Performance-based Faith Glorifies Yourself
Performance-Based Faith Glorifies yourself
Since last March, a lot has happened in my life. Quite honestly I had no idea that there would be so much to deal with inside me, although, I knew I had been suffering with horrible giants like Fear, Shame, Guilt, Pain, Abandonment, Doubt, Despair, Hurt, Rejection, Loneliness, Sorrow and the list could go on.
Yes, I ended my last post saying that I was set out to have my journey with Jesus and my children as a single mother. However, I had no idea what this journey was going to be like.
Although I accepted Christ as my Savior/God when I was 16 and recommitted my life again to Him (with an additional step of baptism again), I clearly had not known God enough to understand and anticipate how my journey would be with Him. I thought if I prayed well and forgot my past, made better choices in life, was careful with money, did good things, cleaned my house regularly, partied less, was obedient to supportive people in my life, quit talking back or getting into conflicts with loved ones, was submissive to people who stood by me in my low points (especially because I thought I didn’t deserve to be loved for what I did in the past), listened to no secular music, stopped watching movies (or at least tried not to enjoy them too much), ate less, exercised more, and of course live in a “no-known” sin kind of life and did what all good women do – all of that would make me a better person and free me from all those internal giants I was suffering with.
While all of the above things are actually an automatic result of something happening deep inside of you, I misunderstood that the opposite is what’s supposed to be true. Like if you did all of that then you are supposed to be a free person from all those giants. At least that’s how the world seems to view it and some of the early teachings I thought I heard previously added to my belief-system. To put it simply, I believed and practiced "performance-based faith."
Unfortunately, this belief system was not helping me. All of the above giants (Fear, Shame, Guilt, Pain, Abandonment, Doubt, Despair, Hurt, Rejection, Loneliness, Sorrow etc.,) inside me were only taunting me day-in day-out, and I was not able to overcome or slay any of them completely.
However, God has been so graceful and faithful; He never let a single one of those giants over take me completely. Even though I held on to Jesus as my only anchor every day and believed that He was my Refugee and my fortress, I did not know that there was something more to this two-way journey with Jesus.
He kept leading me to discover more about the path, sometimes through simple cues from Sunday sermons in my church, sometimes in the discussions within church small groups, sometimes through daily devotions in my inbox (that I subscribed to,) and yes, sometimes through Instagram posts of great leaders and lovely people that I followed.
Before I found or understood anything, I realized that I was still struggling with these giants (inside) only because of how my reactions and responses were to the situations in my normal everyday life (of a single mother and full time working woman) and to the big battles (social shaming, character assassination, separation, divorce, child custody & support).
However much I prayed for God to free me from issues in my life and find solutions for my problems, I was still missing a bigger picture. I had no peace or joy or even love (for myself).
I did one thing right during those times; I did not throw away a single message in a sermon or a single word that came from a friend or any resource in the name of Jesus. I was eagerly looking , hungry for any clue that would connect me to the missing piece because Jesus promised peace and His word is true.
However, if I was not experiencing peace, I thought, then I must have been doing something wrong, so my mind didn’t stop looking for correction. The Bible was there, of course, but I could not make full sense of it yet. I felt like I understood it, but when I had to deal with these giants, I just kept failing again.
During this phase, my church gave me free access to“Rightnow Media," a sorts of Christian Netflix app. for all its members. It has excellent content of Biblical truths, messages, devotions, movies and all that good stuff by great leaders and passionate servants of God.
I started selecting a few Bible studies, and one of my friends from my church small group mentioned James book, a book I had not run before. So I picked the Book of James bible study by Francis Chan. It is interesting how God leads you to what you are looking for…because there were few other James book bible studies but this particular one by Francis Chan has a picture of Golden Gate Bridge in SFO, California, that somehow attracted me.
I desperately wanted to understand and stayed up till midnight to watch this Bible study even after a long working weekday while my three year-old went into deep sleep. What I found in that Bible study, in those late hours of the night, almost broke me and got me to thinking in a different light entirely.
In the 8th episode, Francis Chan talks about James 4:1-12. Chan said that because of what you are pursuing in life or what you are after, God is looking at that thing and saying that it is His enemy! It was such a strong phrase.
Francis Chan said we have to evaluate our life and ask ourselves “Am I so in love with the world that I am not even trying to find fulfillment through God?”
