“There is no doubt about it; God holds our lives safely in His hands. He’s the One who keeps us faithfully following Him.” Psalm 66:9
Have you been a believer for quite some time and find yourself almost drained from trying to follow the Lord? Do you find yourself drawing away from the Lord or activities you used to enjoy with other believers because you find it a burden rather than a delight? Is what was once something that lifted you up and gave life now sucking life out of you? You are not alone in this thing that happens as we walk with Jesus. Somewhere along the way in our salvation by grace, we take a wrong turn and end up following rules and laws thinking it’s in the keeping of them that God is pleased with us and that brings stress and burden. You are not alone! We have all experienced what seems like a thin line at some point in our walk with Jesus.
Paul spoke about it to the Galatians: “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh? (i.e.: trying to please God) (3:2-3).
I believe that when we feel burned out or stressed about our relationship with God, it can be a gift in disguise. It’s a sign that we’ve set grace aside and are now trying in the flesh to please God, to serve Him or otherwise be active in His kingdom work here on earth. Like when we suddenly feel pain in our finger, that’s the time to take a look at it and see a splinter there to be removed. We all want to please God – that’s a given in our walk with Christ. But if we aren’t fully confident that God is already pleased with us because of what Christ did for us on the cross, we will keep trying and trying in our flesh to please Him. And we cannot please Him in the flesh – not ever. That’s why Jesus came to take our place. The Father was pleased with Jesus and said so audibly in the gospels. And if we are “in” Christ, then God is pleased with us because He sees us in Christ. If we can get that deep into our hearts then the striving to please Him out of our flesh will stop hindering us.
Maybe when things aren’t happening in our lives that we are praying for, it’s because our “trying” is getting in the way. Striving clogs the flow of the Spirit and we end up not hearing or seeing very well. But don’t get feeling guilty about that. If we are in Christ we cannot flub things up. Even if we sin, God’s forgiveness is already in action! If we are redeemed, our sin is taken care of forever! If I may be so bold as to say, “Stop trying to follow the Lord. I did not say don’t follow Him, but just stop the trying part of it.”
Back to the title of this post: If Jesus took all the initiative…seeing that we could not ever save ourselves, and He came and did for us what would have been impossible for us to do, then does it not stand to reason that even after salvation He still is taking the initiative in our following Him? Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]” Even if the enemy is saying to you, “You have to do something about this or that, you can’t not do anything!” Recognize that indeed is the voice of the enemy of faith and grace. Just tell the enemy, “Hey, the work is finished! Someone who loves me already did it.” (Of course I’m talking about when you feel like you have to do something when God didn’t ask you to do it or hasn’t direct you to do or not do something).
We tend to act and then ask God to follow us because we think the responsibility for our relationship with Him is on our shoulders. Now, how strong are our shoulders? Isaiah 9:6 in talking about Jesus says, “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace.” Notice it only takes one shoulder of Jesus to hold things up in our world! It’s His desire to lead us and that should be our focus, not our obedience to Him. “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I Am], He may give it to you” John 15:16.
Oh believer, if you are tired, worn out from trying to pray the right way, do the right thing, striving to open doors that don’t seem to ever open…God sees you! Stop trying and just rest in what He has already done for you. He longs to give you to, longs to have your hands open to just sit back and receive what He has to give you and longs to “do” for you. Here are Jesus’ words Himself: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne” Matthew 11:28-30.