It’s easy to get discouraged in our Christian walk. When we focus on our shortcomings and sins, we can find ourselves moving further away from God rather than closer to him. We need to focus more on the God who loves us.
I’ve discovered that many Christians feel that God’s love and acceptance of them depends on their performance. As long as they are a ‘good Christian’ then God loves them and cares for them. But if they aren’t performing up to some standard then God is upset and angry with them. They become discouraged. When they stumble or sin they believe that God doesn’t love them anymore. It’s a performance-based Christianity and it’s deadly to the spirit and soul.
Here’s the thing we need to remember: God loved us first. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. (Romans 5:8) So we need to relax a little bit and rest in his love. I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t take sin seriously. We should be seeking to live holy lives. But we don’t do it to earn God’s favor; rather, we do it to love him back.
Recently I came across this quote by St. Augustine: “It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace, which is revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud.”
I think Augustine must have been reading 1 John. John makes this point several times so that his readers can’t possibly miss it:
- “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
- “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
God loved us before we even knew anything about him. He loved us when we were hopelessly lost in sin. Now that we are his children, how could he stop loving us?
When we sin and fail – and we will – we need to repent, confess our sins and remember that God’s love has not been diminished. He still loves us; we don’t have to earn it back. That’s the grace that God reveals to his children. We keep his commands not to earn his love but rather because he loves us. It’s a motivation to live in such a way that we bring him pleasure. Our desire is to live a life worthy of the one who loves us and will never stop loving us.
So don’t run away and hide. Don’t become discouraged with your Christian walk. Accept that God’s love never fails and just keep moving forward.