I watch my dad work harder than anyone I know. Growing up I saw an incredibly intelligent, humble, high-integrity man competently complete any assigned task. Whether menial or elaborate. In fact, as an air traffic controller at the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, he excelled in accuracy and competence. To this day, I assure you he does not buckle under stress and gets done what needs to get done, regardless of the cost to himself. He is exactly the person I wish was the air traffic controller for every flight I board.
Both my parents raised their three kids to work hard, do the right thing even if no one else did and excel. We were instructed that we “can do it” and that we “will do it” to live in their house. My immediate family members are still the least lazy, most competent people I know. I feel immense gratitude for those lessons and cannot communicate their positive impact on me. Unfortunately, I took those good lessons and, over time, made a damaging shift.
We all know that an attitude of “I can do it myself” can foster pride and certainly, at times, it did in me. However, an “I can do it” attitude wasn’t the primary match that sparked my attempts at self-sufficiency. Instead, I focused on a long list of things that I should do, even though it wasn’t God’s list. I put all the effort I’d learned into performing a litany of “should do” tasks to make sure I felt internal peace. Then I rotated through a variety of shackles: guilt at my subsequent failures and mistakes, exhaustion as I labored to remain at peace, and melancholy at the freedom I kept losing.
When I first heard the gospel clearly presented in middle school, I remember clearly thinking:
I know I’m a sinner.
I know Jesus died and was raised from the dead.
However, the questionable point for me was the last part: that I was saved only by faith in Jesus.
I didn’t question whether Jesus could do everything for salvation. I just didn’t believe He did. Meaning, I’d observed that in life everyone does his or her part for things to work out. My teachers taught me; I should listen and study. My mechanic fixed my car; I should pay money. So of course Jesus did His part; but I also should do my part of good works and obedience.
The most shocking and freeing part of the gospel overwhelms me still. Not only can I do nothing to save myself, but God does not even give me a list of things I should try to do. Just faith makes me right with God. Just faith gives me peace. Just faith justifies me. All the shoulds fade away. Just faith.
Of course as a Christian, some shoulds are good; I should obey the Bible. I should love Jesus with my whole heart and life. I should work faithfully where God calls me. But some shoulds aren’t good. And even though I’ve tried to eliminate them, often I run back to some old shoulds or create new ones. I should figure out a way to make that person happy so I can have internal peace. I should continually try to defend myself and my actions so I can rest in my right keeping of the rules. I should obsessively pursue perfection so everything will feel just and right. Unfortunately, my actions motivated to gain internal peace, righteousness, and justice simply usher me onto a hamster wheel. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Don’t build another hamster wheel to replace the one Jesus crushed. Instead enjoy the delicacies provided for you.
Internal peace: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Righteousness: “For our sake he made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (Romans 5:21).
Justice: “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
No self-sufficiency requested, required or needed. No shoulds. No list to complete. Freedom to enjoy and experience that which I cannot and should not seek to attain. And when I live in that freedom, I act accordingly — serving and loving in joy instead of running in internal circles trying to grasp something Jesus already gave me. When I perform a good work out of a quest to attain internal peace, my joy falters. But when I do the very same thing out of a place of internal peace my joy soars.
Faith alone, not self-sufficiency, sits at the core of salvation. But it also provides the best foundation for the rest of life too.
Surviving the Holidays
Saturday, Nov. 23
10 a.m. to noon
Link Classroom North at the Fort Worth Campus
Are you dreading the holidays due to a recent loss? We know the holiday season is difficult to navigate after losing a loved one. That’s why we want to help you prepare at Surviving the Holidays. We’ll talk about what to do with the surprising emotions, favorite traditions and other changes you may encounter, plus where to find the comfort, strength and hope you most need.
Join us any Sunday!
Whatever your week was like, you’re welcome here at Christ Chapel. Gather with us on Sundays for community, worship and truth for your everyday life.
Fort Worth Campus: 9:15 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
West Campus: 9:30 and 11 a.m.
South Campus: 11 a.m.