We are not what we do

One of my favourite prayers is the Shepherd’s Grove ‘Creed of the Beloved’ written by Bobby Schuller, who was inspired to write it by the works of a Catholic Priest called Henri Nouwen.

“I am not what I do, I am not what I have, I am not what people say about me. I am the beloved child of God, it’s who I am, no one can take that from me. I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to hurry, I can trust my friend Jesus and share His love with the world.”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

‘I am not what I do’ is something that I have been thinking about a while. I spent a long time not realising that I lacked trust in people and as a consequence found the security I needed in work. Being capable and successful at what I did boosted my self-esteem and this perpetuated my reliance on self. I was rooted in works!

Though I would have described myself as complex; naturally bold, but self-conscious of being ‘on show’ I quickly assumed leadership roles in the places I worked. I wanted to be the best at what I did but blend in, not stand out. When training to teach Science at secondary school, that was an issue I had to confront head on!

I took my self-esteem from being quick to learn and turning this to helping others. In part being good at that gave me the drive to become a teacher. I thought helping was self-less, a servant type leadership, but without realising it at all I was actually secured only in what I did. 

When I first became a Christian, I really wanted to be good for God. A phase I’ve realised most Christians go through. But trying to be perfect is futile. After all Jesus tells us no one is good! This quote from C.S. Lewis says it all “No man realises how bad they are until they’ve tried really hard to be good.”

God has shown in the Bible that we cannot be saved by what we do. God gave us the Law, but that was not enough to save us. Jesus showed that what we do does not change the heart, and it is our heart and motives that matter most to God.

Many still falsely believe that if they do good then good things will happen, that we get out what we put in. But if we do good in the hope of being saved then that is working for the self. If we could be saved by works we would have the wrong motives and be doing works for our own benefit, we would be relying on self for our salvation. Nothing truly good can come from selfishness.

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10 ESV.

But there is a difference between knowing this and having it on your heart. One Sunday morning in Church I sang with the congregation ‘Seek First’ and the words fell heavy on me. “I will seek first Your kingdom, I will seek first Your righteousness, And everything I need You will provide for me…”

I was having a rough time, so the words left me feeling condemned; that I was not doing enough, I was not good enough, all of which was me, without realising, falling back to self.

Scripture to the rescue! “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19 ESV. This opened my eyes and solved everything – it’s not about me! We are saved by the obedience of one man – Jesus, and nothing we do will change that.

The trials we have teach us about ourselves and strengthen and build our faith. We need to embrace and love our own and others imperfections. After all, the Bible is full of imperfect people, loved by God. Peter was so sure he would “lay down” his life for Jesus, but instead he denied Him three times. Despite this, he was loved and went on to fulfil a great purpose. Just as we have been shown (in scripture) we too must accept that failure is not fatal.

Now I see that my worth, and my value comes from being rooted in God’s love not from what I do. God’s grace and mercy, is enough, we are enough, and nothing we do will make Him love us any less. We are to believe in our hearts and all else will simply flow from that point. If we don’t then Jesus will say when the time comes, He does not know us. “Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!” Matthew 7:23 GNT.


Loving Father forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Help us to resist the temptation to rely on ourselves, and what we do. Open our hearts and minds to the vastness of Your eternal love for each and every one of us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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