Living By Faith Blog

Icon

Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

What We Can Do, And What Only God Can Do

Car Key by Lusi on everystockphotoOverwhelmed With Fear

Imagine being overwhelmed with fear about the future — maybe about unemployment, making a wrong career choice, or possible health issues.

Since God commands us not to fear (Isaiah 41:10, for example), that means there is something we can and should do to overcome fear.

But God also says we will only be freed from fear as his power changes our hearts and gives us peace (Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:22).

Which means that while there are things we can and should do to overcome fear, we can’t do it all.  There are some things only God can do.

Not Just Fear

This is not just true about fear; it’s true for every part of the Christian life.

We are commanded to have faith (Mark 1:15), which shows there are steps we can and should take to have faith.  But the Bible is also clear that faith comes from God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Mark 9:24), which shows that we can’t do it all; there’s something only God can do.

We are commanded to love (Leviticus 19:18), which shows there are steps we can and should take to love.  But only the Spirit can produce the fruit of love (Galatians 5:22), which shows that we can’t do it all; there’s something only God can do.

We are commanded to obey — working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  But the very next verse says it’s God who works in us so we obey (Philippians 2:13), which shows that we can’t do it all; there’s something only God can do.

So in every area of the Christian life, there are actions God calls us to take.  But our actions won’t do it all, which is why we need God to do what only he can do.

Focus On Only One

But many Christians just focus on one of these truths, and ignore the other.

We can see this with the example of fear.  Many of us focus only on God’s command that we not fear, and ignore the verses that show there is something only God can do.

So we try to overcome fear with our own will-power: by looking on the bright side, or being positive, or distracting ourselves with busyness.

But none of these truly change our hearts so we are free from fear.

Others of us focus only on how we need God’s power to free us from fear, and ignore what God calls us to do.

And so, instead of taking the steps God calls us to take, we wait for God to work.  And we wait.  And wait.

But because we ignore the steps God calls us to take, we don’t experience his heart-changing power.

Using Both Truths

We must understand that we cannot overcome fear by our own will-power.  But we must also understand that God gives us steps to take which he promises will bring his heart-changing power and free us from fear.

For example, God calls us to —

  • Come to him as we are (Psalm 56:3), confessing that we are not trusting his promises, and relying on Christ’s death to assure us of forgiveness (Luke 18:13).
  • Trust him, even with weak faith, to strengthen our faith and change our hearts (Mark 9:24; Luke 18:27).
  • Ask him for more of the Spirit’s work to strengthen our faith in his promises (Luke 11:13; Mark 9:24; Psalm 119:28).
  • Pray over promises that pertain to our fears, since faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).

These are all steps that we, by God’s grace, are able to take.  And he promises that as we take them, he will do in our hearts what only he can do.

And what is it that only God can do?

  • God can enlighten the eyes of our hearts so we see and feel the truth of his Word (Ephesians 1:17-18)
  • God can overcome our unbelief and strengthen our faith (Mark 9:24)
  • God can help us see and feel Jesus’ glory so powerfully that we are freed from fear (Isaiah 12:2)
  • God can fill us with joy and peace in believing his promises (Romans 15:13)
  • God can cause us to abound in hope by the power of the Spirit (Romans 15:13)

Three Options

Whenever we seek to obey God, whether it’s to overcome fear, to forgive, or to read his Word, we always have three options —

  • we can focus on what we can do, relying on our own will-power to produce obedience;
  • we can focus on our need for God’s power, and passively wait for God’s power to change us;
  • we can fight the fight of faith with prayer and meditation on God’s Word until we experience God’s power changing our hearts (and maybe continue this while we step out in obedience)

It’s like a man who wants to get somewhere in his car.

  • He can rely on his own power and try to push the car (which is not what the manufacturer told him to do).
  • He can admit that he needs the car’s engine to push the car, and do nothing until the engine starts by itself (which is also not what the manufacturer told him to do)
  • He can turn the key, which will then start up the engine’s power (which is what the manufacturer told him to do).

So, don’t push the car of obedience.  And don’t wait for the engine to start on its own.

Turn the key.

 Comments?  Feedback?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

If you know someone this would help, email it to them using the “share” button below.  Or use the other buttons to share it on your favorite social media.

If you would like to interact with others who are seeking to live by faith in Christ, visit our Forums page.

