Text: Romans 9:30-33
Theme: Stop trying and start trusting.
Key verses: “…Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who worked so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, ‘I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in me will never be disgraced” (v. 30-33).
What God said to me: Dwayne, you were taught that when you don’t succeed to try, try again. That is good and helpful to a degree. It certainly has application when it comes to pushing yourself to do more than you thought you could. It is healthy to have a strong work ethic to work hard. But that is the extent of anything good from this approach to things. The temptation many have fallen prey to is assuming that their success is dependent on their trying, that if they’re going to “get ahead” in life, it is all up to them. The “try, try again” mentality can also lead to self-reliance and a false sense of self-worth. You’ve heard you should work smarter, not harder. But really, you should work wiser. Wisdom will teach you that the ultimate outcome is not up to you. Wisdom says, “We make our own decisions, but the LORD alone determines what happens” (Proverbs 16:33). If you are wise you also know you can do nothing apart from me. Jesus made that abundantly clear in John 15 when he said he is the vine and you are merely a branch grafted into the vine. Branches can do nothing of themselves. They couldn’t if they tried. They are helpless apart from the nourishment and strength they draw from the vine. The Israelites assumed a very dangerous thing. They thought their own righteousness, their own wisdom and smarts and laws could get them in good standing with me. But I never said that. In fact I told them the opposite. I told them I didn’t desire their outward sacrifices. I made clear through King David’s own failures and repentance that a broken and contrite heart is what I am looking for–that is what I will not despise. And yet, in their arrogance, they continued to try and try again. They didn’t succeed. They didn’t gain entrance into my heaven or favor with me. Instead, they died in their sins, forever separated from me. Don’t fall prey to that dangerously false narrative. Trying is not enough. It will never be enough. Regardless of whether you’re trying to gain heaven or just trying to succeed at your job and next week’s to-do list, you can no nothing apart from me. You know the humiliation you feel when you stumble and fall. You immediately look around to see if anyone is watching. If all you do is try in your own strength to please me and to find fulfillment and “success” in this life, you will fall embarrassingly hard. But, if you place all of your trust and hope in me, you will find good success–life more abundantly, in fact. Like I told Joshua, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8).
What I said to God: Wow, I had no idea You would show me these things today. I am so glad You woke me early and prompted me to journal in Your Word. I can do nothing without You, Lord. I can’t even walk without You holding my hand. But with You, I can do all things. I have all the wisdom, strength, tenacity, will-power, smarts, and help I need to accomplish exactly what You have planned for me and placed me on this earth to do. And even when I feel I am doing nothing, even when I’m just sitting and waiting at Your feet, You are working behind the scenes. You will accomplish Your plans. You don’t have to have my “hard work” to pull it off. You just want my availability and yielded heart. Please forgive me when I try on my own strength. I surrender. I throw up my hands in human defeat. At the same time, I bow my heart in divine victory before the God of the ages who is also my God and Father and Savior and Friend.