Where do you find your value as a person? From your job? From your grades? From your relationships? The world teaches us that these are the aspects of life that define who we are as people and who we will become, but that doesn’t make them true.
God has something better for us to base our value on.
Works can be defined as what you do in a day for personal gain or approval, such the effort you dedicate to your job, or in my case, your education. For some time now I have placed my value on how much work I can get done in a day, i.e. my level of productiveness. As a college student, a prime example would be whether I finish my assignments for class in advance from the due date or whether I study long enough for that upcoming exam. More often than not my idea of productivity is also attending all my college ministry events that week, proving my commitment to the organization. If I am very productive, on any given day, I deem it successful. But if I decide to binge watch a new show on Netflix or watch movies on demand, I feel like I am the scum of the Earth. This thought process plays out in different ways every day. While it may not always be as dramatic as I pen it in this article, you get the picture. If I get things done, I’m good; if I don’t, I’m bad. And this is not the way God calls us to live our lives.
While basing your worth on how much you accomplish in your life may get you far in this world, it won’t with God. God cares more about our hearts and our relationship with him than our works. During a recent Christian retreat, God revealed to me my heart’s true condition. My heart, like everyone else’s, is full of sin and the evil that comes with living in a world that actively invites sin. This reminded me of Proverbs 27:19 NIV “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” The life we live reflects our heart’s condition, and mine was telling me I had allowed idols in my life to push God out. By the end of the retreat, God revealed to me that despite having achieved many successes academically, my heart was not fully his. My heart was in my grades, in my friendships, in my ministry position, in my hobbies, and worst of all, in my sins. I knew God cared more about the condition of my heart than my performance. I prayed over and over to God from Psalms 139:23 ESV: “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” I didn’t want to live this broken life anymore. I prayed to him to help me truly become his. I knew by beginning to surrender my life fully to God I would be able to discern how to heal my misguided heart.
The biggest part of this revelation was that I realized I didn’t love God fully. I started asking myself all kinds of existential crisis questions. What am I doing here at this retreat? What am I doing in a leadership position in my college ministry? What is the point of all of this if at the end of the day I don’t love God?
God is the core of everything we as Christians believe. If God doesn’t have my heart, all my actions and works done in his name have very little meaning because I wasn’t doing it for him. I started feeling like I had just put on a performance for those around me to validate my worthiness as a Christian. Instead of finding my worth in God, I found it in my accomplishments instead.
Sometimes we strive so hard to become the image of the perfect Christian (reads the Bible every day, goes to church on Sunday, volunteers around the community, etc.) that we begin to play the role we think will make God and our Christian friends happy. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we will make mistakes. We need to stop living by these unrealistic standards and instead live in the grace, freedom, and redemption that God has provided for us.
Instead of basing our value on our performance, we should base it on how well we love others. We are called to be reflections of God’s character, showing people kindness, love and compassion (Romans 15:7, Luke 6:36, Ephesians 5:2). We are called to be the light and salt of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We are called to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). While we can’t do everything, we should be doing something every day to further God’s mission, which is to restore our world to how he had originally envisioned it: without sin (Genesis 1:31).
How can we do this if we haven’t given God our hearts completely, or at least are trying to? Realizing that my identity was based on other aspects of my life instead of God was difficult. Yet, I knew I needed to be in his presence continuously (praying and reading God’s word daily) to not fall in the same trap again. For example, I made sure to make time every day to talk and pray to God. I can’t give him my heart if I don’t spend time with him and get to know him better. This in turn helps me to keep him in mind when making decisions throughout my day and reminds me to live for his glory and not my own. Additionally, a Bible verse that helps me refocus is Ephesians 2:8 NIV: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Grace is an amazing gift from God given not because of our actions or accomplishments but because of our faith in his love for us. You can’t truly know someone if you don’t spend time with them. The same goes with God. We need to spend time with him for us to have a relationship with him, and that time can be praying, reading the Bible or worshipping him. He wants our hearts and our devotion, worship, faithfulness, and service. He wants our life to reflect his kingdom. Going to church every Sunday or volunteering at your church’s next event won’t make him love you more or less. His love has and will always be abundant because of what Jesus did. Relish in that fact and don’t try to earn his love. You already have it. Just live in it.
I myself am improving daily through God’s grace by not valuing my worth based on what my accomplishments are. It is hard because it is a deeply ingrained habit, yet with God’s grace anything is possible. Slowly changing my mindset has been liberating and exciting because I can be authentic with God and with my community. I allow people to get to know me and accept me for who I am.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). God knew our hearts from before we were born. He knew we would sin repeatedly throughout our lives. Yet, despite humanity turning away from him, he still sent his only son to redeem us. He has forgiven us and loves us and has given us grace. There is nothing left to do but give our hearts and lives wholeheartedly to him. Don’t perform for him. Partner with him in the way you live your life and interact with his people. Join in mission with God and make a change on Earth in his name.