A middle-aged man approached me after I led a workshop at his place of employment and asked this question: “I’ve been a Christian nearly my whole life, but I’m constantly disappointed in myself. Why is it that I always seem to keep doing the things I wish I didn’t do and never seem to do the things I know I should? Isn’t God getting tired of me?” Two men standing next to me also seemed eager to hear the response.
That’s a common struggle that even the apostle Paul experienced. “I do not understand what I do,” he said, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15). But here’s some good news: We don’t have to stay in that trap of discouragement. To paraphrase Paul as he writes in Romans 8, the key is to stop focusing on the law and start focusing on Jesus. We can’t do anything about our sinfulness in our own strength. The answer is not “try harder to be good at keeping the rules.” Instead, we must focus on the One who shows us mercy and cooperate with the Spirit who changes us.
When we focus on the law, we are constantly reminded that we’ll never be good enough to deserve God’s grace. But when we focus on Jesus, we become more like Him.
I sometimes get caught in the cycle of trying harder to be good, failing, getting discouraged, and giving up. Help me, Lord, to depend on Your grace and to draw near to You so that You can change my heart.
Focus on Jesus.
There is an interesting element in this passage from the apostle Paul. We often focus on the difference between law and grace. But Paul highlights two different laws in this passage. It is not that the Mosaic law is bad and grace is good. Instead, Paul says that he delights in God’s law but is held captive by the law of sin. God’s law is something to delight in; the sin that is revealed through that law is something to be set free from.