Chapter OneTwo Choices: Works or Grace?
You have only one life to live, and you have a right to enjoy it. But one of the
main things that will keep you from enjoying your life is works of the flesh.
Works of the flesh are attempts to accomplish through your own energy things
that are God's job.
And trying to do what only God can do always leads to frustration. Trusting God
do what only He can do always leads to joy because "what is impossible with
men is possible with God" (Luke 18:27).
Jesus said, "My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you
[sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully];
for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show
themselves most effective in [your] weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We become frustrated when we try to achieve by works a life that God not only
brought into being but designed to be received by grace. Grace is the power of
God to meet our needs and solve our problems.
I was living a frustrated, complicated, joyless life many years ago before I
began to seriously seek God for answers to my problem of a lack of peace and
joy. When I had a problem or a need, I tried to help myself and work things out
in my own way, which never produced any good results. The Word of God and my
personal experience have taught me that the way to avoid the frustration of
fleshly works is to ask God for help.
LET GOD HELP YOU
At times, all of us are guilty of trying to handle our circumstances instead of
trusting God to take care of them for us. It is not a sign of weakness to admit
that we cannot help ourselves- it is the truth. Jesus said, "Apart from Me [cut
off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
You may be frustrated, struggling, and unhappy simply because you are trying to
fix something you cannot do anything about. You may be trying to change
something that only God can change. Perhaps you have a situation in your life
that you don't want, and you are trying to get rid of it.
If you are like most people, you will worry, fret, and work yourself to a
frazzle until you realize that only God can get rid of it for you.
Maybe there is something you do want and are trying hard to get, yet nothing you
try is working, and it is frustrating you. In that case, the only thing you can
do is back off and wait on God. While you are waiting for God to take care of
the situation, I encourage you to enjoy the wait.
That may be hard because it takes patience, but it pays marvelous dividends in
the end. Waiting on God honors Him, and the Bible says that the person who
honors God will be honored by Him.
LEAVE IT INGOD'S HANDS
Suppose you feel you can't wait to get married, so you decide to find the
perfect mate for yourself instead of waiting on God to work it out for you.
It would be a terrible mistake to become so desperate that you settle for
someone who is not right for you. It would be much better to wait until God
brings you a divine connection.
Maybe you are married, and you have been thinking, I want my spouse to change. I
just can't put up with my partner anymore.
You cannot change your spouse; only God can. But God does not move in your life
when you struggle and try to take matters into your own hands. He moves when you
trust Him. So I suggest that you pray, cast your care on the Lord, leave your
hands off the situation, trust God, and go ahead and enjoy your life.
It may not be a marital situation you want changed. You may feel that you want
your kids to change, or you want more money, or you may want a different job.
We all have something going on in our lives we would like to see change for the
better. Desiring change is just part of living.
You are always going to want something in your life to be different. So if you
want an enjoyable life, sooner or later you must learn to quit trying to make
things happen yourself.
Numerous times I struggled while trying to change my husband, trying to change
my kids, trying to change myself, yet I failed every time. I probably struggled
with changing myself more than anything or anyone else.
The truth is you can't really change yourself. You can only tell God that you
want to change and that you are willing to change. You can only throw open your
life to Him every day by praying, and leave the rest to Him. Ask for God's help
by praying this prayer:
Lord, work in me and change me. I know I can't do it myself. I know I can't make
it happen, and it's not my place to make it happen. But I want You to do it,
Lord, because I believe that only You can do it right.
In Mark 9:23, Jesus says that all things are possible to him who believes-not to
him who comes up with a bright idea and a big plan and tries to make it work.
WORKS THAT DON'T WORK
The Word teaches that God's people dug wells for themselves that couldn't hold
water: "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain
of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns
which cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13). I know what it is like to work hard
with no results. I have spent many years of my life digging empty wells like
these, and I can tell you, it really wears you out.
You may be digging an empty well right now. You may be working on something or
somebody. You may have your own little project going. You may be following your
own little plan, trying to make things happen in your own strength and ability.
If so, it is not going to work if you have left God out of your plan.
Many times we make a plan and then pray for it to work. God wants us to pray
first and ask Him for His plan. After we have His plan, then He wants us to
trust Him to bring it to pass.
Our activity birthed out of the flesh actually prevents God from showing Himself
strong in our lives. The Bible describes that kind of activity as "works of the
flesh." I call them "works that don't work." That is not the way to live the
higher life that God has prepared for us.
TWO WAYS TO LIVE
We can live as a slave to the law, or as an heir to the promise of grace. The
following passage presents two ways in which you and I can choose to live:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondmaid and one by the
free woman. But whereas the child of the slave woman was born according to the
flesh and had an ordinary birth, the son of the free woman was born in
fulfillment of the promise. Now all this is an allegory; these [two women]
represent two covenants.
One covenant originated from Mount Sinai [where the Law was given] and bears
[children destined] for slavery; this is Hagar. (Galatians 4:22-24)
We know from studying Genesis that Sarah represents the other covenant mentioned
in these verses. She is the woman who was supposed to wait on the promise of God
and receive the child born in a supernatural way.
Later in this book we will review how at one point Sarah grew tired of waiting
for God's promise, tried to make things happen herself, and ended up in a mess.
