Goals and the Christian Overachiever

Someone has defined a goal as a dream with a deadline. Personally, I prefer “dream with a to-do list”–probably because for me the first four letters of “DEADline” have ominous significance. I probably take a day off my life every six months, worrying about completing projects on time.

Not that the to-do list approach works that much better. Right now, I am keeping myself up late working on this post–which isn’t scheduled for over a week–in the name of clearing the next ten days for a LONG Independence Day break by jumping ahead to cross out a few extra items on next week’s calendar.

The to-do list and the deadline are my worst idols. I can picture myself 55 years from now, gasping for breath in a hospice and arguing with God that “I can’t go to Heaven yet; there are still sixteen items on my bucket list!”

Those of us inclined to workaholism and legalism–who stake our personal worth on getting everything perfect–miss the whole point of goals. They should be tools that encourage us to achieve all we can, not slavemasters who constantly threaten to punish us if we get off schedule. They’re supposed to give us the joy of shooting for the stars, not fill us with the terror that if we look back we’ll see something gaining on us.

Did Jesus ever consider setting a goal to heal every sick person in Palestine? We don’t know. But we do know that He felt no obligation to come running to everyone who wanted Him (cf. Mk. 1:35-39) and that He prayed to the Father at the end of His life, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (Jn. 17:4), despite the many unsolved problems that remained on earth.

Did Paul ever achieve his goal to visit Spain (Rom. 15:23-24)? We don’t know. But we do know that at the end of his life, he confidently declared, “I have finished the race … now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord … will award to me” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Achieving their goals was less important to them than achieving God‘s. If Paul had to die without accomplishing all he’d hoped to do, that mattered little if he could be confident that God was pleased with the fruit his life had borne.

Would God give us a strong leading to achieve a goal and then allow us to fail? Sadly, there are Christians sunk into bitter despair because they are convinced God did exactly that; it feels almost as if He lied to them. I think this is another matter of God’s ways being higher than ours. He may give us the vision, knowing that full accomplishment is not to His best purposes, as incentive to aim high. It’s better to attempt a great goal and achieve only part of it, than to always be careful we set our goals small enough to achieve.

Lord, show me how to pursue great goals in the right way and for the right purpose!

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1 Comment

  1. Jerrie

     /  July 5, 2013

    Katherine, once again, you scored. Great message. Thank you.

    Reply

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