Lately, I've been wrestling with this idea that Christ followers try too hard. The beauty of the gospel is that we don't have to try harder but rather let God do the heavy lifting. Being saved from eternal death comes through faith in Jesus alone, not Jesus plus this or that (Ephesians 2:8). Jesus already did the hard work when he set his face toward death on the cross. Yet, like my teenager, I find myself trying harder to be patient or kind or humble or ____. You fill in the blank.
Recently, while mediating on Romans 8:6, I had this little revelation: it's not about doing but thinking deeply on Christ, on the good news of salvation, on the Holy Spirit.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace...Letting my thoughts linger on the good news of freedom from death, that's why Jesus went to the cross. So we can win! We see this command to think on the Spirit in Colossians 3:2 as well.
Jesus paid the ultimate price (His life) to set us free from trying harder to get over our habits, hurts and hang-ups!
...you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ... 1 Peter 3:18-19Then, putting on mascara and thinking about how to not try harder to have a good attitude, I saw the log in my own eye. Typically, my contentment and joy is bound in my family's contentment and joy. But when someone in our family is out of sorts, I easily take on the same attitude, even though I'm telling myself to try hard not to have a sinful disposition. Even if there are moments in our home when no one is happy, my focus, my thoughts need to be on Jesus! My joy and peace and contentment should be from the good news: freedom, reconciliation, peace, hope of heaven. If I get to see happiness within the walls of my home, it's icing on the cake. And Lord willing, I may win them over with a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4).
Jesus talked about this himself, the idea of not trying harder in Matthew 11:25-30:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.This understanding or revelation indeed is a gift to those who find it. Dwell deeply on the gospel. Come to Me (Jesus), not try harder or pull yourself up by the boot straps but rather, think about Me.
This isn't to say we sit around and do nothing. 1 Peter 1:17 begins, "If you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear (respect, reverence) throughout the time of your exile." You don't have license to do whatever you want because of your faith in Jesus. You will want to do the right thing. In fact, right after we read that salvation comes from faith ALONE in Jesus, Ephesians 2:10 goes on to tell us that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR good works, which God planned for us to do. When we can do something good, we shouldn't sit back and say, "I could give money toward digging wells in Africa, but I'm just going to sit here and think about Jesus." When given the opportunity to encourage, to give gifts, to serve others, we will want to and we should.
However, when you feel like you can't win, can't seem to do the good you really want to do, when the right attitude is hard to come by or patience alludes you, you don't try harder. You stop and think on the gospel. On the Spirit.
Admittedly, I fail miserably, especially when the baby's crying and needs to be fed simultaneously as the big golden heads. Or when I'm tired. Or when I crave more sugary, sweet stuff. Ahh! Think deeply. Feel deeply. About Jesus. About my freedom. About the Holy Spirit.
Is letting the Spirit work in me really only a cerebral effort on my part? I think and the Spirit works. I'm thinking life-giving, holy characteristics: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, obedience, reverence, glory of eternal life... That's where I stop and then let the Spirit do the work? Really? It sounds too easy. But then, so does salvation from eternal death by faith alone in Jesus Christ: Jesus lives a perfect life, dies on the cross as a payment for my sins and then God raises Him to life. I believe it and and I'm given eternal life.
For two weeks, I've been experimenting with this idea. And every time I stop to think about my attitude and actions, they truly are always a reflection of my thought patterns.
So what will you think about today? Are you sick and tired of trying harder only to fail or win sometimes? Will you join me in thinking deeply about Jesus? About the cross? About the Holy Spirit? About the gratitude? About the fruit of the Spirit? If so, I'd love to hear how it works for you. Leave a comment below and encourage us all with your thought pattern experiences.