The difference between working and resting in God’s favor
For years, I held on to the idea that I had to work for God’s favor. As a child, I was taught the difference between right and wrong. Somehow, I developed into a very strict rule-follower. On the outside, it seemed like I was a model student and daughter. People praised me by saying I was so “good” or “perfect.” The more praise I earned, the more I attempted to do everything right. Since I received so many compliments from people about my behavior, I assumed if I wanted God’s approval, I had to earn it by doing things for Him. I approached my relationship with God by trying to follow all the rules; I thought this was how I would make Him happy with me.
I found out that trying to be good with my own strength was exhausting, impossible and hopeless. I thought I would never be able to measure up to what I believed God wanted. Then, when I couldn’t do everything right, I convinced myself that I had failed. Eventually, I realized God didn’t see it that way because it was never His plan for me to work my way into His favor. I continued to be disappointed by my imperfections until I understood that, through His grace, God saw me differently than I saw myself.
Grace, by definition, means: free and unmerited pardon or mercy. Basically, it’s impossible to earn grace. Feelings of relief came over me when I understood what scripture declares for us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
nine practical ways to surrender to God:
- Spend time reading His word each day.
- Memorize scripture verses about being His beloved.
- Talk to God – ask for wisdom, strength and patience.
- Surround yourself with people who encourage you in your walk with Him.
- Ask someone you trust to pray for you and keep you accountable.
- Give each day to God and seek Him for guidance as you go through the day.
- Serve in your church or other ministries by offering your gifts and energy.
- Remind yourself of who you are in Christ.
- Trust that God really does have good things in store for you (Romans 8:28).
God’s grace was available to me because of Jesus and through my faith in Him. It was grace that allowed God to be pleased with me, not my works. Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Realizing this allowed me to see that life wasn’t about what I could do for God, but rather, what He had done for me. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
When I realized that I was covered by His grace, I began to see my worth as His daughter. Seeing this showed me that my value, in His eyes, didn’t depend on what I did. My value was in the fact that I was His. I realized God didn’t want anything from me but my heart.
Part of realizing I wasn’t meant to win God’s favor meant understanding where this desire came from – it was an effort to control my life. I had been so caught up in following the rules, that I had forgotten the purpose of being obedient. I was never meant to rely on my own strength to follow Him, and when I had tried to do it on my own, I couldn’t. It was physically impossible, not to mention exhausting, for me to abide by every guideline.
Realizing I didn’t have to work to be cherished as His daughter meant finally finding peace. It meant being able to rest because I didn’t have to prove myself anymore – I was free.
Resting in God’s favor didn’t mean abandoning the instruction of His word. Instead, it meant seeking His guidance to show me how to follow Him. It meant recognizing that I had the Holy Spirit, and therefore, I had the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The fruit in my life was a result of God’s grace and my faith. It was only through the Spirit that I was able to listen. Resting meant realizing that God wanted me to let the Spirit lead my life. It meant realizing I couldn’t achieve perfection, and that I wouldn’t be able to follow every rule. It meant moving forward when I made mistakes by praying for forgiveness, asking others for prayer and remembering who I was in Christ. Finally, resting meant surrendering my life and efforts to God.
My prayer is that as His beloved daughters, we would remember that our lives, hearts and efforts belong to Him. My hope is that we would prayerfully consider the motives behind our actions – are we following rules or are we following God? Regardless of where we are, God has more than enough grace to cover us. It’s God’s grace that makes us worthy of every good thing He has for us, and it’s through His Spirit that we’re able to become who He created us to be.