From Covey to Christ: Christian Goal Setting Part 1

Setting goals as a Christian involves considering factors that often are less known outside Christianity. My goal is to cover the Biblical foundation and mindset of goal setting rather than specific skills such as time management or decision-making. [1]

Guest Writer: Mark Gedeon

12/3/20234 min read

My Journey

I was trained as a Covey 7 Habits Facilitator and have presented the material in full or part hundreds of times. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey is one of the most popular books on leadership in the world. While the book itself is secular, it is based on the first 150 years of American leadership training which in turn is based on Judeo-Christian principles. It is a useful book in a secular training environment. But for Christians, it is incomplete and occasionally deviates from biblical principles. This realization fueled my desire to present a more thoroughly biblical perspective, drawing from extensive research into goal setting and years of immersion in the Scriptures. This is part one of a five-part article.

The first factor I don’t see in the secular literature, which is in the Bible, is the tension between taking each day as it comes and long-term planning.

Take No thought for tomorrow.

Jesus emphasizes living each day as it comes (one day at a time) and not worrying in general. We hear Him teach: “Give us this day our daily bread.” and “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Also, Matthew 6 encourages believers to trust in God for today’s needs.

We give today to God because it's all we truly possess—this present moment. Today is not to be burdened with worry about the future. Instead, believers are urged to find rest in God's care. Paul said it this way: “Be anxious for nothing but by prayer and supplication make your request known to God” (Phil 4:6-8).

We can put away stress. We are yoked with Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt 11:29). He is helping to pull the load. We work hard but it is satisfying work. When we are in His will, we are doing what the Lord has gifted us to do. We trust in the abundance of God and can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (even when we are in need and in hard circumstances).

The Old Testament speaks of a daily focus as well. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Also, we are commanded to take a day of rest. And we sleep at night in restfulness knowing our souls are in the care of the Lord (Psalm 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.).

We are taught to trust God for His provisions in Psalm 68:19 “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits” and again in Deut. 33:25 “He gives us strength for the day.” Whatever plans/goals we have, they should never come from a place of anxiousness. We commit ourselves to the Lord. We know He will supply the need for the journey of life. Living today and leaving tomorrow to tomorrow seems to be a strong theme in the Bible.

Does that mean we should not set goals?

On the other hand, scripture points out we should make plans. We should take action to set the trajectory of tomorrow by planning and doing the right things today.

The Bible recognizes the importance of planning. Proverbs, for instance, encourages learning from the ant's preparation for winter. We see goals and plans throughout the Bible. Everything from building a tabernacle, temple, and walls, to organizing tribes, armies, and daily provisions.

Jesus Himself had plans, such as visiting specific cities and understanding the timing of crucial events - when it was “His hour” - His time to do or not do something and acted accordingly. Acts 15:36 reveals Paul had a goal to revisit communities where the word of the Lord had been proclaimed.

In the New Testament, Jesus shares a parable about a man building a tower and a king going to war. Both scenarios emphasize the importance of counting the cost and considering the results before starting a project or going to battle. This aligns with the idea of beginning with the end in mind, ensuring that one is prepared and committed to the goal.

A practical life lesson when walking in the woods is to set our sight on a distant point and move toward it. Without that reference point, we will walk in a circle. Goals focus us on what is important and how to get there.

Alice to the Cheshire Cat:

“Tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here.”

“That depends on where you want to go.”

“I don’t much care.”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Biblical goal setting is an important life skill for the believer. When we look at the entirety of scripture, we see both living one day at a time, trusting in God with no worries, and long-term planning fit together. There is tension, and in the next part of this series, we will delve into the challenges and considerations of setting goals within the framework of the “God factor” - when God in His sovereignty steps into our plans.

[1] If you are looking for goal strategies, I recommend Robert J. Morgan’s book, Mastering Life Before it is Too Late.

We give today to God because it's all we truly possess
—this present moment.

Guest Writer: Mark Gedeon