“Try harder. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. No pain, no gain. Buckle down.”
Such advise worked when I needed to pass an exam, make a team tryout, or complete a difficult work assignment. It didn’t work so great on my spiritual growth.
Once I became a follower of Jesus Christ, I knew that my character was to increasingly reflect Jesus’.
However, practicing the spiritual disciplines, which were supposed to help me grow in my relationship with God, never came easy.
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
For years, I simply tried harder. New Years resolutions to pray more, read my Bible more, be more patient, be more courageous, be more or do more of whatever I thought God wanted. But trying harder never worked for me. At least not when it came to my relationship with God.
…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
You see, I can’t produce holy desires in myself. I can’t produce holy behavior in myself. Only the Holy Spirit can grow the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.[i] We can’t grow it, no matter how hard we try. But that doesn’t mean we just sit back and do nothing. We work out our salvation by inviting God to work in us.