About 15 years ago I attended a Bible study, and at the beginning of each study, an ice-breaker question was asked. One week the question was something to the effect of: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy life?” People went around the room giving different answers, a lot of people said different things – numbers like 6, 7, 8. But there was one young man there who said, “I’d say a 10.” The interesting thing was that this was a young single man who had one of the hardest lives I’d seen – he had no immediate family (he lost both his parents at a young age, and had no siblings), was supporting himself from the age of 16, with a low-paying job renting a room somewhere, driving a very cheap junker of a car. He didn’t have that much Bible knowledge and he was a pretty new Christian - but the interesting thing is, here he was - the happiest out of the whole group of us!
And there were a few things I felt the Lord speak to my heart about his example, as I meditated on this young man’s happiness. One thing that stayed on my heart was this: this young man did not seem weighed down with religion and trying to earn his salvation. He freely enjoyed God‘s love and forgiveness, and carried no condemnation for himself. He didn’t carry along guilt like so many of the rest of us do, he wasn’t trying to work for his salvation. He wasn’t the most knowledgeable or mature one in the group, but he didn’t need to be! A believer on day 1 can have as much security and joy and rest in the Lord’s love and His work, as the most mature one who’s walked with God for decades (the sad thing is if we’ve walked with God like that for a while, but then start going back into being grounded on our own works – like the Galatians did in Galatians 3:3). There was a genuine innocence about this young man that didn’t constantly have the struggle that I’ve so often personally had myself - of trying to please God and falling short, and then entering into feeling guilty and discouraged.
That’s the sense I got from this young man – a rest in God’s work. He reminded me of, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Maybe some of it was his natural personality, I’m not sure, but I believe the truth is there - that I should live with the same freedom that I think I saw in him. And I believe it’s not very different from what Jesus meant when He said that we have to come to God like a little child (Matthew 18:3). A little child is just someone who receives what a parent gives (since they know they are incapable themselves) – a ‘taker’. That’s what a Christian is too - just a ‘taker’ of what God freely gives. That’s how we were saved, and that’s how we progress in the Christian life. It’s exactly like the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) - we recognize we are empty, that the Lord loves us, we ask the Lord to give, and then simply take what He gives (the ‘taking’ is faith).
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
I'm so happy to just be a taker, it's very restful. There will never be anything to boast of whatsoever on my part, I'm just a receiver of God's mercy that was poured out. Praise God!
No more working for my salvation, no more doubting my salvation because of my failures. It’s like the verse says: “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Cease striving - GOD LOVES YOU. Be like this ‘young one’ who has a full confidence and assurance in what God has done for you, and resting in that. We will freely leap into eternity clinging onto Jesus’ feet! Not our own works.
We can have a ’10 out of 10’ happiness in the Lord too if we have that rest and assurance in His love and our eternal life with Him, and that’s His will for us to have:
1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
When we start our life with God on this foundation - of security in His unconditional love for us which saves us forever in Jesus, then we will start building on top of that foundation - Christ-likness, and bearing fruit of godly character - both inside and out. And that's the proof that the foundation was real all along ("Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17)). I've found that as we grow in the Lord that He increases our burden to build on top of the foundation over time, to be more devoted to the Lord, to hate and fight sin more, to carry our cross, to build up others for the same. It doesn't come overnight. But the Lord gave me freedom from fear over losing my salvation because I know that God loves me, is patient me, and when He looks at my righteousness, He doesn't see mine, He sees Jesus' now. And as long as I don't leave Him by turning back to my old ways, then He won't leave me.
John 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."