Key Scriptures: Matthew 5-7, Proverbs 21:5, Luke 14:28-31, Matthew 19:26, Romans 12:2, Proverbs 16:9, Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 15:22, James 4:15-16, Acts 16:6, Romans 15:24, Acts 8:39, Philippians 1:19-26
Guiding Question: Does God want us to have goals?
Introductory Activity: Explain the idea of a “bucket list” to students. Explain that it doesn’t always have to be a list of goals to accomplish before you die. It can be goals for a school year, summer break, a trip or many other things. Give students a few minutes to write a short bucket list. At this point there is no need to share or evaluate it.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read highlights from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. If Jesus were making a list of goals for Christians, this sermon would contain some of them. What are some of the goals Jesus might right based on this sermon? What other goals might he add from other places in the New Testament? (Spend a few minutes on this, but allow enough time to complete the lesson. You can revisit this question during the skills activity.)
Some people live their lives without a plan or goals. They tend to drift from thing to thing, finding it hard to accomplish much because they have no plans or goals. Other people make extremely rigid plans and goals. They don’t consider that God might not agree with their goals or have additional goals in mind for them. They may accomplish what they wanted to accomplish, but it may or may not have been what God wanted them to accomplish.
The answer is a balance. Having plans and goals, but watching for God to adjust them to match His goals. The people who do this will follow God’s lead as he shows He wants them to change some of their plans and goals. What does it take to be this person? Read the following verses. What does each scripture tell you about how to be someone who has plans and goals, but ones that match God’s plans and goals for you?
- Proverbs 21:5
- Luke 14:28-31
- Matthew 19:26
- Romans 12:2
- Proverbs 16:9
- Proverbs 16:3
- Proverbs 15:22
- James 4:15-16
The Bible gives us quite a few examples of times when God changed the plans someone had. The book of Acts is a great study on how God does this. Most of the time, the plans that were changed probably made no sense to the person involved. Often they wanted to go teach and preach in a certain location and God changed the location. It wasn’t that the person had a bad or ungodly plan. God just had his own reasons that He wanted them to go somewhere else first.
Read the following scriptures. What did God change? How did he let the person know He wanted them to change their plans? Can you find other examples in the book of Acts or think of other examples in the Bible.
- Acts 16:6
- Romans 15:24
- Acts 8:39
God may not physically whisk you away when He wants you to change your plans, but He will use circumstances and people to give you an indication He wants you to change. Scripture can also tell us at times that we need to change our plans (especially if they are ungodly or sinful).
Paul perhaps gives us the best picture of the attitude we should have when it appears God is asking us to change our plans. Read Philippians 1:19-26. What is Paul’s attitude? Why can he feel this way?
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Explain that the most effective goals are called SMART goals. They are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. As Christians, we know only God can decide what is achievable and relevant. He also decides the time frame in which things are accomplished, but having a time frame can help us stay on task – even if God decides to change our time line.
Have the students make some SMART goals for themselves (which may or may not be based on their original bucket list), focusing on making them specific, measurable and time bound. For example, instead of a goal being “Read the Bible more” it should be “Read one chapter in the Bible every day.” Help students change their goals until they are worded the SMART way.
Once students have written several goals, have them prioritize them. Teach them how to take their top goal and break down all the action steps that will need to be taken to achieve that goal. Encourage them to focus on one action step at a time, moving towards the goal. Otherwise, they can become overwhelmed. Action steps should have a deadline.
Follow up with students on their goals and action steps over a period of time. As they work towards one goal, help them determine the action steps for the next goal. Students should focus on only one to three goals at a time or they will become overwhelmed. As they complete one goal, they can address the next goal on the list.
Application Challenge: Read the scriptures from the lesson. Look at your goals and action plans. Start working on one of your action items.