How successful are you at being a Christian? If you’re like me, you have your ups and downs. Some days I’m full of faith; other times I doubt. Sometimes my prayers are answered, but not always. I may gain a victory in one part of my life, but not in another.
For years, as I slowly grew in my knowledge and understanding of God’s ways, my response to failure was to try harder. I’d confess my mess and promise to get it right the next time. Likely as not, I’d fail again. Like Paul, I’d gripe (but not as eloquently) about my inability to get it right.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
I understood Paul’s frustration, but I never understood why he added the following verse: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25)
Sure, I knew that Jesus was the answer to everything, but just how should I go about applying Him to my struggle? I wanted to please God (largely so He’d like me better), and I knew what He expected of me (or so I thought), but I just couldn’t get it together. How was this Christian life supposed to work, anyway?
Well, here I am, definitely older and hopefully a bit wiser. Now I know what my problem was: I considered myself responsible for living the Christian life.
It’s a perfectly understandable mistake. Before I met Jesus, before I had the Holy Spirit living inside me, I was responsible for my life. I decided what my goals were, I decided how to reach those goals, and I put in the effort. Success and failure were all up to me—my responsibility.
Now, however, I no longer live for my own success, but for God’s. I’m here for His goals. He graciously lets me participate in His agenda. He takes full responsibility for the results—and He gets the glory. My job is to trust (with the faith He provides) and obey (with His strength). In fact, I can’t accomplish anything of eternal value on my own!
I would be a bit insulted that my efforts were so useless, except that even Jesus didn’t act on His own. Through the Gospel of John, He repeatedly emphasized that he only spoke the words and did the works that the Father told Him to say and do. (John 10:32, John 10:38, John 12:49, John 14:10) Then he tells us (in Matthew 10:20) that God will tell us what to say and do as well!
So, how does God accomplish His purposes through me? It all comes back to the Holy Spirit.
It’s such a relief not to be responsible for how prayers get answered—for healing people or convincing them to become Christians. I’m not even responsible for how I turn out! As long as I’m submitted to God, obeying all He tells me to say and do, then I can turn all the results over to Him and go back to just being human. Trying to be God wears me out.
This post was inspired by Randy Miller’s teaching at our Friday night small group. Thanks Randy!