Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When Obedience Isn't Enough

Lately I find myself saying things like, "I've done everything I can... I'm trying my best... I don't know what else to do... nothing I do seems to be good enough... why can't I make this work?..."

I know I can't work for my salvation, but it seems I still operate under the assumption that if I work hard enough and do my best that the rest of my life should work out in the way I want it to. When it doesn't, I assume I haven't worked hard enough, or done well enough, or been obedient enough. But as my brother reminded me this weekend, this is further evidence of my utter need of the gospel. That no matter what I do, my best efforts cannot redeem situations or people. Yes, God calls us all to obedience, and the choices I make and the effort I put forth will have consequences. But I should never put my trust in my good effort as the ultimate determining factor of positive outcomes. There is no formula to a happy or blessed life. If I do A and B, there is no guarantee that it will lead to C, even if I really, really want it to, and even if conventional Christian advice tells me it will. I often hear the gospel preached as, "Trust in Jesus to save you from your sins... and now that you've done that, get your act together." Of course, willful sinning will have consequences, and the obedient Christian will avoid certain types of consequences. But some of the most devout Christians have endured some of the worst circumstances, in spite of, and even because of, their obedience. Jesus said we will have trouble in this life. Why am I surprised by it when it comes?

I am and remain a sinful person. I am no longer dead in my sins, but until this world is made new, my sin and other people's sin will continue to mar and scar my life. I need the gospel, even when I'm at my most obedient and faithful. Because even then, my efforts aren't enough, and my life may not turn out the way I had hoped and planned.

Not the labor of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

~Augustus Toplady, "Rock of Ages"


Kurt Willems said...

I understand the cycle and tension you find yourself in. Effort... well, it can be a good thing, but so often it leads to the very exhausting cycle that we have been freed from! We are saved for good works... but such a mentality can easily be warped by whatever power or principality crosses our path. In such moments, i am trying to learn what it means to not become weary in doing good. Not all that easy though. Thanks for the authentic look at effort and faith and may God guide you as you discern and learn to embrace grace!

E. A. Harvey said...

Thanks Kurt! I guess I'm in the painful process of realizing grace in ALL areas of my life. I have been operating under the assumption that as a Christian, some areas of my life should... you know... just work out. Like a perk of the faith something. But no. EVERY area of my life needs His grace. I expected trials and struggles in certain areas of my life and was blindsided to find them in another. I felt (feel) like I had failed in some way. Ah, but this fallen world. Grace upon grace upon grace.