“We must act. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. And it is well-directed, decisive, and sustained effort that is the key to the keys of the Kingdom and to the life of restful power in ministry and life that those keys open to us.”
Words have power.
There is no denying it. What we say to ourselves and to each other has a direct effect on the outcome of our lives. With positive words, we can literally build up someone’s spirit. With negative words we can effectively and destructively tear someone down.
Much time has been spent in all different kinds of spiritual circles trying to explain the relationship between belief, faith, and effort. I’m not going to thoroughly answer all of our questions about these things here. Heck, I still struggle with all three of these things myself on a daily basis.
But what I can give you is a simple understanding of how each of these things stand on their own, and how they work together to create a life that is worthy of a disciple of Jesus. We must begin to tell each other about the power and the relationship between belief, faith, and our own personal effort.
Let’s begin by getting a simple definition of what each of these things is. No this won’t be exhaustive, but maybe it will be helpful.
Belief, in my understanding is about what you think about, what you cognitively (that means using your head) discern for yourself about the realities of life around you. Belief matters because it leads you to use your body to act in certain ways. What you believe about everything will affect everything you do. And I do mean everything. Belief begins with knowledge. You must learn something. That means you base your beliefs largely upon the training you were brought up in at home or in school. It also means that you base your beliefs largely upon your own personal experiences.
Faith, in my understanding is about how you act upon what you believe. There is an unseen element to faith. If fact, faith is completely invisible until you do act. What you believe and where you put your faith are intricately tied to one another. Faith is more like a muscle though, that has to be worked out. Faith can be stretched, strengthened, used, and even tested. And like a muscle, it grows as it is torn down and built up. That is why doubt isn’t such a bad thing. Doubt is more like the tearing down of faith in order that it can be built back up stronger than it was before.
Effort, in my understanding is about what happens when your belief begins to be forced into action through your faith. In other words, what you believe leads you to act a certain way. When faith is inserted into the equation, it challenges and even calls into question your beliefs. When this happens you are forced to see if your actions line up with your beliefs. A couple of things can occur when this happens.
- The quality and truth of your beliefs are tested for what they really are.
- You are forced to see how little or how much faith you really have.
For the Christian, effort is about working alongside the Spirit of God as He works in and around you.
Effort vs Earning
The problem many Christians have is that they do not see the difference between Earning and Effort. Earning happens when you think that God will approve of you because of your actions or your good performance. This is impossible. God will never approve of you based on your righteousness because it falls short every time.
Effort happens when you realize that God has already approved of you through what the Gospel teaches you about your value. You work…(and this is essential) NOT to gain approval… but to live in the freedom of a life full of right thinking (belief- which is a gift of God), right spiritual insight (faith-which is a gift of God) and right living (effort-which is also a gift of God).
I know this has been said and over-said almost to the point of losing its merit… but..your value was determined by Jesus on the cross 2,000 years ago. Who you are, how much God loves you, and your worth was all determined by Jesus and his loving act of sacrificing himself on the cross. That is where you must continually go to be reminded of why you need to stay on this planet. That is where you must continually go to know that this life is worth living and the life worth finding is not in all of the other things you have searched for all of your life. Jesus is your life. He is the blood flowing through your veins, the Spirit guiding you in all you do, and the meaning and purpose you have so desperately longed and searched for.
I know this is a lot to chew on today, but I wanted to give you something to think about.
What you believe matters.
What you believe about how God thinks about you really will shape and determine the direction of your life.
That is why it is absolutely essential to spend most of your time in Scripture reading through the Gospels and learning about Jesus and what He thinks of you. The reason most people love Jesus is because He gives us the best picture of what God is like. Believing in Him leads to having faith in Him which leads to living for Him. This is not something we can do to gain His approval. We’ve already got it. The cross took care of that for us.
Now go live in the freedom that faith in Christ provides for you to live in.