Early in life we all learn the importance of setting goals in order to reach a certain end. We learn that we must save money if we are ever going to be able to buy certain things. We set deadlines for ourselves in school and in work so that we will accomplish our tasks on time.
Though it might seem unnatural, setting goals for ourselves can be a practical way of helping to ensure that we grow to maturity. We find this point described by way of analogy in today’s passage. In Luke 14:25–33, Jesus speaks of the necessity of counting the cost before becoming His disciple. He compares discipleship to tower-building and to fighting a war in order to demonstrate that, like kings and contractors, we must know the requirements for discipleship.
These examples concern planning for the future. When someone sets out to build a tower he counts the cost of materials (v. 28). When a king goes to war, he considers his enemy’s strength and his own in order to find out if he might be successful in his endeavor (v. 31). We should approach the whole of discipleship this way. There are plans we can make to further our growth and strengthen our discipleship.
Before we discuss this point further, let us first note two important things. First of all, plans by themselves do not guarantee spiritual maturity. Although we may meet a goal to study the entire Bible over the course of a year, it is possible that we will not grow at all spiritually. Second, we must always remember that though God uses our plans, ultimately any growth only comes by His sovereign grace.
Nevertheless, there are certain things we can do to empower us spiritually for the race ahead. Indeed, the most important thing we can do is take part in God’s means of grace. For He has given us means of His grace to sustain us in our faith so that we might run the race and fight the good fight. Because He loves us, He has provided us with His Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. It takes time and effort. Setting goals can help us put our efforts in the right place. Meeting goals, however, will not guarantee spiritual maturity. Nevertheless, as we take part in God’s means of grace with a sincere heart and not as a form of legalism, we shall find that God sustains us, bringing us to maturity in Christ.
One very practical way to contribute to your spiritual growth is to set goals in your piety. Take some time to look at your life, and set goals in the areas that need priority — prayer, Bible study, evangelism, works of mercy, and so on. As you set goals for spiritual growth remember that Christ is the Author and Finisher of your faith.