If you would like to receive a Saturday email summarizing the week’s posts — go to the top right of this page, fill in your email address, and click the “Submit” button.  (I will only use your email address for Living By Faith Blog communications, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.)

And here are some related posts you might find helpful –

 

(Picture is by Lusi on everystockphoto.com.)

Category: Fearful or Worried?

Tagged:

22 Responses

  1. Kathryn says:

    What if you feel you have no faith to be strengthened or no belief that you will be forgiven because there is willful sin in your life that you need to turn from to be saved but you feel so stuck in it? For example, pride: I’ve cried out, God, please help me want Jesus/come to Him over my pride! Please help me know I’m needy and not be ashamed to claim Christ! Yet I feel I’ve only gotten harder. So I feel hopeless, like I have want sin more than Jesus and like nothing can change that. Please pray for me, praying community who reads this!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Kathryn,
      Your post resonates with me because I have been in the same place that you are now. I feel deeply for you because I know that it is a terrible place to be when you feel stuck and without any help. Do not believe the lie that Satan has told you that you are without any help and that nothing can change you though, for it is a lie. God has provided the one thing that can change you and it is the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. I assume that you are a Christian which is why I included the Holy Spirit, and I will address you as a sister in Christ for the rest of this post. If I am wrong in assuming that and you have not believed in Christ ever then please let me know. When I was where you are I was doing the first part of what Steve talks about above. I was coming to God but wasn’t trusting that He really wanted to forgive me and change me. I was doing but not trusting that God would do what He promised. This is what pride does to us. Rather than doing what God asks us to do from faith (i.e. trusting that God will do/is doing His part and doing what He has asks us to do because we are trusting that that is what He is doing) we do what He asks so that He will do His work. He has promised that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, confess your sins, not in order to receive forgiveness but rather knowing that He will forgive you because of what Jesus has already done. You can be assured that He has not abandoned you for “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10). So, if He did not abandon you while you were an alien and not covered in Christ’s blood, how much more does He want to reconcile you to Himself and remove sin and the desire for it from your heart now that you are His child? You cannot love Jesus more than sin if you are unsure of His love for you (“We love, because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19). This is one of the biggest things that I have learned. You must know that God loves you and you can be assured of that (Romans 5:8-10, John 3:16). I encourage you to pray over verses that assure you that God loves you even as you are and desires to change you (see previous verses, the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8; He will reward you for seeking Him: Heb. 11:6). Ask Him to let you see and remember that He cares for you, even in your sin. When you are assured of God’s love for you in Christ (for this is faith: Heb. 11:1) then the satisfaction that His love brings will drive out the pride and sin in your heart and you will be able to say “No” to it by His strength. The more clearly you see God’s love for you as you are, in Christ’s righteousness, the less fulfilling sin will appear to you. I hope that makes some sense. I am praying for you Kathryn and I ask that God uses what I have said to strengthen you. Don’t give up on coming to Him! He is faithful!

      For the glory of Jesus Christ,
      Luke

      • Kathryn says:

        Thank you Luke. I do not believe I have ever truly believed. I’ve made professions, but not truly trusted Jesus. Please pray I will be saved and know that I am!

        • Luke says:

          The fact that you are going to Christ now with your pride is a good step Kathryn! Most of what I said above applies to you. God can and will change you through the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Christ died so that you can know with 100% certainty that God wants you and will give you forgiveness and freedom from your sins if you only believe that Jesus did what He said He did. There is not much above that doesn’t apply to you. I will be praying for you though and for your assurance of God’s forgiveness and acceptance of you through His finished work for you on the cross!

          • Kathryn says:

            Thank you! Please pray that He will help me be willing to accept Him and willing/able to believe for myself!

      • Seeking says:

        I am reading this a year letter but I see myself in Kathryn’s despair at the time because I have been there for three years going on four. I would have a relationship with God,then I would see sin and go for it instead. Then I have to start all over again with the process of getting clean and getting back to Him. I have willfully sinned and entertain jealousy even though He warned me to stop. He warned me over and over again because His grace could run out for me if I act as if I want the devil and sin more than He. He did after all put in His word that He gave those wicked over to a reprobate mind. They lost there salvation and can never get it. I feel that way now. I feel because I keep letting my weakness (jealousy) open the door to all other sin that I have lost my salvation and can never get it back. Though my youngest son has more hope for me than I do. I have more faith for everyone else but for me. I don’t want to give up but a part of me is like if I couldn’t change in all these three years will I ever. I also want to stop having a pity party cause I don’t want to feel sorry for myself or anyone else but I feel lost in it. I am constantly crying, longing and wanting God but I feel like I can’t maintain. See I can get to Him, He allows me, but I willfully sin which causes me not to be consistent in my walk with Him. I don’t even know why I am saying all this or even posting on here.

