I really wanted my life to count for him
“I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
The first day of my freshman year of college, I made a vow to God. “God I know I’ve been a disappointment to you. Thank you for a clean slate and for the opportunity to start fresh in college. From this day forward, I promise to be your guy.”
This wasn’t the first promise I had made to God. I really wanted my life to count for him. I sincerely desired to turn my life around and was willing to do whatever it took.
I left everything on the court in my effort to be the best Christian I could be. I gave it my best shot. But my best shot wasn’t good enough. My promise was no match for the temptations of college life. I gave in, time and time again, just as I had done in high school and junior high. Every time I did, I felt horrible, as if I had let God down.
Does this sound familiar? Frankly, I think every human being lives it to one degree or another. It’s programmed into our DNA. I like to tell people that we’re all natural born legalists. We try to live for God, but it’s impossible for us to do. The apostle Paul described his own experience this way: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
We can’t carry it out or even figure it out. Every “brilliant” idea I had turned out to be nothing more than the same old fear-based, guilt-driven plotline – try harder. And many of the messages I was listening to reinforced this thinking. Ironically, my favorite Bible verse at the time was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. I guess I didn’t see that little three-letter word “not.” Everything I tried came right out of my own understanding. No wonder nothing ever clicked for me.
Funny thing – the phrase “try harder” is not in the Bible. Maybe you believe God is telling you to try harder or to do better. If so, would you let go of that thought right now? It did not come from him. As a matter of fact, the Bible opposes such thinking. Take a look at the apostle Paul’s question in Galatians 3:3 (NLT): “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Ouch!