For several weeks on this blog we have been considering the topic of biblical productivity. We started by understanding how Scripture defines procrastination. Then we transitioned to a discussion about roles, goals, and scheduling. In the previous two posts we talked about roles. Today we begin looking at the topic of goals.
With each of our God‐assigned roles, God assigns us specific goals. Open your Bible and begin reading and within a few pages you will discover the genesis of this role‐goal connection.
In those first few pages, we read that God reached down and formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils, and that lifeless form came to life. Adam—the first man—was “born.”
In the creation account, God wasted little time in assigning Adam specific roles and goals: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
If we fast‐forward into the next chapter, we zoom into a specific situation: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). For simplicity, I’ll give Adam the title of “Chief Gardener.”
Adam was to “work” and “keep” the garden. We can imagine the Chief Gardener walking peacefully through the lush paradise, making certain everything was properly cultivated and protected. Not a bad gig in the pre‐thorn era.
If we look in on Adam’s role in the garden, his profile may look something like this:
Role: Chief Gardener
Goal: To subdue the earth (specifically in the garden).
Schedule: We don’t know what Adam’s daily routine looked like—he didn’t have a day planner—but we can assume it was filled with specific duties of “working,” or serving, and “keeping,” or protecting, the garden.
We can only speculate about the specific duties Adam was assigned in the garden. What’s important is that we see that from the very beginning, before sin entered the garden, there seems to be a connection between Adam’s roles and his goals. Those goals, in turn, would have directed his daily activities—which we’re calling his schedule.
Twentieth‐century Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck, as he reflected on Adam’s position in the garden, captures the priority of goals (in relation to roles) when he writes:
Work cannot have its end and final purpose in itself but always has as its further objective to bring something into being. It ceases when that objective has been reached. To work, simply to work, without deliberation, plan, or purpose, is to work hopelessly and is unworthy of rational man. (Our Reasonable Faith, Grand Rapids, MI: 1956, Eerdmans, p. 216)
God assigns specific roles for the purpose of achieving specific goals. It may seem obvious, but if we are not clear on this role‐goal connection, we are likely to fill our schedules—or find our schedules filled—by everything but the truly important.
God has called me to my specific role because he intends that I achieve a specific goal. I do this through specific tasks, reflected in my schedule.
A second example will help us more fully develop a biblical picture of goals.
Acts describes the spread of the gospel and the growth of the first‐ century church. Churches were planted, leadership structures were formed, and communities of believers were established. With the increasing numbers added to the church came increasing personal and practical needs.
In Acts 6 we read about one specific challenge faced by the Apostles, requiring them to revisit their roles and goals:
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (vv. 1–4)
Notice the looming mercy ministry challenge faced by the growing church: How do we feed all the hungry widows? Obviously, the hungry widows posed a critical—and very legitimate—need that required a timely response from the church leaders.
But the food would not come from the hands of the Apostles.
Notice the profiles that emerge in this passage of the two separate groups:
Goal: Proclaim the gospel, plant and build churches
Schedule: Pray, prepare sermons, preach, and build
Goal: Preserve the goals of the Apostles by feeding the widows
Schedule: Daily coordination of food distribution
The roles‐goals principle was alive and at work in first‐century Jerusalem. The Apostles were called by God for the specific goal of preaching the Word and prayer. They were not called to serve food to the widows. To do so would have moved them outside their specific roles and goals.
Simultaneously, seven servant‐leaders in the church were identified and positioned to serve the needs of the hungry widows.
We can imagine the compassionate impulse in the heart of the Apostles to take up the needs of the widows as their own personal goal. But that would be inconsistent with their roles.
Both of these Scriptural accounts, one describing Adam’s pre‐sin vocation and the other describing first‐century church leadership, remind us that roles have purpose. Our specific roles are reminders—divine Post‐It notes—that God has called us to fulfill specific goals. So throughout each day I should ask myself, “Is what I’m doing consistent with my God‐ordained goals?
Awareness of the roles God has assigned positions us to pursue our goals and to fill a day planner that reflects genuine diligence, faithfulness, and fruitfulness. All to God’s glory.
So how can I identify the specific goals that flow out of my specific roles? That’s for next time.