What is Faith? Part 2

In the Christian life, self-reliance defeats us. Yet this trait is one we instill in our children and strive for as autonomous adults. We want our kids to be strong and able to take care of themselves. Conversely, we don’t want to be a burden on our children. We are a nation of independent adults who prize our independence.

So why is self-reliance a trap?

When I was in my late twenties, a wise older man told me that living the Christian life does not become easier as we grow older. My jaw dropped when he said this, because I had assumed it did. Surely it couldn’t get any more difficult! I had hoped that ease lay somewhere in my future.

He explained. In our younger years we mostly obey and pursue Christ through our own abilities. We’re physically strong. We rely on ourselves, thinking we’re relying on Christ. The results aren’t often as we had hoped, since we’re self-reliant, but we’re not lacking in zeal, so we don’t see ourselves clearly.

But, if we don’t learn to rely on Christ in our youth, we will struggle more in our old age, because we never learned the vital lesson that our heart attitudes and motives are just as important as our actions. Since he told me this thirty years ago, I have striven to rely on Christ.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue, since I still had an abundance of natural strength. I adopted a legalistic adherence to rules in my attempt to grow. I’m also prideful, so often when I thought I was seeking to please God, I was driven more by the positive feedback of others. I hid my flawed motives from myself. I thought I was godly, when in reality I was pharisaical.

Time passed. Thank God for trials!

As I experienced increasing hardship, I discovered my godly character wasn’t as resilient or as godly as I had thought. When circumstances became next to impossible, when I had reacted wrongly once again, when I couldn’t overcome my fear, and now when I’m all alone with my illness, I discovered and continue to find that I’m pretty puny.

In fact, I’m a baby. I finally understand.

How had I not been able to absorb this lesson earlier?

Because I thought I was able.

The Bible reiterates that apart from the Lord, we can do nothing. But it also tells us that his soul delights in those who do not shrink back, who don’t step out of the game, who press on to the end. He is the rewarder of those who seek him.

So what is the balance? How do we rely on him and press on to seek him simultaneously? As we lose our natural energy, our bodies long for us to settle into mediocrity, to cease striving. So how do we resist?

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We embrace this reality: The Christian life cannot be lived for the glory of God in our own strength. Period.

Jesus carries us. He knows our weaknesses and our needs, and he is the one who empowers change. Because he loves us, he desires us to have a personal, day-by-day, intimate walk with him. Intimacy with him transforms us. He becomes all important. We realize that it’s always been about his viewpoint, his words, and his enablement.

So, we pause to reflect.

Do I answer to the Lord Jesus? Trust him? Lean on him for help? Rely on him alone?

Now is the time. This is how we finish strong. The heart’s attachment to him is the anchor. This is what enables us: He is our hope.

No one promised us that good health and long life would be the answer.

It is and always has been him.

Galatians 2:19-21, The Message: What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.