleaning out some files and came across a “dream” goals sheet I had filled out when I was eighteen years old. It asked questions about long-range, lifetime goals in various areas of life. I had filled it out, filed it away, and then forgotten about it. I won’t share the details (they are private), but I was absolutely shocked by how much of those dreams had come true in that over quarter century time span, even some dreams that I had considered unrealistic. What is amazing to me is that I did not sit down to actually come up with a strategy to reach those dreams.
So what are some principles for setting and reaching goals? With a hat tip to Michael Hyatt and the late Zig Ziglar (both have influenced me much on this subject of goals), here is a top ten list I came up with that can help you get started in setting goals:
Pray about your goals. Remember James 4.13-17… “If the Lord wills…”? You want your goals to be aligned with God’s will for your life.
Set an appropriate number of goals and pursue only a few goals simultaneously. A good rule of thumb is to set 7-10 goals per year but only be working on 2-3 of those goals at a time.
Be specific. It is not a good goal to “Get in shape.” A better goal would be: “Run a marathon.” That’s a specific goal that enables you to get in shape.
Set a due date. Using our previous example, you might say, “Run a marathon by October 15th.” If you are setting a habit goal (a goal of doing something everyday until it becomes a habit), Make sure you set your date at least 67 days out. The old saying that it takes 21 days to make a new habit is a complete myth. Research says it takes about 66 days to make a new habit.
Get an accountability partner. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
Develop an action plan. Break your goal down into manageable steps.
Get started. An experienced author once counseled an aspiring writer, “The hardest sentence of a book to write is the first one.” Stop dreaming and start pursuing. Procrastination is the enemy of progress.
Review your goals daily. There is an old saying, “Out of sight… out of mind.” If you do not keep your goals in front of you regularly, you will not stay focused. Come up with creative ways of keeping your goals in front of you… customized screen savers, notecards, bookmarks, etc.
Eliminate stinking thinking. Proverbs 23.7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The number obstacle to achieving your goals is your own faulty thinking. Attitude determines your altitude. If you are believing lies about yourself or about God, it will limit your ability to press forward and accomplish your goals. So, identify what Michael Hyatt calls “limiting beliefs” in your life and replace them with “liberating truths.” I like to find a Scripture verse or passage that counteracts each of the limiting beliefs that have taken root in my thinking.
Don’t be afraid to fail and then restart. Don’t give up. Keep trying. In 2009 I set a goal to read 52 books in a year (1 per week). I failed miserably that year, only reading 11. The next year I set the same goal and only read 17. Year after year I set the same goal and year after year I fell short. But on my 8th attempt, in 2016, I finally succeeded and read 53 books that year (including the whole Bible).
So, you failed with your resolutions? Take heart… sit down with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Talk to God about setting some goals… and go for it!
As we think about the value of mothers this weekend, we cannot help but think about how far our culture is straying from the biblical description of what the standard should be for women. This includes Christian women who have never been taught modesty.
Several years ago we came across these outstanding resources from the Mahaney family. First a message from C. J. Mahaney:
Faithful Gospel preaching in this era of spiritual apathy requires faith and patience. Two stories from the past will encourage the faithful witness.
First, a story from the ministry of John Flavel (1628-1691). Robert Murray M’Cheyne reports of how a 15 year old American immigrant named Luke Short heard Flavel preach a message on 1 Corinthians 16.22: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema. Maranatha!” Short was not a Christian at the time, nor was he for the next 85 years. But at the age of 100, he reflected on the memory of that sermon and was converted! Of course, Flavel was already in glory with the Savior at that point.
The second story is not of a pastor but a layman who loved Jesus and proclaimed him faithfully through personal witnessing on a street in Sydney, Australia:
Expectations play a key role in our motivation and our success. This is true also in regard to an effective devotional life.
This is a short list, but it should help you set your expectations appropriate.
1. Don’t expect to immediately be logging 1-2 hours of devotional time each day. Start with some simple goals. Seek to spend 10 minutes in Bible reading and prayer (try 5 of each). Think of it like running. The first day you may only be able to run a half of a mile. But the next day you do it again. Then the next day you go a little farther. The next week you are running over a mile, and so on. Start with 10 minutes and then within a couple of months, don’t be surprised that you now need 20-30 minutes. Jesus would spend an entire night in prayer sometimes. If you try to start like that, you will probably burn out fast.
What do you need to have an effective devotional time?
A BIBLE. That is really the only necessity. I suppose if you didn’t have an actual, physical Bible with you, you could still reflect upon the Scriptures that you have memorized, but even then you are still engaging with the Bible.
The Bible is necessary because His Word is the means He has chosen to speak to us. And without utilizing the means He has chosen to speak to us, we are destined to only have a one-sided conversation: us talking to God. A dynamic relationship is one in which the conversation is two-way: both sides communicating to one another. God speaks to us in His Word and we speak to God in prayer. The two go hand-in-hand. In fact, one without the other for an extended period of time is not spiritually healthy. To pray apart from God’s Word is to eventually pray amiss. To read God’s Word without prayer is to eventually just be inputting information.
Is the Bible the only thing you should use in a devotional time?
Most Christians have found it very helpful to start their day off with a devotional time. Apparently Spurgeon said 1 hour of prayer in the morning is worth 2 at night. I can definitely identify with that statement. Someone has also said, “Better to pray for guidance and strength in the morning than to confess and repent at night.” The basic gist of these quotes is that you are more likely to experience spiritual victory throughout your day if you start the day with your devotional time. Much like the cereal commercials that emphasize that you start your day off right (physically) with their cereal, it pays off to start your day off right with spiritual nourishment.
One of the great struggles a lot of Christians have is establishing an effective devotional routine. This week I would like to offer some help for those who are struggling with this important part of the Christian life. I plan to break this down into five days of posts:
Today – What is it? How Often?
Tuesday – When and Where?
Wednesday – What do you Need?
Thursday – Expectations
Friday -How to Endure
What is it?
Let’s start with defining the terms. What do I mean by a devotional time? For years, it was called a “Quiet Time” in the circles in which I ran. Some people call it a personal worship time. Whatever you choose to call it, it is a vital part of Christian growth. But what exactly is it?
Today my goals are almost completely focused on tasks that require me being alone, on the computer, or with my nose in a book. So on days like these, I sometimes challenge myself to find some time to make a few simple encouraging touches: a short email thanking someone, a brief phone call to check on someone, or a quick post on someone’s Facebook wall.
What are you doing today to strategically reach out and encourage someone?
Abundant Life (Jn.10.10) … Abiding Life (Jn.15.5) – Check out my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl6zU7y5N1aHQtMRgyDaDNg