PDP, Tim Keller and the Gospel

When I was on Cru staff, there was this thing we did before each semester called a PDP: Personal Development Plan. It was this specific material for Cru staff that I HATED. I thought it was so dumb, but the funny thing was, like so many other things I HATED early in ministry, I began to see its value. I’ve since come to really enjoy putting on paper what is already in my head. Now, I don’t have to fill one out for my job any more, but I actually pulled it out today to put some things on paper that I want to be working on.

There are several areas to think through: Spiritual, Relational, Financial, Physical, Personal, Ministry. The idea is to identify 2-3 goals for each area to cover in a six month period.

Some examples:

  • Read through the Bible this year (Spiritual)
  • Run 5 miles, 3 times a week (Physical)
  • Take my wife on nice date every other week (Relational)

I’m still working through it but one thing I want for sure I have written down is under personal: Read more!

I really enjoy reading but don’t read as much as I used to. I have a bad habit of getting books but not reading them. It got really bad when I got my Kindle which allowed me to get cheap books but not see them pile up!

So, my goal from now through the summer is to read up the books (both e-books and paper books) that I have bought during the last couple of years before I buy anything new (that isn’t required for my job or preaching or something).

First up is Tim Keller’s book: Every Good Endeavor. I have enjoyed most of his books, but I especially have been enjoying this one since work is something I enjoy.

One quote that has stuck out to me is in Chapter Five: “Work Becomes Fruitless.” He makes the point that, due to the fall of man in Genesis 3, things just fall apart and don’t work correctly.

On page 86, he writes:

“Something is wrong, and we may know the effects, but we fall short of understanding the true causes. Contemporary Western culture tries to account for this restlessness without recourse to the biblical doctrine of sin. Psychologists help us understand the part of our early childhoods have played in creating unnecessary shame or a sense of being unloved. Entertainment distracts us from our discomfort. And doing good helps bolster our identity as a good person. But the Bible locates the root issue as our separation from God.”

I underlined this quote because I think that one way that American Christians can be unbiblical is the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps or just-believe-in-yourself ideal. I particularly can be prone to think that if I just plan well and work hard, then it will go well with me. Even in thinking about the PDP I wrote about above, I tend to make a list of things to do and ways I want to change, then go about it, either leaving God out of the equation or sprinkling Him on top like a dash of salt, hoping that he’ll bless me in my hard work. God helps those that help themselves is written in Scripture, right? [Nope]

So, as I embark on setting some goals, I do it lightly, remembering who is sovereignly in control of my life. While I cannot control when my son will get sick or when something happens at work that causes me to miss my runs for the week or reading plan for the day, I can submit my goals and desires to God. I trust that both through the providential circumstances He brings and my God-given design of wise planning, He will refine me to be more like the me I am supposed to be in Jesus. It will take a lot of hard work – not my own, but the hard work of Jesus on the cross – already done for me. It is that hard work that frees me from “having to” but allows me to “get to.”

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