This is the time of year when many of us will begin to set goals for 2017. I am going to spend 3 days away later this month to do exactly that, as I evaluate 2016 and get ready for 2017.
I’ve said in the past that if I get one good idea from a book, it’s well worth whatever price I paid for it.
If I attend a weekend conference somewhere and come home with one life-changing, paradigm shifting concept or tool, it was worth the airfare and price of admission.
With this in mind, a number of years ago I read a book by Larry Crabb titled “The Marriage Builder.” In the book he talks about goals in marriage and makes the comment that you can’t set a goal to have a certain kind of marriage. That is more a desire because you can’t control the behavior of your spouse
He then says that you should only set goals in terms of your own behavior: what you intend to do or not do in order to have a certain kind of marriage.
The bells and whistles in my brain and spirit went into overdrive as I saw the implications of the idea in almost every area of life and ministry.
I can have a desire to see this or that happen (results) but I have no control over the results because, in most cases, it involves other people. By His grace, I do have control over what I choose to do or not do at any given moment on any given day.
So, I should set goals in terms of my behavior and pray to the end that my behavior will affect others in such a way that certain kinds of results will be achieved.
I am a big goal-setter, and over the years since understanding the difference between goals and desires, I’ve learned how to focus on what I’m going to do and leave the results to the “Lord of the Harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) when it comes to ministry.
It was Lorne Sanny (president of The Navigators for 30 years) who said,
“It was a wonderful day--the day I resigned as master of the universe.”
When I set goals which entail how others will behave or react, I personally tend to slip into control and manipulation mode, trying to make the end-results happen--whether that’s seeing someone become a Christian, a disciple, a good leader or to get my kids (and, now, grandkids) to behave in certain ways.
Mark 4:26, 27 in the 1996 version of the New Living translation reads:
“A farmer planted seeds in a field and then he went on with his other activities. As the days went by the seeds sprouted and grew without the farmer’s help.”
I Corinthians 3:6-7 (ESV):
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Both of these passages are simply saying that God brings the end results, since he is the Lord of the Harvest, as mentioned earlier.
Every farmer will do certain things to ensure a good harvest; but once he does what he can, the rest is out of his hands: the rain, the freezing cold, the insects, the tornados, etc.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying it‘s wrong to desire certain end-results that are pleasing and honoring to the Lord. What I am saying is focus on your own behavior (work ethic, attitude, loving others) and rest in the sovereign grace of the Lord of the Harvest (the Lord over the results.)
It’s a brand new world when I focus on God-pleasing and God-empowered behavior and not the results. I can have desires and dreams for certain results, but only God controls the end results. I believe the same truth applies to setting goals in the market place; admittedly though it goes against the traditional goal-setting, which usually has to do with results, not bahavior.
There is a post on my blog site called Learning from Frog and Toad which deals with this same concept that I would encourage you to read as well.
I cannot begin to tell you how freeing and liberating this insight has been for me through the years.
Thank you, Larry Crabb.