When talking about grace, we often give negative connotations to words like effort, performance, and accomplishment.
They become four letter, anti-grace cuss words.
And if one is gaining their approval from God and others based on what they do, than a negative perception is the correct one.
We cannot earn or be worthy of God based on striving and effort. Broken people produce broken things. This means we cannot improve on perfection.
This line of thinking is reflected by the oft heard cliché, “We are not human doings, but human beings”
But there is another side to achievement.
If we have our value and worth in God, based on what He has done for us, then there is a proper place of accomplishment in our lives.
God created us to work.
Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were placed in the garden and told to keep it, to take dominion over Creation. This was not their means of proving their worth and value. God created them in the most valuable way possible, in His Image.
Later work became more difficult, bringing in the idea of toil. Sin corrupted something which was good.
But in the heart of God, there always was a proper place for achievement.
We were not merely created to sit in God’s presence all day and become “heavenly minded, but of no Earthly good.”
Since Jesus has done it all for us, we respond.
Success, progress, accomplishment, and producing results are godly things.
Like everything, they must be kept in their proper perspective, Caution identifies any subtle drift, tipping us back to the side of works-based performance.
Confidence in our identity in Christ gives us the freedom to work hard as a response to grace, not a means of achieving it.
An over emphasis on grace alone can lead some to conclude any form of works is a bad thing, to be avoided at all costs. These folks may still be playing video games in their parent’s basement at 35 years of age.
If you are like me, you might be wired to accomplish things. Small things are nice, but I hope to see some significant works for the kingdom built throughout the duration of my life.
I am not defined by what I do. Coming to this realization has been a very long journey in my life.
But I equally do not need to feel guilty for wanting to work hard, accomplish much, and see something produced which has a lasting benefit to many.
Achievement is not the anti-grace, but rather grace put in action by people who are free.
New Testament scholar John Barclay coined this “energism“. All we do is a means of grace, but it is this grace which compels us to work hard.
- Energism tells us to obey, knowing growth comes only by grace.
- We avoid sin, trusting God to spark holiness in our lives.
- We actively consider how to improve as a parent, trusting God doesn’t need us to be the perfect one.
Maybe achievement is not such a bad word after all.
Grace compels us to do great things and work hard.
Photo by Genta Mokizawa