If you bear the responsibility for your worthiness to traverse with God and try to maintain an A+ in righteousness, you will collapse. You may stay steady on your feet long enough to assume some credit, but soon your knees will buckle and the credit will topple from your hands. It’s too weighty to carry. Self-righteousness even for Jesus’ sake will finally make roadkill of you. The devil is too clever and well acquainted with your blind spots for you to get away with it indefinitely.
You may not tumble into the kinds of grievous sins that I did, but you will sprawl into exhaustion and numbness or sink into the quicksand of legalism and pride. You will also set yourself up for a shocking crisis when, inevitably along the way, your righteousness does not turn into the imminent reward you expected. The fact is, sometimes doing the right thing can temporarily lead to the most pain. It may mean forfeiting a relationship or an opportunity or losing a job over an unwillingness to compromise (1 Pet. 3:14). A theology that says, if I do the right thing, God will always do the right thing (i.e. make me happy) is consequentially shortsighted. He never fails to do the right thing, but far more is in play in our earthly quests than our temporal felicity.
Make no mistake, happiness beyond human vocabulary awaits us on the other side of the veil. It can peek out from behind the curtain at times, spiking our joy and comforting us with foretastes of heaven. However, though we rightly pursue righteousness, it doesn’t flip a happiness switch. Right decisions will always lead to blessing, but sometimes it is a long trip. Here’s what we don’t have to wait for: victory. I’m a woman of no few years and have come to embrace victory as its own brand of felicity.
The following questions need early answers in our quest with God:
1) Whose worthiness is this walk based upon?
2) Whose promises are keeping this relationship afoot?
Christ will keep His covenant promises to us by His own righteousness. A righteousness He ascribed to the fallen when He bore the full weight of our wrongs on the cross. Our part is to believe. Our part is to place our faith in the finished work of Christ for our unfinished lives. This is what He counts as righteousness. Talk of this kind can make people nervous because they fear it leads to licentiousness but that’s the mysterious turnabout. We can’t walk in fiery faith and remain in a mire of sin.
Our feet will follow our faith. It’s faith that gives us the guts to change. It’s faith that snaps lengthy chains of poor decisions. It’s faith that upturns a downward spiral. Because, my friend, “This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith” (1 John 5:4).