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Faith: Are you guided by dreams, goals or obligations?

It has been said, "A vision without a plan is simply a dream." "Failing to plan is planning to fail." "If you aim at nothing, that's exactly what you will accomplish."...

It has been said, "A vision without a plan is simply a dream." "Failing to plan is planning to fail." "If you aim at nothing, that's exactly what you will accomplish."

What is a goal? In a general sense I would describe a goal as an attainable accomplishment that leads toward or successfully achieves a desired outcome. Some goals are incremental while others define the completion of the activity.

I would like to frame my thoughts in the form of a question. Are you guided by dreams, goals or simply obligations?

Living a goal-oriented life requires three components. The first is initiative. Living a goal-oriented life requires a gap. Goals define an attainable accomplishment that you are not currently experiencing.

In his book "The Deeper Life," Pastor Daniel Henderson defines a six-step process that is intense but essential. Step One: Consecration - full and specific commitment. Step Two: Preparation - spiritual, emotional and physical inventory. It is under this step that he integrates the concept of SMART goals. Goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Step Three: Imagination - faith filled, God initiated. Step Four: Execution - write them down and get started. Step Five: Evaluation - monitoring progress and potential. Step Six: Celebration - enjoying the accomplishment.

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Jesus routinely called His disciples away from the crowds to reflect, recharge and celebrate. Luke chapter 10:17-20 provides a wonderful example: "The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.' He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'"

Jesus affirmed their joy and their impact but reminded them of the greater work -their eternal destiny.

The second component for living a goal-oriented life is inspiration. The hymnal in the church of my childhood was entitled "Inspiring Hymns." I was mortified when I found a song authored by John W. Peterson. While he was a gifted song writer I equated inspiration with the authors of Scripture. To me, before a song could be considered "inspired" the composer should be long since dead.

Unfortunately some of our goals make us feel dead - they bring no life! Herein lays the basis of my title - goals without execution are dreams and goals without life are obligations. Jesus routinely rebuked the religious leaders for their lifeless, heartless, religious actions.

In John 4:34 Jesus said, "My food," ..., "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Every practice commanded by Jesus is life-giving - salvation, water baptism, communion and Spirit baptism. Serving Christ through your gifts, style and passion are life-giving - providing both fruit and fulfillment.

The final component required for goal-oriented living is investment. There is a price to be paid but it results in a profit. Living a goal-oriented life is hard work. It requires the investment of our time, our treasure and our talents. But it's an investment that pays eternal dividends.

Jesus understood the eternal significance of his life and kept his eye upon the prize. In John 12 we read, Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

Living a goal-oriented life involves initiative, inspiration and investment.

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James writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

This past Friday morning as I climbed aboard our elliptical machine I pushed one too many buttons. Most days I just start pedaling and strive to survive a couple of miles within 30 minutes. But as I was moving through a series of choices I came across the option "full body workout." The process is relevant to our discussion today.

My workout began predictably - legs moving, arms moving, just as I planned. But then a message came on the monitor, "focus on pushing with your upper body." No clear reason or timeframe, just do it. After about a minute another message popped up, "Focus on pulling with your upper body." Then it said, "Prepare to stop" and "move in the opposite direction." Next message, "Use your lower body only and maintain a minimum pace of 5 mph." Then, "Maintain a speed between 2 and 3 miles per hour." Then it all started over again!

Isn't that the Christian life? Push, pull, run, walk, reverse ... James speaks of trials. A trial is anything that has the potential to knock us off course from accomplishing our goals. They might be God initiated. They might an attack of the enemy. They are often the result of our lack of focus.

Goals give us tangible markers to track our progress in emphasizing our priorities, honoring our values, embracing our purpose, expressing our identity, living out our relationship with our Lord and Savior.

Related Topics: FAITH
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