At the beginning of each year, we always seem determined to make ourselves better than we were the year before. What great endeavors we make to fulfill whatever resolutions we think will improve our life; yet, for so many, these efforts yield little or no results. Why can’t we accomplish all we set out to do? Or why do we sometimes succeed at something, then later see our success dwindle away? Why does it seem that for every two or three steps forward, we end up moving one or two steps back? How is that we work so hard to achieve so little—or even nothing at all?
Our Efforts Can’t be in Our Own Strength
For some, the answer lies in laziness, or just lack of initiative. Now if our success resulted solely from the monumental plans we have conceived in our minds, there would be prosperity and happiness in every corner! But, when it comes to walking with God, the real answer is that we are trying to accomplish all of these plans by our own strength and efforts. We want to please God. We know we need to be healthy. We try to be abundantly prosperous. But we continue to do it all in our self.
Without even realizing it, we leave God out of the picture. Or we do ‘include’ Him, but it ends up being conditional—on our terms. It’s like trying to drive a vehicle with an engine whose output is severely restricted. We make all of these great efforts on our own to get the vehicle moving and keep it going, but in the end, we’ve hardly traveled anywhere. Or, even worse, we boast of our great strides to go nowhere as if we actually accomplished something!
Making All of Our Efforts Without God Is a Form of Pride
God never intended for us to live our lives without Him. He wants us to look to Him for our strength and guidance. When we go forward on our own, we exhibit pride and self-righteousness. We are, in essence, displaying to God that we don’t need Him to solve the problem at hand. Or we are actually telling God that we know more than He does.
Children and teenagers exhibit such an attitude at times when they are struggling to assemble an object, or have a difficult school assignment to complete. Rather than allowing (or even going to and asking!) one of their parents to assist them with it, they often angrily and hastily whisk the item away and move to another location. They may even order the parent to leave the room. Such actions naturally make the parent feel hurt. Then the child often does poorly or fails on the project, because he took it all on himself, even though he didn’t fully understand what he was to do.
Obviously, God does not view this or any form of pride and self-righteousness favorably. How could He, when His own creation has just declared themselves to be superior over Him! Our Heavenly Father loves us in a way greater than we, as a physical being, could ever understand. He knows that, due to sin, we are incapable of making ourselves totally right and complete before Him. In fact, it is impossible to make our sinful, mortal self perfect enough to stand before Him.
Jesus Made All of the Efforts for Us
That is one reason why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly came to this earth to be our perfect substitute. Since He was without any sin, He was the only one qualified for this position. Jesus fulfilled everything that the heavenly Father required in order for us to be able to freely and boldly come before Him—all the way to the point where He sacrificed Himself on a cross. All of this He did on our behalf. We could never reach the position, by our own efforts, where God could declare us to be pure, righteous, not guilty, and without blame.
We therefore need to stop trying by our own efforts to make ourselves acceptable and perfect to God (or anyone else, for that matter). Success will only come when we yield to Jesus and accept His sacrifice on the cross for our sins as our own. All of our resolutions and efforts, whenever they are made and attempted, will not make us any better before God—unless they are done through Christ. We need to commit ourself to Him and then let Him work through us by His Spirit.
Even though we are children of God, we cannot just come boldly before Him as we are, due to our inherent sin nature (or sinful self). We must go before Him through His Son, who covers us and cleanses us of all our sins or unrighteousness with His blood that was shed on the cross. While exercise, prayer, budgeting, Bible reading, eating better, etc., are all good in themselves, if our true motive is to improve our self to gain the favor of God, then we will making plenty of efforts but still no results.