Resolving to Love More
Today being the eve of the New Year, you may have already taken the time to write out a list of New Year resolutions. Or perhaps you prefer to wait until the last minute to write them (that’s what I most often do). Or maybe you never write them out at all, preferring instead to make improvements all year round.
No matter which category you typically fall into, I ask that today you’ll humor me; I’d like to walk through some biblical principals and help you come up with some goals to work on yourself in the New Year. For this reason, I’ve given y’all some sheets that I’d like for y’all to fill out as we move along.
Today I want to talk about setting goals. Our discussions this morning and this evening will be complimentary, so please don’t miss out!
There are many different aspects to goal-setting, so I want to first begin with a few different areas to set some goals in, let y’all write out a few of them, then I want to discuss some practical advice for goal-setting. During that time, I’d like you to refine your goals to make them a bit better.
There are four main “domains” of life.
By this I mean that there are basically four main roles we play at any given time. These four domains are
- The Church, and
Perhaps you think of it differently, but I think most roles we have been given by God fall into one of these categories. Before we get into them, I want you to notice that all four categories involve other people (with the potential exception of family and very rare exceptions for work). Tonight, we’ll look at more inward-facing goals, but this morning I want us to ask ourselves what we can do to be more loving in each of our domains.
Resolve to love your family more.
The first area of life we are introduced to is family. Some of you were raised in loving, caring households, and some of you dealt with pain and abuse in your home. Now, you have your own family. Perhaps the kids have grown and moved out, but you still have your own family.
I want to give you a text to consider. Turn with me to Colossians 3:18–21. As we read it, I want you to ask yourself what you can do to be a better husband, a better wife, a better child, and a better parent.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Col 3:18–21)
When Paul speaks here to “children,” I suggest that he does not mean toddlers or even high schoolers, but adult children who might otherwise look down on the wisdom and instruction of their parents.
When Paul speaks here to “fathers,” he primarily means the fathers, but I want you to consider it as wisdom for mothers as well.
Now, let’s take about two minutes to write out one or two real, practical goals you can commit to in loving your family more this new year. If you’d like additional passages to consider, you can look at 1 Pet 3:1–7 and Eph 5:22–6:4.
Resolve to love your employer/employees more.
You might have expected me do discuss coworkers in this category, but I’ll save that for the last category.
Again, I will give you a passage to consider.
“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” (Col 3:22–4:1)
Now, most of us would be unlikely to consider ourselves as either slaves or masters. This passage doesn’t directly refer to our system of economy, but that’s exactly where the application lies for us. God wants us to be hardworking employees who go above and beyond, and employers who treat those under us with fairness and kindness.
Now, let’s take about two minutes to write out one or two real, practical goals you can commit to in loving your employer or employees more this new year. If you’re retired, you might use line 3 to add another goal for your family and line 4 to add one for the church when we get there.
Resolve to love your church more.
Staying here in Colossians, I want to read the next verse.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” (Col 4:2–4)
Take the time to love your Christian brethren and pray for them.
Now, I’d like to look at another passage on this domain that I believe we need to discuss.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb 10:23–25)
If we love each other, we need to see each other, and not just an hour a week. I know some of y’all have health issues, but if you can at all, please try to be here to encourage your brothers and sisters. It’s so uplifting to see more faces during Bible class, during Sunday night worship, and at Wednesday class. It’s not about being a requirement—it’s about loving the church.
Again, let’s take about two minutes to write out a couple of real, practical goals you can commit to in loving the church more this new year.
Resolve to love others more.
The last category of life is society. By this I mean everyone outside the church and outside your family. This includes your coworkers, your acquaintances, your friends… Your enemies.
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Col. 4:5-6)
Our goal with these people is not just to be kind, but to bring them to Christ.
What can you do to demonstrate the love of Christ to others more perfectly and draw them to the Savior? Take two minutes.
Ok, that brings us to the second portion of today’s lesson. As we go through this, I’d like for you to review what you’ve written up and improve them.
Not all goals are useful.
A goal may be perfectly correct in its intention; you can have godly purpose in setting it, but unless you make it correctly, it won’t help you a bit.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage,
But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” (Prov 21:5)
Some plans or goals are made hastily and will profit you nothing. Others, made diligently, will help you grow in the long run.
Secular wisdom will teach us about “SMART” goals. “SMART” is an acronym which stands for
- Realistic, and
I’m sure most of you have heard of this concept. A consultant named George T. Doran developed it in 1981 in Spokane, Washington. It’s been around awhile, but the principles it expresses are even older, and we can find them in Scripture as well. I want to use his framework because it’s somewhat familiar and easy to remember.
Useful goals are specific and measurable.
I’m going to cover these two together, and you’ll see why.
Let me read you a few passages.
“So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col 1:10)
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:18)
“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Pet 2:2)
All three of these passages talk about growth, whether in knowledge, spiritual fruit, grace. Hopefully growth is the whole reason we’re setting these goals.
Now, if you decide to grow a tomato plant or a jalapeño pepper plant, how will you know if it’s growing or not? Well, you’ll notice that yesterday it was 6″ tall, but today it’s 6.5″ tall—you measure it. If you don’t have a way of measuring your goals, you’ll never know whether you’ve made any progress.
