I woke up this morning troubled by yesterday’s failures. In fact, I spent most of the night last night trying to drown out the voice of my inner slave driver who incessantly told me that I’m still the same and that I might as well give it up. More confessions: The truth is that I wasn’t primarily troubled this morning about my sin before God. Yes, of course, there was that, but I was mostly concerned about my reputation before others. The question, “Why did I say that?” led as it always does to, “I might as well give up.” It was this refrain that repeated in my head all night long: “Nothing ever changes. Everything will always be the same. You’re no different now then you were decades ago. Just give up.”
Of course, I knew that the ways I had sinned by not loving my neighbor, by trying to impress others, was ultimately tied to the gospel, but I was having trouble getting there. The first impulse of my heart was to “get my act together.” I determined what I needed to do to demonstrate that I really was going to be different today. Honestly, I wasn’t drawn to prayer and Bible reading. I felt agitated and was drawn to list making. But God in His kindness inclined my heart to start my day back where I needed to. In my reading through Romans, this was my portion for the day; this was how God spoke to me:
In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:18-22 ESV).
God made a promise to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, that his children would number as many as the stars in the heavens. The promise had been given twenty-five years before but still he had no children. He considered his own body and the barrenness of Sarah’s womb—their inability to fulfill their part of God’s promise should have crushed his faith. But Paul tells us that he “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”
I know that you’re familiar with this story and that you know that its ultimate fulfillment is in the promised Messiah. But this morning this story spoke to my heart in this way: I could look at the weakness and barrenness of my life. Those were, indeed, true realities. In response, I could get out my list, my sticky-notes, and devise ways of feeling better about myself. To switch back to our patriarch’s story, I could go visit Hagar. Or I could give glory to God knowing that even though I am still so very weak, so very barren of true love for my neighbor, God has already promised me that I would be fruitful and that my life would somehow count. How? Only through faith in the righteousness of another. It was in this process of rehearsing God’s promises to me, of giving Him glory for His wonderful mercy, grace, and kindness, that my heart was changed and I walked out into faith again.
Every morning, every moment of every day, I have a choice to make. I can trust in my heart’s default position: Work it out, work harder, prove I’m better, show that I do love my neighbor, engage with Hagar and my sticky-notes. Or, I can rest in His promise that even though I look at myself and realize that for me it’s been nearly forty years since I first believed the promise, the One who is able to speak into existence things that don’t exist has declared that I am righteous now and that this faith is enough now. It must be enough or I can’t breathe. That was the choice for me today and it’s the choice we all face every day.
Don’t get nervous. I’m not saying that now I’ll cavalierly spend my day being rude and popping bon-bons. No, this transformation means that I have faith to fight the war again—this time with a smile. I have the courage to get up again and seek to love my neighbor and love my Father because I know that for Him . . . it’s enough. My belief in His grace is enough for Him. May it be enough for me today, Lord.