Quite honestly at that phase of my life, I was not in love with any possessions of the world or the enjoyment of this world or any such sorts. I was just looking for some peace, love, and joy where I was. Then I started to question myself. Was I suffering with those giants (Fear, Shame, Guilt, Pain, Abandonment, Doubt, Despair, Hurt, Rejection, Loneliness, etc.,) because I was looking at the people in this world to validate me, approve me, understand me or love me or why? Because as far as I already knew, God approved me, accepted me, loved me to the point where He even laid His life for me and called me His child the minute I accepted Him as my God and my Savior. So the struggle still existed because what I was subconsciously conveying was, “Jesus I love you, but You are not enough”.
I did not look at it that way until that night. I almost felt like my eyes were opened to a new light. First of all, I did not know that we have to pursue God in such a way that we find fulfillment through Him and that is what pleases Jesus more than anything we do for Him. I didn’t know that having such a purpose or pursuit in life would bring me the ultimate peace God has promised every one of his children.
After that revelation, I started breaking down before God saying, “God, looks like I almost got everything wrong. I missed the point and I missed what it is to have a real relationship with You and what it means by coming closer to you. Forgive me. Have mercy on me."
The beauty of God’s love is beyond explanations. He is full of grace and empathy for His children when we go to Him in complete surrender. Like literally a surrender that says, “no matter what I have or don’t have according to what I think is good in this life, You are all I want; You are enough and I am all Yours.”
That was when I started my journey inwards looking upwards.
I really wanted to pursue God and know what it was to love Him and what it is to live with Him and how nothing else matters except the truth that He speaks about me. He simply says –
“You are Mine; You are Loved; You are Forgiven; You are Redeemed; You are Restored; You are anointed; You are filled with My Spirit; You are Victorious; You are a Giant-Slayer; You are not Weak but Strong in Me; You are a Conqueror; You are fearfully and wonderfully made; You are My Master-piece; You are Undone; You are Unfinished; I am the Author and Perfecter of your Faith; I am for you; I give you beauty for ashes; I bring Life from the Dead; I am the Resurrection and endless other affirming words from my word directly spoken to you(if you believe)!”
All that while, I have been reading those words and memorizing some but never before have I had such a revelation and lasting impression on my heart and mind, that these are actually spoken to me directly.
Once I started believing them and thinking through them and pondering upon what God is actually saying about me and to me, I was amazed to see the strength I kept receiving from the Holy Spirit. Not only that, I looked and lived every situation in my life in the light of that truth and fought my battles from that strength. God kept making sure I was getting it right through various kinds of trials, temptations and tests and He kept on giving me Grace to cling onto the truth that I received from Him and brought me closer to Him. All He was looking for from me was if I was being obedient to His word and if I was honoring Him or people or myself.
This has been an amazing journey so far and a long way to go in knowing more about God and living with Him in the highest places on this land. I cannot even explain how He got me to love Him so much so that nothing matters to me anymore. He taught me by leading me to the Scriptures, messages and people from whom I can learn and grow.
By establishing this relationship between Him and me, He also made the people around me love me and accept me and be favorable to me (not only because of their own goodness) but by His Grace! I mean I saw mountains move in favor of me. This is not a joke. I believe God spoke to their hearts in a way that all they could have for me is nothing but love! God also made sure He established boundaries (which I never had before), so that I won’t surrender to any other person (or their thinking) other than Him being the utmost place in my life. That required some more pruning from the closest people who are not in line with the kind of truth that God has to teach me. And God tested my heart there too.
Now, I am in a place where I do not need anything or anyone but Jesus in my life. Of course I know God wants all of us to have good communities to live a life glorifying to Him. So, my prayer is for God to put people in and around my life that are only life-giving (rather than tearing me down by looking at me through the lens of my past or misunderstanding me when my motives are not wrong).
Another beauty is that God clearly made me understand that performance-based faith is not glorifying Him, but it’s glorifying ourselves as if righteousness is something we can earn with our own works, when in truth it is a free gift from God because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
So now I do not need to struggle with disappointments each time things are not going as planned or when people leave me or reject me because my only constant is Jesus, and He is a good God who never leaves me or condemns me. He corrects me gently and allows me to enjoy the freedom I have in Christ. That’s amazing!
"And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [separate you from profane things, make you pure and wholly consecrated to God]; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved sound and complete [and found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). (I Thes 5 – 23).
So you can rest assured that you are taken care of wholly by your God himself when you have your heart set right with Him.
Going into 2018, my only desire is to Know My God More. I really want to know His heart so that I can be a broken vessel, a body and a boat that He can use for His mission.