Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.
I find myself thinking about this quote from Dallas Willard again today. Its a little technical so here’s my very rough glossary.
Grace: God offers you the life you’ve always wanted, starting now and going on forever. Completely free, through Jesus.
Earning: The idea you can somehow win this life, make it happen for yoursefl. You can’t
Effort: Putting work in, elbow grease, walking, movement, sweat.
Recently I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with my own life, in particular the way I open my self to others, the way I submit to God’s will, the way I encounter his presence.
I’ve begun to see glimpses of something greater, increased closeness, greater ability to love others, more boldness. As I see these glimpses they become like a prize that I want to win.
But as I see these glimpses, and work to take hold of the prize, I realise I can’t get it. I’m too lazy, too easily distracted, too cowardly. The gift on offer is not something I can earn.
So I find myself more grateful for grace, that God gives me the life I dream of completely free, despite my lack of merit. And I find myself more determined to put in the effort to build the habits, to take the time, to overcome my me-ness.
Had I not seen the prize I would not be dissatisfied, had I not tried and failed I would not be frustrated. Were I not frustrated I would not be thankful for God’s grace. Were I not thankful for grace I may not put in my own effort.
So grace and effort work in a cycle for me, pushing me forward to take hold of the life that I dream of, by have no rightful claim for, and picking me up each time I fail.
O God, complete the good work that you have started in me.