6 Keys to Setting Successful Spiritual Goals
Written by Stephanie Hertzenberg
Christianity tends to involve adherents forming a personal relationship with God. Those who are stronger in faith tend to describe themselves as having a closer, deeper or more intimate relationship with Jesus than those who struggle with their own faith. As such, strengthening and deepening your relationship with God is a common spiritual goal.
There are a variety of ways to do so, of course, and it often involves reaching smaller spiritual goals. You might feel that you need to improve your prayer life and so set a goal of praying for a longer period of time every night. You may think that you need to spend more time with Scripture and aim to spend an hour every morning reading the Bible.
Regardless of whether your goals are spiritual in nature or physical, it is easy to say that you are going to do something. It is much harder to actually do it. If you are going to reach your spiritual goals, you will need to think carefully about them and be sure that you are striving toward them just like you would any other goal. With spiritual goals, you will have divine help, but you must be willing and able to do most of the work yourself. Here are six keys to setting successful spiritual goals and successfully growing closer to God.
You are aiming to achieve a spiritual goal. As such, the first thing you should do is seek advice from God. Pray about your spiritual goal, your desire to grow closer to Him and anything else that crosses your mind.
Ask Him to help you clear out any lingering doubts and to give you strength as you embark on your journey. You can also pray to seek guidance on how to best go about achieving your spiritual goals or even what goal you should set.
Maybe you feel that you need to change your spiritual habits in order to grow closer to God, but you are not sure which specific practices you need to revamp. Is your prayer life sufficient or do you need to spend more time in prayer? Are you reading your Bible often enough or should you be aiming to spend more time with Scripture? If you are unsure where to start with your goals, prayer is your first priority.
When you set spiritual goals, your final aim is to draw close to God and improve your own faith and life. In order to do this successfully, you need to be brutally honest with yourself about what it is you really need to improve in your life.
Do not claim that you need to work on improving your patience when really your problem is that you are struggling to stay faithful to your spouse.
God will not be fooled if you pray to Him for help communicating with your spouse when what you actually need to work on is treating your parents with compassion or becoming less selfish.
Examining your flaws is never a pleasant pastime. Most people prefer to shove their imperfections to the back of their mind and never contemplate them. If you are going to improve yourself, however, you need to know what needs fixing.
Regardless of whether you are setting a spiritual goal or planning a weight loss regime, the best goals are the ones that are specific. “Get healthier” is not a great goal simply because it is too vague. What would make you healthier? Are you trying to shed fat, build muscle or improve your resting heart rate? Spiritual goals are no different on this front. “Grow closer to Jesus” is a wonderful idea, but it is a goal that can be hard to work toward because it lacks any sort of specificity. Identify clearly how you want to deepen your relationship with God.
Does improving your relationship with God mean altering your prayer life or does it mean working in your community? Does it mean standing up for your beliefs at work or spending more time in quiet contemplation? How you aim to achieve your goal will vary wildly depending on what your goal is precisely.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you are serious about achieving a goal, you need to make sure you are in an environment that is conducive to success. Take a very serious and very critical look at the people you spend most of your time with and what places you go the most often. Are they the people and places that are best suited for helping you reach your spiritual goals? If not, you need to make the necessary changes to your life.
It might seem odd to think that a person or even a place could keep you from your spiritual goals, but it is more than possible. A recovering alcoholic should not be spending their time in bars or with friends who want to do nothing but sit around and drink all afternoon. In the same way, you need to protect yourself from the people, places and habits that would come between you and your attempt at deepening your relationship with God.
Here is an unfortunate reality check. Achieving your goals is never going to be easy, regardless of what sort of goal you have set for yourself. Nothing that is worth getting is likely to be easily gained, and your spiritual goals are no different. If you set a goal to learn a new language, you can expect long hours of hard work and frustration while you try to impress the new names of objects on your brain and train your tongue to curl around unfamiliar syllables.
Spiritual goals are not going to be easily achieved simply because they are spiritual in nature. You are still going to have to show up and go after your goal. You are going to have to deal with setbacks, unexpected obstacles and the inevitable loss of motivation.
If you start working toward your goal with the knowledge that you will run into difficulties and the determination to push through them, you will be far more likely to reach your goal than if you are baffled by the first road block.
