Set Long-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Long-Term Goals

And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch (Genesis 6:12-14).

God was fed up with mankind. But he was not so fed up that he was willing to destroy all mankind. He would preserve one man’s family.

He told Noah what Noah had to do. He expected Noah to readjust his life to complete this assignment. No one had ever built anything like this before. It would take many years. It would take the division of labor within his household.

Perhaps he hired workers. They must have had a good laugh at Noah’s expense.

Noah had to pay all costs. He had to raise the money out of his net income. He therefore had to save. This was a lifetime savings project — not his lifetime: humanity’s. While humanity continued as before, Noah had to sacrifice for the future. Jesus said:

For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:38-39).

Noah’s task was crucial in human history. Until the day that Christ went to the cross, this was the most important task in man’s history. There could be no half-measures. The work had to be done according to God’s specifications.

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it (Genesis 6:15-16).

God gave Noah two reasons to complete this task. One was negative. The other was positive.

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (Genesis 6:17-18).

This was a long-term project. It would have a positive outcome. Noah would become the father of a new creation. He would serve as a new Adam. Although Noah did not know this until after the flood receded, God would reconfirm His covenant with mankind through Noah. The original covenant said this:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

The new covenant with Noah and his family said this:

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:1-3).

This was the culmination of God’s plan and Noah’s precise execution of it. It has come down through the ages to us.

Here is a summary of this plan.

1. A totally sovereign God came up with the plan.
2. He revealed part of this plan to Noah and called Noah to obey his delegated assignment: building the ark.

3. Noah began to work on this task, not knowing how long it would take to complete it or how much it would cost.

4. Noah was given a positive sanction at the end of the process: the reconfirmed dominion covenant.

5. His family inherited the whole earth.

God spoke directly to Noah. He gave Noah a blueprint. God does not speak to us directly. He does give us a blueprint: the Bible.

God expects us to figure out what our lifetime assignment is. He also expects us to implement it. Like Noah, we do not know how much time we have. Like Noah, we do not know what it will cost. It is a lot like getting married. Yet people get married on these terms. Why shouldn’t they select lifetime goals on these terms?

From Short-Term Goals to Long-Term Goals

An individual or a family deep in debt has an immediate goal: to stop the pain. This is a short-term goal. It is a valid goal.

My debt-reduction program asks you to defer the implementation of a plan to achieve this goal until after you are tithing to your local church. Depending on the debt-to-income ratio, it may take a year for an individual or a family to get to a full tithe. Then, and only then, does the debt-reduction program begin.

This is a difficult strategy to adopt and stick to. The pain of debt does not go away immediately. People who are present- oriented may quit. If they do not get immediate gratification, they surrender. Tithing is a good test of your commitment to a medium-term plan rather than a short-term plan.

There should be an offsetting sense of satisfaction as a result of seeing your giving to the local church increase. That should provide a sense of victory. The victory over debt is delayed, but the victory over bad spending habits is immediate.

Once you replace your bad spending habits with good ones, your victory over debt is assured. It is just a matter of time. There is a theological phrase for this: the perseverance of the saints. The phrase refers to eternal life, but it applies to daily living.

You need a short-term goal: to tithe. You need a medium-term goal: to get out of debt after you are tithing. But what of your long-term goals? What are they?

I have already covered this in the lesson on the calling. Did you do the homework? If not, do it now.

Think of how you would give a brief speech to your children and grandchildren at age 70. What would you tell them about the things that you achieved that you are most proud of? What advice would you give them on how they can do the same?

Do you know? If not, your retroactive assessment of your career at age 70 may be disappointing. You will have achieved some positive things, but will they be the best things that you could have achieved, if you were to start today to achieve specific long-term goals?

A recovering alcoholic has a short-term goal: to avoid drinking alcohol today. “One day at a time” is an AA slogan. If temptation comes, the goal shifts: to avoid drinking for an hour.

An alcoholic with no mid-term goals or long-term goals will find it difficult to stick with his short-term goal every day for decades. The long-term goal motivates him to stick with his short-term goal.

This is why you need to decide what your #1 lifetime goal is. This is the issue of legacy or inheritance. I have dealt with this is the previous lesson.

Homework Assignment

Spend some time thinking about this. What are you capable of achieving of significance to the kingdom of God if you work on a plan, day by day, a little each day, until you are age 70?

Have you ever thought about this before?

Write down as many lifetime projects as you can imagine. Then think through which one or two projects are your calling. I define calling as follows: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. For more information, go here:

What are your skills? What needs to be done for the kingdom? Can you match these?

Narrow this down to at least one project. Then consider if you can take on two.

Discuss this with your spouse. See if you can work out a mutually acceptable plan for each of you to achieve a lifetime goal. Can this be a joint goal?

Planning comes later. First, you must have the goal in mind. Then you must write it down.

That is your assignment for the week: a written lifetime goal to be completed by age 70. Why age 70? This:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10).

For guidelines for setting long-term goals, go here:


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