Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

We try harder    (10/7/2007 )

In 1966, a US-based car-rental company turned its fortunes around by admitting it was only number two in the market. It played hard on its desire to seize the number-one slot, even if it wasn't there yet: the inference being that the customer would benefit from all that extra effort to become the favourite. “We try harder,” became their slogan—and it still is, 41 years later.

There are several reasons why I associate this slogan with Christianity; mostly because I've heard Christians being criticised ‘for thinking they've got it right and being really superior'. This attitude has always rankled with me, because it just isn't true! (At least, no Christian should think this way.)

How could Christians feel superior? Look at the standards they've been set, and who set them! In fact, it's precisely because Jesus set such high standards that, far from feeling superior, Christians can only ever be aware of how imperfect they are. But that doesn't stop them trying.

Paul said, “Not that I have… already been made perfect… But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.

Again, this is no way implies any superiority on the part of Christians; people of other faiths, those of no faith, and people vehemently opposed to faith may all be trying as hard as they can to be the best they can be.

Trying hard, knowing full well that it'll be tough, and that we'll often fail, is an accepted part of being a Christian—as is knowing that our success (or otherwise) in trying makes no difference whatsoever to our salvation! Being saved comes through God's grace alone; it's because of what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, not because of what you or I may do today. In other words: it's not what we do, but who we believe in, that counts.

Given all this, why would Christians even bother trying?

We try because God wants us to: the Bible's packed with guidance on how to live a life pleasing to him. Because of our humanity, we won't ever reach his perfect standard; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans [NT] chapter 3,verses 22-14), but we shouldn't give up before we start.

We try because, if are God's children, we should look to the Father as our example. We try because God has given his guidance out of love for all his children; if Christians ran around patting themselves on the back and yelling, “How about that! I'm saved no matter what I do! Look—I'm doing this—and I'm still saved!” then what kind of a world would we be causing ourselves and everyone else to live in? And what would God think of us? That behaviour could only hurt him.

Jesus understands our inability to meet his standards. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin,” says the book of Hebrews (NT), chapter 4, verse 15.

Christians try: not in order to earn their way into heaven, but because their place in heaven has already been earned. Sanctified? Yes. Sanctimonious? No. Christians try as a response to the gratitude and love they feel towards God. Like the car-hire company, they know their place—but they still try!

Pray: God, thank you for giving me something to work towards - and for understanding and accepting that I can't ever get there. Please bless my efforts in all that I do in trying to live a life more pleasing to you. Amen

Think: Think back to a time when you were working towards a goal, and you didn't make the grade. Did you feel you'd let anyone down - even yourself? When we don't make the grade with Jesus, he's compassionate. It doesn't change how he feels about us, and he doesn't raise or lower the bar. Nothing we do, or don't do, could make him love us any less. Meditate on this passage

Challenge: This week, pick an event in your life which didn't work out, large or small, which still causes you pain. Maybe you really screwed up. Talk it over and pray it through with God; maybe you need to say sorry? Then work on accepting your humanity and his compassion - and let yourself believe you are loved, and you are forgiven, by God. And then just keep on trying!

Watch the video clip David (it's amazing what we can achieve in God's strength)

Watch the video clip The Good-o-Meter (Nothing we do ourselves can save us)

Watch the music video Heaven by Mary Mary ("But this race that I am running, whether I run it fast or slow; 'long as I just keep on running, I'm gonna make it there someday, I know."

Read the book Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey

Read the book Christianity Explored by Rico Tice & Barry Cooper

Read the book Dead or Alive?: The Truth and Relevance of Jesus' Resurrection by Daniel Clark

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