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FIRST-PERSON Eliezer: a biblical model for planning your ministry


LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–There are so many books and tapes on goal setting, I’m bored with them. Even many of the Christian ones have no scriptural basis.

But God has given us a wonderful, biblical model in Genesis 24, in which we can follow the steps to setting and reaching goals in the story of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, as he fulfilled his assigned project of finding Isaac a wife.

For years, I’ve used these 10 biblical steps in planning at Saddleback Valley Community Church:

1. DETERMINE YOUR POSITION

Ask yourself some questions. “Where am I now?” And, “What would I like to change?”

Take the time to evaluate your present situation. I do this about once a quarter. I ask these questions:

— “Where am I headed?”

— “Am I still headed in the right direction?”

If you were to call me from a phone booth and say, “I want to come over to your house. Give me directions,” what would be the first thing I ask? “Where are you?” I’ve got to know where you are before I tell you how to get where you want to be.

That’s true in any area of life. Before you can know where you want to go you’ve got to know where you are right now. Determine your position.

2. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE

You need to clearly state your goal. I suggest getting a specific image in your mind so you know exactly what you want. First, you determine where you are and then you determine what you want.

Abraham said, “I want you to go to my country and to my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” He knew exactly what he wanted. It was clearly defined. Later on, he gave other conditions: “I want a wife of the same nationality, from the same home town, same faith, someone who is beautiful, a virgin.”

The point is — you’re never going to reach a vague goal. The more specific a goal is, the easier it is to reach. If you say, “God, bless my wife,” how do you know when God’s blessed your wife? Sometimes God blesses with a problem or a trial. Is that what you’re praying for? You need to be specific. A vague goal has no drawing power. You need to know what you want.

Ask yourself three questions:

— “What do I want to be?” (This is the most important — What do I want to be in Christ’s likeness?)

— “What do I want to do?”

— “What do I want to have?”

You say, “I want to travel.” Great. Where? “I want to have income.” Great. How much? “I want a career.” Fantastic. What kind? “I want to witness?” To whom? Be specific. “I want to lose weight.” How much? “I want to read the Bible.” When do you want to read it?”

In 1960, JFK got up and said, “Within a decade we’ll put a man on the moon.” That was a decision. Did he try to figure out all the problems before he made the decision? No. He just set a goal. We’re going to go there. Once the decision-making was out of the way, then the country moved into the problem solving. When he made the statement, it was physically and technologically impossible to do it. But he made the decision and later worried about the problems.

You need to be very, very specific. You determine your position, then you define your purpose.

3. DISCOVER A PROMISE

Find a promise you can claim from God’s Word, and don’t worry about the “how’s” at this point.

When you’re setting goals as a Christian, you don’t look at your own resources, your own abilities. There are more than 7,000 promises in the Bible, just waiting to be claimed. They’re like blank checks. Let the size of your God determine the size of your goal. We’ve set some big goals at Saddleback, and some people say, “Who do you think you are? Who do those people at Saddleback think they are?”

That’s the wrong question. The issue is not who we think we are. The issue is who we think God is. How big is God?

Ask yourself:

— “What promise can I claim?”

Keep looking in Scripture until you find a promise that’s going to help you.

4. DESCRIBE THE PAYOFF

Every goal must have a payoff or reward. If there’s no reward, then there’s no motivation to fulfill it. You’ve got to settle the value of the goal in your mind.

Ask yourself three questions:

— “What is the reward?”

— “Why do I want it?”

— “How will I feel when I get it?”

Why is it important to describe the profit up front?

Because when you settle the “Why?” God will show you the “How?”

When you know why you want to do what you want to do with your life, then you have a calling on your life, and God will show you the HOW.

If you delay in determining the payoff, then you’ll give up when times get tough. You need to know the payoff to avoid discouragement.

5. DESIRE IN PRAYER

The Bible says in Mark 11:24, “Whatever you desire, pray and believe and you will have them.” When you pray for your goals it does two things:

— It reveals desire. Often God delays an answer to prayer or delays you attaining a goal you’ve been striving toward in order to see how badly you want it. He wants for you to distinguish whether this is a wish or a whim, or if this a deep desire in your heart.

2. It shows your dependence. Who are you really trusting in to see this goal accomplished? If I never pray about a goal, what is that saying? It’s saying I don’t think I need God’s help. I can handle this on my own.

I continually ask myself: “Am I praying for my goals?”

Have I just set them, or am I really praying for them? Your goal sheet ought to be your prayer list.

