I spent many years with a works mentality, never feeling like I'd done enough for God. Always searching out the next advice on how to "live right", "pray right", "read the Bible right" so that God would be pleased with me and have real relationship with me. I always thought if I just did more that I'd have the kind of relationship with God that I wanted. I'd start to see people healed when I prayed, and God would heal my kids, and make my life feel like it's worth something.
So I worked - I led book study groups, I discipled people, I ran a prayer meeting, and I was actively involved in our church leadership committee. I was on the prayer team at church. I read my Bible, prayed, fasted, and did everything that I was told I needed to do to get God to be pleased with me, and to earn His blessings. I went to schools and conferences, hoping that this time will be the time that makes a difference in me, in my life. Maybe if this prophet speaks over me, or that person lays hands on me, I'll get something that I was sure I did not have. I was told to chase after God, to pursue Him, to hunger and thirst for Him, and I did - running here and there thinking this time my thirst will be quenched. This time I'll walk away changed, different than I was before, more pleasing to God, able to be a "super-Christian" like the people who were running the conferences and schools I was attending. I thought for sure if I just "ran the race well" and "pursued God" then certainly He'd eventually have to give me what I wanted, which was more of Him, more power, more authority.
Then my world was shattered. I watched someone who I knew wasn't doing everything I was doing, wasn't reading their Bible, wasn't praying on a regular basis, wasn't even trying to chase God beyond attending a few services here and there get wrecked by God at an altar. Never expecting anything beyond a simple prayer to make them feel better, God met them with His love, and they came out of that service different than they went in. They got what I had worked so hard to earn, and in my mind they did not deserve it. Or, at least, didn't I also deserve it? I mean, I had been a "good" girl and done everything I knew to please God. This is what I was told to do to get more of God, and yet, going to the same altar, at the same time, I left feeling exactly the same, and they left radically changed.
To be honest, there were a lot of months where this just didn't seem fair. I wanted more of God so badly! I had done everything every pastor and every book had told me to do to get more of Him! I was angry, and my sense of justice was violated. In my mind, I was the one who deserved more of God! I had earned it!
After that came thoughts that maybe I'm just not important to God. Maybe He really doesn't love me as much as other people, or maybe I'm supposed to just raise my family and take care of my husband. Maybe I don't need more of God because I am going to live an average, dull, boring life. Maybe all the thoughts in my head of being important to God, having a ministry, being "important" to Him were just pipe dreams.
Depression set in. Maybe I really am not important. Maybe I just need to try to be happy cleaning the house, taking care of the kids and husband, and stop pushing to be or have something more. Maybe this is it for my life until I die. No one cares what I think, what I know...especially not God. It was a horrible time in my life, because I was watching my friend who had what I thought I wanted, and knowing that I didn't have it, and couldn't seem to make God give it to me, no matter how many classes or conferences I attended.
For a while I honestly gave up. I doubted whether God really existed, at least for me, or whether everything I ever thought I'd experienced of Him was all in my mind. I stopped reading, stopped praying, just lived in depression and hopelessness. I decided that if God did exist, He'd clearly shown me He didn't really care about me, because I'd done what everyone told me to do and was still waiting for something from Him. Anything, really - any answered prayer to show that He did hear me would have sufficed.
But, instead of encouraging me to think that God had given me anything based on my performance, He led me to read a book on grace. I had looked at this book on Amazon before, but I was so down, so burned out that I just could not pick up another Christian book. But Holy Spirit kept highlighting it, kept pushing me to get it and read it, so I did. And it changed my life.
I realized that all the time I was working to get "more" of God I had unbelief that I actually had Him. I still thought God was somewhere "out there", and I needed to beg and plead to get Him to show up. My efforts to get more of Him were worthless, because He'd given me all of Himself when I first believed. And, in fact, my works were not pleasing to Him, because I was doing them out of unbelief. Instead of believing what Jesus accomplished for me, I was relying on myself to be able to earn right-standing with God.
This is why I fight so hard that His scandalous grace is so much better than our good behavior and law-keeping. I almost walked away from God because counting on works doesn't work. It either leaves you feeling like you have never done enough, or it makes you feel superior to other people because in your mind you have done more. But it's totally based on what I do, and never considers what Christ did. The focus is totally on ME. And, bottom line, I can not be good enough to earn God's love and blessings, either before or after salvation. But, thank God is have a Savior who was good enough, who gave His perfect life for my imperfect one, who paid the price for ALL our sins (past, present and future) by becoming my sin, so that I could become His Righteousness.
If you are tired of working for God, burned out and feeling like you'll never measure up, never been good enough, and want to learn more about His grace and what Jesus actually accomplished for us, here are some great books that made a huge difference in my life. Read them and see what God really thinks about you when you are His.
Grace Walk by Steve McVey
Grace On Tap by Eric Dykstra
It's All About Jesus: What They Never Told You In Church by D. R. Silva
Come to know His Grace.