“I don’t do it much any more,” Stan commented one morning, “but I used to play golf fairly regularly with a couple of friends. One was a real good golfer, the other one not so much.’
“Any particular reason for the difference?” I asked.
“It was mainly practice,” Stan replied. “The one who was good loved to practice. His game showed it.”
“The other friend,” he continued, “never practiced. His game showed that as well!”
“But,” I replied, “isn’t it important to practice the right thing? Otherwise a person might get real good at the wrong thing.”
“Good point!” Stan said. “And it’s the same thing with my faith walk.”
“In what way?”
“For way too long I was practicing religion, rather than practicing on building my relationship with God.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Thinking that I could earn God’s favor by what I did,” Stan replied. “Thinking I could work my way to heaven by practicing religion.”
“But,” he added, “there came a time when I accepted the truth that there was nothing I could gain from practicing religion, nothing other than a sense of self-satisfaction that was worth exactly nothing for eternal purposes.”
“That’s right,” Stan replied. “God’s salvation through the cross of Christ is a free and gracious gift that has to be accepted. It can’t be earned.”
“Okay,” I said, “you stopped practicing religion by stopping trying to work your way to heaven. Then what?”
“I began working on my relationship with God, working out the salvation that had been worked in through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
“So, it was like you stopped practicing the wrong thing and began practicing the right thing. Is that it?”
“You’ve got it, my friend,” Stan replied. “Essential to practice the right thing in whatever I do, especially in my relationship with God!”
Bible verses to consider:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9.
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your free and gracious gift of salvation, redemption, and the path towards spiritual maturity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thank you for those who brought me to the truth that I cannot work my way into your eternal presence, but can have it by accepting your gift. Thank you for showing me the futility of trying to earn your favor. I pray for all of those who are held captive in thinking they can earn your favor by their works. Please move in and through me to help bring them to the truth so they will be free to work out their salvation, rather than trying to work for it. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Have you accepted God’s free and gracious gift of salvation and redemption so you will spend eternity in His presence? If no, why? Even if you have the assurance of salvation, are there still times when you try to earn God’s favor? If so, what’s that all about? Do you know people who are locked in the bondage of trying to work their way to heaven? What can be done to help free them? Are you willing to be a part of that? Why or why not?