Grace -V- Goals

Andy Bunch

(Note this follows up on an idea started in This Post from earlier this week. Post three in the series here.)

We’ve all asked for things in the name of Jesus and not had it work out. We’re told that God won’t withhold any good thing from us and we pray in his name we will receive. In fact we’re told that we have not because we don’t ask, and we need to have faith that it will be done. (Psalm 37:4, Luke 12:32, James 4:2-3, Matt. 17:20).

One of the core things that goes wrong with goals is that we set them. They need to be the result of a prophetic process if we’re going to make progress, but there are a host of reasons why Christians don’t hear God when it comes to our goals. 

  1. Our goals are actually aspirations in the context of our larger purpose. Until we figure out what we’re here to do in partnership with God, goals that God helps me set won’t make sense. 
  2. God sets goals in partnership with a version of ourselves we aren’t seeing. We need to see ourselves the way God sees us in order to understand the goals on our hearts. 

Put another way, we are constrained to the level of our heart & soul health. The enemy gets to continually mess with us as we pursue the desires of our carnal heart, no matter how lofty and selfless those goals may be. 

So how do we set goals the right way if I’m a work in progress? We need to meditate for a bit on what Grace really is. (See the next section)

Even in the world they’ve noticed that we have to take our focus off the desired outcome to gain traction in our journey toward it (“the inner tennis match”). Focus on the outcome leads to “don’t screw up” thinking. We’re much more effective focusing on what it feels like when we’re doing it at our best. The gurus would say that its a mix of instinct and the hours of skill building to learn how to do it. In other words we’ve invested in achieving a certain level of success and you’ve hit the ball out of the park a few times, what state of mind were you in when you did it right. You probably weren’t thinking, “please don’t miss.” 

The gurus aren’t wrong, I just have a third source of right thoughts. By inviting God into your process you can have what Graham Cooke would call “brilliant thoughts.” These are thoughts about how to show up correctly in circumstances you haven’t even been in yet. It’s the next level of What Would Jesus Do? This is more like, by faith I know Jesus has the other end of this heavy burden we’re lifting, what’s our plan? 

Meditating on Grace for the Right Mindset 

What if we’ve had a wrong interpretation of Grace and righteousness? Before the world began God designed us to a purpose, which he never intended for us to do alone. Jesus said he only did what he saw his Father doing. An adult son of God and co-heir in Christ is restored to the family business. Your role in this season grows out of connecting the desires of your heart and innate abilities God gave you to work with, and a prophetically determined understanding of what God is up to in the world. There is a bridge there to be built and God uses his Grace and his righteousness to build that bridge. 

It will involve you building skills through perhaps thousands of hours of practice (honing your natural ability) or it might involve getting a degree/certification so the world acknowledges your right to serve in your role. It will involve solving problems for other people though we’re often tempted to make a lot out of that. Helping others is both noble and a source of income, however its an outcome. The time to consider outcomes is during planning and periodic review. We can’t focus on outcomes during performance or we’ll get so in our head we lose traction. 

Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

Yes! I’m literally saying that the key to getting into a state of flow in every area of your life is to stop focusing on your outcome in that area and start focusing on what you and God are doing together.  

There are several awesome definitions for Grace, and for Righteousness, but the combination of the two forces is a realignment of you between the design God had for you and what he’s doing right now. Setting our own goals the way the world does, by looking for the outcomes you want and creating a ladder that should lead you incrementally toward it, won’t work. Worse its a form of pride and self-righteousness. When we accept Grace then our own shortcomings stop applying. When we work in God’s righteousness then we are realigned as a conduit of what God is doing on Earth. See the graphic*