Self-help, or Grace?
The other day at lunch I bumped the table, spilling Michael’s drink. He grabbed his cloth napkin to clean up the spill, but instead of absorbing the water, the napkin just kind of pushed it around the table. How frustrating! What good is a napkin that doesn’t absorb? We had a whole discussion about things that are supposed to be helpful but really aren’t. Like the cell phone mount for the car that doesn’t stick, or holds the phone at a weird angle or interferes with the AC (I’ve tried all 3!) Or the software update that throws in a learning curve when you’re just trying to finish something quickly.
(As I’m typing this my computer wants to update – NO!)
What about the self-help books and videos that promise to make you smarter, slimmer, a better person, more at peace with the world, healthy, wealthy, and wise? These things absolutely have their place. I’ve learned how to crochet, practice Spanish, and operate my cell phone – so many things - by reading articles and watching You Tube videos, and I’m grateful for the help. But for the big things in life like figuring out how to go on when I’ve messed up, or receiving healing from emotional hurts, or becoming a kinder more gracious person, self help books and videos are not helpful.
They just kind of push the water around the table.
In 2 Timothy 2:1 we read,
“You then, my son [my daughter, my child], be strong in the GRACE that is in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t rely on your own strength, but rather on the strength that comes from a relationship with God based solely on His grace that “has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”
(2 Timothy 1:9-10 NIV).
Have you ever believed that after becoming a Christian it was up to you to live a Christian life by trying harder to be good? Maybe you haven’t actually thought about those exact words, but you lived that way. I know that I have. For example, have you ever:
Tried to discern direction or figure out the answer to problems
without talking to God about it and trusting His way?
Tried to be strong for others instead of sending them to Jesus?
Tried to forgive someone by ignoring the problem?
Tried to make ends meet without trusting in our Provider
and walking daily with Him?
Tried to become a better person by habit change and willpower
rather than by being transformed by a daily walk with the Lord?
Here is 2 Timothy 1:9-10 again:
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Working backwards through those verses I see that Jesus Christ, our Savior, has revealed God’s grace by destroying death brought about by sin, and revealing the way to life and immortality, so that we might be saved and live holy (good, loving, pure) lives. This has always been God’s purpose for us. Then He invites us to rest in that. To find our strength in that (2:1).
If His purpose has ALWAYS been for us to live holy lives – lives that display goodness, godliness, love and grace toward others – becoming our very best selves – if He went so far as to come in the flesh, identify with us (mankind), teach, heal, love, accept, sacrifice Himself…
Is it even conceivable that He would now just leave us to figure out how to be holy, good, loving people on our own?
In our own strength?
By trying harder?
Through self-help plans?
God’s purpose, even “before the beginning of time,” has always been that we would become our very best selves by finding our strength in a relationship with Him. Be strong in His grace. Lean heavy on Him. His grace is not just for our salvation, but also for each moment of our lives. Grace is a gift that, if accepted, makes us better people, provides for our needs, gives wisdom in challenging times, forgives our sin, corrects our mistakes, teaches us to forgive, heals us from past wounds, helps us deal with our inadequacies, makes us strong. Of course, we don’t deserve these things. They are given to us from the loving heart of our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ.
You then – Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus!
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Beth Marie Bearden gave her heart to Christ when she was a young teenager and soon after felt God calling her to ministry.