Tag Archives: Romans

You’re Not Your Shortcomings

At some point or another, we all feel unworthy. Of our job. Our friends or family. Someone else’s affection. Of God’s love.

I experience this whenever I let my shortcomings define me. I focus on my weaknesses–ignoring my God-given skills, talents, and blessings–and start to think “that’s all there is to me: flaws.”

The Bible calls those shortcomings something else: flesh (as in “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit”; Galatians 5:17). Which seems to confirm that we’re all just big wads of failure. After all, we’re made of flesh, right? So if flesh is weak and sinful, and flesh is what I’m made of, then I’m made of weaknesses, faults, shortcomings, and sin.

Except that’s not true: we’re not just flesh. We’re souls, made by Almighty God the Creator, who inhabit flesh while on this earth. Continue reading

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SWOT

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)


On Character and Crises

The notion of character has been on my mind a lot lately. What makes me who I am, and such. Is it my actions or beliefs? Am I defined by my circumstances, upbringing, genetic code, or aspirations? Can I change who I am, and if so to what degree?

One of my favorite quotes, which graced the whiteboard at my desk for nearly a year is this: “Crises don’t build character, they reveal it.” In other words, you can’t depend on tough times to strengthen your resolve. You have to work hard to prepare yourself for trouble before it reaches you.

Claire over at One Passion One Devotion posted another great quote this morning that speaks to the same truth from a different perspective:

Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision that can change a life, or even a nation, are those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private. – Dan Coates

In his letter to the Roman church, Paul implied the same thing:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

I appreciate what Paul says: that character is produced by endurance. That word – endurance – implies that we do not grow all at once. Certainly, we’re often tested by emergencies – great big, scary moments after which nothing seems the same – but it’s the foundation we’ve built (or failed to build) over the weeks and months and years preceding that moment that determines how we’ll fare.

Don’t waste time. Don’t wait on tomorrow to decide to grow. Start preparing now, and rest assured that your next crisis (which will come, I guarantee) will not put you to shame.

Cheers,
D


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