|Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these (Luke 12:27).|
I always think I have to put forth a lot of effort if I am to blossom in a way that is satisfactory to the Lord and to my fellow human beings. Trying to do things right in my own strength as opposed to basking in the acceptance that is mine through Christ is an ongoing struggle. Since placing Mom into nursing home care, I've been aware that I need to rest before the Lord, but instead I have plunged into a new round of activities (will I never learn)? I started physical therapy for my back yesterday (a good thing) and was intent upon making that therapist think I am a Really Good Patient (not a good thing). I was lying on the floor concentrating hard on exercises for my transverse abdominals when the following thoughts came into my mind with the Lord's gentle remonstrance:
Sometimes, we enter into a new relationship thinking, "Here is a chance for me to start over and to do things right so that I will be accepted and not rejected." This can be an innocuous relationship with a new physician, a physical therapist or a health counselor, a nutritionist, or a weight loss group. And we have to be careful, because during this time when we feel that pleasing this person/people might be possible, without realizing it we give up partaking of the unmerited favor that is ours through Christ because we are working to gain favor of our own.
We get the idea that it is impossible to please God, and so we stop trying, and we turn our faces away from Him. The beauty of His grace, offered to us through Christ, is that we don't have to try. Grace covers us so that we don't have to deserve God's love, we have only to receive it as an unmerited gift.
Having received unmerited favor, we then have a template of how to love others who don't deserve it. We offer them the grace that we have enjoyed through Christ. But ahead of that, we must have given up the effort to be acceptable in our own strength; we must have partaken of God's grace in order to offer it to others.
When we are exacting with ourselves in the attempt to earn our own favor, we become exacting with others. Falling back into the grace that is ours through Christ will indeed lead us to the effort of obedience, but we will be released from the sure-to-be frustrated labor of attaining perfection through our own efforts.
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?