It’s already the 2nd Quarter of 2016. Wait, what??!!
During my devotional time on the 1st April, I was meditating on James chapter 2 (AMPC) and the following verses kept me in a loop:
17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).
18 But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith.
2016 holds many dreams and aspirations for many of us. A lot of people, I believe, spent a good chunk of 2015 preparing their ideas for a launch in the new year. But now, we are 4 months in and I still see social media memes of people making April their new January. Are many people’s goals yet to be actualized; have people given up already after a few setbacks in the first quarter of the year; are people still dancing in a loop with procrastination and therefore need yet another month to restart and propel themselves?
Has your ship set sail or is it still at the harbour?
If your ship is still at the harbour, we need to talk homie! Have you done all you can within your control and now it’s just a waiting period for other things to fall into place? Okay, that’s fine because it’s all part of the journey. Besides, slow progress is still progress so keep truckin’ amigos!
Or perhaps you are one of those still waiting for perfect conditions before you can take the first step? If so, I hope you already know that, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes chapter 11 verse 4 TLB).
An essential part of being a Christian and living as a Christian is in your audacity to take risks and making initial moves rather than sitting around waiting for miracles. They usually say that faith is not about seeing the whole staircase but about taking the first step and trusting that by the time you have to take the next step, God would have put it in place. People are believing in God for so many of their visions to come to pass and become a reality but a lot of people are still wishing and hoping without taking any real action.
You have prayed and you have fasted, yet you do not operate as one who believes that God has already worked it out for you and therefore, all that is left is for you to seize it. Instead, you are waiting for some type of magic to happen, maybe? Well, sadly friends, that’s not faith. James chapter 2 verse 18 above basically tells us that the only way you can actually show your faith is to take action as God has directed you to or as discernment and wisdom might suggest in the given situation, even when you feel like you don’t have every single thing you need to take the instructed/necessary action. So many Bible stories exist to help us understand that God’s provision for us is always on the other side of our obedience to His instruction. If He gives you the green light, please don’t feign colour blindness.
I’ll give a recent example, to clarify what I’m saying: I remember when I started working on getting a secondment at work (see testimony here]), I battled with feelings of inadequacy as I measured myself by all the firm’s policies set before me and how I obviously wouldn’t qualify on a normal day. But when I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to still go for it, I had to trust that even if it looks unlikely at the beginning, it would happen for me simply because God has already planned that it would. But if I didn’t take the first step of at least asking around and exploring my options, there is no way God would drop it on my lap. The point is that God always does His bit and the rest is quite frankly up to us and how determined we are to succeed. As my Pastor says, “You don’t succeed because you are destined to but rather, because you are determined to“.
I was listening to a Rick Warren podcast on my way home on the evening of the 1st April and his message tied in beautifully with how I was feeling after reading my devotional. He talked about setting goals and explained that goals are essentially statements of faith and that “A goal says, “I believe God wants me to accomplish something by a certain date.” If you don’t have a date, it’s not a goal. It’s a wish. It’s a dream. It’s a desire. But wishes are a dime a dozen; they’re worthless. The only thing that will change your life is setting a goal. You’ve got to wake up from the dream and go to work!”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that setting a date guarantees results at that date because, you have to leave room for the journey God will take you through and the lessons He will teach you on the way to actualising your goals. You just have to keep going with the right dose of persistence and perseverance.
Now, I appreciate that taking the first step can be quite daunting for most people so for those who would love nothing more than to push their ship out of the harbour but have no idea where to start, Rick Warren in the same message also discussed what he calls “setting FAITH goals” and these are:
“Focused. That means it is specific. If you use the words “more” or “less,” it’s not a focused goal. “I want to be less angry” or “I want to weigh less” or “I want to be more like Jesus” are not goals because you can’t measure them. You have to be specific.
Attainable. If you set an unrealistic goal, it’s just going to discourage you. If you say, “I’m going to pray three hours a day,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Set a goal that stretches you and then trust God will help you stretch.
Individual. That means it’s personal. You cannot set goals for other people because you can’t control them. You can’t set goals for your children, your husband, or your boyfriend or girlfriend. You can only set goals for yourself, because you can control you and not anybody else. The only way you can change other people is by changing yourself.
Trackable. Trackable goals can be measured. They’re verifiable. You set a date and say, “By Nov. 30 I will have accomplished this, and by Dec. 30 I will have accomplished this, and by Jan. 30 I will have accomplished this.”
Heartfelt. Your goals have got to be heartfelt. You’ll never reach a passionless goal. If you’re not passionate about the goal, wait until you get passionate about it. If you don’t have a deep desire to do it, don’t set it.”
I have considered these in my own goal setting process now and it has really helped me focus on what’s important and given me an idea for a mind map on how to achieve my long term goals in smaller less daunting doses. For a big dreamer like me, it proves very useful so that I don’t get carried away and overwhelm myself with all the other things that don’t matter. The goal setting process should also not be one that is rushed and should not involve goals that don’t scare you enough to run to God to help you achieve them. To this effect, Rick Warren also gives another piece of profound counsel: “Set bigger goals and spend the rest of your life going after them. If it’s not worth the rest of your life, then it’s not worth 5 minutes of your time.”
Finally, to all those currently sailing on the high seas: Well done! You are already more successful than many others because you dared to begin. However, a time will come when you’ll be tempted to go back to the harbour especially when the waters become incessantly troubled: times of distractions, delay, disappointment, dead ends and all the other beautiful frustrations that come with trying to achieve a goal. Just remember that all these are normal. The presence of these frustrations is not an accurate representation of the glorious end that God has already established for you so you must purpose in your heart to not give in to discouragement. The stronger the current, the closer you are to the finish line 😉
So I hope that gives you guys a bit of a kick for this quarter and all your many valid God-inspired dreams. Set some FAITH goals and believe that God has already gone before you to make the crooked paths straight (Isaiah chapter 45 verse 2).
You can do it!