I had an experience that changed my life back in the 1980’s while working on staff in a large local church in Oklahoma. I was in my mid-twenties, and from the time I was a young child I loved to work. Let me give you the background.
I remember as a four and five year old I would clean the porcelain and chrome in the bathroom wanting to hear my mom say “wow Mitch, you did such a great job cleaning.” I learned over the years of my childhood that I would receive personal affirmation if I accomplished something worthwhile. So to feel good about myself, I worked. The more I did, the better I felt about myself. I became a classic workaholic. Driven, and addicted to accomplishment as a means of emotional survival. I carried this through my teenage years and graduated from high school at age 16!
So here I am in my mid twenties, on staff at a large church with lots of responsibilities, and lots of opportunities to accomplish things so I can feel good about myself! Oh, one thing I need to mention is that the other side of accomplishment is failure and inactivity. The downside of addiction to work was that I ran from inactivity. I would feel like an absolute failure if I was not busy doing something. Yep, I was a classic obsessive compulsive workaholic! I had a need to succeed that drove me to work, work, work.
So I was in my office at the large church, and my work ethic had carried over into my spiritual life. Now, I had to do things to be pleasing to the Lord. The more I did, the more I thought He would affirm me. As I sat at my desk, the words came from Him, “You’ve not been saved by grace to live by works.” I began to cry as the Lord began a process of setting me free from the need to accomplish to feel good about myself. I found out that the Grace that saved me was also the Grace that empowered me each day. I found out that God loves me no matter what I do. Grace is unmerited favor. It’s God loving me, not for what I do, but for who I am!
I found that God’s Grace is a power. I came across this definition of Grace. Grace is God’s ability working in me to enable me to do what I can’t do myself! Now, instead of the driven make it happen, workaholic attitude, I could lean back on God’s love and Jesus sacrifice for me to help me to do what I can’t do myself.
Now, I know that I’m not saved by Grace to live by Works. Now I understand that my value as a person is not tied up in what I do, but in who I am in Christ. Now I can take a break without guilt, enjoy a vacation without feeling like a failure, succeed or fail at a given task knowing that my Father loves me, not based on my accomplishments, but just because I am a person. I understand now that God values me, not for what I accomplish, but just for who I am.
Now I can love others and accept them even if they fail or seemingly don’t measure up. It’s called REST based on GRACE. It brings joy back into living.