All of us have been in situations where we planned certain things, thought we had enough supplies, or gumption, or grit to accomplish a goal and came up short. Many times we get a do-over, or there is a next time, to try again.
I remember as a kid, hearing the standard reply to a failure. It was something like, “Well, you gave it your best.” As an adult I wondered, ” What if my best is not good enough?” And as all grown-ups know, many times our best is not good enough.
Life was not meant to be lived in your own strength. In Romans 7 we see the agony of a man who, as far as anybody knew, was excelling in doing things right. A man who gave his best, and it sure look like what he did was enough to be what a man is supposed to be.
This passage is the agony of a lost religious man. Better than all those around him, yet, in his heart ,he knew his best was not good enough. He knew he was always full of sin. He knew he was really empty inside. Those moments alone tormented him.
In John 6 Jesus had fed the 5000. Some thought that now they had a free meal ticket from then on. Others thought if they gave it their best, and Jesus would just teach them how, they could do the works that He did. John 6: 27-29 says, ” Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Therefore they said to Him, ” What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, ” This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
There is a searching and seeking we go through to be saved, which is caused by God as He draws us to Himself, but our efforts lead up to a moment where we say, ” I cannot do this. My best will not be good enough.”
He wants us to pursue eternal life by coming to Him, with nothing but failure to show Him. Then He does an amazing thing; He just gives us eternal life for free”. He says the main “work” is to believe. To believe what? It means to trust your life to Him.
It means He did something for you that you could not do for yourself. It means to continue to trust Him with every part of your life. It means being in a relationship of love and trust daily with Him which is higher, and beyond all other people and things. Will you do good things after you meet Jesus? Of course you will. You will do so because you are saved, not to get saved.
Did Paul ever come to the place where he knew that what he did would be enough? Yes. He simply had to believe what Jesus had already done for Him on the cross. He had a new life “given” to him. He knew his best was not good enough.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith (I trust that what Jesus did on the cross would be good enough to save me forever) in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
So take a deep breath. Paul was set free and poured his life out to get this message to us. As Lewis said of Jesus, ” To trust Him of course means trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you did not take his advice. Thus, if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him, but trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing things in order to get saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first gleam of heaven is already inside you.” JWP