Work For It: Grace Versus Works

The music is blaring as we reach one of the most intense parts of the workout.  Resistance is high and to encourage my spin class to make it up the fictitious hill we are climbing, I yell it out.

Come on. . . WORK FOR IT!

Sure, I throw in some “You can do its” and an occasional “Don’t give up!” throughout the ride, but “Work for it!” is my goto coaching cheer when I can tell everyone’s struggling.  When I see the sweat dripping and the legs start to slow down, I tell them to work harder…or, rather, to work so they can earn their results.

Not sure if she’s working for it…and her form is horrible (Elbows bent there, girl).

My philosophy in exercise is you only get out what you put in.  You don’t just get to come and sit on a spin bike and look pretty.  No. You have to turn that knob, make your legs work for every pedal stroke, make your leg muscles beg you to stop.  Then, in a few weeks or months you can, and will, be able to see a difference.  You will be entitled to whatever results you get. Work hard and you’ll lose a few pounds, firm places that used to jiggle, and have more endurance.  Don’t work hard–and you get nothing but, in the case of spinning, a sore gluteus maximus.

While sitting on the instructor’s bike this week it hit me. That’s not just my exercise philosophy. That’s my life philosophy.  And, it is conspicuously lacking of something that I claim to believe in and accept. That is, grace.

So many times in my life I want to work for God’s love.  I want to be able to boast of what a good job I did for Him so that he will love me more.  Look at the rules I followed so well, God.  God, did you see how I didn’t. . .?  

I have the firstborn child complex, the one that always wants to please. I can recount for you the two times in my life a teacher ever corrected my behavior at school (in 6th grade I got yelled at for not talking loud enough – hard to imagine for some of you who know me well, and in 9th grade I got reprimanded for talking in class). I can tell you every incident and element of criticism I ever received from a boss.  I want to work for it. And, I want to be perfect at it. Then, in my flesh’s economy, I get good because I deserve good.

So, the concept that God can’t love me any more than he does right now just doesn’t make sense to my feeble mind.  Compound that with the fact that he can’t love me any less. Mind. Is. Blown.

I guess if God’s love and salvation through faith in Christ Jesus isn’t a free gift, then I play too big a role in saving myself. And, no matter how hard I try, I know there is nothing I can do, apart from Jesus, to ensure that my soul is eternally secure.  It’s not a get what you deserve kind of system. It’s a get what you don’t deserve because Jesus took what I deserve kind of system.  It’s a gift.

I don’t know about you — but I actually have a hard time with presents.  If you went out and bought me something fabulous I would probably be uncomfortable.  Alternatively, if I watched your children for a week, cleaned your house, and/or helped you lose 100 pounds and you surprised me with a cute purse, I might be okay with that.

So, back to God’s love.  If I can’t work for it then, what’s a worker bee like me to do?

Rest? Rest in his grace?  Rest in his love? Accept that though he desires my obedience, he wants me to do it out of love for him, not out of a fleshly desire to earn heavenly brownie points. And, I have to accept that it will be Him who does the work in my sanctification…only He can change the way my heart looks.  Only He can orchestrate my soul’s transformation.

Wow, that sounds so easy. And, yet, so hard. So counter to everything ingrained within me that screams, “Earn it. Deserve it.”

Work for it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing;it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2: 8&9 (ESV)

What do you think?  Is it easy for you to accept God’s free gift without working for it? How do you resolve the grace versus works tension?

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**This post was originally published in April 2012

3 Comments
  • Isabel
    April 26, 2012

    I tend to give myself an overabundance of grace in the opposite way; with my eating habits & lack of exercise. Fun right!? It’s a tough battle for me, that of self control. Your blog is encouraging.

  • Pam Thurman
    April 30, 2012

    Reminds me of Hebrews 4:11: Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest …. It really is WORK for some of us (me, too) to enter into REST. Our Greek mind-set that we have acquired by being schooled in this country says we have to DO something to get something. My Hebrew teacher told us we need to change our minds to the Hebrew mind-set in order to better understand how God thinks. I’m trying! Keep blogging!

  • Amy Dalke
    July 23, 2015

    You totally have my number. Not kidding. I ate these words up. Thanks for the perfectly timed words 🙂

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