No Reason to be Proud, Many Reasons to be Grateful

I’ve been thinking about pride and grace a lot lately. Not sure why. Perhaps church sermons, perhaps theological readings, or perhaps the influence of the Holy Spirit – likely all three. What I’m grasping is that everything good flows from God’s grace. But if so, what have I accomplished? What can I be proud of? I’m starting to think the answer is probably “nothing.” Even if I “did it myself,” I didn’t actually do it by myself, but was empowered through the grace of God.

Consider the following Scriptural passages:

For in him [God] we live and move and have our being.  Acts 17:28

 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

They don’t suggest that we pat ourselves on the back for too much.

I’m now realizing that I’m alive, day-to-day, minute-by-minute, because God wills it. Beyond life itself, I may accomplish many things here on earth, but I will do so by talents and abilities that, although I may have nurtured, I did not create. By nature, I am intelligent and hardworking with a significant internal drive to achieve. It’s gotten me far in life, but I can’t claim to have made myself smart or granted myself a strong will; it’s just how I am, and I’m grateful for it. (When I was a child, my father used to say to me, “Remember, you didn’t make yourself smart.” Sorry it’s taken so long to sink in, Dad.)

Also, how much of my success is due to a combination of favorable external circumstances? I didn’t choose my parents or my siblings, and I didn’t arrange to be born in America. Yes, I’ve turned out okay with the advantages I’ve been granted, but make no mistake; I’ve done many stupid and foolish things along the way, including ignoring God for many years. (For that matter, I still do many foolish things.) How has it all worked out so well? Grace is the only answer.

Given my work in health and wellness, I often wonder, how do people actually become inspired and motivated to change for the better? What causes someone to, suddenly or gradually, decide to be well and take action? Why does one person, after years of drug or alcohol addiction, become clean and sober, while another, in seemingly identical circumstances, succumb to his or her disease?  Lesser illnesses are no different. How and why was I able to get emotionally and spiritually well? Why didn’t I stay stuck in my dysfunctional state? There are no human answers. There but for the grace of God go I.

So, of what accomplishments can I be proud? Can I say that “I’m proud to be an American,” in the words of the famous song? Proud to be a doctor? Proud to work at Florida Hospital? Proud to be married for 27 years? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that I can be proud of anything. Grateful, yes. Proud, no.

Of course, I am grateful for all of those things and more. Other words that work here are “happy”, “excited,” and “glad.” I’m glad to be an American, happy to be a doctor, excited to work at Florida Hospital, and grateful for to be married to Sharon, now for 27 years. And I’m especially grateful to God for his grace, which has made it all possible.

What are you grateful for?

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The greatest spiritual crisis comes when a person has to move a little farther on in his faith than the beliefs he has already accepted. – Oswald Chambers

Comments

  1. Grace is God’s gift, and everything flows from it. Great to reflect on His gifts through your post, Pete. Truly, we are and accomplish nothing apart from God, His gifts, His freely-given grace. Have a blessed week!