Faithlife Sermons

S142 Making Spiritual Goals Stick

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How to make spiritual goals stick.

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Introduction
Me

A. Goals are hard to make stick

Consider the common statistics
Some 80% of people who set goals never realize those goals
The fitness industry literally banks on these statistics
They sell too many memberships to their gyms (some as high as 300% capacity)
They know they will never be able to support that many people
But they also know…they won’t have to
With all the good intentions…so many people allow their New Year’s Resolutions to fail and falter
Why are goals so hard to make stick?
We do not have enough time to explore every possibility…but...
Don’t know how to make good goals
Too lofty
Too imprecise (what’s success?)
We expect instant success with no hard work (come on…admit it…you do this too, don’t you?)
Don’t know how to make them a habit
Motivation gets us started...
Habits keep us going
Sometimes, we don’t stick with something long enough for it to really become a habit, or to see the results that define “success” in that goal
More often, we don’t know how to implement a process to help make them stick…to make them a habit
What if we have something important we really want to make stick?
I think spiritual goals are worth putting in the effort to make them stick

B. Spiritual goals are worth putting in the effort

Consider some spiritual goals
C.
Getting closer to God
Getting closer to my spiritual family
Becoming a more effective tool in the Lord’s kingdom
If your spiritual walk is important to you…you take it seriously, then you are going to want to develop yourself, spiritually
They may not be easy, be
We

B. We all have spiritual goals (or we should)

Goals set a path for growth
It is not good to be satisfied with the status quo
You should be more spiritually mature than you were this time last year…and you should want to be more mature again this time next year
As Christians, we are constantly growing…into the image of Jesus
Consider some examples
Develop new habits
Reading the Bible more regularly…maybe 5-6 times a week (at least)
Praying more, each and every day (or even developing the subjects about which we pray)
More kindness, patience, gentleness in my interactions with others (family??)
More involvement in spiritual activities with the congregation or with others pursuing spiritual benefit
Try for some accomplishments
Read the Bible in a year (or half if that’s a bit too much to chew off the first time)
Offer Bible studies
Give more time or resources
Give so much more of your time and resources this year than you gave last year
Become trained (how to study/evangelism/conversations)
Become trained in a skill that will help you in your spiritual life (how to study the Bible, how to do evangelism, how to start spiritual conversations, etc.)
Consider your own spiritual goals
Did you develop any this past week?
What might be some good goals
What do you want to have accomplished this time next year?
New habits?
New relationships?
But here is the question for us this morning: How can you make these important spiritual goals stick? How can you ensure they will still be going on, or have been accomplished by next year?
God

C. God’s word gives us some helpful insights into making goals stick

There is no scripture (in my mind) that deals with “10 Ways to Make Goals Stick”
But we’re not the first to want to improve our lives in a spiritual manner
Joshua gives us a great example of setting spiritual goals

D. First step: begin with a goal in mind

However, we are not the first people who wanted to make improvements in our spiritual lives…and we are going to look at an example from the end of Joshua’s life, to help us see how we might implement and keep spiritual goals in our lives
The first step in getting any goal to stick is very, very simple: you need a goal to begin with
Read:
Read:
Joshua 24:14 NASB95
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:14 NASB95
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
Joshua has a goal in mind for himself and he offers it to the people, too
Notice what Joshua does
Notice what Joshua does
He establishes the goal: “…fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth...”
He establishes the distractions: “...the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt...”
The solution to overcome the distraction: “...put away the gods...”
Joshua wants this goal to stick…so he instructs the people
We can develop our own ways to get our goals to stick from Joshua’s instructions
We can consider their goals and methods
Joshua’s goal is very admirable, spiritually
To serve God
He wants the people to follow him in this goal
But he also knows goals can be dismissed or challenging
We are not dealing with establishing our goals, this week…we want to figure out how to make them stick
Fortunately, now that Joshua has established the goal, he is going to give us some insight into how he and the Israelites will make this goal stick

Consider: Anything worth doing is going to be challenging.

With a goal in mind…how does Joshua plan to make this goal stick?

