The Performance Trap!
I was thinking back to an old devotional I read (and probably never finished), Holiness: Day by Day, by Jerry Bridges I really liked reading his works, and this was no different. He has a way of focusing everything on the Gospel and the cross, as well as God’s mercy and grace in such a way, I sometimes wonder if he isn’t snatching the thoughts right from my head so he can speak directly and exclusively to me.
One particular devotional topic was titled “Falling Into The Trap”, The author was recounting a time when he was a guest speaker at a church, and though he had a message prepared well in advance, he diverted from that scheduled message due to the previous night’s untimely death of a pastoral staff member. He quickly went to God in prayer to ask his guidance for what to share and “fell into the trap” that we all have a tendency to do at times. Simply put, he wondered if there was anything he did (or didn’t do) that morning to hinder being encouraged by God and whether his performance merited God’s response.
He quickly caught himself falling into that behavior and continued to pray and ask God’s help and God answered, but not, as the author indicates, because of any meager attempts at satisfying God’s requirements for a response, and I would add not even because he “caught” himself falling into the performance ditch, but because of one reason and one reason only, JESUS. Jesus’ work on the cross purchased that answer to prayer two thousands years ago and it is on the basis of grace and grace along does God bless us with loving responses to our prayers.
Any idea of having to be in right mind, right spirit, right attitude, right living, right anything, in order for God to hear our prayers flies right in the face of all Christ has done for us. In fact, being humbled by our failings, understanding the weight of our sins, and that maybe we don’t feel worthy in and of ourselves to approach the throne of God, may be the exact attitude we need when we do approach him. Do we beat on our chest and say, “I am thankful I feel close to God today so I can approach him!” Really? Is that what we are striving for? I’m not saying fake a more humble stance before God. Just honestly recognize how mighty is this God! How awesome is his name and works. How much he saved a sinner like you and I, and how much unmerited favor does he continue to pour out, though we fail him, even if its in the smallest things, daily! Then, despite that, and despite that perfection that he requires to be in his presence that we cannot attain, he still says come, seek me and talk to me. All because of the meritorious and finished work of Christ, which either on your best or worst day, means he sees you completely draped in Christ’s righteousness. This is why we don’t have to wonder if we are “good enough” to come to God in prayer, we just come.
In humility, in repentance and in boldness (or confidence) so that we might receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. I don’t write these things as if I do them all the time or if I have some formula perfected. I write these things, knowing I need more of him as well.
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