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strategies of hope for a recovering earnaholic

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My name is Chelsea, and I’m a recovering earnaholic. 

If there was a support group for me (although, hello, I know it’s the Church), I might start out with this line: I’ve spent much of my Christian life working for God, for an identity of my own, instead of receiving His life and all He has for me.

Earlier this year, I realized (thank you, Holy Spirit) something striking: my greatest desire wasn’t God, but to be good enough in all eyes (my own, others, and His). In my experience, earning love is a sin masquerading as not that bad. It is a mixture of fear and pride buried deep under the idol of image management. It’s a habit often rooted in self-satisfaction, not God-my-All. And it’s colored by a need to be worthy by our own standards, not what God has declared to be true. 

In this life, there is sin we’ve battled our entire Christian life, sin we have grown comfortable in, or sin we’re continually wearied by. How do we wrestle down sins that don’t easily appear to be sin, without glorifying them as part of who we are? How do we live the life we now live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us? (Galatians 2:20) Below are strategies I have found helpful, no matter how imperfectly I execute them.

1. We apply the gospel to every moment until the response is as natural as breathing.

In a sentence, what is the gospel? “The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (John Piper)

The gospel can be a jolt of energy when we feel exhausted in our sin battles. The gospel can be healing balm when we feel broken by the weakness of our flesh. The gospel can be a source of joy when we realize we are not alone in our wrestling. To be these things, the gospel of Jesus can’t be a cloud floating above us, drifting, it must be vigilantly applied to every thought and feeling.

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from ‘religiously right’ to Jesus, only Jesus

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I sat in the pew, taking notes, attentive to the pastor in front of me reading the story of a Canaanite woman’s encounter with Jesus (Matthew 15:21-28). 

I confess the story is one I mostly glaze over, because it seems weird and uncharacteristic of Jesus. This day, God had primed my heart and mind to hear something new. 

Prior to this moment in Scripture, Jesus had held conversations with people driven by religious achievement. He then encounters a woman in great need asking for mercy purely out of belief that He is the only one who can change her circumstance. But He responded so uniquely, throwing up obstacle after obstacle. He spoke hard words, and she persisted. She was determined that even a crumb from His hand would be enough to change her life. And He was delighted by her faith!

I imagine she had exhausted all other options, abandoning idols of her friends and family, desperate for any semblance of breakthrough. Nothing was working. Nothing was changing.

I can relate. I can relate to the madness of seeking deep peace and durable joy by ways not God. I can relate to the feeling of getting so close to freedom you can smell it, but never experience it work its way into your system. By grace, His Spirit is renewing us. I saw the reality of the gospel in full color that day: a life of faith, by way of God’s Spirit, is fixed on God and His perfect, crucified, resurrected, reigning Son – not self.

Like this woman encountered obstacles in her pursuit of Jesus, an obstacle to wholehearted surrender to Jesus I fight every day is self-reliance

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one of the best habits we can cultivate

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I know what is said about making a new habit: it takes 21 days. But what if a lifetime is needed?

There is one habit I have been forming (yes, still forming) consciously and intensely and clumsily in my adult years of loving God, and that is girl, fix. your. eyes. on. Jesus.

Make a mistake? See Jesus, and know His forgiveness.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Fall in love? See Jesus, and know His way of loving and being loved.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. John 15:9

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Struggle with a weakness? See Jesus, and know His grace is sufficient.

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:6-8

Hurt by a loved one? See Jesus, and know His comfort and gentleness.

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psalm 46:1-3

Wrestling with your flesh? See Jesus, and know His plan and vision for eternity.

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