Dig until you uncover the truth

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)    
In this past Sunday’s sermon on the gospel and personal growth, I made the case that underneath every sin is idolatry: we are looking to something other than God to give us satisfaction, comfort, peace, glory, etc. And, if you are willing to dig even deeper, underneath every idol is something we don’t believe about God. Deep down, we are not sure that God is good and will care for us, and so we look to money to be our source of security. We are not sure that in Christ really is found life to the full, and so we look to worldly entertainment to bring us joy. We do not really believe that God can give us peace in the midst of our anxieties, and so we turn to our addictions to soothe us. If this is true, then the best thing we can do is to return again and again to the gospel, to remember the majesty of God’s love as displayed in Jesus’ death for us when we were still sinners, that we might grow in our trust of Him and love for Him.

A couple of years ago, I tried really digging into one of my biggest struggles. I have always struggled with procrastination, particularly with tackling the really difficult things on my to-do list. As a pastor, I have so many directions I can go with my time: people in need of discipling or care, ministry leaders to train and support, prayer, outreach, reading, writing, preparing sermons, planning for the future, and so on. Often, what gets pushed aside are the items that are more challenging for me: difficult conversations, working through thorny issues, figuring out leadership challenges. Over the years, I have honed my task management systems to the point where I at least know what I need to accomplish in a given day. The problem comes in executing that list, particularly when I choose to take on the easier, less critical tasks and do not leave myself with enough time to take care of the harder, more important ones.

As I began to pray and dig into this issue, I believe God helped me to see the heart of the issue. I realized that if I didn’t give my best effort to those challenging tasks, then I would always have an excuse when things didn’t go well:  “I could have been successful at that, but unfortunately I had to take care of other things.” I saw that deep down, in some place I was not consciously aware of, I believed that if I gave my all and then failed, then I was a failure, with no excuses to hide behind. But as long as I had excuses, then I could see myself as a victim of my circumstances, and not have to deal with my crisis of competency. Deep down, my procrastination arose from a fear of failure, a fear that I was a failure.

But that is not the bottom layer. Underneath that fear of failure lies a lack of belief in the gospel. The gospel, after all, is the greatest news of all for failures. It proclaims that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). ALL have failed, but the good news is that every failure has been covered by God’s grace. We are beloved failures, saved sinners, redeemed screw-ups. And as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is never in vain.” In other words, even if you give your best and still fail, it is not meaningless; in some mysterious way I do not fully understand, even my failures, when done in service to the Lord, matter eternally for good.

Underneath every sin is idolatry. And underneath every idol is something we don’t believe about God and the gospel. Don’t be afraid to start digging, that you might uncover the truth and build your life upon it.

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