Should Christians Set Goals?

It shocked me to discover many Christians believe it is wrong to set goals.


The argument for this belief comes from the  book of James in the New Testament. James, the brother of Jesus, says this…

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  James 4:13-16

James is echoing the sentiment of this passage from the Old Testament:

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1

Do these verses teach us that setting goals is sinful arrogance? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it is our duty as Christians to set goals, and I have three strong reasons to support that assertion. We’ll get to those in a moment, but first I want to tackle this idea that Christians should not set goals at all.

People who hold this view (that goal-setting is wrong) usually offer as argument the idea that they are “free to be led by the Spirit”. They want to be sure they are “open to God’s will”. There are at least three incorrect pre-suppostions embedded within this position. If this is your belief, you are assuming:

Your “feelings” and “promptings” are the one and only infallible way of accessing God’s specific plan and will for any situation. You can only trust those feelings of yours to know when you are “in God’s will”. Hello, scary cult leader. Our emotions are important for relating to God and what He is saying, but they don’t rule over everything else. Sometimes our feelings are just inaccurate.

Even Jesus experienced this. In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, he was emotionally distressed and asked God to spare him from the horrors that lay ahead. But Jesus ultimately conceded, “Not my will but Yours.” Emotionally, he did not want to experience what was to come – but He knew it had to be done, and He did it.

The second pre-supposition those opposed to goal-setting make is that Holy Spirit only leads us spontaneously – that He never leads us to make plans. That is simply not supported by scripture. Paul made plans (Romans 1:13). The early Apostles made plans ( Acts 6:1-3). Jesus made plans (Matthew 10:5-15).

Finally, those holding the “no goal-setting” view are disregarding the fact that we can also hear the voice of the Holy Spirit though God’s written word. The Bible makes it clear that we can receive fresh revelation from god through his written word ( Matthew 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

3 Reasons Why Christians Should Set Goals

According to the ancient wisdom of the Proverbs, the wise business man will set goals and prepare for the future. In fact, in Proverbs 6 the author calls those who refuse to plan for the future sluggards. This passage makes it clear we should value preparation: “she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”

The scripture teaches us that while the outcomes and victories belong to God, we must still plan, prepare, and perform with wisdom.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31

The Lord says, ”Do not fear or be dismayed … for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15

Not only does God encourage us to make plans (set goals) he wants us to get the best advice we can to help make those plans: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

So was we fly into the new year, hurtling at the speed of light toward 2015, set some goals! Make plans that honor God, and set your sites high for 2015.

Simply wishing for big results is not enough! You must develop a plan, set an objective to be reached, and follow through with action.

“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.” Henry Kissinger

How I Set & Achieve Goals… And How You Can Too

I use a system – on that I just discovered last year.

And boy, does this system work! In the previous 12 months, I have eliminated over $100,000 in debt, restructured my business, and lost over 35 pounds of fat!

I have tried just about every goal-setting system or method you can name, and with varying degrees of success. Some approaches are definitely more effective than others.

Tomorrow I will share the system that revolutionized my year… and I believe it can help you do the same for your life in 2015.

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • Ron Pitzen

    Hi Ray and all those who participate!

    “A farmer too lazy to plow his fields at the right time will have nothing to harvest” (Pr 20:4). There are so many passages in scripture that demonstrate the need to plan and many of them are related to agriculture. Plowing is planning for the coming crop. Planting is planning. Even pruning the grape vines is planning for a greater harvest. I get it, though, that planning too aggressively and holding too staunchly to my own plan can interfere with God’s plan for my life — God’s will. Really, it’s a matter of balance. I plan clearly but walk my plans out softly, listening all the while for God’s lead. The biggest mistakes I made in learning this balance were actually overshooting God’s guidance. I would hear him say, “Ron, head south” and like a shot, I was gone south. After a good hard run, I’d notice that I wasn’t hearing further direction. Eventually, I would stop, cock my ear toward heaven and ask: “How far south, God — how fast?” With a chuckle, it seemed, He would reply: “You didn’t let me finish! I wanted to say, Ron, head south about ten feet, turn right and travel until I stop you.” I’d left Minnesota and didn’t stop until Iowa. God wanted me in South Dakota! The great news is this: The Holy Spirit is greater than any mistake I can make. God is very good!

    • I appreciate your transparency in sharing that Ron. Here’s my favorite part: “The Holy Spirit is greater than any mistake I can make.” I appreciate you!

  • Archie Jones

    One of my favorite illustrations of someone with a plan comes from Proverbs 31.

    Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a woman of good character. She clearly is someone who works hard but also makes plans (i.e. goals).

    16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
    17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
    18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

    You don’t stay profitable in real estate and agriculture without setting goals.

    We pray with faith from our hearts, but we can’t ignore the hands and feet we’ve been given either.

  • I sucked at setting goals all my life. I always knew about it, knew it was needed to succeed – I had heard the study done long ago about the college kids who set goals and those who didn’t – and how the ones setting the goals went way further and earned a lot more. But I still never did it. My problem was that for most of my life I never could figure out what I really wanted to do – what made me happy. I’m only now starting to set goals, but I still struggle with it. I think I’ll be working on this all my life. Maybe I should set a goal to set goals? Could be on to something here.

    • Dan… “set a goal to set goals”? I LOVE IT! Stick with me as this will be my them for the next couple of weeks. I think you’ll get a lot from what we have to share!

  • Rick Carter

    Love to hear about it Ray and blessings to you and your family for the next celebration! Please let your staff know too! =) Rick

    • Thanks Rick – blessings back to you… and I will let them know!

  • Hey Ray!

    Very good post! I am glad you shared this with me.

    However, I must admit, from my own personal standpoint, I have never heard any Christian state that goal setting is not for the believer. So, I am kinda of curious as to know where you have heard this. Or, perhaps, what particular Christian group of members have mentioned this to you.

    I know that with the Christian organization that I am associated with, this is not something that we state from behind our pulpits. In other words, we are all for goal setting and believe that it is highly essential for both secular and spiritual success.

  • Ruth Ann

    So cool. I´m curious about your new planning system.

  • Most excellent post Ray! It is greatly needed. I often run into people that “think” they believe in setting goals but their actions and speech says different. Very well put!