Honest Questions: Am I Good Enough?
Growing up I struggled with the constant desire to do things to earn the approval of others. Now, to be fair, nobody was demanding this over-the-top achievement based performance but there was definitely an atmosphere in many of my environments where the standards and expectations were fairly high.
About two years ago, my wife was out of town for our church’s women's retreat and on one particular night I found myself laying in bed one night feeling like I was not doing enough for God or His Kingdom. I was talking and praying out loud, mostly voicing all my frustrations, and then at the peak of my frustration the following string of words just came out my mouth: "God, would you please take my life and do something worthwhile with it?!"
There it was.
Unintentionally, my frustration articulated for me what was a complex and deeply-rooted lie I'd been believing my whole life: unless I perform well and do things for God, my life really isn't worthwhile.
My faulty view of self-worth was tied to accomplishing things for Jesus rather than resting in Jesus' accomplishments on my behalf and knowing that I’m unconditionally accepted, adopted, and justified because of the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In that moment, disbelief about the gospel had surfaced and what had been in my heart overflowed out of my mouth (Luke 6:45, Proverbs 4:23).
As a pastor, it was a hard pill to swallow yet it also reminds me that pastors are normal Christians too.
The brutal irony is that even though hundreds of books about the gospel line my bookshelves, I still struggled to believe deep down in my soul that God loved me regardless of my performance for Him. My upbringing had reinforced this idea as I looked to other people to validate my worth and grant to me the approval my soul was longing for. Yet I have discovered the truth of St. Augustine's words when he wrote that "our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Clearly, one of the primary goals of our life on this earth is to be molded more and more into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). However, in order for that process to continue, I must move from unbelief to belief in every area of my life. To this day I still have areas of disbelief in me still to be uprooted and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. There's no overnight silver bullet “fix” but I' am grateful that God’s Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
But here's the best part of this story:
Immediately after crying "God, would you please take my life and do something worthwhile with it?!" I felt the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper to me: "You were worthwhile before you were even born".
In that moment I began to weep as I felt the gentle presence of God comforting me in my brokenness. It was a moment of seeing God's tender grace in the midst of my own frail weakness. God gently reminded me that there isn't a single thing I could ever do to make Him love me any more or any less; He loves me perfectly apart from anything I can do (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23-26, 6:23).
I was further encouraged on this topic when reading about the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17. Jesus hasn't done any ministry yet but enters humanity and the first thing on His divine agenda is to be baptized by John the Baptist. After John baptizes Jesus, it says "a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'. Do you see what God is communicating here? Jesus hasn't done one miracle; hasn't preached one sermon; yet God affirms Jesus as His beloved Son. Jesus didn't have to do anything; the Father loves unconditionally.
By the grace of God the same is true for you and me today. There’s nothing you need to “do” for God. He’s more interested in who you are becoming in Him than what you’re doing for Him.
God is not seeking to form in us a set of accomplishments; He’s seeking to form a new person.
When we stand before God, we won’t be standing as a set of accomplishments; we’ll be standing before Him as a son or a daughter.
- Paul Tripp
As I reflect on this ongoing struggle I find the deepest of encouragement in God's Word and His faithful promises. Not only is Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2) but He has promised to finish the good work He has started in making me more like Himself throughout my life (Philippians 1:6). This is also why I've been so impacted by the concept of preaching the gospel to myself each day as well.
The gospel isn't just the starting point; it's my daily sustenance. It isn’t just the ABC’s; it’s the whole alphabet.