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PURPOSE: Living with a Hope and a Future

My friend and co-worker Carl Palmer recently posted this on Facebook:

In Genesis 16 we find an Egyptian woman called Hagar who is running away from an abusive, messy family situation. God finds her and she realises that God ‘sees’ her, ‘knows’ her and ‘hears’ her.

God asks her two important and challenging questions:
1. Where have you come from?
2. Where are you going?
As we look back over 2017 and look ahead to 2018, allow God to ask you those same questions and use them to take stock of your journey so far and trust him for the future to come.

At this time of year (December) it has become my habit to ask the first question, then, as December progresses and merges into January we start asking the second question.

But when I’ve asked others, ‘what are your hopes, dreams and goals for the New Year?’ many are reluctant to answer because of unspoken disappointments and grief stemming from the first question…

Perhaps the last year wasn’t such a great experience for you?

What do you do when all you hoped for doesn’t happen?

Do you give up on your dream?

Some of us decide not to set goals for the future anymore, fearing that further disappointment lies ahead?

What do you do when life throws you curve balls? Like an early redundancy? An unexpected death in the family? A grave illness that catches us unawares? A relationship breaks down?

There’s an ancient proverb that says this; ‘We can make our plans, but our steps are set by God’

This being the case, our best hope is to put our trust in God and seek him regarding his plans for our life and future…

I do this by Setting Goals that come out of my mornings in prayer where I not only talk to God, but carefully listen to what He says (God speaks in many ways- through dreams, through thoughts, through what’s written in the Bible, through ‘signs’ and through other people). I also pay attention to what God is saying through prophets and write down what God is saying at times when we come together wth others to form ‘Houses of Prayer’. During these regular times of prayer…everything is written down and we weigh together what the Spirit has been saying to us and what we need to do about it.

We practice the art of listening. I often journalwriting almost daily and have done so for more than 15 years. It’s one of the practices formed in my life that I would now find hard to live without. Each year I go through approximately 15 journals. Every three months I reflect on what God has been saying by going through all the previous three months worth of journals and document what patterns and ideas are emerging. At the end of each year (during the month of December) I do this again- this time going through all 15+ journals and writing the heading of each month (January) and what happened during that month. I then make a summary of what God was saying, what we were doing at the time, what resulted from it and what the main point of each month was. It’s easier to see how God has been working in your life, and what has been fruitful and how ideas are emerging and developing by reflecting in this way…

Paying attention to what God has been doing and saying in our lives and what He is wanting to do in the future helps us to live a life of PURPOSE. Without a purpose, we perish- we lose our reason for living and just become machines in the cogs of the rat race. We start living the agenda of others. Waking up with purpose makes all the difference, knowing we are living for a reason. As the apostle Paul said, ‘I run with purpose in every step’. So how would you finish this sentence…I exist to…….

Most people overestimate what they can do in a day but underestimate what they can do in a year. Having ONE BIG PROJECT A YEAR can be liberating. It enables us to FOCUS (Follow One Course Until Successful). This kind of focus can prove very difficult, particularly if you are someone like me who has many ideas…

So, now that we are reminded of our PURPOSE that grounds us, and a PROJECT for the year that focuses us, we then need to decide how we will PRIORITISE our time. What are our Top 5 Priorities…these are the aspects of our lives that will take up the most time, energy and money. For example, our family may be one of these priorities, our spouse, our time with God, a specific focus within our work/project and so on. Our Top five Priorities reflect how we spend our time. So when looking forward in PLANNING our week or month ahead or on REVIEWING our past week or month, the question is, did we stick to our PRIORITIES (or not)?

What about the PROBLEMS? We all know that life isn’t as simple as this though, right? Even though we have these goals (this hope) we are aware that life will buffet us, attempting to knock us of course throughout the year. The great thing about setting a goal though, is that we can get back on course knowing what the goal is. We may get taken off course by a life-event that’s taken us time to process, but we can return to the goal at any point- wether it’s 3 months later, one year later or even a few years later.

Alternatively, having no goals means, of course, we miss the mark altogether as we have no target to aim for at all. Our life then becomes a series of reactions, constantly responding to issues and circumstances that come up, we go through life fighting fires as we have no milestones we are aiming towards…

So, even if you’ve had a year that you would rather forget, I want to encourage you to STILL set goals for the year ahead. Here’s some things you can do at the end of one year and the start of a new year:

  1. REFLECT on the year that’s just gone by. Celebrate and thank God for what He has accomplished through you and your team, friends and family. Bring to God any disappointments, hurts and grief and leave them with Him…
  2. Define or redefine your PURPOSE in life. It’s good to write this down and share it with at least 2/3 others. (you can of course focus on your Personal Life Purpose or the Purpose of Your Business or Organisation)
  3. Specify your big PROJECT for the year ahead
  4. Recalibrate your top 5 PRIORITIES….what are they?
  5. What are 5 GOALS do you want to achieve this year?

As you do this, if one of your goals is to start up a new business or project or work as a freelancer, we’ve written this BusinessPath book to help you on your journey…

Happy New Year!

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Peter J. Farmer

Peter J. Farmer is a church planter working with teams and networks to catalyze new forms of church that murmurate into movements...

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Jeremy Ley

    Thanks Peter.

    This was so helpful. I want to put this into action for 2018. So many of us – as individuals and as churches – tend to just drift through. We may cover some interesting topics over the course of a year in our sermons but do we do anything with what we have learned? Are we intentional about being pro-active with our Lord’s commands?

    I think also that by and large, the average Christian in the pew looks to the Elders to ‘set the pace’. If no pace or direction is set, then Christianity becomes simply a matter of attending church on a Sunday and ministry becomes only what we do inside a building.

    My personal hope and prayer is for God to stir up individuals (including me) to dare to break out of the norm and to gather together with a mutual passion for mission and purpose. This will involve effort, courage, humility and faith.

    Once again, thanks for the encouragement and inspiration. I still believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

    God bless

    1. Peter J. Farmer

      Thanks Jeremy! I’m gad this article has inspired and encouraged you. Your comments have also encouraged me and spurred me on to continue to write these articles. I agree with you for your hope and prayer to gather together a nucleus of people filled with passion and purpose around a common mission. Where are you based again?

      1. jeremy ley

        I am based in Bodmin, mid Cornwall, Peter. Thank you for your prayers. I very much enjoyed your Pioneer Mission and return to it often.

  2. Claire

    Thanks Peter. That was heavy stuff.
    Wow! I knew you like journalling but 15 a year for 15 years is a lot of notes.
    I am thankful of you reminding me of the importance of having not only goals but also having a purpose and a project. I know its is basic stuff , but I have never heard it explained so clearly
    I too have journals and notes but have never looked at them to review what God was saying or what I was doing.
    Often I have found myself responding to life’s circumstances rather than taking the lead myself.
    I will look at implementing these steps in 2018 and make sure I share my plans with someone too.
    Thanks again for your wisdom and experience.

    1. Peter J. Farmer

      Hey Claire…in the early days, I’m not sure I wrote 15 journals…this year I have. In terms of Pioneer Mission- I already have a shorter version of the book out here:;jsessionid=2BE6751FD554BF01D054DADE34FA2B83

      So the larger Pioneer Mission book would be based on these principles, but would also incorporate things we’ve learnt on the ‘field’ of Britain and Europe since writing the book 7 years ago and also stories!

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