At Work

Why “Character Goals” Should Be Your First Resolutions

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The plans of the diligent surely lead to advantage (Prov. 21:5).

In the mid-sixties there was a successful television series called Run for Your Life. Actor Ben Gazzara plays a lawyer who is told by his doctor in the first episode that he will die in nine to eighteen months. Gazzara’s character decides to do all of the things he has never had time to accomplish.

The program becomes a series of plays in which this lawyer meets a wide variety of people, from bums riding the rails to orphans. He becomes a man who seems to be looking for something while the clock is running out:

I would suggest Gazzara’s character is really looking for purpose and significance—to find what is really important in life. In each encounter, he tries to find answers by looking more at who people are rather than what they have accomplished.

Developing Goals Consistent with Your Primary Purpose

As we begin 2018 and consider our goals and New Year’s resolutions, how many of them are built around what we want to accomplish as opposed to who we want to become? To which approach is our significance tied?

In his book The Call, Os Guinness writes of an amazing truth:

The truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.

Guinness differentiates between our primary and secondary callings. Our primary calling is to become a disciple of Christ.

Growing in Christ-likeness does not involve a list of “to-dos” we can check off. Our primary calling is about a significant process of transformation that is happening to all Christians as the Holy Spirit shapes their characters to the likeness of Christ. Theologians call this process sanctification.

Guinness suggests that in everything we do we should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Christ. Our primary calling “to be” should lead without fail to what we do. These two are inseparable.

The thing to remember is that who we are drives what we do, not the other way around.

It is through these secondary callings “to do” that we fully integrate God’s primary call into all areas of life. For followers of Christ, these secondary callings should lead us to find our unique life purpose, in order to use our particular gifts and abilities to their utmost for God’s glory in four distinct areas:

  • Our families
  • Our churches
  • Our communities
  • Our vocations

What Will You Become This Year?

As we think through our goals for the year ahead, we should not leave out “character goals.” These goals are vital to our growth as a spouse, parent, child, friend, boss, or employee. Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. What would I like to become?
  2. What one thing would I like God to change in me?
  3. What character quality—if developed—would make me a better parent, sibling, friend, etc.?

However we answer these questions, we need to see the importance of what we are doing from an eternal perspective.

The Apostle Paul tells his disciple, Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Paul had this larger perspective, that of seeing everything he accomplished flowing out of his relationship with Christ.

We need to reject our culture’s insistence that the ends justify the means, and that at the end of the day the only thing that matters is what you have accomplished. This is truly the road to ruin.

While we may not have the same health prognosis as Ben Gazzara, we are each “running for our lives” as we seek to live out our purpose in a precious, limited amount of time on earth. So, in this new year let us, as Hebrews 12:1-2 exhorts,

…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Editor’s Note: Start the new year by rediscovering how your story fits into God’s big-picture purpose in creation in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.

Please join IFWE in empowering Christians to use their vocation to transform the world! Support IFWE today. 

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  • Pete Smith

    I shared this post on Facebook and added this comment: To paraphrase J.C. Ryle, what you and I will become depends on what we are now. Let’s not forget this. We must beware of the force of habit. “Habits have deep roots. Once sin is allowed to settle in your heart, it will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are not easily broken….Habits are like stones rolling down hill – the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age….Habits of good or evil are daily strengthening in your hearts. Every day you are either getting nearer to God, or further off. Every year that you continue unrepentant, the wall of division between you and heaven become higher and thicker, and the gulf to be crossed deeper and broader….If you do not seek the Lord when young [or I’ll add today!], the strength of habit is such that you will probably never seek him at all.”

  • Phillip Nash

    Thanks so much Hugh for this important reminder. It is so easy to get caught up in task goals that we neglect to focus on ‘being’ goals.

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