Are Your Accomplishments Earned By Effort or a Gracious Gift?

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Over the last week, I’ve been starting to write some preliminary notes for my next book.

The book is my reflection on what I’ve observed in the life of Americans – we as Christians have a hard time knowing the source of our successes and accomplishments.

One the one hand, we recognize our contribution to our current situation.  We went to work early.  We stayed late.  We studied pages of books.  While others played, we worked.

This all leads to the assumption that we are what we are because of who we are.  We respond by writing self help books.  We preach a message of personal growth and productivity.  We encourage others to elevate themselves to our standard of accomplishment.

At the end of the day our accomplishments should be attributed to ourselves.

We get the pat on the back.

On the other hand,  we recognize the grace in our current situation.  A door opened for which we were under qualified.  We attended a school we wouldn’t have been able to afford if we were born into another family.  We’ve been healthy and free of disability.  We made contacts that appear to be mere coincidence.

This all leads to the assumption that we are what we are because of grace.

At the end of the day, our accomplishments should be attributed to God Himself.

He is glorified.

The Two Circles of Accomplishment Attribution

Essentially, what we are talking about here is what Stephen Covey calls “Sphere of Influence”.  Covey believes that there are parts of our life that we can control and parts we cannot.  The wise person will identify what she can control and focus her efforts there.

Picture two circles.

The first circle is what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished, and what I contributed to my current situation.

The second circle is what I’ve received, what He’s done, and what He’s orchestrated my my current situation.

A Christian cannot deny that both circles exist.

The book of Proverbs is written to those who seek to alter the circle of their own circumstances.  Wisdom teaches us the way of right living if we wish to be blessed.

The answer, of course, is that both circles exist and both circles contribute to our current situation.

The vexing part of the answer is how big is each circle?

Are most of your achievements and accomplishments the result of your work and effort or the result of God’s gracious endowment to you?

My assumption is that too often we make our circle too big and God’s circle too small.  The impact is that we forget to thank God for what he’s done (because we’re too busy boasting of our accomplishments), and the greatest tragedy is that what we do does not result in the praise of his glory.

What say you?  Are your accomplishments something you’ve earned or something you’ve received?

Comments

  1. Jason says

    Based upon the Word of God, I would say our circle is miniscule in comparison to God’s. The older I get my perspective is changing seeing God’s circle growing infinitely and realizing how small mine really is. May God be glorified!

  2. says

    Good post. We all need to be reminded of this. A lot of people had a problem when President Obama said basically the same thing – that one’s success can’t be attributed just to the person. The mere fact that we were born in the United States of America makes God’s circle bigger than ours.

    • says

      Mark,
      Thinks like our place of birth, our family economic conditions, and health play a much larger role in our lives than most people would be willing to admit. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Jane says

    What happens if you live without visible accomplishments like myself and most of the world? If we value our lives by what we do or achieve, our lives don’t hold much worth by the world’s standards. How thankful I am that His circle is so much bigger than mine, that’s what makes my ordinary life worth living.

    • says

      Jane,
      In order to measure ‘accomplishments’ we’d need to be sure to evaluate those through God’s eyes and not the standards of the world. If I positively impact a single person in my life then I’ve accomplished something. Such an event is not for our praise, but the praise and glory of God. Like you I’m thankful that God’s circle is much bigger than my own.

  4. HS says

    I would rather have one circle, that is the one that ascribes all things to God. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philipians 2:13)… also “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee” (Psalms 65 vs 4) …and finally “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1: 17).

    That is not to say I am a zombie in all of this, but I feel any ability I have, any diligence, any hard work is all to God’s glory.

    • says

      HS,
      I think the Biblical witness would emphasize that we can influence our own futures to a certain extent (that’s the second circle). In the Proverbs a person who choses to drink and sleep will not be able to receive all the blessings that God intended for that person. Adam and Eve are one of many examples of people who made choices that negatively influenced their own futures. Even if it is really, really small I think we must say that we make choices that influence our futures.

  5. says

    A good article to comprehend. This is the area where the critics questions God’s sovereignty and even the Christians have dilemma. The more the second circle enlagres than the first one, it means we become matured in Christ.

    Proverbs 30:8-9: New King James Version (NKJV) “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches— Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.

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