Here we are at the beginning of a New Year. With the turn of a calendar page, we exit 2011 and begin ’12. Farewell to ’11, with your ending of wars and echoes of past terrorism. Between natural and man-made trauma, we are happy to see you gone. Welcome, 2012. The very fact of your “newness” is refreshing in and of itself. You are a “leap year.” Please, help us to “leap” out of the doldrums of yesteryear and into a brighter, better future.
You may be familiar with my stance in years past of being critical toward “New Year’s Resolutions.” I have found little use for them and have scorned their practice. I have been reading something recently that has caused me to revisit this position.
In his 2011 book, ‘Thirsting for God,” Gary L. Thomas makes a strong case for goal-setting as a part of discipleship. He notes that, for most believers, the goal of the Christian life is salvation. Since salvation was won by Jesus on the cross and is a free gift for the believer upon repentance, the new believer has received the goal of Christianity the moment of their conversion. Thomas says, “We’ve started at the finish line. All that is left to do is hold on and wait for the award ceremony to begin. (pg. 20)”
Unfortunately, this often leaves one with a stunted form of spirituality. The church is left “more like an evangelistic club than a place where people can grow deep” in the things of God.”
Thomas goes on to posit that the first step toward “an authentic Christian spirituality” is to get a clear picture of a mature Christian. The Bible and history gives us many examples of people devoted to Christian maturity. If we ignore their examples our spiritual growth, if it happens at all, will be haphazard and random. Thomas argues that believers should set goals for their spiritual development and measure their progress against them. As John Climacus wrote in his “Ladder of Divine Ascent,” – “Regarding every vice and virtue, we must unceasingly scrutinize ourselves to see what point we have reached, a beginning, a middle or the end.”
With this in mind, I plan to spend the first several days of this new year doing some “goal tending.” In that, I intend to spiritually survey where I am and where I should be going, with God’s help. I am certain that Gary’s book will help me in this. He lays out some great historical examples and explains how those people strove for God. By this time next month, I hope to be “pressing on” and “striving” (to use some Biblical words) toward the goal that God reveals for my spiritual journey this coming year.
How about you? What is your goal for spiritual growth? Do you even have one? Are you reaching for one now? What do you believe God would like you to become in this new year? Without a goal, how will you know if you made it, or if you were close or even got half-way?
Praying for your “goal tending” in the year ahead,
Watch Gary Thomas here: