There’s a commonly-used tool in the corporate world that people use while planning projects called a SWOT analysis. With regard to a particular goal, the tool helps identify resources, obstacles, opportunities to improve on the planners’ circumstances, and things that may threaten to keep them from their goals. (SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
Last night while I was lying awake waiting for tornado sirens to stop blaring, it occurred to me to perform a quick SWOT analysis of my own life. Here’s what it looks like, in the context of a general goal of professional advancement:
Strengths: I’ve got a stable job, meaningful education, diverse skills, and the support of family and friends
Weaknesses: I’ve got a lot of obligations, low self-esteem, and I tend to be easily distracted
Opportunities: Relationships with others (from whom I can learn or who could coach me on career decisions), availability of training and education (my employer promotes and even pays for relevant classes and conferences)
Threats: Competition for available positions, weak economy makes transitioning to other roles harder
You can probably see how this kind of exercise could be helpful in maximizing resources and overcoming obstacles. Once I’ve identified these things, I see that I’ve got people who can hold me accountable and help me overcome my weaknesses, and while there are some things beyond my control (the economy, others in the workforce), I’ve got plenty of opportunities to learn and develop new skills.
What happens when you apply the same template in the context of your spiritual life? Let’s assume that your goal is to make it to heaven. Let’s take a look at how a “typical” person’s strengths and weaknesses determine where they’ll spend eternity.
Strengths: Let’s say they consider themselves a “good person”. They give to the poor, don’t cuss or drink “too much”, provide for their family, and volunteer at several charities.
Weaknesses: Person X has a short temper, a cigarette addiction, and they’ve been known to flirt with people at work, though they’d “never cheat” on their spouse.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Opportunities: Whether they’re a believer or not, Christ died for their sins, giving them an opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven if they’ll accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
Threats: Temptations are all over: on TV and the internet, at work, at the grocery store, even at home.
It becomes very clear, if we’re honest about our own virtues and flaws, that no matter how “good” we are, we all fall short of perfection. We will always have something to put in the “weaknesses” column.
It’s equally clear that there are forces working against us all the time – our own sinful nature, Satan, and other fallen people – threatening our salvation. Unless we take advantage of the one opportunity that matters: Christ.
Jesus died for everyone on earth. Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, alcoholics, homosexuals, gossipers, murderers, rapists, prostitutes, conservatives, liberals, and even people who cut you off in traffic. We all have the same opportunity, regardless of our past actions or current circumstances: to accept Christ’s lordship and God grace and to spend eternity in the presence of our heavenly father.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)