There is something about goal setting that gets me fired up and excited. Maybe it’s the prospect of doing something awesome in the upcoming year, like running a marathon, or reading through the entire Bible, or finally writing that book I’ve been thinking about. Or maybe it’s the prospect of finally kicking those bad habits I have, like getting up too late, or regularly eating things that will probably shorten my life in the long run. I like to set big goals that will challenge me.

But in the last couple of years I’ve started to notice something about myself: Small goals coupled with faithfulness produce the biggest results.

One example: I don’t think I’ll ever run a marathon. I would like to, but I’ve got a bad knee and I don’t have the time required to train for a marathon. But, with God’s help, I can discipline myself to run for 20-25 minutes a couple of times per week. Another example: I have a hard time reading through the entire Bible in a year. I’ve done it, but it doesn’t work particularly well for me and my personality. But I can read the Bible and pray for 35-45 minutes most days before my day gets going. One last example: I don’t have hours and hours to spend working on a book or a song or any other creative project. But I can find 20-30 minutes a couple of times a week.

I’ve started to see that seeking to be faithful in these little areas has wonderful long term results. The more I run, the better I feel. The more consistently I read my Bible, the more I grow in my walk with God. The more I work on writing, the better I become. I’ve got two small children with one on the way, and I’m a pastor at a church. I don’t have huge amounts of time to dedicate to things. But I can be faithful, and God honors faithfulness, even to little things.

In Luke 16:10 Jesus said:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

In Proverbs 13:4 it says:

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Over and over scripture emphasizes the value of diligence. God rewards diligence and faithfulness and hard work. We probably won’t see the results immediately, but over time we will. It’s like building a house. When you lay the first bricks, it doesn’t look anything like a house. But as you slowly and methodically work toward your goal, things begin to take shape.

So let me give you a few steps to take:

  • Determine one or two small goals that, if you regularly did them, it would make a big difference. Maybe it’s as simple as reading your Bible and praying for fifteen minutes every day, or trying to memorize one scripture per month, or write one worship song in the next three months.
  • Commit those goals to the Lord. Pray about them and ask God to help you be faithful, and to do these things for God’s glory, not your own. Ask God for the grace to be diligent, even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Let someone else know about your goals. It’s helpful to have someone else supporting you and praying for you and maybe even pursuing the goals with you. If you’re married, let your spouse know. If you’re not married, let a close friend know.
  • Try to find a regular time for working on your goals. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning, maybe it’s right before bed, maybe it’s on your lunch break. Have a set time and stick to it.
  • If you have a bad day or week or month, don’t beat yourself up. Delight in the gospel, delight in the free forgiveness we have in Christ, then get off your butt and get moving again.
  • Give thanks to God for the little successes.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What little goals will you pursue this year?