The world we live in defines us based on what we have achieved. Just think... What is the first question you ask someone the first time you meet them? Normally that question is, what do you do for a living? In other words, tell me about what you achieved so far in your life. The world encourages us to set a goal and do everything we can to achieve it because that is what will bring us success and happiness. We are told to study hard and finish school. Work hard and get that promotion. Practice daily and make it to the big league. All of those are great goals but what happens when that goal dictates our every action? The world says our achievements dictate our worth and make us successful. God tells us that our title, our achievements, and our status do not dictate our worth, He does. As believers we are standing at a crossroads with a choice, A. follow the world’s way and allow our achievements to define us or B. accept God’s grace that tells us that we are saved by faith in Him and our worth is not based on anything we do?
One of the main reasons I felt led to write on the subject of how being goal-oriented can be dangerous was because I struggle with it personally. During my time in the business world, I realized a few things about myself. First, in order for me to feel successful, I had to have an end goal. It didn’t matter if it was a big or small goal, I just needed to have a goal to mark if I was successful or not. Second, if I don't have it written down on my to-do list it would probably not happen. Although those don’t seem to be bad at first glance when I was allowing my goal to define if I was happy at the end of the day or not it had gone too far.
I know what you might be thinking that being too goal-oriented seems like a cop-out to the interview question what is your greatest weakness. But, in my experience being too goal-oriented is actually a weakness I must overcome. I have a tendency to get hyper-focused on the results and forget to take my time in the process. This leads me to overlook the little thing in my journey to the goal and drains me of joy in the process. When I allowed myself to do this in my professional life, I saw it start to carry over into my spiritual life as well. I began to ask God what I could do to earn His love? Should I be reading more, volunteering more, giving more money? I was putting limitations on God’s love by asking how I could earn it.
Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of good that can come from being goal-oriented, and there are many people in the world that are the right amount of goal-oriented. Unfortunately, that is just not me. A lot of times my to-do list looks like the photo below. If you struggle with being too goal-oriented like me then you found the right blog post today.
The spiritual world works differently from this world. In this world, we are told that to earn anything we must work at it. In the spiritual world, God tells us that we are saved by grace through our faith in Him, not by anything we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” In other words, we cannot earn grace or our salvation, it is a gift. This does not give us a free pass to be lazy and just sit on the couch. It does give us the freedom to know that we do not have to do anything other than accept God's gift in order to be saved. We strive to be better people and more like Jesus because we love God and want to be closer to His heart.
Once again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a worldly goal and pushing to achieve it. For example, I think having the goal to graduate high school and either move on to college or get a good job is a great goal. There is no harm in pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself. I just urge you to make sure that you are not allowing that goal to dictate your every move. When we have a goal in place that pushes us to be more like Jesus and to be more like the person God created us to be, we have the right goal. Being goal-oriented can also help us to be more organized, keeping us on track and allowing us to focus on the joy of our progress.
It is very important to remember that God defines our worth not our achievements. My righteousness is not dependent on anything I do, it is not dependent on how many followers I have, how many views each blog post gets, or how many dollars I give to charity yearly. My righteousness has nothing to do with what I do but with what God has done. Titus 3:5-7 tells us, “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” When we allow God to define our worth we achieve the highest goal, which is eternity with him!
In closing, I am still working on the balance of being goal-oriented without letting that goal direct my path. I am learning to let God direct my path and I am working on letting Him lead me. I am taking a hard look at my goals to make sure my success is reflecting God and not my own work. Let me leave you with a few verses that I have found helpful in my journey.
“Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.”
“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.“
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
If you have struggled with being too goal-oriented and trying to earn God's love instead of just accepting it as a gift, you are not alone! There are plenty of believers in the world who are in the same boat as you. Together with God's guidance, we can help one another by sharing verses and advice to help in the process. Please share your story or advice in the comments below.
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