The word alone elicits feelings of pressure. Tears flow, frustrations surface, comparison gnaws, and self-pity rises when we feel like our performance has fallen short of an expectation. We are raised with a performance-based mindset that conveys the message that “you get out what you put in.”
Therein, we train ourselves to believe that the burden of success falls on our efforts.
“If I study diligently, then I’ll do well on the test.”
“If I work harder, then I’ll get a promotion.”
“If I practice longer, then I’ll win the game.”
When doing more results in success, we feel affirmed and our egos are elevated. It’s no wonder that sometimes we try to generalize doing more as some sort of magic formula in our spiritual walks, too. How many times have the lies below cartwheeled across your mind?
“If I pray more, then God will favor me more.”
“If I serve more at church, then God will favor me more.”
“If I give more, then God will favor me more.”
Praying, serving, and giving are all good things when they are done with a pure heart. But sometimes, we mistakenly equate our faith walks to a conduct grade, in which God will reward us with an A+ on our “good person report card” when we do things for Him or for others.
We falsely assume that our good report card will grant us more love, more grace, and more mercy.
We stretch ourselves into doing more and working harder, only to to create a loose band with a wide gap of discontentment in the center. Suddenly, we look at ourselves — bent out of shape — wondering how the magic formula of “more” widened the gap instead of closing it.
Then, discouragement sets in. The enemy wants to deceive us into bearing the weight of our salvation by relying on what we do — a weight much too heavy for a broken sinner to carry.
There are two destructive dangers in placing more value on good works than on God’s grace:
1. When we rely on our more, we make God’s power less. There is no doubt that our lives should bear the fruit of being disciples of God. But when we rely on doing more to essentially add points to our “salvation score,” we fall into a danger zone.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Heart check: Is our “more” a natural result of us bearing good fruit from a pure heart? Or are we subconsciously trying to earn merit with God or manipulate him into answering our prayers because we “deserve” it? God’s favor is not a token economy system. It is a gift; a grace that was ordained long before us and will remain long after us.
2. When we rely on “more,” we can fall into competing with our brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of collaborating with them. Our list of things that we are doing “for God” can transform into a trap of comparison to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In our striving, we sometimes begin to judge the works of others. In our minds, we are doing better at living out our faith and being “good people” because of our actions.
We begin to focus on what people around us are not doing, because of what we are doing; making ourselves the prototype instead of Jesus. Likewise, we can believe the opposite lie that someone else is more precious in God’s sight, based on the amount of time they spend doing good things. We wonder how they seem to “have it all together.” We may even begin to resent them for the fruit that they are bearing. We forget that we are equal in the eyes of God, regardless of the titles or leadership positions that we hold in the eyes of the congregation.
We ignore the truth that the same Lord who died for the believer who dedicates several hours a day to reading and prayer also died for the believer whose Bible is collecting dust.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Heart check: Have we forgotten that we are all sinners saved by grace? No human is the standard of perfection.
This is not to say that we should become complacent in God’s Kingdom. However, we must not allow good works to become an idol that makes us fall victim to unclean hearts.
My prayer is that we can humble ourselves by remembering that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more or to lead him to love us less.
And there are no works that promote or demote our status with God, in comparison to others. This faith walk is a gift of grace. May we walk boldly in what He has done for us, rather than tiptoeing in His grace and using the formula of “more” as a safety net, manipulation tool, or measure of success in our faith walks. As we consider these truths, we will bear fruit out of love and not out of selfish ambition.
“…for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:10-11).
Let us walk in the freedom of knowing that our striving can never give us rest, but Jesus can. When we chase after His heart and His example, we will naturally grow in His image.
Simone’s full-time job is working as a school counselor in Raleigh, NC. When she is not serving kids at school or church, you can find her hanging with her husband, writing in a local coffee shop, spreading encouragement on social media, or creating calligraphy for her Etsy shop. Simone is the published author of "Glimmers of Hope: A Devotional Workbook for Navigating the Struggles of Womanhood with Grace." Her passion is helping herself and those around her find beauty in every season. You can keep up with her blog and small business ventures at thehopeanchoredsoul.weebly.com.