People are aimless without goals. I sometimes ask young couples, “Where do you see yourself in one month, one year, and five years?” If we never set goals, we never work toward things that are worthwhile.
Some goals we set might include graduating from high school with a 4.0, getting a college diploma, getting married, having children, traveling to Ireland, taking a Bible lands tour, achieving a personal record half-marathon, losing ten pounds, paying off a mortgage, buying a sports car. These things can’t be accomplished overnight, and so goals help us figure out what we need to do in order to get there. As Solomon says, “the plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Prov. 21:5).
Still, one of the features of modern life is that our goals have gotten all out of whack. One writer said that we 21st century Americans work at our play, play at our worship, and worship our work, and that we are much the worse for it. I tend to agree.
Let’s consider priorities for a moment. Let’s set some important goals, but let’s also identify which are the goals that God has for our lives as well. In fact, while I want many good things for our teens, and especially my own kids, I would be satisfied for them if they would achieve just these four. You may not make it to the medal podium at the Olympics, you may not make it to Harvard Medical School, and you may never be the President of the United States; you may never own a Corvette, get married, or even travel beyond the state line; but if you achieve these four things, I will be exceedingly proud of you!
Go to Heaven.
This deserves way, way, way more of our attention that it usually gets. I hear Christians talk all the time about wanting to buy a new car, about wanting to move into a new neighborhood, about taking the kids to the beach or the mountains, about losing weight and gaining muscle—but rarely, if ever, do I hear Christians talking about going to heaven, nor what plans they are making in order to get there.
Our silence is a huge mistake, since our thoughts and our words belie our real concerns. Heaven should be number one in our lives. Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:9–10, “we have as our ambition … to be pleasing to Him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” I love how he repurposes the mildly-dirty word “ambition” for Heaven!
Heaven is eternal, forever and ever. The alternative—going to Hell—is unspeakably awful. You may become a movie star, an oil baron, or a jet setter, but if I don’t get to spend eternity with you, who cares? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Marry a Christian.
Whom you decide to marry is the second-most important decision you will ever make. This decision cannot be undone, and lasts unto death (Matt. 19:3-12).
Your spouse is the biggest factor in whether or not you focus on Heaven. Trust me—no matter the emotions you feel now, you should marry someone who will support you on your mission to go to Heaven. Abraham went to great lengths to keep his sons from marrying “daughters of the land” and instead found them spiritually-minded women (Gen. 24:3–4). Pray that the Lord will find the same for you. Be a diligent Christian, and you will attract a diligent Christian. If you decide to date someone outside the church, that’s OK, as long as you behave as a Christian, and convert him or her before proposing. Be sure they are washed in the blood, not just the water, so to speak.
Find a Job That Lets You Support Your Family and Serve God.
There is no spiritual commandment to become rich. In fact, for most, the single-minded devotion required to achieve worldly success or fame distracts from the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 6:19–20, Luke 18:24). Not everyone needs to go to college or get an advanced degree. Many, such as John the Baptist and the Apostles, were ridiculed for their lack of formal education (Acts 4:13), but they made up for it with common sense and reading God’s word. Some of the wisest Christians I have ever known lacked a diploma. Some of the most educated PhD’s I know are skeptics—and that’s just dumb.
It is good to maximize one’s potential. There are advantages to being able to give generously, keep you kids out of bad neighborhoods, and never have to worry about someone making you work on Sunday morning. But whatever you pursue, caring for one’s own is a commandment of God. Be industrious, don’t waste your time with too much leisure. Pursue a career that lets you support your family and serve God (1 Tim. 5:8, 2 Thess. 3:7-12, 1 Thess. 4:11-12, Prov. 6:6-8).
Train Yourself to Be an Asset to a Congregation.
The world has enough wobbly, foot-dragging, usually-missing, high-maintenance Christians. The church could use more diligent teachers, capable preachers, constant encouragers, reliable givers, firm supporters, and strong warriors! Be the sort of person who moves to a new city and joins a congregation and says, “Here I am! What can I do to help?” and jumps right in with both feet. A person who signs up to teach Bible class. A person who show up for work days on the grounds. A person like Pricilla who may not have a college education but who can spot shoddy preaching from a mile away and call it on the carpet. A person who is an instant asset to the body of Christ. —John Guzzetta