Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. ~ Zechariah 4:6
In December, I tend to wonder if I have any willpower at all. Sweet treats and snacks are everywhere that I look...treats that make it impossible to say no even when I am not even hungry. There are also many temptations to spend more than my budget. I stumble upon items that seem like the perfect gift to give to someone else even though it is more than I should spend. I also come across things that are on a wonderful sale that is so great that I have to get it for me. (Actually, these feelings are problems all year long, but the Christmas season magnifies them.)
I have always tended to think that I can do better if I just try harder. Self-improvement books and magazines have always appealed to me. Every Monday I resolve to do better. Sometimes I do better for a while until I go back to my old habits of laziness and taking the easy way.
Willpower only lasts for as long as my feelings stay uplifted. When I wake up tired and push the snooze alarm multiple times, there goes my resolve to work out. As long as I feel good, my willpower is strong. However, if I feel tired or just blah, I don’t feel like sticking to my newfound intentions.
If I could only follow the ten steps to a better life that I ready in that magazine I picked up in the supermarket checkout line, then I could act better, be better, and look better. Magic formulas for instant success and routines to follow seem like the answer to making everything work out great. However, following these routines relies on willpower and willpower comes and goes. Philippians 4:13 tells me that I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. It never tells me that I can do all things though my own willpower.
Using willpower is also an attempt to hide my weaknesses and try to appear as if I have it all together. Not only is this perpetuating a ruse but it also doesn’t give God a chance to work in my life. Being honest about my weaknesses and failings and even sharing them with other people gives Him a chance to work. Weaknesses help others relate to me. They shouldn’t embarrass me or cause me to hide from people. God works best through my weaknesses and even in spite of them. My weaknesses portray God’s grace and grace is what I need to press onward. Willpower says keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing, and don’t stop. Grace says soar with the wind and its okay when I mess up as long as I keep getting back up again.
If a magic formula or routine to be better did exist then I would not need God to help me. He will not let me find a do-it-myself plan of improvement that works for the long term. He loves me too much to let me go it alone in this life. I can’t just try harder to fix myself. I need to rely on God. My brokenness reminds me that I need a Savior. I do not want my response to be to try to do better. I have tried that repeatedly. I’m not here to check off a to do list or to impress people. Just like the wise men and the shepherds so many years ago, my response now is to bend my knee to Jesus out of adoration, thankfulness, and praise. Then anything that I attempt to do becomes an act of worship coming from a grateful heart.
This is what God longs for—people who choose to love Him and let Him work in them to love and serve other people better, He wants me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it is Him who is working in me to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13). It is freeing to trust that God has not given up on me and will continue to help me. Becoming is a process not an overnight miracle.
How do I live like this regularly? Honestly, I’m not there yet. Some days I work with strength from the Lord, some days I work in my own strength, and some days I don’t do enough of what I should do. But this inconsistency keeps me relying on my relationship with God more than ever in order to keep improving.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Jennifer Heeren has always loved to write. For more than a decade, she has enjoyed writing encouraging blog messages. She loves to write things that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk.com and has also been published on ChristianDevotions.us. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at www.jenniferheeren.com.
Publication date: December 24, 2013