18 Jul Is My Effort Fruitless or Fruitful?
I have always loved productivity and have no doubt that I’ve been type-A my entire life.
Case in point: as a young girl, I would go to my friends’ houses and clean their rooms while we “played”. Productivity was always bound up in my idea of a good time. Even now, I love to work, to accomplish a task, to cross something off my to-do list, and I’m tidy to a fault. It’s always felt like a strength, yet the Lord has started to reveal how much my love for productivity can become an idol and can create a false sense of control over my life, if I do it apart from Him.
When I’m abiding in the Lord and finding my identity in Him, I’m thankful for the way that He is using my circumstances to reveal sin and challenge my dependence on my own performance. But when I’m enslaved to my to-do list and my identity is wrapped up in how much I’ve accomplished, I’m either resentful of my circumstances or despairing over the loss of control as things don’t go my way. Both responses are indicative of the sin of autonomy. Just like Eve did in Genesis 3, I try to take matters into my own hands. Either I’m frustrated because I think I could create a better set of circumstances, or I’m despairing as I realize that I’ve mistakenly placed my hope in myself, and I can’t bear up under the weight of being my own god.
“When I’m enslaved to my to-do list and my identity is wrapped up in how much I’ve accomplished, I’m either resentful of my circumstances or despairing over the loss of control as things don’t go my way.”
The idea of abiding in the Lord has been on repeat lately as I work through this tension. John 15:4-5 (NIV) reminds us: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
He is the vine; I am the branch. It is not the other way around.
What a shock to the system of a type-A control freak who thrives on productivity and accomplishment. It’s such a humbling reality check that I can do no good thing apart from Him. While certainly the Lord gives us responsibility and work to do for His Kingdom, the gospel is not ultimately centered on my ability to perform. It’s centered on HIS ability to perform—which He graciously did when He came to save each and every one of us. Christ’s performance decisively and completely defeated sin and death and purchased our salvation through His perfect, sinless life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection.
“As I learn to abide in Him, to find my identity in Him and place my trust in His sovereignty instead of my own, then I find peace for my soul and my life will bear fruit for His kingdom.”
God has exposed where I really place my trust on a daily basis. The temptation is always for me to trust myself—to trust my performance and my ability to control my life. But when I do so, I place myself at the center, creating a distorted version of the gospel that’s dependent on my ability to save myself, which I absolutely cannot do. But as I learn to abide in Him, to find my identity in Him and place my trust in His sovereignty instead of my own, then I find peace for my soul and my life will bear fruit for His kingdom.
In what ways are you placing faith in your own efforts? How might your life look different if you were to abide in Christ and trust in His finished performance?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)