Abiding in Christ

Genuine faith abides. This simple statement has rocked my being.  As a believer, I have struggled with performance.  While I understand grace conceptually, I have struggled to apply grace in my personal life.  I would attribute my struggle partly to being male and partly to being prideful and selfish.  Throughout my life, accomplishments have been the measuring stick of manhood. In high school I was a decent athlete. Yet I was never the biggest nor the fastest person on the field. So, to compete I learned to overcome physical limitations with hard work.  As I’ve gone through life I’ve developed a pattern: hard work, failure, more hard work, favorable result, failure, more hard work.  With every failure or limitation the only situation I felt I could control was my work ethic. I’ve always believed hard work pays off in the end.  Yet failure continued no matter how hard I worked.  To escape my failures in life I retreated to sin and passivity.  Failures with sin and passivity put me in a rut.  While in my rut, I figured I should just work harder. Yet my hard work only frustrated me more, which led me back to sin, which made me feel more like a failure.  Soon, my hard work became mundane, which continued to perpetuate my feelings of failure.  I directly related these actions to my relationship with God. I thought the reason I was struggling personally, in my marriage and with my relationship with God, was because I was not working hard enough.  Basically, I thought the only way to perform well was to work hard.  I felt God would honor my hard work and eliminate the failure in my life.  I felt my hard work demanded God’s attention.  Yet no matter how hard I worked, I continued to suffer.  I mean, faith without works is dead, right?

Most people would say, “Hard work is noble, I don’t see the problem."  I agree, hard work is noble. Nor am I giving anyone the excuse to become a couch potato. But I’ve learned that for me hard work produced a secret rebellion. When we came to 1 John 2: 15-17 in the Genuine Faith series, the Scripture highlighted my issues in HD.  In my heart I was struggling with pride.  I wanted to execute my own will and bring God along for the ride.  My hard work was for my benefit and my comfort. The tricky thing about pride is that it doesn’t appear to be sin.  After all, shouldn’t I deserve a good life, shouldn’t I deserve good things, shouldn’t I deserve a payoff for my hard work? Why wouldn’t a good God want me to have success?   In my pride I fully believed my work honored God.  In reality, I honored myself.  I was working hard at the wrong things.

I looked up the word "abide" and noticed some interesting synonyms: continue, endure, submit, withstand, await.  One definition stated  to abide was “to accept without opposition or question” or to “accept and act in accordance." Each word and definition I found required me to relinquish control and put complete trust in something.  That something for me equals Jesus. Which leads me to 1 John 2:28-3:10. While there is work involved, the object or focus of my work is pursuing Jesus and HIS righteousness not my own.  Jesus doesn’t “come along for the ride” in my life.  Jesus is the ride and he directs my path.  I must sit down buckle up and ride with full confidence that he is in control.   The issue with pursuing or practicing Jesus’ righteousness is that it constantly reminds us of how unrighteous we are.  As I lived life faced with my frailty, failures, and limitations, I felt it was my responsibility to compensate for my weakness.  But now, I’m learning to abide. I’m learning to remain and not seize control when things get scary.  I’m learning to submit my desires to him and trust that every command is for my good and not a restriction on my life.  I’m learning to trust that every good thing originates from Christ. I’m learning, as Pastor John stated,  “to live a life defined by Him."