Be sure to first read the last post on grace – because when I speak of effort in this post, I am coming at it from a distinctly grace-empowered position — and not as something that comes directly from our own sinful self.
Is effort necessary in the Christian life? Do I need to put in energy and enthusiasm into living from a distinctly gospel-centered perspective? Is effort even biblical? Did we not receive every divine blessing as a gift. We neither merited nor deserved anything that was bestowed upon us by the Father of lights.
Salvation was aroused in us by the Holy Spirit in spite of us. Our hard heart was shattered by the gospel of Jesus apart from us. Our stubborn, selfish nature fell prostrate before a Holy God and began to worship because of something that did not originate in us.
So where do we come in? Where does my effort come in? Do I just put my life on cruise control, listen to a bunch of good podcasts, order the latest book from Amazon and allow a heightened sense of spirituality overwhelm me while all I do is sip my latte and click away on my trend-setting keyboard?
I believe that if we want to live a life that is distinctly gospel-centered in nature, we must put in the effort. How come we think that this effort is necessary to be exerted in every other sphere besides our spiritual sphere?
- If I want to lose weight, I lay off the Krispy Cremes and the corrupt carbs that constantly cry for my consumption.
- If I want to bulk up and acquire some muscle mass in order to avoid the starved-european look that fits into size twenty-nine waist skinny jeans, I need to start pumping some iron and increase my protein intake.
- If I want to learn to snowboard, it will take a bruised rib-cage — but with practice — I will eventually be doing the half-pipe while listening to ColdPlay.
- If I want to memorize important information for an upcoming test, I will create index cards, use word-association, enlist the help of my spouse or friends and be ready to show the exam who is boss.
We can all attest to the validity of the above items. Except maybe the one where I do the half-pipe. We can all agree that if you want to excel at something, you must put in effort. The Christian life is not different, in terms of the effort that we have to put in to it.
I believe that effort not only emboldens our walk with Christ, but that it is also biblical. We need to understand though, that the effort we generate does not come from us. We put in the effort and we exert our energy. But God is the One who works through us and He enables the effort to come from us. Putting in an effort to deepen our relationship with Jesus is a conscious choice that both you and I make every single day. We must be resolute in our decision to grow and mature every single day. Here is what the bible says about effort:
- Paul writes to the Philippians and says the following: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Php. 2:12).
- Peter wants to make sure that we make our calling and election not an ethereal novelty but a certain actuality. He writes in his second letter and says the following: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 2:3).
This means that everything that we need to have a passionate, pleasurable and potent relationship with Jesus has already been given to us. It is a matter of us exercising that which is in us already. A lot of us do not want to do this because it requires effort. Peter continues to say the following: Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall (2 Pet. 1:10).
To exert effort is not easy but it is not insurmountable. Jesus said that we need to strive to enter through the narrow door (Lk. 13:24). It is much easier to listen passively to a sermon thinking about where you are going to eat after the service. It takes much more brain power to actually pay attention and be full of attention when a person is speaking gospel truths into your life. It is much easier to fill our mind with junk because it goes down pleasant but then produces less than stellar results. We naturally tend to choose the path of least resistance because it requires no effort from us. But if we want exponential growth, we must put in meaningful effort. If we want to experience spiritual maturity, we must put forth grace-infused effort.
- If I want to be a better husband, I must put in the effort.
- If I want to be a better friend, I must put in the effort.
- If I want to read my bible consistently, I must put in the effort to create a system for myself that I will follow
- If I want to be a person who is pleasant to be around, I must put in the effort to curb my sarcasm and forgo majoring in snark central.
- If I want my mid-section to subside, I need to stop being seduced by the deep-dish, no matter the smell.
So effort is a necessary part of the Christian life. We just need to remember that the effort demonstrated by us is not produced in us but rather initiated from God by His grace, for His glory — and for the joy of the people who are in our life.
Question: How do you specifically put in the effort to live your life from a distinctly gospel-centered position?