They shouldn’t be the only things on your prayer list, but they ought to be a part it: “Lord, these are the things I’m trying to accomplish with my life. I want my life to count. I want my life to be worthwhile. I want to make a difference. I want to be significant for your glory.”

6. DIAGNOSE THE PROBLEMS

With this step, you identify the roadblocks and obstacles holding you back.

When assessing your goals, you want to ask yourself two questions:

— “Why don’t I have this already?”

— “What are the barriers?”

The barriers will vary: they may be emotional, financial, intellectual or relational.

Take a look at Genesis 24 where Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. This is a great example of diagnosing the problem.

Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, is going to go to a foreign country. Can you imagine the number of serious problems he faced to reach the goal he’d been given? He needed to go to a country he’d never been to and find a lady he’d never met.

He needed to convince her to go with him and to marry a total stranger. Mission impossible? Would you do that? Do you think you’d be successful in that?

Eliezer has all kinds of problems to reach this goal:

— In verse 21, he has the problem of finding the right girl.

— In verse 49, he has the problem of getting the girl’s parents’ consent.

— In verse 58, he had to get the girl’s consent.

7. DESIGN A PLAN

Plan out a course of action to overcome the obstacles you’ve just identified. Write down some specific steps. Set a deadline, and schedule it.

As you design your plan, ask yourself these questions:

— “How do I intend to get there?”

— “How long will it take?”

As we look at Eliezer’s story, we see that his plan is a masterpiece: He sets up a test. He’ll take all his camels down to the water and have them kneel down. Then he’ll ask a for a drink, and if the woman he asks says, “Let me water your camels, too,” Eliezer will know he’s found the right woman.

For one thing, this would have to be an unusual woman with a real heart for service. The average camel can drink up to 40 gallons of water! If you add up the camels, she’s offering to hand-draw about 300 gallons of water.

Once this has occurred, Eliezer’s plan is to then share his purpose. Only then will he reveal Abraham’s wealth and try to get invited to her home, and only then will he pop the question. He has a strategic plan, and he follows it.

8. DISCIPLINE YOUR PERSONALITY

Nothing great is ever accomplished without discipline. The bottom line in your life is character. While you’re working on your goals, God is working on you. God is much more interested in you than he is in your goals. During this planning and goal-setting process, God will work on you, making changes as you grow toward your goal.

I’ve said many times when I speak to pastors, “Growing churches require growing pastors.” Likewise, growing businesses require growing businessmen. Growing marriages require growing husbands and wives. The moment you stop growing, you die.

You ought to ask yourself:

— “Where do I need to change?” (God is more interested in your character than in the project)

— “What kind of person do I need to become?”

When I first moved to the Saddleback Valley and set goals for Saddleback church, I was 26 years old. I thought, “There’s no way I’m equipped to handle a church the size of the goal I’ve just set.”

But here’s what happened: As the church was growing, so was I. God had it all planned and knew I would grow to greater maturity before the church grew to larger portions.

9. DEPOSIT THE PRICE

There is always a price tag for reaching any goal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a business, or a church, or any kind of dream. There’s always a great sacrifice to reach your great goals. A lot of people I meet want to reach great goals or accomplish great dreams, but they only want to do it if it’s convenient. It’s as if they say, “I’ve got this dream, but I only want to do it in my spare time.”

Ask yourself three questions at this stage:

— “What will it cost me?”

— “What am I willing to give?”

— “Is the cause worth the cost?”

10. DEPEND ON PEOPLE

You will never achieve very much in life until you learn to get along with other people. John Rockefeller used to say there was one thing he’d pay more for than any other skill — the ability to work with people. There are a lot of geniuses who can’t get along with others. You’ve got to learn to depend on people because God works through people. It takes teamwork. Success is never a one-man show. NEVER! It’s always a joint effort.

Ask yourself at this stage: “Who else can I involve?”

The secret of a great church is commitment and cooperation. When there is commitment and cooperation, God can do tremendous things. He can overlook all kinds of other things.

Vance Havner once said, “Snowflakes are frail but if enough of them stick together they can stop traffic.”

You may not be able to do a lot by yourself, but when God’s men and women get together, they can do anything.

I hope you’ll take these principles and use them to re-evaluate your personal goals and the goals of your church. May God guide you and grant you the desires of your heart.
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Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country, and author of “The Purpose Driven Church,” which has sold more than 1 million copies in 18 languages. For Warren’s free e-mail newsletter, visit his website, www.pastors.com.

    About the Author

  • Rick Warren