The sunlight streaming through the windows woke me up. I opened my eyes and immediately felt disappointed in myself, knowing I must have slept way longer than I intended to. The faint sound of my alarm could be heard, muffled by the fact that it had been hidden underneath my pillows but never turned off. I grabbed my phone and checked the time. 9am. Getting angry at myself for the fact that I had now slept hours past my alarm for five mornings in a row, I jumped out of bed to get to work. As I walked to my office to grab my computer, the first words that came out of my mouth were “God, I’m sorry.”
Wait, what? God I’m sorry? As if God is disappointed in me for unintentionally sleeping in a few mornings? Why would I feel that way and why would that be my very first thought?
It’s simple really. We have been conditioned to focus on the hustle. Wake up early, go to bed late, work like crazy in between. That seems to be the way of the world these days. Hustle – Strive – Perform – Create Opportunities – Repeat.
We hold ourselves to such unrealistic standards and then condemn ourselves for things so small as sleeping in late, missing a workout, or even getting sick. We find ourselves living in this exhausting state of fear and anxiety, believing that every moment of every day we have to be working towards some greater goal. We get crushed under the pressure that the entire weight of us living out our fullest potential, seeing our dreams come true, and finishing everything that we were put on this earth to do lies solely on our shoulders.
I can’t tell you how many times while taking a break or (let’s be honest), while procrastinating and wasting time, I have felt so guilty and so ashamed that I wasn’t working right at that moment. And If I didn’t have work to do, then surely I should be reading a book on personal development or how to become a better writer or anything at all to push me closer to my goals. Make it happen, Angela. Give God your best.
But God showed me something this week that you have to know. It’s so simple, but it’s so freeing.
Grace will take you places that your hard work can’t.
I don’t think you fully grasped that. Read it again. Say it out loud. Let it really sink in.
Grace will take you places that your hard work can’t.
God, you can’t be serious. This goes against everything that we are taught to believe. This doesn’t line up with the fact that I feel a knot in the pit of my stomach every time I’m not working hard enough. Or the disappointment I know you feel when I wake up late or don’t get as much accomplished in a day as I intended to.
But maybe He isn’t as interested in our hustle as we think He is?
“Father, I want to make you proud. I want to do everything you called me to do.” I’ve said these words for as long as I can remember. But while my heart and my intentions were good, somewhere along the way things got twisted. My hard work and my hustle became my enemy. Why? Because I started performing FOR Him rather than working WITH Him.
And that’s the problem with our idolization of hustling. We inevitably start trying to earn His love, His favor. Look at me! Look how hard I’m working for You! For Your Kingdom! Are You proud yet?
We can’t co-labor with Christ while simultaneously striving to perform for Christ. There’s a difference in working hard for love and acting out of obedience because we are loved.
We have to stop trying to work apart from Christ and earn our right to His calling and our spot in His kingdom by being good hustlers. There’s a difference between being a disciplined, hard-worker and being someone who every single day is striving and striving and striving to make something happen as if God has left us to figure this thing out on our own.
It’s not up to us to make God’s purposes prevail. Let that go. That’s too much pressure that we were never meant to carry. It’s simply up to us to give Him our best yes, do what we can do, and trust Him with the rest.
Listen – If God wants something to succeed, it’s going to succeed. He knows the desire and the intention of your heart. When we live life with Him, fully surrendered to His will, doing what we can to be obedient to what He asks of us, we cannot end up somewhere that we aren’t supposed to be.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23
We have to learn to give things our best yes because we are exchanging a day of our lives for everything that we choose to do today.
And sometimes, the most important thing in the moment is to work hard. Absolutely. Something needs to get finished or God has asked you to do something specific.
But other times, the most important thing in the moment is to hunt dinosaurs with your nephew.
Say yes to what matters most. God gives us such sweet gifts in life, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about stopping and enjoying them. We have to stop waiting for some far away day in the future when we have finally “made it.” Every moment of our lives, we are living out our calling. Today is your destiny. Don’t get so caught up in the one day, that you forget to cherish this day.
So I don’t want to hustle anymore. At least not by the world’s definition. What I want to do is work hard, be diligent, and be a good steward of my time. I want to work alongside Christ, not spin my wheels trying to earn that spot next to Him. I want to be fully surrendered to His will and be obedient to all He asks simply because I’m loved and cherished. I want to give things my best yes and enjoy this sweet life of mine without feeling guilty. I want to dream crazy dreams, do what I can do, and trust Him with everything else, fully resting in His love, His grace, and His promises.
Have you burnt yourself out trying to hustle? Trying to make God proud of you? Let me remind you once again of these sweet words – Grace will take you places that your hard work can’t. Let yourself off the hook. You don’t have the right to withhold from yourself the grace that He has freely given you. Stop trying to work for His approval and just abide in Him.
And the good news? Your perceived failures don’t have the final say – only Christ does. And He already won you the victory.
The church pews were full and the atmosphere was electric as the expectancy from the crowd filled the room. Worship paved the way as voices cried out in unity “then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art.” It was the first service of 2016 and you could feel it in the air, this excitement for a new year and a new season for the church body.
As the message began, it was evident that it was going to be focused on prosperity, wealth, and material possessions. Declarations of vacation homes and airplanes and new cars and mortgages paid off and tripled bank accounts by the end of 2016 were thrown around flippantly. Scriptures like “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” were used to say See! God wants us to have things!
