Ideally, we learn at a young age the importance of setting goals in order to reach a desired end. We begin to save money in order to be able to buy certain things. The setting of deadlines for ourselves, we soon find out, is necessary so that we will accomplish our tasks on time both in school and at work.
One practical way to help ensure that we grow to spiritual maturity is to make spiritual goals for ourselves, as seen by way of analogy in today’s passage. In Luke 14:25–33, Jesus teaches the necessity of counting the cost before becoming His disciple. Comparing discipleship to tower-building and to fighting a war, He shows that we must know the requirements for discipleship just as rulers and contractors need to be aware of the demands upon them.
These examples concern planning for the future. A person who wants to build a tower wisely counts the cost of building materials in advance (v. 28). When a smart king goes to war, he first compares his enemy’s strength with his own in order to find out if he can win the battle (v. 31). Similarly, there are plans we can make to encourage our growth and further our discipleship.
Planning for growth requires two important qualifications. First of all, plans by themselves do not guarantee spiritual maturity. For instance, it is theoretically possible not to grow spiritually even if we meet our goal to study the entire Bible over the course of a year. Second, let us remember that God uses our actions, but growth ultimately comes only by His sovereign grace (James 4:13–17).
Nevertheless, we can do certain things to empower ourselves spiritually for the race ahead. Nothing is more important than to take part in God’s means of grace, those avenues by which we access His gracious blessings to sustain us in our faith so that we might run the race and mortify our flesh. Because He loves us, He has provided us with His Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
It takes work to become spiritually mature, and setting goals can help us put our efforts in the right place. Goals themselves will not guarantee growth, however, as we take part in God’s means of grace sincerely, we will find Him sustaining us, bringing us to maturity in Christ.
Today, let us all sit down and set a goal to help us grow spiritually over the course of the year. If our prayer lives have been inconsistent, perhaps we need to commit to a specific time of prayer each day even if it is only five or ten minutes. A commitment of reading one chapter of Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs per day could be helpful. Or, we might benefit from a more thorough preparation of ourselves before we take the Lord’s Supper or witness a baptism.