I am on record (see my book Is There a Doctor in the House) in regard to how I ended up being a professor of NT. This post will not be about that. This post is about setting Christian goals for your life and working on them. One of the problems of course is that sometimes we make plans and set goals on the basis of what we are not good at, like a church in an overwhelmingly senior citizen neighborhood that thinks that the key to the survival of that church is to have a better youth ministry program. This is called planning from deficiencies, and it usually doesn’t work.
In order to set life goals as a Christian, in the first place you need to heed Socrates’ advice— ‘Know thyself’. You need to know what your gifts and graces are, what your potential but undeveloped abilities are, and frankly you need to know how much time you have to developing such things. If your current job is all consuming when coupled with your family responsibilities then there is not a whole lot of point in setting life goals that you have no possibility of putting in the time and effort to achieve. That would be like Don Quixote ‘dreaming the impossible dream’ and tilting at windmills he could never alter. Don’t re-enact the myth of Sisyphus in your life (look it up if you need to).
Perhaps one of the things a person can do to make room for some fresh life goals is lower their lifestyle expectations. A great deal of the reason why some Christians find themselves swimming in debt and having to work 60-80 hours a week is that they have bought the lie that conspicuous consumption is the good life. Actually, you may need a car but you don’t need a gas-guzzling luxury SUV. You may need clothes, but you don’t need Gucci, Oucci, and Couchi. You may need a home or at least a decent apartment, but you don’t need a mansion, and I could go on. Christians need to de-enculturate themselves from a lifestyle that: 1) they really can’t afford to live, and 2) is a bad witness, and 3) at the end of the day doesn’t bring you love or happiness, despite our cultural myths.
Sometimes, it is a good life goal to simply figure out a way to have balance in your life— balance between work, rest, play, study, worship, relating and so on. I would remind you that ‘retirement’ is not a Biblical idea, it is a post-industrial revolution idea. Rest is a Biblical idea, retirement is not. There are plenty of good reasons to save money, but the best one is so that you can give self-sacrificially to others, not spend your children’s inheritance on yourself and your Winnebago. I’m not planning on retirement. I’m planning on redeployment when the time comes, until I am no longer able to serve the Lord. As John Wesley says, my regular prayer is ‘Lord don’t let me live to be useless’.
If I had to list a couple of real life goals they would be to take seriously what 1 Thess. 4 says is the will of God for my life, namely my sanctification. I want to be a more Christian, more loving, more kind, more joyful, more ethical person. As I get older I also want to draw closer to the Lord— ‘to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, follow him more nearly day by day’. Those are things I can work on a bit at a time, everyday.