Sanctification: Christian Goal Setting Part 2

Setting goals as a Christian involves considering factors that often are less known outside Christianity. In the previous section, we explored the balance between short-term and long-term goals. In this installment of the five-part article, we will explore sanctification - the process of growing in grace and deepening our knowledge of God. We maintain a life guided by the Holy Spirit and much like ensuring our lamps are filled with oil we plan and set goals that are consistent with holy living.

Guest Blogger: Mark Gedeon

12/3/20233 min read

Mark Gedeon
Mark Gedeon

Guest Blogger: Mark Gedeon

Goal: “Keep your lamp bright,
day and night!”

Limitations of Goals

It is important to recognize that personal improvement alone has limitations. Improving ourselves through goals doesn't address the core issue of sin. Personal improvement goals don’t earn our salvation. We might achieve better behavior, popularity, effectiveness, efficiency, improved communication, and a longer life. However, if we gain the whole world and lose our soul in the process what have we gained?

Worldly success is not the ultimate measure. If we have been saved by grace through faith, have not achieved earthy success, but have been faithful to God’s leading, we can still enter heaven and hear God say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant (Matt 25:21).” Human effort is not sufficient (O wretched man that I am - Romans 7:24-25).

Sanctification as a Goal

Our works won’t save us. But after we are saved, we grow through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The term we use for spiritual growth is sanctification. We work with the Holy Spirit. We put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on righteousness. The grace of God demands diligence on our part. Working on our sanctification should be part of the goals we set. Not all at once but daily, weekly, and monthly discipline (discipleship), that leads to maturity in Christ. We are dependent on God to supply all our needs for a godly life. The qualities we should strive for are spelled out in 2 Peter 1:5-7: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”

God brings people and events—both good and bad—as well as His Holy Spirit leading us, into our lives to fashion us into becoming more Christ-like.

Goals that Matter

In 2 Samuel 18:19-32, there are two messengers sent to King David after a battle. The first messenger had a clear understanding of the message and its implications, while the second, eager to be involved, lacked knowledge of the situation. The second messenger outran the first but when he arrived, he had only a confusing message. He was told to step aside. He ran fast. He had success. He got there first. But in the end, he accomplished nothing. What an embarrassment for Ahimaaz, the faster runner. He made an effort that didn’t matter.

For the Christian, the purpose of life is to love God, our neighbor, and do God's will. That may not look like success to others but at the end of our lives, we will give an account of ourselves to God. We want to be found faithful in all that we do. We begin making goals by purposely committing ourselves to the Lord and allowing Him to establish our plans (Proverbs 16:3).

In the pursuit of meaningful goals, it's helpful to reflect on the wisdom found in Proverbs 19:21: “There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Here, “devices” refers to plans. This proverb reinforces the idea that, while planning is valuable, God's overarching purpose is what will prevail. Thus, we should be seeking to align with God’s plans to have the success that matters.

Goals are unique. They should not come from comparisons with others (those that compare themselves among themselves are not wise - 2 Corinthians 10:12). We are uniquely gifted and will be uniquely held accountable. The goal is not to be better than someone else. But to be more Christ-like and achieve the goal he has set before us (Philippians 3:14).

Goals Built on Jesus

There is one foundation, Jesus Christ. We build on it with gold, silver, and precious stones and are faithful to Christ. All our plans should take into consideration Jesus’ admonition: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

It is clear from scripture that God has a plan and is doing a work in those who are saved. We need to work with Him. God is the potter, and we are the clay (Is 64:8). The Master Craftsman is shaping us for good works that He has planned for us (Eph 2:10). We are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29).

“I am the vine; you
are the branches.
If you remain in me
and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you
can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

Putting it All Together:

Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our goals tell us (and everyone else) about our hearts. Selfish goals that focus on “things that will pass away” are signs of spiritual trouble. God will work against those goals. He is the potter shaping believers for His planned good works.

We are sowing and reaping what we sow. Take an honest look at the alignment of your goals. Did your goal include spiritual growth in Christ through intentional reading and application of scripture? What does the crop look like? Do you have a crop of God's kingdom and righteousness?