Even though I take my worry to the Lord and remind myself of His truth, I've messed up by worrying, right?
I get upset with myself that the struggle even exists because of verses like 1 John 3:6-10:
"Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know Him or understand who He is. Dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God."
This Scripture (and many others like it) makes it sound like if we are true children of God, we'll never sin again. Which is why whenever I worry, I freak out because worry is a sin. Even though I take my worry to the Lord and remind myself of His truth, I've messed up by worrying, right? Which means I'm not a true child of God, right? See how scary that is?
Several Scriptures let me know that only Jesus is without sin and it's through His blood that I am saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Philippians 3:9 says, "...I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith."
We have Scriptures like Hebrews 11:6 that make it seem like as long as we are seeking God we are okay. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:9, and Hebrews 11:6 make it clear that faith is where it's at, but the other verses I've shared with you make it seem like works and actions are where it's at. The truth is, it's both. It's always both. I don't know about you but my perfectionistic self can't seem to handle both.
The Perfecter of My Faith
Perhaps the issue is that I'm attempting to perfect my own faith when it's clear that Jesus is the perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). I believe my motive for perfecting my faith is fear. I'm terrified of what God will do to me if I'm not on His side. Coincidentally, Hebrews 12 verses 1 and 2 are a perfect example of the "both" concept I was referring to.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to "strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up." Stripping off sin is an action and a choice. We have to choose it; we have to want not to sin. The verse continues, "And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." We must move forward in our faith. We cannot stand still in the same place we were saved in. We must walk into the new life that God has bought for us with His Son's blood. Finally, it tells us how to do steps one and two. "We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith" (v.2).
It would seem that our effort to strip off sin, no matter how effective, is what counts as practicing sin versus not practicing sin as mentioned in 1 John 3:9. If we aren't bothered by our sin, that's a big indication that we are still living in sin. If we make no effort to strip ourselves of the things that God calls sin, then how authentic is our love for Him, for Jesus?
The Practice of My Faith
It must come down to the practice. Are we submitting ourselves to the Lord in Scripture and prayer, asking Him to help us walk in His ways, or are we winging it, believing that our belief in Jesus' existence is enough?
Are we keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus like it tells us to in Hebrews 12:2? What does it look like to keep our eyes on Jesus? It looks like including Him in our everyday tasks. Jesus must be more important than anything we do. We bring Him our small and large projects. Overall, we have to care about what Jesus wants. If we only care about what we think is best then we aren't keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
What do we do with all this information? Am I deemed a sinner forever because I struggle with worry and doubt? Am I forever a sinner because sometimes I still care what other people think about me because I want to be seen for who I am? I am a daughter of the King, and I want that to be evident so that my living testimony will be effective. What about the times when I catch myself feeling selfish or jealous? Am I doomed? Is my faith fake?
My faith can't be fake! I have experienced the wonder, provision, comfort, peace, strength, and growth that can only come from God. I've witnessed too many miracles in my life and in the lives of others. I have seen God's Word come to life all around me. I am a child of God.
My struggles involve my flesh and spirit fighting, but that's even more proof that my faith is real. I'm supposed to fight my flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit. I'm supposed to feel grieved by my sin and grateful for God's mercy and grace. I'm supposed to confess my sins like worry, doubt, and selfish desires to the Lord. That's exactly what He wants me to do.
The Perfectionist in Me
The phrasing of this verse is another one that alerts my inner perfectionist and says, See, you aren't supposed to be anxious! But when read in the context of the entire Bible, I know that it means even in our anxious moments we can bring everything to God in prayer. This verse offers a helpful outline too:
1. We confess whatever is causing us to worry.
2. We thank God for everything and believe that He hears us and is on the job.
3. We leave it there and trust God's timing. And if the worry pops back up (like it often does), we repeat the steps over again!
Romans 8:22-26 (NIV) reminds us of many things, including that all of us will fall short of the glory of God, which I dislike. I wish it wasn't in my nature to fall short of God's glory, but here we are. The verses surrounding verse 23 are extremely encouraging and helpful:
"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
So do we meet the criteria? Do we believe that Christ's blood redeems us? If so, we are made right with God, and that is the best news ever!
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Chad Madden
Vanessa Luu is a wife, mother, and faith-based writer. She speaks and writes to believers to encourage them to live authentically with God.