The R.O.O.T.E.D. Goal Setting System helps you to identify and reverse-engineer essentialist goals that bridge the gap between the future you want and the life you’re living right now.
Sustainable, Life-Giving Goals Are:
- Rooted in your core calling
- Organically growing out of your context
- Outlined for clarity (part 1 & part 2)
- Tailored to your lifestyle
- Etched into your memory
- Developed by Providence (what we're talking about in this post)
How Can You Set Strong Goals When You Know You're Not in Control of Tomorrow?
You want to get organized around your goals and chase them with abandon.
But then reality crashes in to your plans, making you question whether goal-setting is all it's cracked up to be. Perhaps passages like James 4:13-16 or Proverbs 16:9 even thunder into your heart, making you wonder if it's even Biblically right to invest so much in to goal-setting.
Start digging into productivity and goal-setting literature, throw a stone in any direction, and you'll hit a quote about how we can (and should) be masters of our own fate and designers of our own destiny. I think this spooks Christians—and for good reason. It spooked me too for a long time.
But there's a difference between attempting to control tomorrow (spoiler alert: it'll never happen), and taking personal responsibility for your choices, recognizing that they'll have a significant impact on the future.
The Bible doesn't pit God's sovereignty against man's responsibility. It's not an either/or, it's a both-and.
In fact, in the classic James 4 passage that reminds us to make all of our plans with a "Lord-willing" attitude, verse 17 expounds on James's purpose for even reminding people that their lives and plans are but a vapor in the bigger picture of God's eternal purposes and reign over history:
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
What's the "therefore" there for? James's reminder that we're not in charge of the future is supposed to compel us to have strong priorities.
This entire series on the ROOTED Goal Setting System has been written with this heart:
- God is in control of our personal histories.
- He put us in the historical and cultural context that He did for a reason.
- He made us in His Image for the purpose of stewarding His earth and building Godly communities (starting with our own homes).
- He's given us each talents (resources such as time, money, and influence) that we are called to maximize in loving service to Him and others during our lifetimes.
- God is sovereign, and yet we have freedom of will. The dynamics of this go beyond what we could logically comprehend because we are limited creatures. While He is orchestrating all things together for His glory and the good of His people, we are also fully responsible for the decisions we make and the fruit those decisions bear.
The Scriptures (especially Proverbs) are chock full of practical wisdom about how the sowing and reaping principle plays out quite predictably in the lives of people. And yet forces such as injustice, the brokenness of a fallen world, valid expectations from others, game-changing information (and other disruptions that are allowed by God's Providence in our personal histories) come in and interplay with that universal sowing and reaping principle in unpredictable ways.
So how do we embrace personal responsibility while still respecting God's place as, well, God?
The Mindset Shift That Make Sense of Everything
Productivity literature acknowledges the fact that life rarely goes exactly as we imagine it—even if we can invest tons of time, money, and energy into making our plans work out. Books like John C. Maxwell's Failing Forward lead an entire sub-genre of books helping people cope with the setbacks, the "acts of God" (which we know are actually acts of the intimately involved God), and the personal and societal failures that coalesce to make any significant achievement a serious uphill climb.
So how do you, as a Christian, look at (and even embrace failures and setbacks) in a way that empowers you to keep moving forward on your most important goals?
You need to adopt what's called a "growth-mindset" that is founded on these two principles:
God gives you the personal responsibility to make plans and choices based on His revealed will (Scripture), the wisdom He's given you through experience, and the godly desires He's placed in your heart.
- God will develop your goals through the revelation of His Providences, and will give you more light as you walk forward, committing to be faithful even with the little you do know right now.
You may not know the future, but GOD DOES. He gives you the responsibilities and priorities that He wants to shape your focus. James uses the reality of God's Providence for tomorrow to urge us to embrace our responsibilities, and do what is right starting today.
When Corrie's Life Didn't Go As Planned
Corrie Ten Boom hoped, like many women, to marry and have a family. But when the love of her life buckled under the pressure t0 marry based on status instead of love and commitment, Corrie knew in her heart that she would never marry.
