Tired of New Year’s Resolutions? Demonstrating The Gospel In 2012: The Gospel Life Plan

Warning: This is long! Here are the notes from the last two wednesday night services as Joy and I taught on “The Gospel Life Plan”.

Over the last year Joy and I have been using a discipleship resource called “Gospel Coach”. written by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood. Gospel Coach challenges you through three areas of life: personally, spiritually, and missionally. By identifying our calling, goals, steps of action, and stewardship in these areas, we laid out a plan for our family in 2011 to intentionally demonstrate the gospel. This past year has turned out to be the most flourishing year of marriage and ministry we have experienced. I hope you will take some time before 2012 starts and lay out an intentional plan with goals, steps of action, and stewardship that will help your family be intentional in demonstrating the gospel.

Click here for downloadable interactive Pages and Word documents for The Gospel Life Plan. There are blank copies for your personal use, and completed copies to help you. Have a great 2012 demonstrating the Gospel!

Harvard Business School: Are Goals Really Important?

From the book What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack:

In the book What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack tells a study conducted on students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program. In that year, the students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all.

Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

An Example of Making Gospel Centered Goals: Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758- by Josh Weidmann

Here we sit on the brink of a new year, a time seemingly to start over and reboot our life’s hard drive. I am notorious for starting resolutions and failing or forgetting them by the end of January. However, I think I’ve found a model worth following.

I recently read about one of my heroes. He lived some 300 years ago, and he knew the importance of setting a goal and sticking to it. His name was Jonathan Edwards, and when he was about 22-years-old he sat down and started a revolutionary list that plainly lay out his goals for a personal reformation. All-in-all, Edwards had 70 items on his list.

I know you’re thinking, if I can’t even hold to one resolution, why I would be inspired by a guy with 70 times as many? Allow me to tell you why Edwards invigorates me:

First off, he was young when he wrote his resolutions. It is inspiring to hear about a man even younger than me who understood the importance of analyzing life and was always seeking to improve.

But that’s another thing I love about Edwards – he didn’t just want to improve for his own acknowledgement, but he understood that the chief-end for his resolutions was to bring glory to God. At the beginning of his list, he wrote, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions … for Christ’s sake.”

This is revolutionary! Think about how many resolutions we have made that are so focused on us. “If I lose weight,” or “if I work out more,” or “if I study harder”… all are goals that are only going to bring us bragging rights. We must be like Edwards and understand that all of our personal motives must lead us to the one goal of glorifying God.

The other thing I love is that Edward’s resolutions were practical. He was very specific and wrote things like:

“I resolved to read Scripture steadily, consistently, and frequently…”

“I resolved to never do anything out of revenge…”

“I resolved to never speak anything that is ridiculous…”

As you can see, all of his resolutions were all Bible-based. As you read them, you can think of a Scripture to back up each one.

Finally, I loved that Edwards did not set these at the beginning of a year and leave them to fade into the gray matter of his mind. He continually added to them and made sure to review them weekly or as needed, so that he could be reminded of these God-minded goals.

So I’ve followed his example and written my own resolutions, and I am sure that I too will keep adding to them. I have made them practical, Bible-based, and with the goal in mind of glorifying God, not myself. I encourage you to do the same. Take some time to start your own list. Like Edwards, write on the top that you acknowledge they will all be broken if you don’t have the supernatural help of heaven.

The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards: Goals Make a Difference (Adapted from Alvin Reid)

Jonathan married Sarah Pierrepont on July 28, 1727. The Edwards had 11 children, 3 sons and 8 daughters. Sarah prayed consistently for their children. She disciplined her children with gentleness and firmness.

George Whitefield, the mighty preacher of revival in Britain and the American Colonies, offered an eyewitness report of the Edwards’ home in October 1740. Whitefield considered Jonathan to be without peer in New England. “A sweeter couple I have not yet seen,” Whitefield recorded in his Journal, adding: “Mrs. Edwards is adorned with a meek and quiet spirit; she talked freely and solidly of the things of God, and seemed to be such a helpmeet for her husband.”

The genuineness of Sarah Edwards’ devotion to God is seen in a letter to daughter, Susannah, immediately following Jonathan’s untimely death: “What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. . . . The Lord has done it. He has made me adore His goodness, that we had [Jonathan] so long. But my God lives; and He has my heart.”

The legacy left by the Edwards family demonstrates the effect of gospel centered goals and a gospel-centered home. Over four hundred descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards have been traced. Of these, fourteen became college presidents, roughly one hundred became professors, another one hundred ministers, and about the same number became lawyers or judges. Nearly sixty became doctors, and others were authors or editors.

Sermon Notes: Gospel Life Plan 2012 

I. Making a plan and having goals are biblical.

Proverbs 21:5 (ESV)

5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Philippians 3:13–14 (ESV)

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 24:27 (ESV)

27 Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

Criticizing plans is easier than creating them. The leader must see the goal clearly, plan imaginatively, and employ tactics that lead to success. In this department there is always a short supply of people ready and qualified to perform. One more matter for improving leadership potential: resist the idea of “leadership from the rear.” True leadership is always out front—never from the rear or the sidelines. It was leadership from the rear that led Israel back into the wilderness. Many churches and organizations are in a stalemate because leaders have submitted to a kind of blackmail from the rear. No dissident or reactionary element should be allowed to determine group policy against the consensus of the spiritual leaders.- Sanders, J. O. (2007). Spiritual leadership : Principles of excellence for every believer (Updated ed.].) (113). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

II. Making a plan and having goals require dedication. Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 119:10 (ESV)

10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

Psalm 119:34 (ESV)

34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

Psalm 119:58 (ESV)

58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.

Psalm 119:69 (ESV)

69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;

Psalm 119:145 (ESV)

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes.

III. Making a plan and having goals require discipline.

“Without this essential quality, all other gifts remain as dwarfs: they cannot grow. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self” -Sanders, J. O. (2007). Spiritual leadership : Principles of excellence for every believer (Updated ed.].) (52). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

 1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)

27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Titus 1:8 (ESV)

8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

IV. Making a plan and having goals should demonstrate the gospel.

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

V. Ground rules for making a plan and having goals:

1. Consult God.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Proverbs 16:1 (ESV)

1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)

3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

2. It must be achievable.

Luke 14:28–30 (ESV)

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Balance Challenge vs. Laziness

 3. Don’t fear failure.

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV)

16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

4. It must be a priority. 

There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day that leaves you 112. What are your priorities? You will either AGONIZE or PRIORITIZE!

a. Everything cannot be a priority. You can’t have it all.

b. Everything should not be a priority. All things are not created equal.

c. Some activities and investments are more important than others.

d. Some activities and investments are more lasting than others.

5. It must be measurable.

Here are 2012 Interactive Gospel Life Plan Worksheets. One is a PDF has a completed worksheet and the others are empty pages and word interactive documents. Take time to complete with your spouse, children, or anyone you may be discipling.

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About George Ross

I am a pastor, church planter, husband, and father of four.
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