Note: Welcome to the Reflective Bible Study newsletter. I have looked in the logs and seen international interest from places such as Canada, Kenya, and South Africa. If you happen to be in one of these countries, welcome, and I hope that you gain a blessing from these newsletters and studies!
Today I am looking at my list of goals (in other words, my new year’s resolutions) and I see that I have set some very lofty goals for myself. One goal is to have my student loan paid off by the end of this year, and at the current rate of payoff, this will be something that we can check off as completed before next Christmas. Another goal of mine is to complete working through the next Bible study series: The Life of Jesus (201). Currently I have the lessons completed, and I am working though them each morning—using the suggested plan of five studies per week.
However, many times our resolutions are good, but our motivation doesn’t keep up long enough for a habit to be formed. Bible study, as an example, can easily be crowded out by things such as sleeping in a little more, pressing issues at work or school, staying up late and/or being ‘too tired’, and many other reasons, but that doesn’t mean that Bible study will always be doomed to be second place.
This brings me to a passage that I read recently: Matthew 21:28-32. In Jesus’ illustration, there are two main characters—two sons. The first son is asked by his father to do a specific task and he refuses to do it—but later changes his mind and follows through with the request. The Father then asks the second son to do the task, and the second son agrees to do it, but then doesn’t follow through. The question is asked: “Which son obeyed his father?” and the answer is easily the first son, because even though he refused initially, he changed his mind and did the task.
Jesus tells the Pharisees He is speaking to that the lowest of the low will make it into the kingdom of heaven before they do. In this remark, Jesus is telling them which of the two sons represented them—the second son who talked a good talk but had no follow-through. The ‘clear’ sinners in that day and age knew where they stood, and knowing the direction they needed to walk, they could easily be drawn to Jesus and into obedience.
(Side Lesson: The first step to being able to come to Jesus is to realize your need of Jesus in the first place.)
What does this have to do with new year’s resolutions and goals? Many people have great intentions when it comes to studying the Bible but for one reason or another, don’t follow through. Perhaps there wasn’t a good plan, or perhaps a significant life event (or just busyness) knocked them off track, but the amazing gift that God has given to us is that each and every morning can be a new start. We can look at today as just being a repeat of yesterday (or 7 days ago), or we can look at each morning as a fresh start where we can choose to start fresh. Perhaps we are still on track, and that is great because we have a head start, but the lesson we can learn from this passage is each day and each moment brings with it the choice to follow through with the goal, or to give up and choose something else. Which choice will we make?
Side note about goals: Often times goals and resolutions fail because we don’t realize what we need to effectively make a goal, so here are five things that we can use as benchmarks to help our goals be successful:
- Be specific—vague goals usually aren’t reached because we never really know if we have reached them. Question to ask: Is there a way for me to write my goal where it is more specific?
- Be measurable—goals that aren’t measurable, like being vague, usually are not reachable because we never really know when we have reached them. Question to ask: Is there a way for me to add concrete numbers to my goal (ex. Lose 30lbs, or exercise 4 or more days/week)?
- Have a time limit—goals that don’t have a time limit attached to them will often end up being pushed out indefinitely. Place a deadline on the goal—even if it is December 31, 2011—so that you will have the motivation to finish. Question to ask: When do I want this goal to be accomplished?
- Be yours—if someone else (spouse, child, parent) has given you the goal or the expectation behind the goal, you often don’t have the positive motivation to continue or get back up if you have a set-back. Question to ask: Is this a goal that I have, or are other people expecting this of me?
- Be written down—there is something concrete in the process of writing down your goals. Perhaps it is a way to push yourself to clarify the goal, or perhaps it is a way of helping yourself remember the goal better. There is often pushback in regards to needing to write your goals out, but research has showed that written goals are significantly more likely to be accomplished. Question to ask: Are my goals in writing—on paper? Instead of spending the energy and effort diminishing this item, make the resolution to write them out.
Wishing you success in all your resolutions and goals in the rest of 2011—and don’t be afraid to start today with fresh enthusiasm and the choice to press forward with your goals!
P.S. Did I miss something, or would you like to respond? Join the conversation below!