the first practice of a student of Life i would like to delve into certainly requires a great deal of purposeful focus & intentionality: … having goals & a plan to achieve them.
i don’t think i ever really understood the importance of this until one fateful thursday night in early 2006. shaun & i were still part of [& leading] the campus ministry at our church. at the time, i was 24 & in my sixth year of undergrad. the general practice of our campus ministry was weekly bible studies [guys’ & girls’] on tuesday nights & group worship & devotional time on thursday nights. it was the first thursday night devo of the spring semester, shortly after the new year began. our close friend & fellow leader in the ministry, chris kessler, was the devo leader that night. his lesson was on goals.
he challenged us to think about how much time we spend on school, working toward various career & personal goals. whether or not we made resolutions on january 1st, we all had goals. whether or not we had detailed plans on how to achieve those goals, we were likely spending much of our time working toward them. we talked about the kinds of goals we have — making good grades, getting internships, losing weight, being more productive, watching less tv, etc. but how many of us had spiritual goals? how much time did we spend working toward being Christlike? studying the bible? serving? praying? letting God work on our weaknesses? growing in our gifts & strengths? if we claimed to be christians & to seek after God, how much time were we spending actually doing this? did my annual resolutions or goals reflect my “priority” on God? that was the bomb he laid on us that night. and it tore my world apart. i have quite seriously never been the same.
i had grown up in church all my life. my dad was a preacher. i faithfully continued going to church even when i moved out & my parents couldn’t make me. i was a super involved member & later leader of our campus ministry. i was at church 3-5 times a week. i spent every spring break on a mission trip. i taught girls’ bible study. i attended bible camp for a week every summer, teaching & counseling teen girls. surely, no one could dispute that i was a christian who was giving God my all?!
but that night, God cut me to the deepest places in my heart & mind. i knew that my goals, what i spent all my time working towards, was not God. it was not to glorify Him. it was not to become more like Christ. and i wanted that to change.
chris issued a challenge to all of us that night. he asked each of us to choose one thing we needed to work on in our spiritual life & to set it as a focus or a theme for the year. he asked each of us to choose one verse or passage in the bible that could be a regular reminder & encouragement throughout the year to intentionally work on our theme. he warned us that he would be asking us to share what theme & verse we chose the following thursday at devo. oh, how accountability can motivate!
most of us did our homework. i don’t know whether it affected everyone else’s 2006 like it did mine. i don’t know if it’s still affecting everyone else’s 2012 like it is mine! but for me, that was the beginning of a whole new christianity & a whole new life. really, if i could pinpoint the time that i became a student of Life, it wasn’t when shaun & our teens first coined the phrase a couple of years ago. it was that seemingly ordinary but fateful thursday night in early 2006.
from that point on, i have made goals for myself every single year. i set 12 goals & divide them evenly into 3 spiritual goals, 3 physical goals, 3 intellectual goals, & 3 emotional goals. [some other time i’ll share what kinds of goals i’ve made over the years & how i’ve done accomplishing them.] and every single year since 2006, i have chosen a new theme for my year — something i need to cultivate in my walk with Christ. every year, i choose a theme passage from the bible to keep me focused. of all the practices i’ve developed in my life, that make me a student of Life, this one is the most pivotal & most profoundly influential.
i know you’re probably wondering what i chose as my theme that first year. that’s another story for another time. [specifically, for tomorrow.] for now, i want to ruminate on how intentionally setting goals matters. we’ll never change without a goal & a plan. and probably not without some accountability, too! to be a student of Life, you have to make your whole priority be glorifying God. to be a student of Life, you must have goals that challenge & change you more into the image of He who is the Life.
what do you most need to work on in your walk with Christ? what is your goal? what are you going to do to get there?