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When was the last time you set a goal and felt inspired to accomplish it?

“Love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life.” Deuteronomy 30:20

Inspiration comes from the word: inspire, meaning “in Spirit.” The Latin etymology means to breathe into. The Holy Spirit breathes inspiration, the desire to do something, within us which moves us to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). The Holy Scriptures were inspired by God through man.

Below are a few examples from Holy Scripture of goals accomplished through inspiration:

  • Abraham was inspired to trust God with the life of his son Isaac.
  • Noah was inspired to build the ark and follow God’s guidance to get it done before the big flood.
  • Joseph was inspired to trust God in spite of continual rejections and setbacks.
  • David was inspired to face Goliath.
  • Esther was inspired to face the fear of possible death to save her people.
  • Daniel was inspired to stand up for his faith and trust God would handle the lion’s den.
  • Moses was inspired, in spite of his own self-doubt and insecurities, to deliver God’s people.
  • Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego were inspired to trust God in the fire and stand firm in faith.
  • Peter was inspired to walk on water.
  • Paul was inspired to preach the Gospel message in the same town he persecuted Christians.

Now let’s take a look at desperation. It comes from the word: despair. The Latin etymology means loss of confidence and hope. When you are in a place of desperation, you are willing to do anything to change an undesirable situation, often times abandoning your values and moral reasoning. When we are in a place of desperation, our flesh guides the Spirit (Romans 7:14-25).

Below are a few examples from Holy Scripture of goals from desperation:

  • Saul (first King of Israel): goals for power led to greed which was his downfall.
  • King Darius: goal for more power and the drug of approval caused him to throw Daniel (a God filled believer) to the lions.
  • King Nebuchadnezzar: goal to be worshiped by all moved him to throw Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego in the fire.
  • King Herod: goal to win the affections of Salome (Herodias’s daughter) led to beheading John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.
  • Peter: goal to walk on water to Jesus was hijacked by his own efforts causing him to sink as he focused on the storm over Jesus. When we focus on our own efforts, we become desperate and we sink.
  • Paul: Goal to kill Christians led to Stephen’s stoning and death.

When we are in a place of desperation, we often ruminate about an undesirable situation with a filter that overrides our moral compass, giving access to what Paul describes in Galatians 5:19-21, as the ways of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish-ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. We will do anything to get what we think we deserve or want. When we set goals from a place of desperation, we are moving from bottom-up thinking (problem focused), as described in neuroscience, verses top-down thinking (solution focused). Inspiration is always top-down thinking. From God in and through us.

Let’s look at Peter’s goal to walk on water to Jesus. He had a desire to go to Jesus, which is always divinely inspired. He had the thought and then acted upon the thought. As soon as he started thinking about the thought (walking on water), Peter opened up the door to mental suffering (fear, self-doubt and worry). He began to sink. In an instant he cried out to Jesus: Lord, save me. Jesus grabs Peter’s hand and lifts him out of the water.

As we set goals and use our own mental efforts to figure out the best ways to achieve the goal, we render ourselves vulnerable to desperation. Why? Because we are acting from limited resources verses God’s abundant resources and perfect will for our lives. Simply put, when we set goals from fleshly desires, we separate ourselves from the will of God. When we open ourselves up to goals that are inspired by the will of God, we gain access to His divine guidance and strength to achieve the impossible: “What is impossible for man, is possible with God.” Luke 18:27.

Take Moses for example, he witnessed the supernatural phenomenon of the burning bush. He had the thought to move towards the bush and took action on that thought. As soon as he did, God spoke and the goals that God had for Moses were revealed and accomplished. As Zechariah 4:6 says: “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” Not by our own might and power (goals from desperation) will we accomplish great things for God’s glory but by His Spirit within us, inspiring goals that move us into His will.

I had a goal back in 2006 while I was going through a divorce with 3 young children, to conquer the diagnoses of advanced cancer. It became very clear to me that the more I relied on my own ideas, thoughts and strength to achieve my goal of survival, the weaker I became. As I leaned into the victory that was witnessed throughout the Holy Scriptures of people facing very challenging and impossible situations, I noticed that victory was achieved through this choice: To surrender our will to the will of God. In this state of surrendering our goals (will) to God’s goals (His Will) we move from a place of desperation to inspiration and all things become possible. Goals from desperation are flesh driven (self-focused). Goals from inspiration are Holy Spirit driven (God focused).

Take Action:

Take a moment to write down a desired goal you currently have. Choose one that you would like to accomplish in 6 months or less. Next, reflect on your motive as to why you want to achieve this goal and what your desired outcome is. This reflection will give you the opportunity to identify if your goal is flesh driven or Spirit driven.

Let your purpose inspire your goals. Discern what gifts and talents God has given to you. Next ask the Holy Spirit to show you how God desires to use those gifts and talents to help others. As goals arise within your mind pause and ask God: “Is this your goal yours Lord, or mine?”

Support Resource:

Now available: Edge God In Podcast: How To Set Goals of Inspiration Versus Desperation

Read Lead Like Jesus Revisited to get more insight on setting goals from inspiration not desperation.

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