Tag Archives: failure

Competing Goals Lead to Failure

 “Ya gotta have goals!” Zig Ziglar

 

I have always been a Zig Ziglar fan.  He’s a believer and a great motivational speaker widely accepted in secular business circles.  His message is mostly secular, but the principles he uses are good.

We all have goals.  What the motivational speakers ought to do is teach us how to set different goals.  You see, we are led around by goals whether we know it or not.  You may have a goal of feeling loved.  You may want God to accept you.  You may want security or peace or rest.

But, you say, those things are different from specific goals of writing a book or losing weight or climbing a mountain.  Not really.  In fact, the goals of your flesh may be just the things that are keeping you from fulfilling your specific goals.  What happens when your desire to feel good clashes with your desire to lose weight?  What happens when your goal of being accepted by everyone interferes with your goal to write a book?  You see, these competing goals cause you to lose on both sides.

For example: Fred (pick a name) wants to lose weight.  He knows that he is unhealthy and at risk.  Fred struggles with depression because he wants to be appreciated and respected, but feels like a loser.  In order to feel better about life, Fred eats.  He slips into the grocery and buys chips and candy.  When he eats them, he feels good.  Then, he begins to feel bad again because he knows that he can’t lose weight by eating candy and chips.  But Fred also has a goal of being thrifty.  He hates to waste money and he already feels a little guilty about spending on the chips and candy.  So he eats the whole bag of chips and all the candy.  That way he hasn’t wasted the money.  He feels good about not wasting the money, but he feels bad about not losing weight.

Do you see the competing goals?  As long as Fred has this internal struggle, he accomplishes very little.  Some people would say that there are two natures in Fred, a good Fred and a bad Fred.  They will suggest that he fight against the bad side with rules and accountability.

I say that there is only one Fred and he has forgotten that the old way of thinking and living is in the past.  He is free from his former goals.  He no longer has to feel bad about himself because God feels very good about him.  He no longer has to feel like a loser and to compensate for his bad feelings with behaviors that help only for a moment while adding to his pain and frustration in the long run.  Instead, Fred has a whole new set of thoughts available to think.

Suppose Fred began trusting the Lord for his money.  Then, if the Lord revealed that he had made a bad purchase in the chips and candy, Fred could trust that the Lord would provide as he threw them away.  Suppose Fred believed that Heaven was his and success was in the hand of the Lord.  Then the next time Fred began to hear the accusations of him being a loser, he could trust in God’s assessment of him and not feel bad so that he has to buy chips and candy to feel good.

Now, I know this is simplistic, but it is also exactly how this process goes.  Our goals in life are the product of our thinking.  Competing goals will lead us to failure.  Competing ways of thinking are the problem.  The flesh and its thinking is part of your past.  It represents the old way.  But that old way is gone, replaced by a whole new life.

The Lord loves you.  He has already accepted you in Christ.  When you came to Him, He was already waiting because He had already been calling for you.  Nothing you have done has barred you from His love.  Once you came to Him, He has made all things work together for good in your life.  There is no failure, no bondage, no fear to identify you.  You are the victor in Him.  You are free in Him.  You are safe in Him.

Once you and I begin to think like saved people, we will begin to see amazing changes in our lives.  We will see the goals of our hearts fulfilled.

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What’s a preacher to do?

I have to stop here and ask a question: how is a preacher supposed to motivate his congregation to good works if he cannot use a performance-based system?  You see the problem?  If there is no punishment left for believers, no condemnation, and if there is no system of rewards for good performance, then why wouldn’t people just go out and do whatever they want?  Of course, that’s the question Paul relates in Romans 6:15.  People will just sin more if they understand that they are under grace.

So, preachers, you must teach your people how to walk in relationship with Jesus.  Yes, that is something very different from performance.  It isn’t about how they walk, but with whom they walk.  Those who walk with Jesus walk far from sin.  He is good and He leads us into good.  We can trust Him.  We cannot trust ourselves to walk right and all the good teaching won’t help.  Instead of learning to walk “uprightly,” we need to learn to walk with Him.  The “uprightly” part will happen.

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My Failure

Years ago I worked with a man who relished the opportunity to show me where I had failed.  At one point after I had worked hard, he sat down and spent a long time delineating my failures.  That’s what he called them.  He said that I had failed in this, failed in that, etc.  When he was done, I was discouraged and depressed.  All I could think about was leaving that situation, which I did very soon afterward.  The night before I left town, the church had a little party for us and this pastor spoke so highly of my accomplishments and character.  None of it meant anything to me.  Failure rang in my ears for a long time.

Is that what we will face in Heaven?  Will the Lord sit us down and point out our failures?  Even if He doesn’t call them sins, won’t we feel shame and guilt if He shows us times when we could have done something for Him but failed?  I really do understand the motivation that might provide for believers in this life, but it seems so inconsistent with the overwhelming message of love throughout the Scriptures. 

Listen: God is not surprised with our failure.  That’s why we need a Savior.  Through our days in this world we are learning that we no longer have to walk alone, in our own strength and wisdom.  We are learning.  That means that we aren’t at the end yet.  Three steps forward, two steps back; maybe even four steps back sometimes.  None of that matters.  What matters is that we learn to walk with Him.  Along the way we will fail.  And every time we have an opportunity to be thankful for the One who is greater than our failures.

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But…but…but…

I had a nice visit with a friend in the hospital the other day.  Somehow this topic of the judgment came up and he said that he was confident that we would not be judged for our sins, but that we would be judged for the missed opportunities and the lack of zeal in our hearts for serving the Lord.  In other words, we would be judged for actions after our salvation.

Now, he said that he didn’t mean sins; he believed that our future sins were washed away with our past sins.  What he meant was our works for the Lord.  Perhaps I should say our performance.  It fascinates me that it always seems to come back to our performance. 

Once we become Christians, according to this way of thinking, we become responsible to perform according to a certain set of standards.  Failure to do so will bring shame and regret, perhaps even condemnation.  Could you lose your salvation based on poor performance?  Some believe that.  At the minimum, we will be judged somehow, someday, for our poor performance.   After all, we all know that we have missed opportunities to stand up for the Lord and we have even continued to do things that He considers sinful.  So, some type of spiritual consequence seems reasonable—according to this type of thinking.

But if we believe that our sins are removed and there will never be any condemnation for us, as the Scripture says, then the negative side of our performance is a moot point.  The fact that I miss opportunities or that I continue to do sinful things certainly does not surprise the Lord.  He knows that I am learning to walk with Him, but my flesh continues to have a strong influence in my life.  God knows these things and He still accepts me.

And the fact that some of my works are stained by my fleshly input isn’t a surprise to God or to me.  In some ways the surprise is that some of my works are not stained in that way.  Amazingly, wondrously, the Lord does use me and does bring glory to Himself through me.  So, if some of my works are burned up in the fire, why would that be a disappointment to me?  That’s what I expect.  The only emotion I will feel is the joy of seeing that somehow He managed to do His work in, through, and with me. 

Will I regret not giving more?  Will I be ashamed that I didn’t witness more or serve more?  I really don’t think so.  It isn’t that I am “doing just fine.”  I know that the flesh is still active and still influential.  I also know that all the glory for any good in me belongs to Jesus.

So, I told my friend that there will only be joy in that day, according to my thinking and according to what I believe the Scripture teaches.  He had to stop and think and I hope that he continues to think.

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