For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good (Romans 7:15–16, esv).
Many Christians are tired; some are very tired. They don’t have the passion for God they once had and feel a vague guilt about it. The sequence follows a predictable pattern: seasons of renewed expectation and energetic pursuit, followed by disappointment, and finally, utter exhaustion.
The apostle Paul faced the same dilemma: a desire to do good but an inability to get it done. What he described in Romans 7:15–18, and what many of us experience too often, is the exhausting Christian life.
A victorious life in Christ was eluding Paul, and amazingly, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he admitted it. Paul acknowledged that at a certain point in time, his Christian life was not working for him. For him it was a temporary problem. Sadly, it’s all many of Jesus’ followers ever experience: precepts without power, rules without resources, laws without life. Exhausting and excruciating, it is the powerless Christian life.
“Stop trying to live in your own strength—let Christ live His life through you.”
We try serving, spending ourselves working for Christ in search of a fuller Christian experience through ministry involvement. Exhausted, we pull back for a season and pursue Bible knowledge. We undertake Bible studies, quiet-time schedules, and books about spiritual disciplines. These too last for a season. And while good may come through serving and focused time in God’s Word, often we feel like the joy we are promised at conversion is eluding us.
Forgiven? Yes. But slipping into a lukewarm mediocrity, we can begin to view the dynamic, Spirit-filled, victorious Christian life God promised like a carrot on the end of a stick. That kind of living, though well-intentioned, is really nothing more than self-powered sanctification—and it always leads to exhaustion.
This dilemma plays out week after week. We come to church having failed at living the Christian life in our own strength the past week. We hear a sermon and feel guilty about our disobedience. We promise God we will try harder, and some weeks those promises last until Tuesday or Wednesday, before we fall flat on our faces—again. I just don’t have what it takes, we conclude, settling into a numb, passionless, pseudo-Christian experience.
This kind of living is a knife in the heart of Jesus Christ. He not only died for our forgiveness, but rose again that He might live His life through us. Might the Lord Jesus look at our exhausted Christian experience and respond, This is it? This is what I rose for? This is the degree to which you are going to draw down upon My resurrection power? This is the extent to which you’ll let Me live My life through you? This is as good as it gets?
It’s time to make a once-and-for-all decision to be done with the exhausting Christian life. Just as we can’t become Christians until we come to the end of ourselves, so we also can’t experience the true Christian life until we come to the end of our own efforts.
There is hope and a power source for transformation beyond our efforts (more to come on that in the next devotional). But until we fully recognize we are the problem—we are the reason Jesus is not seen in us—until we stop trying to live the Christian life in our own strength and let Christ live His life through us, we will always be exhausted.
My Father, forgive me for trying to live for you in my own strength. No matter how hard I try, I come away feeling exhausted and defeated. Forgive me for thinking I only need You to save me, but not to empower me. I am at the end of myself, and I need You. Will You live Your life through me? Will You show me the ways I rely on my own resources and teach me to live through You? Thank You for raising Jesus from the dead, not only to give me hope for the next life but to give me power in this life. In His powerful name I pray, amen.