How and why you should combine your heart and growth goals

One of the characteristics of a well-designed goal is that it is the right thing to do. Setting a goal to do something, even a good thing, that is not the right thing draws us away from what we should really be doing. When it comes to our quiet times, it is no different. While I’ve outlined two types of quiet time goals, there are times when, with accurate self-knowledge, you can merge these into a single quiet time goal. Here is a quick guide to how and why you might (or might not) want to combine your growth and heart goals in your quiet time.

Why combine heart and growth goals

Each of the two types of goals has a distinct purpose. I explained that a Growth Goal was, “a goal that focuses on your knowledge of God, His plans, purposes and how these relate to you.” While a Heart Goal is a personalized search and destroy mission to root out sin in our life. Therefore, it is tailored to us as individuals and is related to the personality the Lord created us with and the precise way sin has corrupted our flesh.

A heart goal is useful to help us take the most obvious and life dominating sin to which we give ourselves and eliminate it. We all start with at least 1 or 2 of these, and as we grow in our understanding of ourselves, we might also find a few more areas that require our attention. Conversely, sometimes when we take on our most dominant area of sin, the others automatically fall into line, since often one dominant sin flows into other areas of life.

Each time we do a search and destroy mission against sin, we learn a little more about who we are and the specific areas of corruption we have in our lives. After a while, we can see patterns in our lives and areas of weakness to guard against. Once these sins are not dominant like they once were, we continue to wrestle with them since ultimately while the flesh remains, the vestiges of these sins will also remain, and they will occasionally grow in influence again. They don’t require the focus they once did, however, so we can reassess how we cater for our battle against them.Each time we do a search and destroy mission against sin, we learn a little more about who we are and the specific areas of corruption we have in our lives Click To Tweet

I refer to a growth goal that is aware of our heart issues as an Advanced Growth Goal since it combines the self-knowledge derived from our Heart Goals into our Growth Goals so that we continue our work to defeat sin once we’ve worked to overcome its hold on us.

When NOT to combine heart and growth goals

Since creating an Advanced Growth Goal depends on a higher degree of self-knowledge and experience working through sin, we can’t create these effectively without having identified and addressed our major areas of sinful struggle. If you have never been through the process of a heart goal, combining these will not significantly improve your quiet time or growth in Christ that you want it to.

The reason it is important to have exposed and resolved sin is that this process will provide you with the first-hand understanding of your sin and sinful tendencies, and the benefits of having eliminated it. This would include:

  • An understanding of the nature of your sin
  • Awareness of how this sin exercises its hold on you
  • An understanding of the destructiveness of your sin
  • A hatred of sin based on what the Lord says about it in His word
  • Understanding of how to defeat it
  • A deeper concern for personal holiness
  • A healthy fear of God
  • The humility necessary to maintain vigilance against sin

Ultimately, there is simply no substitute for having worked through a Heart Goal. If you combine a Heart Goal and Growth Goal and you’ve never successfully overcome sin in your life, you will probably not get the full value from your attempting to combine these two types of goals.Ultimately, there is simply no substitute for having worked through a Heart Goal Click To Tweet

How to combine heart and growth goals

To effectively combine these two goals, start by identifying the key areas of weakness you already addressed and particularly the thoughts and desires that you found lay behind them when you worked through your heart goal. These thoughts and desires are the spring from which sin has flowed in the past (Prov 4:23) and areas that you’ll need to watch in the future. Therefore, by identifying and focusing on these, you will continue to grow in holiness as these desires and beliefs are subjected to the truth of the word of God.

Next, identify a reading plan that is most appropriate for your current commitment. As you work through the elements of a SMART goal, incorporate these thoughts and desires into the relevance and measurement sections, so that you regularly measure your sanctification along with your reading progress.

As you read, journal and pray daily (we’ll get to these other disciplines later on), include any reflections from your reading that are relevant to the thoughts and desires, and the manifestation of sin that you see in your reading. I encourage you to look for the things that you’ve grown to hate about your sin to fuel your prayer. Look for the destructiveness of sin on the Lord and His glory, your relationships and your circumstances.

Use the heart as you have toward this sin to ask the Lord to open your heart to other sins and tendencies you see in the text. Ask the Lord to help you to identify other areas that you still need to work on, and that he will give you the courage, perseverance, and love for holiness that is necessary to address these other areas of your life. As you open your heart to other sins, return to the three steps of repentance and if necessary create a new heart goal to overcome these.

Our sanctification is also a major reason why we read our Bible, so regularly progress reviews that reflect your sanctification goals will reinforce the relevance of your Growth Goal, and will motivate you to persevere.

A process for quiet time goal development

Here is a quick start guide to starting down the track of setting goals for your quiet time.

1. Start with the dominant sin and set a heart goal

Start with a search and destroy mission to remove the most dominant sinful patterns from your life. Use this guide and dig into areas most relevant.

2. Create a SMART growth goal

Initially, your growth goal will complement your heart goal, and ensure that you’re reading with a broad focus as well as with a short-term focus. A SMART growth goal will ensure you can accomplish it.

3. Set a new heart goal if necessary

It may be that once you’ve worked through one Heart Goal, you want to focus on another. If so, go back and set a new goal while continuing your Growth Goal.

4. Set an Advanced growth goal

Once you’ve managed to subdue the most pressing sin, overcoming its hold on you, you can then take the things you’ve learned about yourself and your sin from your heart goals, and incorporate those into your growth goals as outlined above.


The important thing about setting goals for your quiet time is to ensure that the time you spend in the word of God has the effect that the Lord desires for us. Our task is to make His goal our goal, and the main way of doing this is by allowing His word to transform our mind.

Why do you think humility is important for an advanced growth goal?

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