        • Seeking says:

          I meant to say I want to stop having a pity party cause I don’t want to feel sorry for myself or anyone else feeling sorry for me.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Luke — thank you for taking the time to reach out and share the good news of Jesus along with your own story.

      And Kathryn — I hear you say that you want sin more than Jesus, but I also hear in your words how much you want Jesus. That’s encouraging, because no one wants Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work.

      Also — none of us ever has a strong enough faith or pure enough faith to earn Jesus’ saving work. So see his love for sinful people like me and you, and trust him to save you, forgive you, change you, and satisfy you.

      Understand that the reason he saves any of us is because of the worth of his sacrifice and perfect righteousness, not because of our worth. We are unworthy, sinful people trusting the merciful Jesus to save and forgive us.

      And since faith comes from hearing God’s Word, read in the Gospels about how Jesus forgives sinners like you and me. Read about God’s undeserved mercy.

      I know I’ve said some of these things before. But they are so, so crucial. I’ll pray for you again right now.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

    • Ash says:

      Kathryn,

      Steve also has a few posts that deal with the struggle for assurance. People at my church, myself included, have found these posts deeply encouraging.

      The link to the first one is here: http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2012/04/26/how-can-i-know-that-i-am-saved/

      If you search “assurance” in the archive search bar, you can find the rest of them too.

      Also, I will pray for you right now!

      Your brother,
      Ash

  2. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    To ‘Turn the key’
    Sprang out on me

    Just let the Lord our portion be
    And pray to Him continually
    Until our hearts and minds are free
    Hearing Him say, “No spot in thee”

    Thus we can see
    Eternity

    THE PARABLE OF THE PERSISTENT WIDOW
    1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
    2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.
    3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
    4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,
    5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”
    6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.
    7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?
    8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:1-8)

    Regarding Rom 10:17 you mentioned above, Steve, I wondered why we read “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Hearing…

    Actually, there are times when God touches our hearts while reading Scripture. Then, we not only read but hear Him internally (not audibly); our reading has become a prayer that transcends mere mental meditation. When we put it the other way round and leave the Bible on the shelf – for some time at least 😉 – and start seeking Him alone in our closet (Mt 6:6), having our eyes closed too, then it will doubtlessly happen, again and again, with increased frequency, that we hear the voice of the One who calls us – even audibly. Therefore, faith also comes from hearing (the word of) Christ speaking to our very heart.

    Also, you may know, Steve, that you have always been in my prayers as for the distressing loss of your peripheral vision. Honestly, I was shocked when I was reading your first post on this topic.
    I think it is quite normal that we as human beings begin to fear as soon as the Lord has taken something from us. It may take some time to adapt to the new situation. However, I am sure He will get you through.

    In Christ’s love,
    Susanne

    **************************************

    @ Kathryn

    I have been praying for you and I will continue to do so. Just know that the Lord heard your many cries during your sleepless nights. He alone can and will change your heart so that you will lose the desire to sin any longer.
    You are not alone, my friend. Every human being wants sin more than Christ until they are overcome by His overwhelming love that makes them lose interest in this world and in sinful desires (both get boring to them then).

    As soon as you can hear Jesus calling you, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more,” you will be able to resist willful sin because He will have empowered you to do it.
    Just RELAX – He will give you rest. 😉

    28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
    29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
    30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

    I love you! 🙂
    Your sister Susanne

  3. werner says:

    Dear Kathryn,

    You will be in my prayers tonight. One thing about Steve’s message that I always appreciate is that we can come before God as we are. Just do that, believe in God’s never ending Grace, and God will take care of everything.

    Werner in Dubai

  4. Luke says:

    Steve,
    Thanks for this wonderful reminder. The message of this post is always useful to me and I need to be reminded of it daily. I am thankful for the wisdom that God has given you and thankful that you are faithful to share with the body of Christ to strengthen it and build it up.

