Faith is not a to-do list

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Be kind. Have faith. Love God. Carry the presence of Jesus. Love your neighbour etc. They’re all good things but making sure we tick them off, changes relationship with God into a burdensome religion. What to do not to fall in the trap?

Do you sometimes feel that your walk with God has become a long to-do list?

I do.

It must’ve been after listening to another preaching or after reading another Christian book that I remember feeling like that on a few occasions. I thought: this is all a very good idea but how am I going to remember to live it out every day? I already ‘need to remember’ about other things like grace, forgiveness, being kind etc.

I'm confused

They are all good things that, as Christians we should be doing, but when they become a list of boxes to tick, our walk with God becomes a pursuit of perfection and striving to reach it on our own strength. It becomes everything it shouldn’t be.

We all know that, yet at some point in our lives we all do it. Why do we fall in to that trap and how to avoid it?

A relationship not an obligation

God has never intended life with Him to feel like a to-do list. This is contradictory to what He really wants – a close loving relationship which we enter out of love for Him and in which we are free to be whom He made us.

He created us out of love and to live in a close friendship with Him. God is looking for a full surrender, love and trust, not legalism. He wants us to know that whatever situation we are in, He will show us the way, so we can rely on Him fully.

Photo by Jonas Ferlin from Pexels

No close friend would like us to come to a meeting with an agenda or a list of things to go through. They want us to be us and to enjoy them being them. The same applies to our relationship with God.

Ticking the boxes off the spiritual to-do list sounds more like what Pharisees did. And we know that Jesus wasn’t keen on them putting the rules above love for God and people.

We do what we don’t want to do

We, who already have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, know these things but still sometimes fall into the trap of following a checklist. Why?

‘Because we live in human bodies in a fallen world’ is the simplest answer but might sound a bit like a Christian cliché. What it means is that we are spiritual beings living in physical bodies and, more often than not, prefer to follow what the body feels is right rather than what the spirit says is the way forward.

Pau has already written about it in the Bible:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (…)  it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (…) For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:15-20(NLT)  

We turn our walk with God into a spiritual checklist because we forget that our effort to please God will get us nowhere. Christ covered everything by dying on the cross. If God’s love for us depended on what we do and how many boxes we tick off the list, life would be an endless struggle.

We forget about it and follow the list because we want to please God so badly that we think it will help. Sometimes, we do it because we want to have control over our life.

There might be also other reasons, specific to your own life, which make you turn your relationship with God into a list of things to do. It’s worth taking a moment or two to reflect on them.

Making the right choice

When we realise we’ve gone the wrong way, we need to stop and admit our mistake to God, like we do with any sin. Then, ask Him to help us turn back to the right path and go back to God remembering what’s really important.

And how do we do it? By relying on God, being connected to Him and following what the Spirit says to us. The solution is to choose spiritual over carnal. Don’t tell me that it’s easier said than done because when we decide in our hearts what is really important in our lives and cling to God, it will happen.

I'm confused

When we totally surrender to God and His Spirit, all the other things will come as a result of that.

When we stop relying on your abilities and try to be the best Christian possible we’ll be free and will experience the relationship with God the way it should be. We will walk by the Spirit and, as a result of that, will experience the good good life because we won’t stress over whether what we do is right or wrong.

Ticking the boxes off from the spiritual to-do list is religion. Relying on God to remind us of important things at the right time is faith. The first one doesn’t help us to build a loving relationship with God and live a good good life. The second does.

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