Maybe it’s the generation I came from. Maybe it’s the family work ethic I grew up with. I can just hear my grandmothers both saying, “If you have time to whine, you have time to do a little more work.”
Those women just did what had to be done, when it had to be done, how it had to be done, and never expected praise for it. They never suffered a lack of self-esteem either. They were both happy women, content with their lots in life despite the real sweat they sweated and the long hours they kept, both in the home and in the workplace. One grandmother, widowed from her 40s, was still walking to work in her 70s. In Florida. Even in the summer. If you had told them they were strong women, they would have laughed in your face.
I am tired of having Biblical examples held up as impossible. I am tired of hearing how we should just ignore them and not worry about being like them, because we can’t anyway. God has always given His people examples to follow. Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Abraham, Samuel, and David were always held up for the Israelites to emulate throughout the chronicles, the psalms and the prophets. What? Should He have given them a reprobate to imitate?
The Hebrew writer gives us a whole list of people to model ourselves after. And guess what? Not a one of them was perfect—yet they all did at least one amazing act of faith, something we probably think we “just can’t do.” Shall we ignore them because, after all, God would not want us to experience a feeling of failure?
Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Cor 11:1 to follow his example. Yes, it was a specific example the context of which begins in chapter 8, but still—can we imitate Paul at all? Or shall we claim disability and dispense with his advice? “After all, we’re not Paul…”
I am tired of having women who began in the depths of sin held up as the example to follow as if they had never changed. Jesus told the adulterous woman in John 8, “Go thy way and sin no more.” Wasn’t that an impossible task? But I bet that forgiven woman tried to accomplish it a whole lot harder than we do and succeeded far better for the trying.
If we are asking too much of people to strive for the ideal, then how could Peter have ever written: For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you might follow in his steps, 1 Pet 2:21. How could Paul have said we are to be “conformed to the image of His son,” Rom 8:29; and “walk in love as Christ loved us” Eph 5:2; and “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ” Phil 2:5? How could John have dared write “If we abide in him we should walk as he walked” 1 John 2:6?
Certainly following Christ’s example perfectly is a difficult task. But tell me, how can you ever become better if the goal you have set before yourself is easily attainable? If I wanted to become a long distance runner, surely my goal should be something more than running down to the mailbox and back—even my mailbox which is nearly half a mile away. Surely if it is frustrating to model ourselves after a high example, we should avoid using the Lord as one. That is what follows from the logic I have been hearing lately: the only thing that will come from me trying to be like my Lord is self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness, so I shouldn’t even try.
God must think otherwise. He places high expectations in front of us, and He expects us to use them as goals, not ignore them because they are impossible. Do you know why? Because He gives us the tools to reach them.
1 Pet 4:11—We serve by the “strength which God supplies,” not what we supply.
Eph 3:20—His power “works in us;” His power, not ours.
2 Tim 3:17—He equips us “for every good work;” not just the ones we find easy.
God does expect a lot from us. Here is the key: stop picking at it like a sore. Just do what is set before you every day, that much and no more. If you have time to sit down and cry about it, you’re wasting one of the few precious commodities you can control, and that for only the moment. Remember where your power comes from, and do not doubt it for an instant.
Will it be easy? No—maybe that is another one of our problems. We expect God to make it comfortable. We expect it to be fun. We expect it to never hurt. We think if we have to sweat it isn’t fair. God never promised any of that. He did promise all the help we could possibly need.
Here is where you find your sense of self-worth: not in what you alone can do, but in recognizing that with a loving Father’s help, you can do more than you ever dreamed possible.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work, 2 Corinthians 9:8.