When Corrie's older sister Betsie became bedridden with illness for a short period of time, a serious vacancy was left in the family business. Corrie rose to the challenge, taking on all of Betsie's duties at the family watch shop. She found that she loved helping to run the business, and began to develop a system of bookkeeping. This was important because her father was so obsessed with his work as a craftsman that he often forgot to charge his clients! She also loved working with her father at the bench, and in 1922, she became the first woman to be licensed as a watchmaker in The Netherlands.
Corrie also taught Sunday school and Bible classes in the public schools, started a special weekly Bible study for young people with learning difficulties, fostered children, sought out the poorest of the poor, led summer camps, and founded a club for teen girls that would pave the way for a European equivalent to the Girl Scouts. She was known for her powerful executive skills and organization. Even before the refugee camps, Corrie Ten Boom walked in the footsteps of the Proverbs 31 woman, setting strong goals, making profits, and generously sharing her gains with the most vulnerable in her community.
Corrie is an incredible example of taking personal responsibility and maximizing the resources God gives for Kingdom purpose.
But even prudent Corrie couldn't have imagined what would happen next.
In the early summer of 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Soon, Corrie's beloved home and place of business, de Béjé, would become a hiding place for hunted Jews and one of the organizational outposts for the Dutch resistance. In 1944, Corrie and her entire family were arrested and shipped to concentration camps. Corrie and Betsie were mercifully able to stay together, and began running significant ministry operations within the concentration camp. Corrie watched Betsie die a horrible death, but continued on with the ministry work until God miraculously rescued her from her scheduled execution and delivered Corrie from the concentration camp.
Corrie would go on to bring Betsie's vision of developing a mercy ministry for ex-Nazis once the war was over, and teaching widely about Christ's forgiveness. Even as a very elderly woman, Corrie traveled the world as a public speaker, bringing the Gospel of Christ to millions from the stage and through the books she published. She was even granted access to dark, dangerous, and forgotten prison cells, and invited to bring the Gospel to hard-to-reach people behind the Iron Curtain in the USSR, in Red China, and in communist Cuba.
Corrie was an ordinary Christian woman. Raised in a Christian home, slighted by love, enthused by business, motivated in ministry, and a celebrated spiritual and active warrior in the resistance to Nazi genocide. God's hand in her life led her through profound depths and heights—even pushing her past any reasonable limits of human suffering, yet equipping her with Christ's strength—and then gave her a massive platform of influence. In reflecting through all of this, Corrie reveals the key to her hopeful, progress-oriented mindset:
“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
― Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
This is what it means to make plans and live responsibly in the light of God's Providence.
When we get laser-focused on the things that matter most to us (as defined by God's priorities becoming our own, a work that the Spirit does in our hearts we go deeper and deeper with Christ)—and we walk forward in hope, being faithful with little, God will work His will on our lives, bringing us more light, and showing us how to pivot into greater and greater alignment with His goals for us in His Kingdom economy.
We Walk Forward; God Gives Light
But we can't get to the future part where we're learning God's secret will, until we take those steps of faith and obedience to God's revealed will in our present. And that's why we make sure our goals are "Rooted in our core calling," "Organically growing out of our context," and "Tailored to our lifestyle." That's why this goal-setting system is so unlike anything else out there.
The starting point is God's Providence, but our path forward is lit by what He's revealed to us today. Who are the people He's given us to serve, what are the pressures He's Providentially allowing to capture our attention, and what problems has He given us to solve by leveraging the resources He's given us?
A goal-setting system like this reminds us that the Kingdom of God does not rise and fall by our efforts—but we do have the responsibility to do our part, exercise our influence, and steward our resources for Christ. This takes a great deal of personal maturity, and getting organized around our goals is an exercise of that same maturity.
So let's lean into today—into this week—with fresh perspective.
Living intentionally is all about taking personal responsibility, and setting strong goals for the development of the resources God's given us. And putting on a mature, Christian growth-mindset means that we'll be posturing ourselves to embrace all of the ways God develops our goals through the revealing of His will in the days head.