When you decide to change something (whether it be the arrangement of your furniture, or losing weight, something spiritual, or something entirely different) you come up with a plan to make it happen.
I have undergone this type of process several times. Most recently it was to build an entertainment center for a friend. I sat down with pencil and paper and began to draw up a plan for the furniture. I took measurements, and made mock ups of the sizes, so I could see what it would be like when it was done.
After my plan was all laid out I began to work, using my plan as the guide for my progress. When I had finished building the piece, it was even better than I imagined on the paper! There was something about seeing it in 3D that made it better.
How does this apply to our spiritual life?
Many times we make generalized goals for our spiritual life:
- I want to be a “better” Christian.
- I want to read the Bible “more.”
- I want to pray “more.”
- I want to me “more” involved in the Church.
- I want to be a “better” family member.
- I want to share my faith “more.”
- I want to “grow” in my faith.
- I want to sin “less.”
And the list goes on and on. The only problem is that we have not defined what it looks like to be “more,” do “better,” or “grow!” With these generalized terms when tend to see even the smallest movement as a success, or we don’t even try because we do not have a solid measure by which to chart our progress. We must be more specific in our spiritual goal setting.
Let’s take a few from the above list to show what I mean.
“I want to read the Bible more.” This is a good goal that is often not followed through. If I were setting this as a goal, I would first need to ask myself, “How much do I currently read the Bible?” Maybe you don’t read it at all or maybe you read it everyday, either way, you have to be honest about where you are if you are going to move forward.
If I were reading the Bible 3-4 times a week, then I would set my goal for reading it everyday. If I only read it occasionally I would shoot for 2-3 times a week. I would also, set a specific time on my calendar and protect that time. When the notification on my phone went off, I would stop what I was doing, and begin to read.
By setting apart specific time and protecting it, you will find that you always have the time to do the things that are important.
Let’s look at, “I want to be a better Christian.” For this you have to identify what a ‘better’ Christian looks like. What does this ‘better’ Christian do, say, act, think, feel? When we have defined what a good Christin is, then we have to evaluate ourselves honestly based on the list. How are we doing in the areas that we decided were important? If we find that we are lacking, then we can make a plan for that area to improve. If we find that we are excelling in another area, then we should keep up the good work!
You can see how defining what we are trying to do helps us actually know if we are reaching our goal. If we want to sin ‘less,’ then technically, if you sinned one less time than you did last year, you have succeeded. But it is likely that you mean something different than just one fewer sin. You probably have a specific sin, or a group of sin that you are trying to eradicate from you life. In that case you have to evaluate what causes you to keep going back to that sin, and find out ways to keep you from those things that lead to the sin you are trying to cast off. You may even recruit an accountability partner to help you.
Better, grow, more, and less, are starter words–then we must define them. After we define them we can create a plan that helps us accomplish our goal.
Finally, after you set your goal you may stumble. You might miss a reading or prayer. DON’T GIVE UP! Too often when we make one mistake we give up altogether. DON’T GIVE UP! Look for the next opportunity to fulfill the steps that will get you to your goal. If you miss a Bible reading today, start again tomorrow. If you blow up at your family member, apologize and start over. Never give up just because of one setback.
You can do it!
Share you spiritual goals in the comments below. If you are brave, ask for help in shaping them into measurable steps!