- Eldon Peterson
Our Striving Would Be Losing
Our church has been working through the Bible from start to finish; from Genesis to Revelation in 30 weeks. In examining the lives of the men and women of the Old Testament, I have been struck by the honesty with which their stories are told. Because their sins are not glossed over we are invited in to see God at work in both their glorious victories as they walk closely with the Lord as well as their epic failures as they turn away and do things their own way.
We should find great encouragement in seeing how God uses common men and women like us who are less than perfect. However, in realizing this I wonder why we often feel pressure to be someone different than we are? Someone more righteous, more holy; someone that God could love. Stepping into this trap not only puts a crushing weight on us, but it fails to realize that it is all for nothing for rarely are we fooling those around us. So why do we continue in the charade? Because until we know the freedom that comes from Christ we will struggle to allow others to see who we really are.
How is this freedom found? First, by realizing that God will use our weaknesses to reveal His glory. “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Do you believe this? Can you see how God is glorified in your weaknesses? Listen to what Jesus says in John 3, “anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God." (21) God’s strength is made evident in what we do. Nowhere is this more evident than in our salvation as Paul testifies, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Can you see how grace changes everything? We strive to put on a better front before others because we desire to win their approval. How would this change if we knew that we had their love and approval no matter what we did? Wouldn’t we then be free to be who we are? Isn’t it our lack of confidence and assurance that drives our need to hide our weakness and portray ourselves to be self-reliant?
This world tells us that the key to spiritual success is found in “doing and try harder.” However, when we yield to this, we will find that living this way creates a monster with an insatiable appetite. Our knowledge that we can never do enough to be worthy causes us to either “fake it till we make it” or to humbly confess our inability and accept the gift of grace that Christ purchased for us on the cross.
in “Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything” Tullian Tchividjian writes, “Because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak; because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose; because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one.” Intuitively we know that this is true, but it is impossible for us to live these out as long as our eyes are fixed on ourselves! If we are striving for approval by what we have done or may do, we will find our efforts leaving us empty. We are likely to feel defeated and resign ourselves to play the role of the self-righteous hypocrite along with everyone else.
But there is another way. Martin Luther captures the Christian’s hope in his hymn, A Mighty Fortress, “Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He.” By resting in the finished work of Christ we can joyously confess our weaknesses knowing that our hope is not in our strength but in Christ. Are you still striving in your own strength? Why not rest today in the man of God’s choosing, Christ?