We often ask people, “What is your goal?” It’s a good question.
The answer helps us determine where the person is or better yet where they’re going. People with goals are considered switched on. They make reliable partners, usually.
But, a better question is “what is your purpose?” Goals, by nature, are temporary. We visualize and obtain many goals throughout life but once a goal is met what comes next?
Do we stop moving? Does life come to a halt? For some it does but for everyone else the question is, “what keeps you going?” The answer is “purpose.”.
One well-identified purpose can keep you reaching for many different goals over an entire lifetime. Having a purpose means we have restful pauses instead of depressions between goals.
We also must be careful when identifying a purpose or goal. Some things, like retirement, are inevitable and cannot qualify as either. Everyone eventually retires whether they want to or not, prepared or not.
So here is the understanding. Active people have goals. Clever people arrange goals that pursue a purpose.
Jesus is a good example. He was very active. He seemed to have and reach many different goals. He healed people, fed people, saved souls, debated issues, traveled extensively and was constantly teaching while doing all these things.
But, the many goals Jesus pursued, though diverse, were seamless because they were driven by one predominant purpose, evangelism.
As you study through the Gospels, particularly John, you find Jesus using a wide assortment of strategies, targeting different culture groups and moving with no obvious direction through many different areas, goals that could be viewed as disconnected. Evangelism, however, was a purpose common to them all.
Jesus had many goals and used many methods to reach those goals but He stayed true to His purpose (It’s interesting that none of Jesus methods resemble what we commonly refer to as “personal evangelism.”)
The purposes of Jesus never really changed. The specific goals of Jesus often did. The Gospel of John carries a strong evangelistic message. Every chapter reveals His evangelistic purpose but many of these chapters clearly highlight different goals.
In chapter two His goal was to create a public awareness of His presence. He did that by driving the businessmen out of the Temple. By that, He let everyone know He had arrived. Many were convinced.
In chapter three His goal was to emphasize the need for the new birth and, in fact, to encourage one person, Nicodemus, to be born again. The specific goal was different but His purpose in both chapters was exactly the same, evangelism. In fact, Jesus made one of the most familiar statements about evangelism in His conversation with Nicodemus, John 3:16. I don’t even need to quote it.
In chapter four His goal was to reach out to undesirables – Samaritans. His purpose was evangelism and in this chapter He elaborates on the nature and need for evangelism. He refers to evangelism…
- As His food (v. 32)
- As the work the Father sent Him to do (v. 34)
- And as a task that couldn’t wait (v. 35). He said the fields (humanity) are already white (fully ripened) and in need of harvest NOW!
In chapter five His goal was to challenge the religiously hardened – the Pharisees – but His purpose was evangelism. In this chapter He makes His famous statement about hearing His word, believing in the One that sent Him and the absolute security of salvation…
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (5:24)
The observations we’ve made with the first chapters in John could be done with every other chapter in this Gospel. Suffice it to say that Jesus had different goals in each chapter but always the same purpose, evangelism.
Jesus was obviously driven more by His purpose than He was by His goals. His purpose was everything. The goals were incidental. His purposes never changed. His goals changed everyday.
What about us? We often formulate goals but we rarely define a purpose. The many varied projects we engage often don’t connect to anything very significant. Onlookers might say that we are preoccupied, serving one goal after another with no apparent overriding purpose.
That is a problem because even though goals keep us focused temporarily, and possibly distracted from our problems, they can never produce peace of mind. Even long-term goals have no more value than short-term goals if no purpose is served.
Striving to become the best “something” or the biggest “whatever” only leads to another “best” or “biggest” unless you ask “why.” Eventually reaching goals of any kind becomes all-consuming. People and principles are left behind.
People addicted to reaching goals are envied not loved.
Purposes can be served everyday and provide constant nourishment for the soul, adding value to life. Goals without purpose become parasites that eventually starve your life physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and relationally.
People who are purpose driven will sometimes reach their goal and sometimes miss but they are always motivated and gratified by the purpose.
Jesus preached salvation to many people who didn’t get saved immediately. He did not always reach His goal but He always satisfied His purpose, evangelism.
Purposes are eternal…goals are not. Goals can be short term or long term but they are always confined within a time frame. Because goals have a starting point and an ending point they can never really satisfy. Purpose is passed from one generation to the next but goals will be met and discarded often. It is very possible to reach your goal and feel very flat when you do.
As Christians, our purpose should be evangelism and, like Jesus, we should try many goals and methods to serve that purpose.
If you don’t have goals your in trouble. If you do have goals but without a purpose your still in trouble. If your purpose does not include evangelism you’re going in the wrong direction.
Next time someone asks you what your five year plan is give them your life purpose instead. In fact, THINK!AboutIt now and share your purpose in the comments.