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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Uncommon Bond”

In this episode, Starlight Glimmer invites her old friend Sunburst over for a friendly visit to Ponyville and some quality time. Unfortunately, the visit doesn’t go very well. Most of the time Starlight spent with Sunburst was during their childhood, but now that he’s an adult he seems to have more interests and things in common with Starlight’s other friends. Before long, he’s more eager for chances to spend time with them during the visit than her. It eventually gets so bad that Starlight herself starts to feel like a “fifth wheel”, and begins to fear that Sunburst would rather abandon her in favor of her other friends; leading her to take extreme measures to try and reconnect with him.

This was another episode I had to think about for a long time, but eventually what stood out the most to me was Starlight’s feelings and, as a result, behavior. I eventually realized it wasn’t all that different from my own feelings as a Christian and, I imagine, the feelings of other Christians.

The New Testament emphasizes that we are only saved by the Grace of God and the Sacrifice of Lord Jesus. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). He loves us because of who He is and who we are, not due to anything we have or haven’t done. Yet the Old Testament and much of the New Testament are still devoted to the pursuit of righteous living. Some passages indicate that doing so is proof of our acceptance of Lord Jesus’ Sacrifice and our devotion to live for Him, while others indicates that God shows special favor to those who lead more righteous lives as opposed to those who lead less righteous ones.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:22-27)

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.” (Psalm 112:4-8)

And we need only look around our own congregations to easily see that some people donate more, some give more of their time, some praise louder, some press on through tougher challenges, and some speak out more boldly than others. In spite of the idea that, as sinners, we are all equal in God’s sight, there’s much external evidence to give reason to believe that some Christians are “better” than others.

And when people start believing that, naturally what happens next is they start feeling ashamed. After all, most of us can look at, say, Mother Theresa and then look at our own lives, and start realizing there doesn’t seem to be much comparison. We may start wondering how we can call ourselves Christian when people like that walk around far more righteously, more boldly, and seemingly more devoted to God. In the worst cases and in our darkest moments, we may start to question how God can really love us compared to those people as we seem to be so much less and have so little of “what he’s looking for”, and we may feel we need to start doing external acts of our own to start to measure up to those standards and be someone more like the person God wants.

While regular self-evaluation is an important part of any Christian lifestyle, as is the need to challenge ourselves to be bolder and to step out and do greater things for Christ, it’s important that we don’t fall into the trap of starting to believe these works make us greater or lesser in the eyes of God. That’s, as King Solomon once said, meaningless and chasing after wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14). We can’t do anything through our own actions to elevate our status before God. Only the Sacrifice of our Savior could accomplish that. However, as a result of what He did, we are now considered sons and daughters of God (Galatians 4:5-7). Christ’s Sacrifice makes us perfect and without blemish before him. That was all the work of our Lord without any input from us.

What we do now is the result of a desire to live for Him and to become more perfect/complete as He is. It comes from a growing relationship and affection for God and his heart and a desire to be as loving and gracious as he is. It’s nurtured by developing greater trust and faith in God to surpass all trials and tribulations and to do great things in His name. Therefore, doing “greater works” is not so much from greater effort on our part but instead having more faith in God’s own sovereign power and the willingness to let it act through us.

Always strive to live in greater harmony with his Will, but do not think your salvation is key upon it, and get the mindset of God just sitting there waiting to brush you off into condemnation for not “living up to expectations”. Rather, learn to see God as someone encouraging and empowering us to succeed in all the plans he has in mind for us.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the blessed Sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has made us blameless in your sight and your own sons and daughters. When discouragement comes upon me of not being able to “live up” to your expectations, let me always cling to the absolutely unchanging and unbreakable reality of the Cross that has already made me clean, and rather than fear your disapproval draw closer to you for strength and encouragement greater than anything I myself am capable of, and through relying on your Will and Power do more than I ever thought possible. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”