How often have you felt like a failure? Sometimes we say, “Man, I’m failing as a Christian. I’m just not a very happy Christian. I should be, but I’m miserable.”
If I heard you say that, I would ask you to take a step back and look at how many times you’re living a legalistic life. You feel that you are not succeeding as a Christian, but how do you measure success? According to whose standards? Your standards? If you’re trying to succeed according to your standards, you’re right! You will feel like a failure. There is no doubt in my mind. Using your standards to judge yourself is just another way of living in legalism.
The answer is grace! In grace, you’re not worried about being crushed by your own expectations. You don’t fail yourself anymore. Instead you’re relying on Jesus! You can ask Him for wisdom and He’ll come through, because that’s what He said He would do. You don’t have to expect yourself to come through on anything. You don’t have that ability anyway, not in your flesh. Now you’re in Christ, and through Christ, you will find your joy.
Legalism comes with long lists of things you can and can’t do, and maybe even longer lists of things you should and shouldn’t do. It’s a constant struggle to try to meet all of those expectations. And it’s so unnecessary! You can’t control everything and everyone, and you shouldn’t try.
How many times do you walk into church, worrying in the back of your mind about what everyone thinks of you? Does this sound familiar? You’ve got the grace of God, and yet you’re living in fear of shame. You try to control their perceptions of you, but all you manage to do is make yourself miserable. There’s no need for that. Don’t live in shame. Don’t live in fear. You don’t have to!
I read a story recently about a woman who wound up in her parish’s counseling office, husband in tow. He complained that she was forcing him to go to church. When asked why she forced him to go to church, she explained that he preferred to stay at home to watch cartoons on TV. “But,” the counselor said, “you’re making him miserable.” And she said, “What am I supposed to tell people when they ask me where he is?” And the counselor said, “You tell them he’s home watching cartoons.”
She was floored by the counselor’s answer. “How am I supposed to tell people that?” she asked. “What will people think of him?” And the counselor said, “They’ll think he’d rather watch cartoons than go to church. Big deal!” (Families Where Grace Is in Place, Jeff VanVonderen)
Do you see? She didn’t need to try to control what people would think of him, making him – and her – miserable in the process. Trying to control the thoughts and opinions of other people is an incredibly tough way to live. It will drain you.
So you know what? I don’t let it stop me. Who cares? Who really cares what people think of you? Are you living in righteousness? Are you living your life in Jesus? Then that’s all that matters. My God is smiling on me, so I don’t care if that legalistic person over there is frowning on me. I don’t live for that person, I live for Jesus! There is so much freedom in Him. See you Monday.