TRANSITION: I imagine you have some spiritual goals you think are pretty important…so let’s look at the example of Joshua to see how we might learn how to better stick with our spiritual goals
Body

I. Goals Stick with Accountability ()

Read:
Joshua 24:15 NASB95
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:14 NASB95
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15 NASB95
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

A. Joshua has “accountability partners”…the Israelites

Joshua puts his commitment and goal in front of everyone he is addressing (the whole nation)
He has offered the option and opportunity for all the people
You can serve the gods of Egypt, the gods from before Abraham came into Canaan, or even the gods of the Amorites
He presents the motivation for the BEST choice
“…the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living...”
If they were defeated by our God, why would you choose them?
Then Joshua puts it all out there…he makes it public what he is committing to do
His goal: serve the Lord
He is not alone, his family (house) will join him
This commitment will not only motivate the other Israelites (if Joshua is doing it, then we should, too)…but it will bring accountability in Joshua’s commitment, as well
Accountability is a powerful motivator
In fitness circles, if you workout with a group, or even a partner, you are more likely to stick with your fitness goals
You don’t want to let your “partner(s)” down
You drive harder when you see others succeeding and doing the difficult tasks
When there is a deadline or some overhanging requirement, it forces you to perform (accountability) [in my own experience…Sunday comes every few days]
If, somehow, Joshua falters in his commitment, he can look around at the people who know his commitment, and that can drive him to keep the commitment to serve God

B. How will you be held accountable? By whom?

When it comes to goals, it helps to have someone to hold you accountable
Test
You describe your spiritual goals, and why you want to achieve these
You meet with this person often enough to bring up the goals and your progress on these goals
That relationship of accountability with a person can help you do the hard things to meet your goals…even when you don’t “feel” like doing it
Consider:
Share your goal with someone you trust and who thinks it is a good goal (no sense asking an atheist to help you draw closer to God…right?)
Develop a plan to meet regularly (once a week? twice a month? once a quarter?)
Have a means to check on your progress, and gather encouragement when struggling to stay on task
Sometimes, there are things we can put in place to help hold us accountable
To keep from distracting websites on my computer, I installed a program that blocks websites like Facebook during times I know I ought to be working
Establishing rituals can help keep us accountable
Each time I wake up, now I am going to read the Bible for 15 minutes
Each time I walk into this store, I am going to seek an opportunity to build a relationship with the owner…trying to develop a study opportunity
Each time I sit down to eat, I remind myself to pray about someone new in my congregation
These “rituals” keep us going by automating my behavior
Reviewing goals that are written down should become a habit
Sticky note on the mirror
Written in your planner
Part of your daily work starting habit
Joshua gave himself accountability, and if we want to get these important goals to stick, if we want to make God our priority in life, accountability is a great way to help us on that path
TRANSITION: If we want to make a goal stick, one of the first ways we accomplish this is to have some sort of accountability, whether in a person or a practice, that helps us keep up with the commitment. Joshua gave himself accountability, and if we want to get these important goals to stick, if we want to make God our priority in life, accountability is a great way to help us on that path
II. Goals Stick with Action

II. Goals Stick with Action ()

Read:
Joshua 24:22–23 NASB95
Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Joshua 24:15 NASB95
“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

A. Joshua develops an action plan

First, Joshua understands “success”
Any goal needs to know what the POINT is…where are you trying to get with this goal?
Test
Joshua’s goal is simple: serve the Lord
Test
Make the Lord the prime decision maker in life
Make the Lord’s Law the guide in life
But you always have to have that “Next Action”…the first, and sometimes the second steps to take to move you in the right direction
Joshua tells the people the first step to serving the Lord: “…put away the foreign gods which are in your midst...”
These might have been gods they had inherited from their parents who had grown up in Egypt
These might have been gods they had captured as they went through the land of Canaan, conquering the pagans
“But wait, Gabe…didn’t they just conquer the whole land with God’s help? Why would these people still have foreign gods in their midst?”
First, old habits are hard to break…sometimes, “Mom and Dad did it this way” is a strong pull to keep doing something…even if it is wrong
Second, these might just have been valuable idols they had on hand (gold, silver, etc.)
Joshua knows if these idols remain in the camp (even if they are not being worshipped), they are likely to become a stumbling block
Second step: “…incline your hearts to the Lord...”
Move in the direction of God
If you want to make serving God your goal, you need to lean in His direction
Begin taking steps toward God
Reading His word
Praying
Asking, seeking, researching…go to those who you think might have some insight
Even if they don’t know what perfect service to the Lord looks like, they now have a few first “steps” they can take to begin their process of growing toward their goal

