I remember that as a new Christian I fell into the trap of trying to do too much for God. When we lived in Montgomery, Alabama, Kimberly and I had a schedule where we were at church or Bible study nearly every night. I think the only nights we had off were Thursday and Saturday. Needless to say, we burned out pretty quick. I remember myself saying, “I don’t get it. We’re trying to do everything we can for Him. Why is this so hard?” I had made the mistake of thinking the more I did for God, the more acceptable and pleasing I was to Him. And in this mistaken thinking, I had led my wife along a path that stressed and wore her out, too. It’s not about how much we do. It never was and it never will be. After all:
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. – Mark 10:17-18, ESV
My actions don’t determine my goodness before God. I cannot do enough to be good enough. So it’s not a measure of how much I do or how hard I work. It never will be. If we could work enough to be good enough, then we could overcome sin on our own. If we could overcome sin on our own, we have no need for a Savior. That would mean Christ’s death on the Cross would be meaningless. Mull on that for a moment. But the fact of the matter is that without His atoning sacrifice, we cannot be good enough in the Father’s eyes. Jesus is the only way we are good enough. There is no other way. This is why the Apostle John wrote these words:
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2, ESV
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10, ESV
We aren’t good enough. We never will be. When we understand that before a perfect God we, in and of ourselves, can never measure up because of our imperfection due to sin, we can free ourselves from the trap that we have to try and be perfect, that we have to do more and more and more for our God. This isn’t what He wants nor what He expects. Instead He wants us to understand and believe that despite our imperfections, we can be seen as righteous and holy in His eyes because of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, our Savior. When we truly believe this in our hearts, we become free. We are freed from the bonds of false expectations and impossible goals. And then we are free to do what He would have us do.
When we struggle under a mistaken belief that we have to do more or do better, we put undue stress and pressure on ourselves. We buy into this idea that WE have to do more. As soon as we embrace that idea, we have disconnected ourselves from our reliance on God. And that’s the real mistake. Instead, we need to understand that we have been extended grace by God through His Son. That grace covers our sins. That grace extends fellowship to us with our God. That grace permits us to come before Him, never to be separated from Him again. And that grace means that when we make mistakes, when we fall down, our God doesn’t give up on us. Rather, He’s the first one to want to pick us back up.
Now think about that for a moment. A lot of times we struggle with trying something new or big because we’re afraid of failing. We’re afraid of disappointing ourselves and the people around us. We’re afraid of the consequences. We need to hear that God is saying He doesn’t think like that. He is saying, “The only way you’re going to disappoint Me is if you don’t rely on Me. Just give it a shot. I’m enough. I’ll cover what you don’t. I can handle any mistake you will make. I have a great and glorious plan for your life but it means you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone. You won’t always be successful in the world’s eyes. But so long as you do it My way, so long as you’re willing to wholeheartedly surrender to My call, you are successful in the eyes of the only Judge that matters: Me. So take that step of faith. Put aside that failure of the past. And focus on the future you have with Me.”
What’s holding you back? What’s keeping you from that taking that step of faith in answer to His call? What prevents you from giving everything in the direction He has shown you? Don’t let it stop you any longer. Embrace His grace. Embrace His forgiveness and His goodness. Pick up your foot and take that first step. Then pick up the other foot and take the next step. Then repeat those two steps by faith over and over again until you get to where God wants you to be. It’ll be good and it will happen, so long as you do it with Him and dependent on Him. He promises it:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. – John 15:5-8, ESV