Faith vs. Formulas

For several weeks my small group of girls have been reading through Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and using his study guide to anchor our conversations. During the last two weeks, one of the main issues pounding in my head and stirring/convicting my soul: control.


Ah, yes I can see it struck a nerve with you too. I just want to first point out, before I go further with this word, how we seem to exert it at the wrong time and in the wrong way – because last time I checked we all struggle with self-control. Oh, and one more thing – by “control” I don’t mean, “domineering.”

Control is touted in our day. Go to this university, have that degree, make this amount of money, date this kind of person, retire by this age, etc. Our self-worth is so important to us; even to those of us who claim Christ. We know with our heads that Sunday School answer of how we’re supposed to find our self-worth and identity in Him, but we struggle in a world that presses at us from every side to fight against measuring ourselves according to the world’s standards and goals (which may be well and good). We all know the root of self-worth and control is, don’t we? Pride.

Oh, and you know what this desire to control causes us to rely on? FORMULAS. Do this + do that = your desired end result. Most of us think life is as easy as formulas and if something doesn’t have a “safe” or guaranteed ending, we won’t take a leap of FAITH. On a quick sidenote: I think some of us even read the books we do to find a solution to help fix us or make us feel better. Notice that the Lord never gives us formulas – He gives us His Word to hide in our hearts and follow, and His Holy Spirit to help sanctify us. Together these provide us with godly standards – not unrealistic expectations. NEVER let anyone put you down and say your expectations are too high, IF they are standards based in what His Word clearly teaches. Heck, if all the Bible characters had followed an exact formula then they would have been the same person, and there would be a need for one story in the whole Bible.

I don’t know about you, but the main two areas I fight for some sort of control is in my relationships and in my job. Ah, yes, in the realm of “control” falls the “fear of man.” Also, I so dislike things being up in the air….I mean, who doesn’t? We often find ourselves compromising just to try to hold on to and control something….which is ironic….since our standards and spirit are no longer under control. Sometimes it feels like my job is careening out of control. I lived in fear of my boss’ expectations because I am so hard on myself. Even though the Lord has freed me from that fear, I still struggle with it on rare occasions. I have faith and believe that the Lord NEVER withholds anything good from His children. I have memorized, remind myself of, embrace and practice this truth out: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (reflecting on ALL you have to be thankful for and have been given on no merit of your own) let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:4-7).

What I’m trying to say is that too often I base my security in the wrong things: myself, people, my job, etc. C.S. Lewis puts it so well:

Don’t ever let your happiness depend on something that can be taken away from you.

I am all too often guilty of making it about ME when it comes to work and relationships (dating or friendships) – “Lord, help my boss to think I’m a valuable asset and the best writer ever” – “Lord, help whoever I’m dating or people/friends to think I’m the most awesome thing ever” etc. (generalizations/exaggerations of course). Ah, shamefully I lose focus. Instead, it should always be – “Lord help me to respect and honor my boss, regardless of how I feel. Help me to do my work as unto You.” – “Lord let whomever I’m dating or the people I’m around see your awesomeness and beauty in me, so that he and they may be encouraged and edified and motivated to be more like You.”

A wonderful, insightful, godly young man once put it to me this way – regarding pursuing holiness and living out my life by faith – he presented the metaphor of a car, and said that I needed to put the car in drive and press the gas pedal and trust the Lord to take the wheel. He can’t move us if we’re not moving at all.

So then, let’s live by faith! Formulas may seem to promise peace and control, but in the end produce bondage and shame.

The article that inspired this post was shared on Facebook today and it is from a site called Recovering Grace: How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships. Fantastic read!


Rachel B. Duke


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