This is a pretty common sense principle here, but it’s easy to skip out on.
For example, let’s say you want to set a goal: “I am going to be more prayerful.” That’s a lot more specific than just being a better Christian, but it’s not stated as a very measurable goal.
To make it measurable, we might be tempted to say something along the lines of, “I will pray every day.” Now that might sound more measurable, but then there’s a world of difference in praying ten minutes every day and praying an hour. It might be wise to reconsider the specificity. Is there an area in your prayer life that’s particularly lacking? If so, maybe that’s what you should narrow down.
“I will spend ten minutes of my daily prayer praising God,” or “thanking Him for my blessings,” or “praying for the church.” See how much more specific and measurable those are? Now we have a benchmark to see if we’re really doing better.
Set goals that help you grow intentionally. We’re trying to make spiritual plans.
Useful goals are actionable.
What do I mean by this? Some goals might be specific and measurable, but they don’t fully fall into my hands. Some things aren’t up to me. As Christians, we believe that many aspects of life rest wholly in God’s hands. Other issues may involve the free will of another person.
Setting an actionable goal means taking responsibility for what I can control, and leaving the rest to God.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:6-9)
Notice what Paul says there about the reward we receive. It’s based not on the results, but the quality of the effort we put forth.
Here’s a goal for you: “Baptize a close relative.” Fill in the blank for yourself: maybe your husband, your wife, your daughter, your brother. That’s a really admirable goal.
It’s specific. It’s measurable. But is it actionable? Not yet.
We can make it actionable by limiting it to what I can control and what I can do. I may not be judged on whether my loved ones are saved, but I promise you, I’ll be judged on whether on not I gave it my best effort.
“I’m going to lead three Bible studies with my spouse.” That’s something I can do. I can’t make anyone obey the gospel, but I can do something about it. It’s still specific and measurable, but now it’s actionable as well.
Set goals that focus on what you can do to make a difference…and include a lot of prayer.
Useful goals are realistic.
This is probably the biggest downfall. We try to bite off more than is reasonable. This is probably because we’re setting more than one goal. Here’s the problem: none of us has only one area of deficit. We have to work on several different areas of our lives if we want to grow as a Christian and to be a better, kinder, holier, more loving person.
The solution is not to only focus on one area at a time. First, we must try to keep a reasonable number of goals on the table. In 2 Peter 1, Peter gives a brief set of instructions for spiritual growth:
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence,
add to your faith virtue,
to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control,
to self-control perseverance,
to perseverance godliness,
to godliness brotherly kindness, and
to brotherly kindness love.” (2 Pet 1:5–7 NKJV)
Peter describes this process as being constructive. You work on one thing and then another. Now again, this does not mean to only aim at one goal, but that there is wisdom in taking steps in growth. You just can’t expect to resolve everything overnight.
In addition to limiting the number of goals we set, it is wise to make them achievable. In just the same way as we just saw, imagine trying to become perfectly self-controlled by Thursday—and totally patient the next day—and so on until you’re as loving as God by the 8th! That’s absurd, of course! But we try to jump straight to the end and skip the process.
Abraham was older than Frank when his faith was ripe enough to have a son.
Even being perfect, Jesus took His time with His spiritual growth, waiting until He was thirty to start His ministry.
Let’s take another goal for example. “I will read through the whole Bible in a month.” Specific, measurable, very actionable. But realistic? Maybe.
What is realistic for me might not be realistic for Rick. I have hours a day set aside to study, but Rick has a job taking photos for the paper. He might have to set a goal that makes more sense given his schedule. Now, I know that Rick loves to read, so maybe he still wants to set a goal like that, but a little more flexible. “I will read through the whole Bible by the end of March.”
Now here’s the catch. We believe that God helps us accomplish things we otherwise couldn’t do. Jesus chastised Peter’s lack of faith on the water, because he was trusting only in himself. Don’t be afraid to set some goals that are beyond what you think you can accomplish. Fight for them. Use the opportunity to grow even more—but if you struggle with it, don’t let yourself give in.
We’ll talk about this more tonight, but every time you give in or give up, you lose valuable willpower over temptation. Every time you give in makes it even harder to stick to it later on.
Set goals that are realistic for your experience, otherwise you won’t achieve them and you’ll give up. God doesn’t want you to give up; He wants you to make progress.
Useful goals are time-bound.
Abraham’s long life notwithstanding, God reminds us frequently that time is limited. You can’t just wait around forever to get your life right. If you fail to set a time on your goals, you are just going to procrastinate. Putting them off for another day, another week, next month, when I have time, when I’m not so busy…means I’ll never make the changes I need to.
Listen to what Solomon says in Proverbs 6:6-8.
“Go to the ant, O sluggard,
observe her ways and be wise,
which, having no chief,
officer or ruler,
prepares her food in the summer
and gathers her provision in the harvest.” (Prov 6:6–8)
The ants are inherently bound by the coming of winter. They have to complete the task of collecting their food while there’s still a chance.
“If you think you have another hundred years, fifty years, twenty years promised to make things right, you are mistaken. We’re not promised tomorrow. We’re not even promised one more day.” (John Hall)
Set goals now to grow, and set deadlines for your steps, so you can set higher goals later on.