A family began a vacation to a destination which would take several days of driving to reach. As they began their third day on the road, the 8-year-old daughter, weary from traveling, asked a question: “Daddy, when we get where we’re going, will we be there?”
This is an important question to ask about your life. When you get where you’re going, will you be where you want to be? I am asking about your goals. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do with your life? What is your desired destination? No other factor so determines the quality of your life as the goals you set for yourself.
A study of two hundred life histories of outstanding people revealed that they had ordered lives which were steered toward selected goals. Each person had something to live for. Another study of people who committed suicide indicated that they felt their lives had become intolerable because they had nothing to aim for, no goal to seek. Goals, or lack of them, were the difference.
We often talk about discovering who we are. The truth is, we do not discover who we are as much as we decide who we are, and that decision is made in the goals we set for our lives.
So how do we go about setting goals for life? We can learn some lessons from one of the most positive personalities of Hebrew history, Caleb. Two incidents are detailed in Scripture about Caleb.
The first is found in Numbers 13. The Hebrew pilgrims — led by God out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and across the Sinai desert — stood at the threshold of their promised land. Twelve leaders of Israel, one from each of the twelve tribes, were chosen to scout out the land in preparation for the Hebrew invasion. Ten of the twelve reported to Moses that the land was full of giants. “There is no way,” they declared, “that we can take possession of the land.”
Two of the scouts, however, believed that with God on their side, no goal was beyond their grasp. “Let us go up at once and possess the land,” they said, “for we are well able to do it” (Numbers 13:30). One of these two was Joshua, who would lead the Hebrews into the promised land forty years later. The other was Caleb.
The second incident mentioned in connection with Caleb is found in Joshua 14. Forty-five years had gone by since the other incident. The Hebrews had moved into the promised land. Caleb, 85 years old at that time, said to Joshua, “God promised that Hebron belonged to me. And now I want that mountain!”
As we study this exciting story of conquest, notice several important lessons about goal-setting which apply to our lives today.
In Line With God’s Purpose
First of all, when you set goals for your life, they need to be in line with God’s purpose.
When Caleb and Joshua had returned from scouting the land, Moses made this promise to Caleb: “Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance to you and to your children forever.”
God said, “Caleb, this land is for you. It is my plan for you to posses this land.” Caleb’s goal, then, was to claim what God had already promised.
Caleb did not just set a goal for his life. He did not simply set his mind on something that grew out of his own desires. His goal was in line with God’s purpose. He wanted to fully experience what God had planned for him.
We have a mania for success in our culture today. I believe this desire for success is built into the human psyche. But what we need is a clear understanding of how success is to be measured. What is success?
Success can be measured in four different ways.
Sometimes we measure success by internal opinion. We have an image of what we want to be, desires that we want to realize. If we establish that image or realize those desires, we feel we have succeeded. If we don’t, we feel we have failed. The standard by which we measure our success or failure is internal.
Sometimes we measure success by external opinion. In this case, our success or failure is measured by the judgment of others. If they judge us to be a success, we are. If, in the eyes of our peers, we have not lived up to their expectations, we are a failure. Pleasing our peers becomes our primary purpose for living.
At other times, we measure success by external standards. Certain criteria within society are fixed standards of achievement in any field. To hold a certain position, to obtain a certain degree, to pass a certain test, to receive a certain certification makes us a success.
There is, however, a fourth way to measure success, the true measure of success, and that is by an eternal standard. True success is determined not by our feelings, not by the opinion of others, not by fixed standards in society, but by God.
If you please God, it doesn’t matter who you displease. If you displease God, it doesn’t matter who you please. What God thinks is the key.
True success means to reach the goals that God has for you in His plan, and thus to have God’s stamp of approval on your life. Caleb understood the meaning of real success. So when he set the goal for his life, his goal was in line with God’s purpose and plan.
Whenever you set a goal for your life and say, “I want that mountain,” you had better be sure that this mountain is what God wants you to have. If your goals are not in line with God’s purpose, you might reach your goals but miss out on the blessings God wants to pour into your life. Make sure your goals are in line with God’s purpose.
Goal-Setting is for Everyone
Notice this second thing that is revealed in our text: goal-setting is for everyone. Hear what Caleb said in Joshua 14:10: “And now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as he spoke, these 45 years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness, and now behold, I am 85 years old today.” Eighty-five years old! That’s the time most people are sitting back and settling in. But not Caleb! At 85, after a lifetime in which Caleb had “followed the Lord … wholeheartedly” (Joshua 14:14), he set his eyes on the land of Hebron and said, “I want that mountain!”
The point is that you are never too old to set new goals, to set out for new horizons, to begin new quests for God. Listen to this list of individuals who made great accomplishments in the later stages of their lives:
Goethe at 80 completed Faust.
Tennyson at 83 wrote Crossing the Bar.
Michelangelo completed his greatest work of art at age 87.