    Sincerely,
    Luke

  5. Kathryn says:

    Thank you all for your prayers. Please pray that I will KNOW tonight that I’m needy and undeserving and so far under God, not feel offended by that truth! And that that knowledge will lead to joyful acceptance of Jesus!

  6. yvonne says:

    Steven.

    In your additional posts, you have a writer who has written stating that there are seven signs of a prosperity preacher. I wanted to comment because this is such a sensitive subject. I do want to point out that we as the body of Christ must be careful how publically we address other preachers. God said, touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm.
    Also, it is important to recognize that a lot of people are preachers are preaching poverty and keeping the people of God from prosperity with this mentality. God said we will prosper if we follow His ways and in obedience we will. It is so time within the body of Christ to obtain a healthy approach to prosperity that does include some of the preaching that these people are preaching. But what is wrong, is the lack of relationship and covenant agreement with most individuals between God and their soul. We are not to desire material things as more important to our relationship to God but God does not say that we cannot have these things. There is such a balance to this message and a healthy one at that we need to understand and express. If King David was wealthy and a friend of God, well….. guess what we do not need to be in poverty to be a friend of God. That’s my point.

    Thanks Man of God. Just wanted to share my opinion. I personally cannot accept his poverty
    mentality that is out there.

    Yvonne

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Yvonne,

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      I agree that we need to be careful how we speak about others, and be sure we speak out of love, with humility and gentleness. But I don’t think the verse about not touching God’s anointed applies to pastors today. If a pastor is teaching something unbiblical, he should be addressed, just like Paul called out Peter for the way he stopped eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11ff).

      And I appreciate your cautions about having a poverty mentality. God does promise to provide every cent we need to fulfill his call on our lives (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19).

      But the New Testament also cautions us about desiring to get rich (1 Timothy 6:12), and about the love of money (Hebrews 13:5-6).

      There’s nothing wrong with someone making lots of money. But they need to hear what Jesus says about the dangers that come with money (Luke 18:24-27), and do serious thinking and praying about how much they should be giving away (Luke 12:33-34).

      I hope that helps, Yvonne.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  7. Michael T says:

    First, thank you Steve and all, this place is like an oasis for distressed souls. God has been good to me through fierce battles on some fronts but I have asked His help for my family troubles. My ex-spouse is not a believer and I fear she never will be. I feel that my children suffer, though they are young and we have told them it is not their fault, and I have been scrupoulous about that, they feel their mommy wanted to break up the family.

    I pray and I fall, I despair and I hope, that she will see the light but there is truly no indication of that. My fondest wish is that we would all reunite and go to services together.

    Sometimes I feel that this is not God’s will and we must suffer for her selfishness. I have sinned selfishly as well but to my knowledge never put the family at risk.

    At times my energy is so low it is barely enough to get up and go to work (praise Jesus I am employed) and take care of the children but I have no energy at all. Is the feeling of reunifying with my ex my idol??? I am beside myself.

    God bless your work and prayers.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your encouraging words, and for sharing your story with us.

      You ask if it’s wrong to desire reunifying with your ex-wife. I think it would be right to desire this and pray for this, since God intends that marriages last for life.

      But it’s possible for us to turn good things into idols. So how could you tell if it was becoming an idol?

      What helps me is to ask — where am I seeking my joy, in Christ, or in something else? What do I fear losing the most, Christ or something else?

      I hope that helps some, and will pray right now that you and your ex-wife are reunited.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  8. God can do so many things for us, but the key to activate (open) our channel of Divine blessings, upliftment is our hands. We can decide to use the key properly or we suffer as a result of our ignorant, stubbornness, stupidity & unbelief.

Leave a Reply

Join 2,375 people who receive each week’s posts by email

More Help for Your Faith

  • RSS Feed
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Feedback

"I just found your blog recently, and I've NEVER found such clarity, understanding and comfort before." (Sarah)

"AWESOME. Going to mangle this sin tonight with the Promises of God." (Alec)

"If I could subscribe to only one blog, yours would be it." (Lyn)

"I think you are really on to something with this blog. I don’t know of anything else like it." (Doug)

"Excellent comment. Really well put and wisdom that is strangely lacking in much evangelical thinking." (John)

"Thank you -- I needed to hear this. So clear and concise yet captivating." (Stacey)

"Such a helpful post. I’ve bookmarked it and reread it two or three mornings just this week." (Doug)