What causes a person to make the right decision in the hard situation.. the tempting situation.. the pressurized situation. Perhaps we match pressure with pressure and think about our reputation (or in Christian circles our testimony). We consider what people might think or say afterward about our actions. How the history books would write out the story.
Maybe we don't think this way about the cookie that calls us from the jar in the kitchen but we tend to do this with more life changing decisions that affect our marriage, our career or the lives of others.
It is natural to think 'more work' is the solution. We must be so hard that we will never crack. We must be so determined that we will never stop. We must outweigh the bad reasons with so many good reasons that the scales of our will are heavily weighted down.
I think every person who has ever set a goal understands this thinking. Temptation to fall into old ruts rush in at times and our being seems prone to function in a certain way and return to activities that go contrary to the new goal. We must fight or settle for mediocrity. We must resist or face the bad review that will be written in life's history books.
I am convinced that the God of all grace is the God of the mountain tops and of the valleys (see 1 Kings 20:28). In other words he is the Lord of all situations and grace works in all situations. We need never return to the law and the pressure for pressure mentality. Grace can preserve our testimony.
You may be saying who cares about my testimony or reputation... that is not an issue for me.. 'I only care what God thinks of me.' or even, 'I only care what I think of myself.'... I understand that.. but while that may be true there is also a great cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) and people are watching your life that you have no idea are watching. I'm not saying this to add pressure or make anyone self conscious. We stand or fall before God alone (and we will stand) and yet our lives are also a spectacle on a scales we can not begin to understand.
Can grace pull us through the hard temptations? Can we meet our goals? Can we win by grace and grace alone.
Here are a couple of great passages..
"Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'"" - Hebrews 3:5-11 ESV
Pressure for pressure was Moses' way. He was a servant of God. Christ was faithful as a son is faithful. That is our way. It is effortless because it is linked to an identity that is set. It is linked to an acceptance that is preexisting and everlasting.
"But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." - Luke 21:12-15 ESV
Don't worry.. You will win.. You have already won. It is finished!
I am not saying.. Don't practice.. Don't learn.. Don't grow.. Don't train. I plan to do all those things everyday for the rest of my life. I want to be more skilled today then I was yesterday. I want to be sharp as a knife and not be caught on my heels when I should be on my toes. I just want to be relaxed in it... free in it... living in grace in every moment and enjoying the life God has given me.