By Mark Mayberry 4/2/2017
The word “goal” often carries sports connotations. Webster defines it as “(1) the terminal point of a race; an area to be reached safely in children’s games; (2) the end toward which effort is directed: aim; (3) an area or object toward which players in various games attempt to advance a ball or puck and usually through or into which it must go to score points.”
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says this noun means “(1) (in soccer, rugby, etc.) a pair of posts linked by a crossbar and forming a space into or over which the ball has to be sent in order to score; (2) an instance of sending the ball into or over a goal; (3) an aim or desired result; the destination of a journey.”
The word “goal” occurs 4x in the New American Standard Bible (Hab. 2:3; Luke 13:32; Phil. 3:14; 1 Tim. 1:5). Considering each is instructive.
Prophecy is given for a purpose: By revealing the mind of God, and spiritually significant future events, prophecy provides spiritual guidance and understanding, demonstrates God’s divine foreknowledge, and strengthens the faith of disciples (Hab. 2:2-3; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
The Son of God became flesh for the purpose of fulfilling the demands of the Law, paying the price for our sins, offering Himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin, destroying the power of Satan, and offering lost humanity the promise of reconciliation and redemption (Luke 13:31-33). “I (will) reach My goal” is an affirmation that Jesus came to accomplish God’s eternal purpose (John 4:34; 17:1-5).
While many miss the point of preaching, and thus turn aside from “the faith” to fruitless discussion, Paul affirms, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In other words, the gospel message is not one option among many, but singular and soul-saving. It is not aimless and speculative, but designed to change hearts and lives. Truth must be internalized, resulting in submission to God’s rule and implementation of God’s love (1 Tim. 1:3-7, esp. v. 5).
Speaking his personal commitment to Christ, Paul said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Commending this approach, the apostle adds, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude…” (Phil. 3:12-16, esp. v. 14).
Goals for Our Children
We should have goals for our children. We want them to grow up healthy and whole, spiritually and emotionally balanced, with a value system that is based upon the Word of God. Godly parents desire that their children develop in a similar manner to young Jesus, who grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).
Therefore, let us walk in the steps of faithful Abraham, who commanded his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). Recall the admonition given to ancient Israel: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons…” (Deut. 6:4-9). Heed the injunction of the inspired apostle: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Goals for Our Congregation
We should have goals for our congregation. The church should grow up in Christ, enjoying peace and spiritual prosperity, where each member is active, doing his or her part. Following God’s perfect pattern, Christians are fitted together, and grow into a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22).
God has provided a framework in which we can mature and prosper, having provided offices of revelation, offices of proclamation, offices of oversight, and service; “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies” (Eph. 4:11-16).
Jealous rivalry has no place in a fully-functional body. As the foot, hand, ear and eye serve different purposes, so we have different abilities and talents, which serve the overall body. Selfishness must yield to service (1 Cor. 12:14-31). By walking in truth, we enjoy spiritual well-being and prosperity (3 John 2-4).
Goals for Ourselves
We should have goals for ourselves. Instead of living in the past, focus on the present (Phil. 3:12-16). Forgetting those things that are behind includes both success and failure. Some rest on their laurels, living in the glory days of the past; others are handicapped by earlier disappointments. We must not allow events in the past, good or bad, to keep us from faithfully serving God in the present.
Don’t look back. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday—what are you going to do today? “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”(Luke 9:61-62).
Be competitive and disciplined (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Stay focused, keeping your eyes on the goal (Phi. 3:14). Running with patience and purpose, constantly look to Jesus, don’t become discouraged; never give up (Heb. 12:1-3).
What if past failures are holding you back? Change bad habits into good ones. Internalize truth. God’s word is powerfully transformative, assuming that we submit to its message. Therefore, may the prayer of every disciple be, “Prove me by Your word. Purify me by Your word. Perfect me by Your word.”
Grow in knowledge and devotion. Be given to prayer. Be filled with praise. Be empowered by His precepts. Make regular progress.
Invest time in your spiritual rehabilitation. Take responsibility. When you stumble, engage in honest self-examination, and make needed course corrections. Adjust to present circumstances, starting over if necessary, but press ever onward and upward.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1996.
Soanes, Catherine and Angus Stevenson, eds. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.