Feeling a little bit of anger as well as an overwhelming sadness for the people in attendance the more I listened to the words being spoken, I sat there uncomfortably and restlessly. I initially thought that maybe something was wrong with me, as I can be cynical and guarded towards most things involving the church at times. But the longer I listened to the message, asking God to check my heart, the more I knew that the reason I felt the way I did was simple – the message wasn’t truth.
Now don’t get me wrong – I believe in financial breakthroughs and that I serve the God of more than enough. I believe that I can’t out-give God and that I never have to stress or worry about my needs being met. With all my heart I believe in Jehovah Jireh, my provider. It is my desire that nobody would be in need and that everyone would get to enjoy good things in life. I have no problem with Christians being wealthy and having material possessions, and I think the body of Christ should have plenty of money and resources and anything else that is needed to expand the Kingdom.
But what I do have a problem with is scriptures being distorted and the life-giving words of Christ being taken out of context and used to promote messages about wealth, possessions, and worldly success.
So we have to talk about this. Not to tear down speakers and judge people – our goal should always be to build others up and edify the church body. But to be able to sift through these types of messages and decipher what is the real truth of the gospel because it’s only when the truth of the word of God abides in us that we are set free.
As Christians, we belong to an upside-down Kingdom. It’s a system that doesn’t have the same values and priorities as the world – especially when it comes to money. Jesus said some of the most counter-cultural things in regards to money and giving. He commanded that we use our financial resources to help those in need (Luke 10:29-37;18:18-25), said that we should give to everyone who begs from us without asking for anything in return (Luke 14:28-30), and pointed out that people who are choked by the cares and riches and the pleasure of life have immature fruit (Luke 8:14). He even condemned the Pharisees for tithing but neglecting justice and the love of God (Luke 11:42) and warned us to be on guard against all kinds of greed because our lives do not consist in the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:13-15).
As I sat in this service and listened as the words to a dear hymn were changed from “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold” to “I’m gonna have Jesus and silver and gold”, I wanted to weep. Because if we can sing along with that, we’re missing the point. I’m not saying that material possessions and money are evil or wrong, but if we want to fulfill our mandate on this earth then the cry of our hearts has to be that we would rather have Jesus above all else. That we are willing to join Him in this revolutionary Kingdom and die to ourselves and our selfish desires every day. That we are willing to pick up our crosses and follow Him, wherever He leads. That we are willing to become faithfully obedient in all things, trusting Him to meet our daily needs and make our not enough more than enough. That we ultimately understand that He alone IS the blessing and nothing else.
Growing up in the church, I’ve seen people give from a place of fear and emotional manipulation, and I believe that this grieves the heart of the Father. We are called to live lives of radical generosity but not because of the promise of larger bank accounts or because we are scared that we are going to be cursed. We give simply because He gave, and we are called to be like Him. A life following Christ will naturally become a life that lives with hands wide open because it will start to take on the character of the greatest Giver of all time. And when we get to that place collectively as a body of Christ, maybe then we can start caring about the things that God cares about. I’ve heard enough beginning of the year messages talking about the ways God is going to increase me before the year is over. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our 2016 proclamation had nothing to do with ourselves but was rather a statement of how the body of Christ is going to become beacons of light to the world. That this is going to be the year that hundreds of families in our churches become licensed foster and adoptive parents, that we are going to commit to taking care of our widows and will get involved in social justice issues in our communities.
Friends, as you seek Him first and His righteousness, you are promised that He will take care of your needs. Every last one of them. You don’t have to worry and stress about it. You don’t have to spin in circles, dance in the altar, or give special seed offerings. Everything you need is already in His hands. Just trust Him and seek Him. (I am not talking about giving special gifts or offerings that you feel led by the Spirit to give. We should look for opportunities to give and should desire to give. We should be generous and cheerful givers at all times. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and always give when and what you feel that He is telling you to and sow into good ground. And I do believe that God is so faithful to honor those gifts. I’m talking about coerced and manipulated offerings that promise health/success/wealth as a reward.)
Do I think God wants His children to enjoy good things? Absolutely! I believe that He cares about every tiny thing that concerns us and that His Father heart is pleased when He spoils us.
But make no mistake about it – the prosperity message of the gospel has nothing to do with wealth, possessions, or success.
The prosperity message of the gospel is simply this – to live is Christ, to die is gain. It’s knowing that we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother and that there is no condemnation for him who is in Christ Jesus. It’s the understanding that nothing can separate us from the love of God and that when we pass through the waters, He will be with us, and when we pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over us, and when we walk through the fire, the flames will not set us ablaze.
Do you want the promise of a successful life? Then love God and love people. It really is that simple.
Seek His face, dream big dreams, take leaps of faith, believe Him for miracles and breakthroughs – but plant your feet on the foundation that the cross is more than enough for you. Be faithful. Be obedient. Just trust Him.
Let’s not be people who are swayed by what this world has to offer. All the money and possessions in the world can’t compare to Jesus Christ. He is the most brilliant and radiant treasure of them all.
Too many times now we are seeing how the allure of fame, success, or wealth can distort the truth of the word of God. Friends, please guard your hearts. Fight for the truth. Seek it out for yourselves and speak up for it. There’s too much at stake to not do so. Learn to sift through these messages and hear God’s heart about it for yourselves. The truth is a powerful weapon that brings freedom to your soul.
And if the cost of riches and success is that I lose the truth inside of me? No thanks, I’m not interested. World, you can keep all you have to offer. I’d rather have Jesus.