But God was faithful to keep His promise, and she found out that when we wait on
God and trust Him, He will bring to pass what we are believing for according to
His will-no matter how long it takes.
We can live by trying to take care of ourselves, or we can live by trusting God.
We can try to make things happen, or we can believe God to make things happen.
The choice is ours.
If you want the pressure taken off, then choose to stop trying to make
everything happen yourself, in your own timing, in your own way, according to
your own plan. Instead, throw your life wide open to God and pray:
Lord, whatever I may desire in life, if You don't want me to have it, I don't
want it. If You do want me to have it, I ask You for it and believe You will
give it to me in Your time, in Your way, according to Your divine plan.
In my own life, I have adopted a new policy. It's called the hands-off policy.
Every day I pray: Lord, I am not doing anything unless You show me what You want
me to do. I believe if you ask God for this kind of guidance, you will see
marvelous things happen in your life.
DON'T WORK TO CHANGE OTHERS
As I said before, I tried so long to change my husband, but it never really
helped. As a matter of fact, it only made things worse because people rebel when
they know someone is trying to remodel them.
People want to have the freedom to be who they are. Everyone wants a little
space. No one wants to have to endure judgment and criticism from somebody else
who is constantly trying to rework them.
Finally, Dave and I made an agreement that we would stop trying to change each
other because, otherwise, our marriage wasn't going to work.
The fact is that God made men and women to be different, and He did that on
purpose. We are to help build each other up where we have frailties, but we are
not called to change our differences. We are in each other's lives to encourage
each other to become all God has in mind for us to be.
If God has given you a marriage partner who seems very different from you, most
likely He did that because your spouse has some gift or ability or
characteristic that you don't have but need. Together you complement each other
with your strengths and depend on each other in your areas of weakness.
"But my partner drives me crazy," you may say. Well, you probably drive your
partner crazy, too. Many couples are divorcing today because they say they are
not compatible. But the truth is that in the natural, there are no two people in
the world who are 100 percent compatible.
The Word says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall
become united and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis
2:24). It sounds so easy when you read in the Bible that a man will leave his
mother and father and cleave to his wife, and the two of them will become one
flesh. The leaving and cleaving part is not usually difficult. It is the part
about becoming one that is the problem.
I can now say that Dave and I have become one flesh. But in the beginning it was
not any fun. I was trying to change him, he was trying to change me, and we had
all kinds of problems.
Dave was laid back and didn't worry about anything; to him everything was okay.
I was always worrying about everything. For example, I would be in the kitchen
counting up the money and the bills-and there would always be more bills than
money. While I was in there worrying, Dave would be in the living room playing
with the kids. That made me mad because I wanted him to come into the kitchen
and worry with me.
I would ask him, "Why should you be in there enjoying yourself while I've got
all this burden on me?" "You don't have to have the burden; nobody told you to
do that," he would say. "We tithe. We give. We're doing what God is telling us
to do. God takes care of us. Don't worry. Come in here and play with us."
Oh, no, I had to worry. I had to try to figure out where the money was going to
come from to pay all those bills. I would say, "Well, if God is going to give it
to us, who is He going to give it to us through, and how is He going to give it
to us, and when is it going to come?" Perhaps you recognize these symptoms of
worry in yourself:
"Why, God, why?"
"When, God, when?"
"How, God, how?"
"Who, God, who?"
I wanted answers. I didn't want to trust; I wanted to know. I wanted a blueprint
laid out in front of me for everything because I didn't really know how to trust
ARE YOU RESTLESS OR RESTING?
The Bible teaches us that those who believe God enter into His rest. That is one
way you can tell whether you are really in faith, or whether you are just trying
to have faith. When you enter into the realm of faith, you enter into the rest
of God: "We who have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on God) do
enter that rest" (Hebrews 4:3).
Rest is freedom from excessive reasoning, struggle, fear, inner turmoil, worry,
and frustration, which develop because of our working to do what only God can
do. Being in God's rest is not resting from physical activity but resting in
confidence in the midst of everything that goes on in life. It is a rest of the
soul-the mind, will, and emotions being at peace.
You can rest in God because you know He is going to take care of you and meet
your need. You don't know when or how, and you really don't care because you are
enjoying the life you have right now while God is working on your problem.
God wants us to live that way. But to do that, we have to "believe that God
exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek
Him [out]" (Hebrews 11:6).
Dave and I are about as different as any two people can be, and yet we have
learned to get along with one another.
We have learned to respect each other's differences. We work on so many projects
together that we have to trust God.
What about you? Which way do you want to live? Do you want to live by God's
promise, or do you want to live by struggle?
I believe God has you reading this book so you will make a decision about how
you want to live your life. If you are worn out, I urge you to enter into God's
rest. I encourage you to quit trying to control everyone and everything around
you and simply allow God to do for you what only He can do.
No matter what you face, God wants to help you. After His Son, Jesus, died on
the cross for our sins, was resurrected from the grave, and ascended into
heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit to be in close fellowship with us. If you have
invited Jesus into your heart, the Holy Spirit is your Helper, and He is
standing by to give you comfort and aid.
That means you don't ever have to face your problems alone.
I have learned that even if I get into trouble through a lack of wisdom or some
fleshly disobedience, I don't have to face it by myself. I can turn back to God
for help, and He won't let me down.