New Years Day is one of my favorite holidays of the year.  And it's not because I enjoy staying up all night and partying on New Year's Eve.  Carrie and I were actually in bed, sound asleep by 11:30 last night. "Ringing in the new year" isn't that important to me, but setting and achieving goals for the glory of God certainly is. 

Every year, I follow the same pattern in setting goals and it's really worked for me.  I follow the example that the Bible gives us for how Jesus grew.  Luke 2:52 says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man."  I believe that if we want to grow and reach our full potential of what God desires us to become - we need a well-balanced plan to grow like Jesus did.  When you analyze that verse, it's apparent that Jesus focused His growth on four key areas: 

  • Wisdom - Jesus grew intellectually in His knowledge
  • Stature - Jesus grew physically as He developed into an adult
  • In Favor with God - Jesus grew in how He displayed His relationship with God
  • In Favor with Man - Jesus grew socially and in His ability to minister to people. 

I've been setting goals in these four areas of life ever since my college days.  And this morning, before sunrise, I drove to our church and sat in our worship center with a pen, my notebook, and my Bible. I reviewed the goals that I had set for 2016 and began to pray and ask the Lord what He would have me to seek to do for Him in the new year.  

So I want to challenge you to sit down at some point today and ask the Lord these four questions so that you can set some goals this year in these four areas: 

1. Wisdom: What do I want to learn this year?

If we're not learning, we're not leading.  Whatever level you want to go to, you must first grow to. Do you have a plan for personal growth and development?  What are the books you'll read, conferences you'll attend, webinars you'll participate in - that will help grow you towards your goal?  For me this year, I'll be taking a couple of online training courses on speaking and communication to better hone my craft as well as how to take the content I constantly creating and making it public through webinars on teachable.com.  I'll also be studying some of the fastest growing multisite churches in America as well to glean best principles and practices. Have a plan this year for how you want to grow. 

Author and pastor Andy Stanley makes a powerful observation about the importance of daily growth that is especially applicable to young leaders.  He says: 

“In the early years of your career, what you learn is far more important than what you earn. In most cases, what you learn early on will determine what you earn later on.”

2. Stature: What will improve my health this year? 

Setting goals for our health is probably the most common New Years resolutions that we all set each year (and usually give up on after the first week). One of my goals this year is to get my body fat percentage down to 10% and I've got a pretty solid plan to get there that involves three personal training sessions per week at our church's ROC Fitness Center, and some tweaks to my diet and nutrition. When we take charge of our emotional and physical health, we feel we can take on any challenge, and it's much easier to handle the problems of life. Those who have an edge on their health statistically have more confidence and usually bring more financial abundance in their life as well. 

3. Favor with God: What will deepen my relationship with God this year?

For most people, this may begin with faithful church attendance and participation in a small group - but it shouldn't end there.  We must learn the discipline of being "self-feeders" of the Word of God ourselves.  So for me this year, I'm starting a new Bible reading plan developed by my friend Robby Gallaty called the F260 reading plan.  Our LifeCoach Discipleship app is releasing Bible 101 in the first quarter of this year, which will give you a reading plan to take you through the Top 101 Bible passages that every Christian ought to know - with some great reflection and application questions written by our staff.  

How will you pursue a deeper walk with the Lord this year?  Maybe you need to try the spiritual discipline of fasting for the first time.  Maybe you need to begin a prayer journal.  Maybe you need to go on daily "prayer walks." Ask the Lord what He would lead you to do to go to the next level in your walk with Him. 

4. Favor with Man: What will be my ministry to others this year? 

Setting and achieving goals should involve influencing others.  What friendships do you want to begin or strengthen this year? What ministry is God calling you to serve Him with?  For the last couple of years, God's laid on my heart a burden to reach the business community with practical tools and resources to live out their faith at work.  We're going to be implementing a new ministry here in the first quarter that I'm really excited about!  What about you?  Maybe God's calling you to launch a LifeGroup in your home or to start volunteering in some area of ministry. Make this the year to step out in obedience. 

Whatever you do - make sure you write down your goals.  When I first started setting written goals, I was in my second year of college.  I wrote down a list of goals in each of these four areas on four different half sheets of paper and then I taped them to the cement block wall in my dorm room at Liberty University.  Reading over that list of goals would be the last thing I would see before I went to bed and the first thing I would see when I woke up the next morning.  It's been a yearly discipline ever since, and on average, every year I achieve 80 to 90 percent of the goals that I set for that year.

A goal that is only in your mind is not a goal at all - it's merely a wish.  You have an average of 35 thoughts that pass through your mind every single minute.  If a goal is only in your mind - it is only as significant as the other 34 thoughts that happen to have passed through at that point in time.  This is one of the many reasons why "New Year's Resolutions" don't work.  We need a plan, and then we need the motivation to work that plan. So I want to challenge you - grow like Jesus grew and set some goals for 2017 in each of these four key areas of your life!  You'll be amazed what God can and will do through you this year.