Have you ever had someone relieve you of a responsibility or position that was just too unbearable to perform or maintain? Maybe that person came in just at the right moment and took over when you felt you could not go one step further. What a relief you felt! That's what it was like for me one day when I was in my twenties. I was weary, depressed, and I had been carrying a heavy weight for way too long. I felt like Pilgrim in Pilgrim's Progress with the bulky bundle on his back. The weight I bore was my own faith.
Behind the clouds of my simple understanding of the Gospel sparkled a gem of truth so powerful that once discovered would catapult me from that murky despair into a lightness and freedom I had not previously experienced.
This jewel of an idea came from Ephesians 2:8-9: “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.” I had known this verse for years, but I had missed an important aspect of its meaning, one that directly related to my struggle. I had grown up in a Christian home, first making a profession of faith at age 3. As years went by, I began to doubt whether or not my faith had been genuine enough to make that decision. Had I understood what I was doing? What if I didn't really believe enough then? I was encouraged to pray and ask Christ into my heart again, but with all the doubts swirling around in my head, I felt that my faith was just not good enough to earn the favor of a holy God. I kept inspecting my faith, wondering if I could ever make a flawless profession.
“It's not your faith that saves you. It's Christ's faith. Look at Him.” These words were the most soothing and wonderful words I'd heard in a long time! The preacher didn't realize then that he'd spoken into existence a new-found freedom that liberated me from years of panic, anxiety, and debilitating fears. As I began to practice looking on and resting in Jesus' perfect faith, I looked less and less at my own feeble faith. This in turn produced strong assurance, and I saw that I really was a believer.
I didn't know that the words the preacher used had a foundation in Ephesians 2:8-9. I had always believed that we were saved through faith and not of works, but I had always thought that the faith part was up to me. That's what lets Jesus into your heart, right? Upon more careful examination the verse actually says that the “faith” that is mentioned in the first line is what the next clause is referencing when it says, “And this is not your own doing.” I had been trying to get a perfect faith from myself. It was impossible. John 6:65 says, “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” I came to realize that even faith itself is a fruit of the Spirit, something we don't have unless God gives it to us. Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” As believers, our faith has been given, or “gifted” to us. If it is from God it does not originate with us, nor is it maintained by us. It was the day I started looking so intently at my faith, that my troubles started. I was like Peter, walking on the water towards Jesus. As soon as he got his eyes off of Christ he started sinking.
Bunyan's Pilgrim watched his burden roll down the hill as he stood at the foot of the Cross. It is a true understanding of the Gospel that will set us free from our worries, cares, lack of assurance, or whatever troubles or distracts us. It is looking to Jesus that will aid us in getting back on track in our spiritual walk. He is the great burden-bearer. He has done everything for us and has all we lack. What burdens are you carrying?