When I was younger, fear was a major motivation for me. I worried that I wasn’t doing enough for God. I saw the many ways that I failed him. I imagined his great displeasure at my imperfection. I thought about whether I was really His or not, based on a self-evaluation of my daily activity for God. Even when I behaved acceptably, I saw my own heart struggles and wondered if I really was a Christian.
This is being motivated by fear. Fear that I wasn’t really good enough, that my faith wasn’t real.
Not until I was much older did I see that faith in Jesus Christ is actually the opposite of that kind of fear.
Trusting Jesus is the opposite of self-evaluating fear because trusting Jesus is abandoning hope in myself and trusting in what Jesus has done. Trusting that he means it when he says he loves me, he died for me, he pursued me, he actually likes me. Right now.
My continuing sin and failure are why I need to soak in the gospel every day. My trust in Jesus moves me toward overcoming my natural desire to fear, because that fear is based in self-righteousness. The stunning truth of the gospel is that my acceptance before God is actually based on Jesus’ righteousness.
When I finally was hit with the depth of that gift, I was floored. I continue to be amazed that I’m loved. Loved by the King. Loved by Jesus. I believe in Jesus. I trust him. This is receiving love I don’t deserve. There’s a love, and this gift of love has changed my life.
I am no longer motivated by fear (well, I shouldn’t be, and I know it, though I fail still). Love has set me free, and my thankfulness overflows in living life in the truth of His love.
This is what it means for faith to work.
In James 2:18, Jesus’ half-brother gives an incredible encouragement to believers:
“Someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
See, some people want to focus on works. Feeding the poor. Helping other people. Doing good deeds. They want to do that separately from trusting Jesus. In fact, they want to use those works as a measuring stick for if they have enough faith. If they are doing enough. Because they live in fear.
James says—no way. You can’t have works that show how good you are. Trusting Jesus is abandoning your own goodness. So your goodness isn’t what shows. Trusting in Jesus is what shows. And you can be encouraged that this trust will definitely show.
It’s like being alive. If you get this life-giving truth, you’re alive. Life reveals itself. It will show like your heart beating, like your legs moving, like your lungs breathing. You can’t separate the activity of life from life itself, like you can’t separate trusting Jesus from that amazing gift showing.
It doesn’t show in self-improvement or moral excellence, necessarily. It shows in how you think of other people, how you live in gratitude, how your life is flavored by your trusting that you are loved by Jesus himself. It shows in rejecting fear-based living, and moving because of love.
The wonder of our lives is that being connected to Jesus brings forth fruit we can’t produce. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness.
Our feet move because we are alive. Be encouraged. Trust in Jesus and live.