All or nothing. Go BIG or go HOME. There is something very appealing about this concept. To go all out for something demonstrates a tenacity and commitment that is enviable. It is motivating because, deep down inside of us, we all want to commit to a life that is worth living. But there is a dark side to this, and this has little to do with Star Wars.
Unfortunately, one of the possibilities in an all or nothing situation is absolutely nothing. “I want it all and right now” may work for some, but getting nothing is often the end result for many. This effect is exacerbated when it comes to personal growth.
For example, you determined in your heart to exercise and lose weight by going to the gym at least three or four times a week. Your intent and New Year’s resolution was an honourable one, but you have failed to get to your gym workouts even once, and it is already February. Your family have all been sick at home with the flu, your youngest one is just beginning to recover. You have been so busy taking care of everyone else that you have not had the time or energy to take care of yourself. You are just beginning to feel a sore throat – you fear that sooner or later that this flu will get a hold of you too. You are frustrated and angry with yourself because you see this situation as an all or nothing reality – go big or go home. You have forgotten that life does not really work like that. Perhaps, if you took even fifteen minutes a day to go for a walk, or do some simple calisthenics or stretching in your own home – it would be better than NOTHING.
The Christian life is often like that. We set these unrealistically high goals based on ideals concerning our commitment to God and our personal growth in Christ. We grow impatient of God and ourselves and often begin to adhere to a rigid form of religion and religious practice to the point that we actually end up miserable. We have entered into the realm of legalism and if we do not realize that deception quickly, we will leave a path of utter destruction wherever we go.
Legalism kills the human spirit and reproduces itself rapidly like a virus gone rampant. It is the very opposite of what God intends for us.
Allow me to explain. The process of change in our walk with Christ is initiated by Him and for our benefit – it is the love of God that compels us.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV
God draws us to Himself and brings about personal growth and effective change based on RELATIONSHIP. God pursues us, not the other way around, despite our best attempts. This may sound like heresy to the individual who’s life is full of Do’s and Don’ts and adheres to a rigid form of religious Christianity. After all, “faith without works is dead”. Allow me to suggest that WORKS without faith, i.e. a true relationship with Jesus Christ, is what truly brings destruction and death. To polish a cup on the outside without washing and cleaning the inside is futile – the cup is still dirty from the inside out.
The visible Church and many of its institutions as we know it, is populated by individuals, who through their own self-effort via religious practice, have polished the outside and neglected the inside. This may appear acceptable to the modern day Pharisees and Sadducees, but almost the entire world outside of those institutions can spot a fake when they see one. As I have mentioned in a previous post, young people, especially the Millennials of our society, crave for the genuine. If you offer something to them that is real and tangible they often will not refuse. They may have many intellectual and emotional objections to Christianity based on what they have witnessed over their relatively short lifetimes, but they will recognize LIFE when they see it.
So what does this have to do with my initial premise, the all or nothing mentality of living? Well, actually a lot. You see, as followers of Christ, we can grow very impatient with ourselves when we see others in our circle who seem so peaceful and loving. Their apparent character is almost enviable, and we get down on ourselves for being so shallow and full of holes. We are no longer satisfied with the slow process of growth and change and our love relationship with God is growing cold. The very process of exchanging our lives for His, piece by piece, bit by bit, can be an excruciating process – death on the cross invariably is.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT
God is not interested in polishing the outside of our cup in order for us to be acceptable to the religious world. He is interested in recreating us into His perfect image, based upon His endless pursuit of loving us into true completeness as sons and daughters of the King.
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:5,6 NLT
It is so much better to wait patiently upon the Lord, through prayer, meditation, and the reading of Scripture, for Him to act. Our endless struggle to try to change ourselves ceases and we literally enter into His peace or rest.
The more He changes me from the inside out, the more comfortable I become with who I really am, a son of God, a child of the King, created for His good pleasure. To discover one’s true identity and true personhood in Christ is to experience a joy that is indescribable.
Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7b NLT
Above all else, I would like you to understand one simple thing – God loves you, right where you are, and whoever you are, RIGHT NOW. Even if you have not really understood one word I have written – know that YOU are LOVED by God. It does not matter where you are and what your are experiencing – YOU are NOT alone. He is PRESENT with YOU.
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