Immanuel Kant wrote his best philosophical works at 74.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes set down some of his most brilliant legal opinions at age 90.
At 89, pianist Arthur Rubenstein, though he could not see the keyboard, played brilliantly from memory at Carnegie Hall.
Albert Schweitzer still headed his hospital in Africa at the age of 89.
At 88, Konrad Adenauer was Chancellor of Germany.
At 82, Winston Churchill wrote his four-volume work, A History of the English-Speaking People.
At 81, Ben Franklin effected the compromise that led to the adoption of the United States Constitution.
You are never too old to set goals.
At the other end of the age spectrum, we can also say that you are never too young to set goals. Young people, God’s purpose for your life begins right now. Whether you are 10 or 15 or 20, there are goals that you can set, dreams that you can begin to seek that are in line with God’s purpose and plan for your life.
For each of us, there is a land of Hebron that God has set before us and His desire for each of us is that we stand up and declare, “I want that mountain!” Goal-setting is for everyone.
Reaching Our Goals Requires Effort
Hear what Caleb said in Joshua 14:11 of our text: “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me.” Caleb said, “as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.”
Caleb realized that it was not enough just to set a goal for his life. Nor was it enough just to set a goal in line with God’s purpose. Caleb realized that once the goal was set, he would have to fight and struggle and work in order to reach that goal.
Reaching our goals will not be easy. It wasn’t for Caleb and it won’t be for us. For Caleb to claim his mountain, he had to run the giants out of the land. As we strive to reach our goals, as we attempt to claim our mountain, there will also be giants that we will have to overcome.
There will be the giant of adversity. We will never attempt anything significant in life without someone opposing us. They will stand in our way. They will criticize us. They will discourage us. The giant of adversity will have to be overcome.
There will also be the giant of failure. As we move toward our goal, there will be many setbacks along the way. The key factor in achieving success will be our ability to move past these temporary failures to eventual victory.
There will be the giant of laziness. One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is Christians who fail to realize their potential and reach their goals because they are too lazy to put out the effort.
There will always be the giant of envy that looms large before us. As we see others accomplishing great things for God, how easy it is to allow the green-eyed monster called envy to take possession of our soul, dissipate our energies and distract us from our own goals.
In life, hard work always precedes success. For us to reach our goals will take effort on our part.
God Will Help
There is a fourth truth that grows out of our text. To our effort God will add His power which will enable us to reach our goals.
Caleb said, “You yourself heard then that the Amalekites were there, and their cities were large and fortified, but the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said” (Joshua 14:12).
“The Lord helping me …” That is the key phrase. The factor which will determine whether or not we reach our goals is not our strength or weakness. The answer lies ultimately in the use of God’s power. In the Bible, those who reached their goals seemed to do so in spite of their own weaknesses.
Moses, tongue-tied shepherd, stood up to Pharoah and won!
Gideon, supported by an army of 300 armed only with trumpets and empty jars, fought the Midianites and won!
David, untrained and unprotected, challenged Goliath and won!
Jesus, who on the cross looked like history’s greatest loser, stood up to Satan and won!
The early disciples set out to conquer the Roman world with nothing but the Gospel and they won!
Caleb, 85 years old, confronted the giants in Hebron and won!
Why did all of these apparent losers turn out to be winners? It was because of the power of God that flowed into their lives as they moved out for Him. “The Lord helping them,” they reached their goals.
When Herkomer rose to great fame as an artist in London and built his studio there, his first thought was to have his father, a simple woodchopper, come and spend the rest of his years with him. The old man came, and was very fond of molding clay. All day he made things out of clay but as the years passed his hand was losing its skill and cunning. He often went upstairs at night to his room with the sad heart of an old man who thought his best days were gone by.
Herkomer’s quick eye of love detected what was happening so, when his father was safely asleep, the gifted son would come downstairs and take in hand the pieces of clay which his old father had left with evidences of defect and failure. With his own wonderful touch, he would make them as beautiful as they could be made by human hand.
When the old man came down in the morning and took up the work he had left all spoiled the night before, and held it up before the light, he would say, rubbing his hands, “I can still do it as well as I ever could.”
That’s the way it is with our lives. Even when we do our very best, our lives are marked with defect and failure. But then the God who created our universe out of chaos in the beginning, takes our lives in His hands and with His own wonderful touch makes them as beautiful as they can be made.
Will you believe me when I tell you that God has a wonderful plan for your life? God has a mountain He wants you to claim, a goal He wants you to reach, a purpose He wants you to fulfill. It won’t be easy, but “the Lord helping you,” you can reach that goal and claim that mountain.
If you are not a Christian, the place for you to begin is to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior. Get in on God’s plan. That’s the starting point. If you are a Christian, ask God to show you His goal for you. Then, in confidence and commitment, say “I want that mountain. And the Lord helping me, I will claim it for Him.”

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