Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:18-20
I have grown up with what is often categorized as an “achiever mentality” or in an “achievement culture”. It begins early with competition over who is walking when, talking at what age and “using the potty” earliest. Then, the achievement goals are raised with attendance at the best preschool to allow for entrance into the best elementary school to prepare for the most comprehensive high school education so that admittance into the most elite university will be possible. The reason for attending the most elite university is to open up the opportunity to get the best job possible and be at the top of one’s field at a record setting pace. To be at the top of one’s field, outstanding accomplishments and innovations are required. My last paying job before Ellie was born was at a large church where I was required to submit a weekly “Ministry Report”, listing each person I met with and all projects I had worked on that week. The report became a measure of my worth to the company, so to speak. Was I earning my pay? I tend to live by that report. One’s value, then, rather than measured in afternoon coffee spoons is constantly evaluated based upon achievement.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
In this achievement driven life, peace is promised “once”…Once I get the piles of papers organized and out of sight, once I reorganize the playroom, once I have all the laundry put away, once I get through this busy weekend, once my children have mastery of this particular skill, once my kitchen backsplash and bathtubs finally get tiled, once we finally get trim installed around our doors, windows and floors…then I can be at rest, then I can be at peace, then I can feel satisfied. This is how the world doles out rest and peace. It is given only once certain demands are met. The tricky thing is, however, that the new demands come more rapidly than it is possible to complete the prior ones. It begins to remind me of the Law, which it has also become.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 5:17-19Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:26-27
I will feel peace with God when I go through just one day thinking of others more than myself, serving the needs of others more than my own desires, looking to the best interests of my neighbors and family before my own self-interest. Of course, peace with God will never ever come that way because such a day is impossible. I can think otherwise only when I underestimate the power and exhaustive corruption of sin. Peace is not at the other end of my accomplishments, but it is at the other end of His.
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Gal. 3:2-6
Do I believe that it is well with my soul only if I provide the most measurably enriching educational environmental for my children, only if my house is praiseworthy in the sight of any visitor, only if by the end of the day I can list out all that I have completed successfully? Or, might I enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, particularly peace and joy, even now? Better than personal peace for an isolated existence, His work also brings about the Spirit’s fruit of love for others that is minimal at best in my days so preoccupied with personal achievement. The people on my ministry report, for example, stopped being lives I was interested in and valuing as much as names I needed to fill that page and show how busy I was for the church. My achievement obsession draws my full attention onto me and makes others either useful tools to complete my goals or major inconveniences to what I am really treasuring. His achievement treasures His creation and sends His people outside of themselves to love others within a messy house, in the midst of messy interpersonal dynamics and through the course of a day that may end without anything measurable for the report. Such a peace is impossible with man, but the very thing He achieved through his law fulfilling life, sin and rebellion paying death and accomplishment proving resurrection.
Perhaps my heart can be less troubled when at 4:30 each day I look around see an environment that seems more chaotic than I anticipated in the morning hours, when interruptions steal the mental time I thought I so needed, when tasks are mounting rather than subsiding and when rest will not come by my achievements or my children’s accomplishments. the total rest that Adam forfeited by his rebellion, Jesus achieved. May I begin to look to His achievement rather than my own that my heart may be at rest.
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Ex. 33:14