Celebrate the Little Victories
You know things are going to be difficult sometimes while you are working toward your goal. Those inevitable obstacles, however, are all the more reason to celebrate the little victories you manage to win along the way toward your larger goal. Congratulating yourself on meeting smaller milestones as you pursue your overall goal will help you to stay on track and remain motivated. Each little celebration will remind you why you are still working toward your larger goal and help you remain positive by showing you how far you have already come.
When you are working toward a large goal, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Celebrating small successes and little victories, however, can help you keep your progress in perspective and remind you to keep moving forward. After all, you have already made great progress and as Mick Kremling said, “You didn’t come this far to only come this far.” Celebrate the successes you have already gained and then keep moving forward.
Every Christian wants to improve their spiritual life, but not everyone knows what it takes to push through and really achieve your spiritual goals. It may seem odd, but using traditional goal-setting methods to set and work toward your spiritual goals is actually one of the best ways to reach them.
After all, traditional goal setting methods help you reach mundane goals under your own power. How much more effective will those methods be when you are striving toward divine goals with the help of God Himself?
Do you plan on making resolutions for the New Year? The first of the year is a great time to start fresh, set goals, and begin something new. In fact, it’s the perfect time to evaluate our spiritual health and set some goals for growth.
We can’t cause our spiritual growth. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). But God does expect our obedient and active cooperation (1 Cor 9:24-27). One way we can purposefully “train ourselves to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7-8) is through spiritual evaluation and goal-setting.
Resolutions and goals are often hard to keep. Statistics show that, at best, only 46% of New Year’s resolutions are still kept six months into the year. People lose their resolve quickly because they set unattaina goals.
Let me ask you this. We are near the end of the first month. THINK! What is different? How did you start last year? What needs to be different? The same? Are you falling into old habits?
Not holding on to new resolutions you made. Let me ask! What is different this year?
I must ask. Very few people will. We celebrate achievement, new heights etc. Do we ever ‘celebrate’ failure? The answer is “NO!” But, I will point out! A lesson it is and will always be! Learn to celebrate what you know what not to do if there is a next time.
I will bluntly ask “Do you want this year to be as last year?” For EVERYONE I can ask this! Success last year? The sky IS “limitless” – Soar! With the birds. I will point something out.
Once upon a time, to ‘fly’ was a dream. We flew!
Space was a dream, we reached!
The moon? Done.
I just said “The sky is the limit.” I misspoke! The LIMIT has NOT been seen yet or we would not strive to meet it. We compare ourselves with other ‘Mortals.’ I in no way ‘forget’ what we started on. Want to be where few have been/are? Seek God always! We started this ‘share’ with our relationship with God!
I will tiptoe over to His-storical fact.
Jacob in returning to his brother Esau wrestled a “Man.” Why would you even do this?
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a manwrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
The following five tips will help us set personal discipleship goals that will keep us growing through the year:
Concentrate your efforts.
Set just one, two, or three goals at a time. Don’t spread yourself too thin. When you experience success then add another goal.
Set goals that are attainable. If you don’t read your Bible regularly now, don’t set a goal to read the entire Bible in three months. Instead commit to read it 3 to 5 times per week.
Set goals so progress can be measured. For instance, this goal is too ambiguous: I’m going to spend more time with God. Instead be concrete: I will read one Bible chapter and pray for 10 minutes five times a week.
Develop strategies designed to move you toward your goals. If one goal is to memorize Scripture, determine how you will do that. What verses you will memorize? How often you will tackle a new one? What memorization techniques you will use?
Create manageable steps.
Break your overall goal into a series of smaller goals that are doable and will foster success. How do we begin? First, take a serious look at your spiritual health. Your weakest areas can be great growth areas in the year ahead.
Next, set spiritual growth goals using the five tips above. Planning is not “unspiritual.” Living a life that glorifies God will not happen by accident.
Most importantly, ask God to guide you as you evaluate your spiritual health and set goals for growth. He will bring the spiritual transformation as you strive to live a live that pleases Him.
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by Beliefnet. The led addition are boosts to keep us focused. Our deepest gratitude to Stephanie Hertzenberg.