The Exhausting Christian Life

   Written by on February 27, 2015 at 12:53 pm

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).

logo-word - macdonaldMany 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.

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 own efforts. 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.

Reprinted with permission from Our Journey, copyright 2015 by James MacDonald. All rights reserved. Further distribution is prohibited without written permission from Walk in the Word.

About James McDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, and both are from Ontario, Canada. He is the father of three grown children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and grandfather to five amazing grandsons. James has committed his life and ministry to the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word. In 1988, along with a small group of ministry partners, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel (HarvestBibleChapel.org) which now has 13,000 people meeting at seven locations across Chicagoland each weekend. Walk in the Word, a Bible-teaching television and radio broadcast ministry (WalkintheWord.org), was established in 1997. The radio program reaches more than three million people daily, and the television audience extends around the world. In 2002, through James’s leadership and by God’s grace, the church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship (HarvestBibleFellowship.org) was founded and has established more than 100 churches across North America and around the world. James’ vision is for God to use Harvest Bible Fellowship to plant 1,000 churches by 2020. James’ extensive ministry also includes a training center for pastors, a year-round camp, a center for biblical counseling, a disaster-recovery organization, and a Christian school—all used to reach more people with the life-changing message of the Gospel. James is the author of several books including Vertical Church, Authentic, Lord Change My Attitude, When Life is Hard, Always True, and most recently, Come Home.

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