When God Doesn't Fit the Checklist
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a doer. I live by checklists. I write everything down, organized by area of responsibility, and even by area of town. It’s all in my trusty spiral that goes everywhere with me, at the ready to cross something off at any moment. The busier my life, the more I rely on my spiral to “get my back.” It gives me great peace of mind to know that once I write something down, I don’t have to think about it anymore. When I need to do something about it, it will be right in front of me as I review pending tasks. Each day, I review my lists and determine the highest priority items for that particular day, and if I find myself with a few extra minutes, I’ll review my lists to see if there’s something I can get done or on which I can make progress. It’s a great tool that serves me well. Perfect for my Type A personality! Sometimes, if I do something off my list, I might add it, just so I can cross it off! Gross, I know. My compulsive personality can’t help itself at times. It’s that part of me that can be my greatest weakness or my equally great strength. Do you have one of those? Something that when held in check is your greatest strength, but when out of balance becomes a detriment?
It’s that part of me that wants a formula for everything. That way I can write it down, follow it, and yes, check it off! If you give me a formula or I can somehow figure one out, confidence soars because I’m a rule follower. If I just do the formula, I am guaranteed success. In some things, it has worked. Performance is rewarded, and many times, we are conditioned accordingly: excellent performance is rewarded; poor performance is not. It’s a necessary truth or guideline for school, sports, career, and even hobbies and volunteer work. Somewhere along the way, though, I applied it to my relationship with God, and it became about performance. Quiet time? Check. Church Sunday? Check. Tithe? Check. Serve? Check. Join a Bible study? Check. Head on my pillow, I would evaluate my day according to how I “did” in each of these areas and many more. Did I yell at my kids? Did I respect James? Did I take time for someone in need? If I performed well, it was a good day. Being my worst critic, those days were few and far between, and falling short became an intimacy barrier. The cycle became debilitating. It backfired, really. The craziest thing about it is I didn’t even know. I thought I was doing well to evaluate my life according to the word of God. To strive for spiritual perfection. Yet, doubt gnawed at my spirit and fear became a constant irritant. Was I really saved? Would I lose my salvation if I didn’t do or not do everything in the Bible? Would my shortcomings short circuit God’s blessings in my and my family’s life? I was living by the law, not by grace. I was trying to earn God’s favor and blessing. And if it was something I could earn, it was something I could lose, and according to my evaluation of myself, everything was at risk. It was miserable!
Here’s the tricky thing for me. God does desire that you and I live according to His word. The Bible is full of guidelines for godly living, things we are to do and not do. There are tons of “if…then…” scenarios that promise certain outcomes based on certain actions and heart attitudes. We should desire to please Him. We should desire to do what He tells us to do, and to abstain from those things that are offensive to Him. We should hold ourselves to His standard and make every effort to not sin. What’s wrong with striving? If God desires godly behavior, and we do what He expects, what’s the big deal?
The answer: Grace. Grace is the big deal. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Our salvation is a gift. Even the faith with which we respond is from God. We do nothing to earn our salvation. We can do nothing to retain our salvation. We have God’s favor and blessing because He chooses to bestow it. Because we are His children. Because of His grace and His love. The law is a taskmaster. Love for the One who saves us is a motivator. We look at standards. God looks at the heart. We measure performance. God measures motive. We apply formulas. God supplies His Spirit.
Trapped in a self-imposed prison of spiritual perfectionism, God set me free. In a moment of concise revelation, He lifted the burden of performance with one directive: Fall in love with Me. Scales fell from my eyes. My heart. I saw. “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). That’s it. When I fall in love with Jesus, that love becomes the motive. I’m no longer earning His favor, I’m loving Him, and because I love Him, I naturally do what He wants me to do. In order to fall in love with Him, I have to spend time with Him. I have to spend time in His word. I have to know Him. When I do the things necessary to know Him, I am in His presence. In His presence is fullness of joy. I am filled with His Spirit. And He does in me the work He desires. He produces that which pleases Him. I just have to fall in love with Him.
To fall in love, I have to worship. Be a worshipper.
He drives this home at a conference. David is mentioned. A true worshipper. A man with a heart for God. A man whose worship is so public, so uninhibited, that it disgusts his wife. Returning to the City of David with the Ark of the Lord, David leapt and whirled before the Lord. In public. For all to see! No shame in his game, we might say. His wife, Michal, watched through a window, and “despised him in her heart” (2 Sam. 6:16). After the Israelites set the ark in the tabernacle and David finished offering burnt and peace offerings to the Lord, he went home to bless his household, only to be met by a mocking wife. I would imagine she was thinking of one thing only: what would people think of her after seeing her husband dancing publicly before the Lord? “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” she taunts in verse twenty. So he shuts her up, explaining that the Lord chose Him, and therefore he would worship, even more undignified, in fact, “humble in my own site” (2 Sam. 6:22). By those she was sure would disdain him, he knew he would be honored. “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death” (2 Sam. 6:23). She was barren. And God showed me. More scales from my eyes. When there is barrenness in my life, look for a lack of worship.
So this is my formula. Fall in love with God. Learn to be a worshipper. Practice. Surround myself with worship music. Spend time considering, pondering, meditating on His goodness, His character, His awesome and mighty character. Tell Him. Love Him. Praise Him. And let Him do the rest.
How have you found yourself falling in love with Jesus? What is your favorite way to worship? Have you struggled with living by grace rather than the law? Is there a scripture you can share or a teaching you’ve heard that might help others in their pursuit of Jesus? Consider sharing your thoughts below.
May He cause us all to fall deeper in love with Him, and to fall to our knees in worship, as we become more wholly His today.