I have a confession:  after studying the dangers of self-effort in our walk with God in one of my seminary classes, I immediately sat down to write this article, typing away in hopes of motivating others to follow God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The whole time I wrote the first draft, I felt stressed and as though I was forcing words onto the page. The result was a document filled with jumbled information that even made my husband – who always seems to understand my thought process – confused.

It dawned on me that in my eagerness to serve God, I was doing the very thing I was warning others not to do – I was working for God through my own resources. Running full steam ahead, I had picked a topic for the article, and I wrote about the information that I knew and about the insights that I wanted to share, never consulting Him or asking Him for wisdom or help. How foolish of me. 

Our Flesh

While it’s obviously a great thing to want to please God, there is in fact something wrong with trying to serve Him through our own efforts. When we do so, we are living by our flesh, misplacing our trust and confidence by putting faith in ourselves and seeking to fulfill our interests rather than God’s.

By our flesh, we try in vain to attain holiness through legalistic work, and we unprayerfully do what we think God’s will is (or what we want God’s will to be!) in our own way. 

The flesh leads us into treacherous territory away from God’s plans. It causes us to feel frustration when we don’t do things right, to be racked with guilt by our sins, to find our self-esteem in our fragile selves, to have conflicts with others and to become incapable of bearing spiritual fruit. Our lives become so filled up with ourselves that there is no room for God to work in us.

Live by the Holy Spirit

God knows what He wants us to be and what He wants us to do, with His plans being far greater than anything we could ever imagine (2 Cor. 2:9). He longs for our confidence and identity to be rooted in Him and for us to do everything through His wisdom, strength, resources and perfect guidance. 

That’s why it’s so important that we totally clear out all the self-centeredness from our lives and open up space for the Holy Spirit to work mightily in and through us. He is capable and willing to fill us, walk by us and lead us – all we have to do is let Him.   

With the Holy Spirit living inside us, we can ask Him to help us mindfully and joyfully stay in step with Him each minute of every day. We are far too weak to live for Him (or do anything!) on our own … a fact my husband and I know far too well after reading my first draft of this article. 

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