By Kelly Johnson
It turns out there are no shortcuts to get the job done.
Even now as I sit at my keyboard, struggling to put my thoughts into words, I yearn for the Easy Button made famous by Staples ads. I am looking for a formula, a blueprint, or the ubiquitous “five easy steps to success.” I would prefer to be transported to my desired destination with minimal effort or struggle. However, every book on writing that I’ve read says the same thing about how to reach my goal:
Put your fanny in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. Do the work.
If we want to be writers, we have to write. If we want to be dancers, we have to dance. If we want to be painters, singers, accountants or business owners, we must show up and do the work. If we want a stronger mind, body, and spirit, we must repeatedly choose the actions that nurture the growth we desire.
King David knew something about partnering with God. As he neared the end of his life, along with detailed plans for the temple Solomon was to build, he gave this advice to his son about the assignment God had given him:
“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished'” (1 Chron. 28:20 NIV).
David knew God would be with Solomon every step of the way. He knew God would give Solomon everything he needed to complete the gargantuan task before him. Yet David also knew Solomon would need to be brave and DO THE WORK.
Our spiritual journeys are no different. When we allow God to work in our lives, he promises to make us more like Jesus and give us the fruits of his spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, we have to participate in that process by showing up and doing the work.
And what does our work look like?
For me, the work I need to do to participate with God in my own growth includes prayer, reading Scripture, practicing repentance and gratitude, worship, time with other believers, and serving people in need. Although these things we call spiritual disciplines do not by themselves produce life-altering changes in me, they put me in the optimum position for God to work his miracles. We are a team.
The gospel says we are redeemed and transformed, not by our own efforts, but by God’s willingness to pour out his lavish love and unmerited grace on us. He is crazy about us and wants to guide us toward becoming our best selves. While I am comforted by the notion of God working in me for my good and for use in his kingdom, I’m sometimes frustrated by his unwillingness to just wave a magic wand over me. Yet my good God is more concerned about my character than my comfort, and he knows hard work is good for me in all areas of my life.
Here is the good news: on the days when I don’t feel like doing the work, I remember that I never work alone and I never work in vain. Whatever the task before me, God promises to be with me and he promises to finish the good work he has begun in me and through me.
The same is true for you.
God promises to save us, heal us, forgive us, strengthen us, and empower us to do the work to which we are called and for which we are uniquely gifted.
We are co-creators with God in the masterpiece of our lives. What an adventure!
But we still have to do the work.
Kelly Johnson is a counselor, writer, speaker, and advocate. She leads a weekly Bible study and serves as chair of the board of directors at a local shelter for the homeless. Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mom of two college-age daughters. Kelly writes about life, faith, and her newly empty nest at kellyjohnsongracenotes.com.
Photograph © Jeremy Bishop, used with permission