In Matthew 4:19 Jesus says, “Follow me.” Where was He going? Did He have any idea? Obviously, He did. From Luke 10 we can see that He gave the disciples specific plans before He sent them out. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” So what did Timothy teach? Did he have a plan, or did he lead by feelings or guessing? I believe he had a detailed plan for each person he was accountable to before God (Hebrews 13:17). Proverbs 14:12 says, “A man’s mind plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.” Truly, God is sovereign over all things. Yet He is the one who has called us to be where we are. Therefore, He is the one who holds us accountable for our obedience in fulfilling the work He has sent us to do. Goals are not meant to be legalistic straitjackets but maps to help us know the way. There will be detours, so flexibility is a must. However, we need a goal, a specific purpose to work towards. Structure through goals helps to achieve this. Goals aided Jesus and Paul, goals can aid you in your work with Jesus.

All ministries exist to achieve results. However, some Christians are inclined to think of setting goals as worldly and lacking faith. But which requires more faith? To tell people the Lord is leading me to Timbuktu to witness for Christ, or, the Lord is leading me to Timbuktu to plant two house churches among the Tuareg people within the next seven years? The latter is a measurable goal. Whenever we ask people why they do what they do, they will talk about what they want to happen as a result of their ministry. Those hoped for results are goals. We need to work together to quantify and qualify our hoped for results. In His Spirit, we need to set a target at which we may aim our faith.

In taking my motorcycle driving test, I had to complete an obstacle course. One of the obstacles was to drive the length of a thirty-foot plank that was eight inches wide. In practicing, I would invariably get all the way across the plank with my front wheel, only to have my back wheel come off the plank inches from success. I could never get it right until an instructor told me, “Focus on a spot six yards beyond the end of the plank and drive for that point.” I did that, and the rear tire never went off the plank again.

Goal setting needs to have SMARTS. Goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Active, Realistic, Time limited and Stretch us. Goals need to be specific. If we are going to be accountable, we need to know where we are going. If you went to a church and told them, “I am planning to serve God overseas, but I do not know where I am going, or what I’ll be doing, or how I’ll being doing it,” do you think the church would support you? Yet, once overseas, many B4Ters lose focus. Our big picture goals remain the big picture. We need to learn to plan specific steps which will put us on track to complete our big picture goals. Goals need to be measurable. You should know whether or not the goal has been accomplished. Goals also need to be active. A goal should show growth from one point in your life to another. It must be something bigger than myself that requires God’s intervention. I am going to Timbuktu to start two house churches among the Tuareg people in the next seven years is both measurable and it is active. Goals need to be realistic. Goals should be attainable, not pie in the sky dreams. I’m going to start people movement of Tuareg peoples to Christ in one year, without a clear word from God, is not attainable. Start small, and work your way up. Jesus Himself established the principle that a person must be proven faithful in the little things before being entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). Make sure the goal you are working for is something both He and you really want, not just something that sounds good. Goals need to be set within a defined period of time. It does little good to have measurable goals if we have an open-ended time frame. Finally, goals should require a stretch of faith. Jesus’ statement, you have not, because you ask not, has a parallel in much of life in the reality that “you attain little because you attempt little.” Goals should push us out of our comfort zone. We should not be content with simply doing what we already can do, but as William Carey put it, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

Do you set goals? Do you find them helpful? What great things are you seeking to attempt for God? How do others know they are great? And of God?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.