The God Factor: Christian Goal Setting Part 3

Setting goals as a Christian involves considering factors that often are less known outside Christianity. In part one we discussed the biblical tension between short-term and long-term goals. In part two we discussed sanctification and setting goals that matter. The Third factor, the “God Factor” is when God in His sovereignty steps into our plans. This is part three of a five-part series.

Guest Blogger: Mark Gedeon

12/3/20234 min read

Mark Gedeon
Mark Gedeon

Our goals should be held loosely.

The God factor introduces an essential nuance to Christian goal setting. With intentionality, God is intricately involved in the shaping of believers, guiding them to reflect the likeness of His Son. God has a plan to bring into our lives people and circumstances to help us grow up spiritually. Those people and events may not have been in our plans. I wouldn’t go so far as an old Yiddish proverb and say: “We plan, God laughs.”

When believers make plans, James 4:13 cautions against presumptuous declarations about future actions, emphasizing the wisdom of saying, "If the Lord wills." Recognizing the dynamic nature of life under God's sovereignty, plans are to be held loosely. This is not a negation of planning, but an acknowledgment that unforeseen circumstances, choices made by others, and even divine interventions may alter our course.

Think about it, there are 25 times that the words “but God” appear in the Bible. We make plans but that doesn't mean they will happen. We cannot just think we can tear down our small barn and build a bigger one and all will be well. Our life might end this very night (Luke 12:18). This is the “God factor.” God may change our plans. So, we in turn must hold our plans loosely.

This is the “God factor.” God may change our plans.
So, we in turn must hold our plans loosely.

Paul had plans to start churches in cities in Asia Minor. In Acts 16 we see his plan to go to one city and the Holy Spirit says “No.” So, he decided to go to a different city and again the Holy Spirit said “No.” Finally, he went to a city between those two places and from there received a call to go further yet.

The God factor may not necessarily be an active action of God. Men have (limited) free will. We may make plans, and someone may do things that obstruct those plans. God may not stop them. Also, we live in a world that is under a curse and bad weather may destroy our goals and plans. That is why Ecclesiastes prompts us to diversify because we don’t know what will work.

As you set off on a journey, there will be surprises. You may find that you must back up to go forward. You may have to develop a skill or find someone to do part of what you thought you were going to do. As Christians, we are part of the body of Christ. We don’t have every skill. You may have to pair up with someone who has a different skill set to move to the next step of the goal. God’s plan may be to develop interdependence with others in the body of Christ.

Holding plans loosely doesn't mean abandoning them. Be diligent, wise, and flexible in making plans; knowing God may purposefully change our direction or allow manmade or natural barriers. In the journey, we must acknowledge God and what He is doing. Submit to what God has allowed and seek to know what His plan is.

Our Goals might meet with God’s Judgement

Not all goals are good. Numerous goals in the Bible were contrary to God’s holiness and thus suffered His judgment. The building of the Tower of Babel didn’t go well. David’s census-taking when it wasn’t what God wanted also met God’s wrath. Jonah’s plans to run from God nearly got him killed.

Israel determined to go into the promised land after they originally said they wouldn’t. It was too late. Their sudden change of heart met with God’s anger. Then at a later point in their history, Israel put their focus on themselves, making demands of God to satisfy their own desires. He gave them exactly what they wanted but also gave them emptiness and disease (Ps. 106:13-15).

Our Goals Should Allow Divine Appointments

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us of the importance of discerning the appropriate timing for our actions. It suggests that godly planning involves clarity of purpose and an awareness of the timing and seasons in our lives.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Ps 37:23). Goal setting that doesn’t allow an inconvenience or interruption to help another may be missing a God-given appointment. The good Samaritan allowed for an interruption. There are times when we need to pivot. Joseph’s dream was from God and true. There were some plot twists that he did not see coming. He had to hold on to the belief that God had a plan that would ultimately fulfill the prophecy/dream.

Putting it all Together

It is important to integrate the "God Factor" into Christian goal setting. Be flexible, acknowledge that God may intervene, and redirect plans. Pray for discernment to align your goals with God’s purposes (thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). Do not hold your plan above God’s (as in Jonah). Be open to interruptions and what seems to be disappointments. They may be divine appointments. Strict adherence to predetermined goals may hinder openness to the Holy Spirit’s interventions and detours divine appointments. Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you…”

In the next part of this series, we will delve into “your word is your bond” and excuses.

Guest Blogger: Mark Gedeon