Running or resting? Trying or trusting? Building or believing? These are examples of creating a false tension between two related ideas which are both promoted in the Bible but have often been falsely pitted against each other. Every one of those words on either side of the or can be supported by Scripture in living the Christian life.
Spiritually speaking, can we “run”? (Heb. 12:1) Try? (Luke 13:24) Build? (Matt. 7:24) without the grace of Christ operating upon us first? Of course not. Jesus said so plainly “Without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 It is true that the grace of God that provides our pardon and transformation comes only through Jesus Christ. It is absolutely true that we are not capable of thinking, feeling, or doing any good thing for ourselves or of ourselves. It is not true that all human effort in a Christian’s life is legalism.
If there ever was a Christian who really knew by experience what legalism is really like, it would have to be Paul. Describing his outward moral behavior before his conversion he confessed, “as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”--Phil. 3:6 ESV. But when the Holy Spirit revealed to Him the true standard of righteousness which the holy law of God demands he said, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”--Rom. 7:24 NKJV After his new life in Christ he said, “We worship God through his Spirit, and our pride is in Christ Jesus. We do not put trust in ourselves or anything we can do.” --Philippians 3:3, New Century Version.
Notice however that Paul is not contrasting human efforts with faith and we can be certain of this because after his conversion he said, “... I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9:27 NKJV. Self-discipline involves effort. In doing this Paul was manifesting the fruit of the Spirit for “The fruit of the Spirit is... self control.” Gal. 5:22, 23 NKJV. The evidence that Paul had the Spirit was the fact that he was “striving!” He said, “I work hard and struggle to do this while his mighty power works in me.”-- Colossians 1:29 God’s Word Version. You see, the grace of God and faith in Christ is not an opiate, it is a stimulant! The issue for Paul was where his confidence was founded, not whether or not efforts were involved in a life of faith.
“Or” is a word that marks contrasts. Be careful where you put your “ors” when explaining the Christian life.
A lineman who knew the daily risks of climbing utility poles appreciated the safety belt that had kept him from falling for many years. He became a Christian and decided he would appreciate the Lord’s protection too by saying in rhythm with each step as he climbed, “Trust in the belt, trust in the Lord, trust in the belt, trust in the Lord…
But then one day he fell! Thank God he recovered and when he did he decided to change his little jingle when he put his safety belt back on. With each step, he began to say “Trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord. Where was his confidence? Where is yours? - Pastor Mike