B. What are the next steps to success in your goal?

B. Insert Here
First, you need know and understand “success” in your goal
If we used Joshua’s goal (serve the Lord), success might be taking an audit of my life
Are there areas of my life I don’t allow God to “make the decisions”?
My career
My friends
My stuff
My time
Are there sins I am trying to hold onto?
Am trying to keep God out of something in my life?
If we used a habit goal (reading the Bible for at least 5 minutes every day), success might be a streak of some sort
If I read the Bible for at least 5 minutes 6-7 times a week for 10 weeks, I will be successful in implementing the habit
If I write down a prayer list of people I intentionally pray for at least three times a week for four weeks, I will be successful
If we used an accomplishment goal (inviting friends and family to church or Bible studies), success might be
I will make an offer of Bible study with at least 10 people this year (notice: not that 10 will say yes, but that I will offer to 10)
I will read the whole Bible in one year
I will be successful if I volunteer at least twelve times this year
Second, you need the “Next Action” list (you don’t need to know how to get to the perfect end result)
Second, you need the “Next Action” list (you don’t need to know how to get to the perfect end result)
When you look at success, sometime the end result seems overwhelming and you don’t know how to get there
The people of Israel might have felt serving God was just too lofty…how can we ever get to that point?
For you and me, we can get overwhelmed when we look at our own goals
“How can I ever read the WHOLE Bible in just one year?”
“How can I talk about spiritual things to so many people?”
But break it down into smaller pieces
If I want to read the whole Bible in a year, all I need to do is break it down into 20-30 minute chunks 5-6 times a week
If I want to talk to 15 people about spiritual things this year, all I have to do is start with just one…or maybe, I just need to learn different techniques to begin conversations like that
Third, you need to begin taking action
All the planning in the world would not have made the Israelites give up their idols…they needed to go into the tent, grab the idol, and get rid of it
All the hopes, dreams, and aspirations don’t mean a thing if you don’t start doing the effort in your goal (trust me…I am good at planning…not as good at execution)
Third, you need to begin taking action
Test
TRANSITION: Lofty goals are great! They help inspire you to do great things…but, if you don’t want to be overwhelmed, then the best thing to do is to take them one little step at a time, breaking them down into manageable steps, and then start doing them…but there is one more thing Joshua shows us to get these goals to stick

III. Goals Stick with Awareness ()

Read:
Joshua 24:24–27 NASB95
The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.”

A. Joshua put up reminders to keep the goal front and center

It is not enough just to have a goal, you need to think about that goal a lot
If you consider many of the failures in the history of the nation of Israel, they often began when people were forgetful of what God had done for them
Most of Judges is a story of one forgetful generation after another and their failings when they stopped remembering the goal of serving the Lord
They put up memorials, but then they ignored those memorials, or they got replaced
Joshua wants to make sure no one is going to forget this goal
First, he “wrote these words in the book of the law of God”
This is the Bible…the very words we are reading
They had an obligation to read the Law on a regular basis
This would keep their recorded commitment to serve the Lord (their spiritual goal) in the front of their minds
Second, Joshua “took a large stone and set it up there under the oak”
The stone was not a decoration…it had a purpose: “‘…this stone shall be for a witness against us…so that you do not deny your God...”
The stone was permanent…it was a physical and constant reminder of God’s expectation they hold to their commitment to serve Him

B. How will you keep awareness of your spiritual goals?

Test
Write down your goals
It has been documented that you are much more likely to accomplish your goals if they are written down (something like 40% more likely)
This helps make the goals tangible and real
If your goal is to serve God more this year, write it down…even write down HOW or WHY you want to do this service
If your goal is to develop the spiritual discipline in your life, describe WHAT disciplines and HOW you will develop those
But you need to be able to see, to be aware of the goal
If you wrote it down, review it
In a notebook that you will use often
In a program on your phone or computer you open and use often
On a sticky note taped to your bathroom mirror or bedside table
You might put an artifact, like Joshua’s stone, where you will see it and be reminded of your goals
Put your Bible next to the coffee pot in the evening so you see it first thing in the morning
Keep a tally of your habits as you have been successful, so you see the progress each day as you succeed
TRANSITION: Joshua thought his goal was worth accomplishing, so he made sure no one forgot the goal…you and I can remember our own goals and keep them on the front of our minds…this will help us drive forward in our efforts
Conclusion
You

A. You have an opportunity to succeed in those goals you thought about last week

But good intentions and hopes are not going to be what causes those goals to stick and become a reality
If we want to success in our spiritual goals, we need to be intentional about how we implement those
We need to implement accountability in our goals
We need to take action toward our goals
We need to maintain awareness of our goals

B. What might convince you to implement these practices?

There is a lot of science behind the suggestions we considered today for goal setting
but I think the best convincing evidence you can have is the outcome for these people who made the goal to serve the Lord with Joshua
But I think the best convincing evidence you can have is the outcome for these people who made the goal to serve the Lord with Joshua
READ:
Joshua 24:31 NASB95
Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel.
jo 24 31
We
We

C. Can you imagine what it would be like for you this time next year if you stuck with the goals you made to better serve the Lord?

Isn’t that the type of person you want to be, spiritually?
Isn’t that the kind of congregation we want to be a part of?
Don’t we all get excited by the prospect of success?
What is holding us back? You and I CAN and SHOULD accomplish our spiritual goals…we just need to get them to stick!
Consider…60 days to ingrain a habit
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