You CAN follow Jesus successfully! I used to feel constantly defeated in my walk with the Lord. I felt like I was a constant failure, a constant screw-up, a constant disappointment to God. Sometimes, I still battle those old feelings of self-hatred… “I can’t do anything right! How can you stand me, God?! I’m ashamed of myself…” All the time, I still feel very humbled and in awe before my perfect Father.
But following Jesus is not about perfection; it’s about persistence. It is about a faithful life direction, pointing toward God, steadily journeying forward. It is a walk. A way. A path. A journey, as so many have called it. It’s not something to be gotten “right” one day: “Yay! I did it! I walked with God today!” That cannot be our metric.
Investors cannot look at a good day in the stock market and say, “Yes! My retirement is secure!” Nor can they look at a bad day in the stocks and declare their investments an utter failure. A sound financial planner will tell you not to watch your mutual funds daily – you’ll develop a heart condition! No, you watch them over the course of years – decades – and you observe the steady trend upwards.
There are daily dips, month-long recessions – even extended depressions. But the course of the life of the follower of Jesus is to be seen in its proper light: steadily forwards and upwards. C.S. Lewis described this persistent journey in Christ toward God as traveling “further up and further in”.
The fact is, God is pleased with you (see Zephaniah 3:17). Not because of something you said or did, or something you restrained from saying or doing. His delight in you, in me, is a choice on His part. He has decided to love us. And He made up His mind about this a looooong time ago (even before the foundation of the world!)(see Ephesians 1:3-6).
His approval of us is based on a decision He has made – not on our “performance” today, or over the last couple weeks. “He is pleased with me.” We must get this point clear. We cannot start on any other foot! Every other starting position leads to works-legalism and ends in great disappointment.
You don’t have to earn God’s approval today. He approved of you before today even started. His hope and plan for you today is to live in – to walk in – His loving delight in you. Trusting in Him, leaning on Him, dedicating the whole day unto Him.
His love for us earns our good works, not the other way around. We honor God with our words, actions, and attitudes – not so that He will love us – but because He already does.
What is your current gauge for measuring “how you’re doing” in your walk with Jesus? How well (or how accurately) is that gauge serving you?