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  • Writer's pictureJess Bird-Bellis

This is Not Your Own Doing

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

*originally published in issue 12 of Be Still magazine, by The Daily Grace Co.

“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

I grew up in the church. I went to a Christian school from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I can literally remember memorizing this verse at Awana as a kid.

But recently, it began to hold a new meaning for me.

Have you ever felt the need to work for the approval of someone? What did it feel like when you didn’t feel like they were happy with your work? How did that affect your thoughts about yourself? How did that affect your thoughts in general? What was your focus? How did it affect your behavior?

When I am focused on gaining the approval of other people, what I’m really focused on is myself. How I measure up. How I can work better, harder, faster, etc. This causes insecurity, because I can’t please everyone. In fact, I can’t please anyone all the time. What a relief it is to know that I don’t have to work to earn God’s approval.

As a wife, mother, friend, employee, etc. I have so many things to do, so many things to keep track of: laundry, meal-planning, diaper changes, monitoring homework, grocery shopping, school drop-off, school pick-up, meetings, projects, teaching—the list goes on. If I had to add to that trying to gain the approval of a holy God, I’d be sunk. I can’t do it. None of us can.

God has been reminding me lately of the relief and freedom of that truth of the Gospel. As women, moms, humans we tend to work for the approval of other people. With God, we don’t need to do that. God doesn’t ask us to work for his approval. In fact, he tells us that we can never earn it. Apart from Christ, we cannot be approved. It is only through the work of Jesus on the cross that we can come to the Father and accept His ultimate approval.

God gives us this free gift so that we can have fellowship with him, and ultimately, so that He can be glorified, so that we cannot boast in our own works or abilities, but only in the work of Jesus and the glory of God the Father.

“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

Early in my career, I was hired at a counseling agency in an administrative role. I was so excited to begin! After working hard to receive my Master’s of Social Work, I was thrilled to be in a supervisory role. I was excited to lead and influence a team of people working with children with mental health challenges. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that my supervisors were not exactly supportive, and the agency was pretty dysfunctional. I wasn’t able to reach the standards that the administration expected of me, which I knew were impossible, but still made me feel like I was deficient in some way. My dream of being in a leadership role quickly became a nightmare, and I began to sink into despair and insecurity. I began feeling anxious all the time. My thoughts were focused on myself and what I could do better. I would daydream about being offered some amazing job somewhere else and excelling at it, and then running into my old bosses and bragging about how great I was. It was gross. I tried to do the “right thing” and kept telling myself to work for God and not for man, but even in that my focus was on myself and what I was doing. Thankfully, God quickly provided a way of escape, and I moved on to a different type of position at a different agency, but even though my working environment is much better now, insecurity still follows me. I think it follows all of us if we focus on ourselves and not on the God who gives us the gifts and talents to do the work He has for us.

Praise God that I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations in order to gain salvation. We can never be good enough to stand in the presence of a holy God without the saving grace of Jesus. That doesn’t mean that we should act however we want. As Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” It means we must and can only depend on the grace and mercy of God through faith in Jesus for our redemption and restoration. What a relief!

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