Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Trying Harder to Believe a Lie

Trying Harder to Believe a Lie


Are you concerned that you’re not “doing” the Christian life right? Perhaps you’ve believed the lie that you need to try harder to do better.

I was raised to believe that as long as I worked hard and worked smart, I would succeed at whatever I tried. But while hard work may achieve results in some areas of life, it can be a liability in others.

Have you ever tried hard to be holy? To get through a day without sinning in thought, word, or deed? I have . . . and failed miserably. I’m reminded of a line from season two of the series, The Chosen, when the character of Mary Magdalene says to the disciples (describing Jesus), “I don’t think He’s waiting for us to be holy. I think He’s here because we can’t be holy without Him.”

Mic drop.

No matter how hard I try to be holy, apart from God’s Holy Spirit, it won’t happen. It cannot happen in my own strength.

Focusing on making myself holy by hard work only leads to frustration that I’m not doing the Christian life right.

But the Christian life is not about trying harder, it’s about surrender. I’ll never be able to “get it right” in my own strength. If we could do that on our own, we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit. God is our sanctification: He is the one who sets us apart for Him as we yield to His Spirit.


What About Obedience?

So does this mean the Christian life is limited to a passive existence? Where does obedience fit in? The reality of our faithfulness is seen in our obedience. But rather than trying harder, our obedience flows from aligning our will to the Lord’s will for us. Instead of expending exhausting amounts of external effort, our behavior is influenced by our desire. At the most foundational level, do we desire for ourselves what the Lord desires for us?

  • God has declared us set apart from the world to Him. Is that how we see ourselves or are we drawn to the deceptive pleasures the world offers?
  • God has declared that He is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). He knows He alone can fill our deepest needs. Is that what we desire?
  • God wants the highest and best for us, which can only occur when He is first in our lives. Do we protect our devotion to Him?

When we can answer yes to these questions, obedience won’t require exhausting efforts to try harder. Stop trying harder to believe a lie. The true Christian life is not about trying harder. Jesus Christ did the heavy lifting for us. Rest in the truth that yielding to His Holy Spirit and wanting what He wants for us will accomplish much more than our meager efforts ever could!


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