How many times have we heard encouraging and motivational messages that dare us to ‘achieve the impossible’ and messages created us to inspire us to ‘believe in ourselves because we’re amazing’? Though it is of course great to be inspired to do yet greater things, some things are, when everything is said and done, simply impossible. And trying to do that which is truly impossible can lead to only one thing: bitter disappointment.
Though God wants us to adventure with Him, to live daringly, to dream big and to walk in faith, He doesn’t want us living a life of futile attempts in which we try to realise the impossible. And one great impossibility is made very clear in the Bible: we can’t please God by trying hard in our own strength. Simply put, it’s impossible.
To become a Christian, to be born again, really starts with the admission that we can’t help ourselves. We must agree with God: only He can save from sin. We can’t do it ourselves. No matter how hard we try, how committed or sincere we are, we’re stuck in sin until we receive God’s rescue. No exceptions, at all, ever. And as we enter the Christian life from this place of complete helplessness, so we need to continue much in the same way. We can’t please God, grow more holy or improve ourselves through our own human efforts. It’s only by the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit that any of these things become a possibility.
Paul warned the Galatians that they should be very careful to remain in the grace of God, to be empowered and helped by the Holy Spirit, and not to fall back into fleshly striving and human efforts (Galatians 3:1-3). Here in the book of Romans he makes a similar point. It really is simply not possible to please God by trying hard without His help!
I don’t know about you, but personally I tend to forget this rather a lot. I start trying, striving and working at ‘being better’, which then leads to very frustrating results. I start complaining to God until He reminds me again: “Peter, you simply can’t do it by yourself. You’re going to have to trust in Me”. It’s my hope and prayer that we’ll all continue to learn how to recognise more and more quickly when we’re once again trying to do the impossible- pleasing Him without His help! That way our frustrations will decline and our faith in God will increase.
It might be helpful to resolve what NOT to do, to help us stay on track with God and avoid the disappointments I mentioned earlier. For me, I can say: I won’t attempt to swim across the ocean, for I would drown! And I won’t attempt to please God in my own strength, for His word tells me this is an impossibility.
Prayer: Dear God, please help me to acknowledge my own weaknesses and my ongoing need of Your help. Please forgive me for every time that I try to please You in my own strength, And THANK YOU for the love and grace You give me in Jesus Christ! Amen.