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One of my deepest struggles in life is my constant desire to show God and others how “good” I am. I am utterly burdened to succeed in anything. My early life was full of constant success and I often found myself to be the best at the activities I was involved in. This success undoubtedly conditioned me for future disappointment. To this day, I am often motivated by a hope to become the best at something- so I can say “I am the best.” For some reason I think that by doing great things that my life will be more significant- that it will be a life that God looks at and says “you are so great, I’m glad I created you.” That people will pat me on the back and say, “you are important, you make a difference.” It has become more apparent to me that I subtlely long for my own glory and it makes me sick.
Whatever I decide to do, I have a deep desire to be the very best at it. This is not simply my very best, but the very best in the world. I would probably not be competely contented to be the best, unless others knew that I was the best. How disgustingly prideful! What inevitably happens is that I findout that someone else is “better” than me and I become discontented. The realization that I will not be the “best” tends to bring me discouragment and so I take on some other project to “try” again to be the best, only to find that I will not be the best at it either. It’s a messed up cycle. My guess is that others are discouraged with this cycle in their own lives and it has caused them to dispair. It must cause others to question their personal significance and worth in a vast multitude of people. If they lack something like good looks, or money, or ability, etc. they must wonder why they are special?
Over the course of this past year, I have been significantly challenged to recognize that this drive to create significance for myself is sin. It is nothing more than the drive to glorify myself- to be god. This sin will ultimately lead to death and despair- not life and peace. I have been encouraged to realize that my striving is a performance based life that will cause others to think that they must perform up to my standards to be accepted by me. This is not the Christlike life of acceptance and grace. This perfomance mentality is the kind of self-righteous striving that ultimately separates the true Faith in Jesus from any other destructive counterfeit works based religion. I am regularly brought to a point in my life, where I get weary of my striving, and want simply to rest in Christ’s grace. I am reminded of the words of Isaiah who said that even our good works are like filthy rags to God and that is why we absolutely need Jesus. It is tremendously freeing to know that my relationship with God is not be based on my abilities, capacities, or performance. This truth, however, is very difficult for me to actually rest in and “practice”. Talk about a catch22- practicing not practicing! Will I be the best at it? pitiful
My problem is that I often forget my true identity in Christ. I forget that at the moment I was indwelt by the Spirit of God- when I surrendered my life to Jesus, I was accepted, forever. Not because of what I am or have done, but because of who He is and what He has done. This past year I was encouraged by a mentor in my life to remember that I am nothing apart from Christ. He told me this to my face three times: you are nothing, you are nothing, you are nothing. He did this to break me of the false and demonic idea that I had anything of worth to offer God. I must stop my vain striving. I pretty much sobbed. But then He reminded me of my true identity in Christ. That I am an adopted son of the Most High God who loves me and accepts me not on the basis of any thing that I offer, but on the basis of the merits of His Son. I can not tell you how huge of an impact this has had on me. I thought I knew the Chrsitian message, but I had not deeply experienced it. To this day, I struggle with wanting to be succesful in wordly terms- to show God and others how good I can be. But, I constantly remind myself that “He who thinks he is something when He is nothing deceives himself.” Furthermore, I rejoice in the true truth that I am unable to make myself right with God. This is nothing but self-right-eousness. Rather, I trust Him alone for everything. I am grateful to rest in the reaity that I am loved and accepted by the King of Kings who is not only my Master, but who is my friend.
Thank you Jesus for your life and work on my behalf. I am so so grateful that I can rest in your grace, apart from which I would be endlessly striving in vain.
No more, my God, I boast no more
Of all the deeds that I have done;
I leave the hopes I held before
To trust the merits of Your Son.
So I’ll come to You and rest
From my so-called righteousness.
I will cease my striving and put my hope in Jesus.
Trusting in His work for me.
I’ll rest in Christ.
By sov’reign love I bear His name,
What was my gain I count my loss.
My former pride I call my shame
And nail my glory to His cross.
The finest works of my own hands
Dare not appear before Your throne:
But faith can meet Your law’s demands
For Jesus’ deeds are now my own.
I Rest in Christ
Hymn by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
3 responses to “Vain Striving”
Great blog, not only for how you presented it, but also the subject matter. I am a seriously competitive person, I hate to lose. The question that keeps revolving in my mind is, “How do you strive to be the best, but at the same time not look for the rewards that in the end help you put forth more effort?” I am very confused about this, I know that God wants me to put my best foot forward, but then how do I know I am doing it correctly or for the right cause, or when I have reached the boundary of that path and need to depart? Like I said, confused. Thanks for the thought provoking message.
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