Rubbed The Wrong Way: Trying To Impress God With A Try-Hard Life.

It will please some of you to know that some things just rub me the wrong way. I know this revelation has come as a bit of a shock, but I am not exempt from succumbing to feelings of irritation and annoyance from time to time. However, if I allow these emotions to fuel my need to impress Jesus, then I have fallen into the trap of living a try-hard life.   

Did you know that a male elk will rub against trees to polish his antlers in the hope of impressing the female? In the same way, we can polish our antlers of service and sacrifice until they catch God’s attention, believing our try-hard life will indeed impress Him. 

In Luke chapter 10 we find someone else who is ‘polishing their antlers’ of service hoping the try-hard life will impress God. ‘As they continued to travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing is only essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.” [ Luke 10:38-42]

Three things stand out to me in this well-known story in Luke. 

  1. Martha welcomed Jesus in. 
  2. Martha was pulled away by all she had to do
  3. Martha thought Jesus didn’t care about her. 

Martha welcomed Jesus in. 

The first red flag to a try-hard life doesn’t start with being rubbed the wrong way. Those emotions are just the outworking of an inward gusto that starts when we fully welcome Jesus in. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. We are all called to serve Jesus with our whole lives. Welcoming Him into our hearts is how salvation starts. However, our commitment and passion to serve can lead us down the rocky and perilous path of comparison and resentment toward others who have not yet had a “Damascus Road” experience. Martha loved Jesus, but her undoing came when she focused on the ‘doing for” Jesus rather than the ‘being with” Jesus. Don’t rub others the wrong way with frosty looks and clicking tongues because they are not prepared to serve on the level you chose to serve.

Martha was pulled away by all she had to do.

Secondly, Martha was pulled away by all she had to do. Women are especially susceptible to this little gremlin. If you find that your busyness is pulling you away from spending time with Jesus, you need to seriously consider letting some things go. Becoming the church martyr only creates burnout. I know, because I have the tee-shirt and cap to prove it. I ended up in hospital a few years ago as a result of saying “yes” to everything because I wanted to feel needed by people. Serving the kingdom isn’t about saying yes to every single request. Find a balance in your response. And by the way, scripture reminds us that our yes is to be yes, and our no is no. Don’t make oaths you cannot keep. [Matthew 5:36]

Martha thought Jesus didn’t care about her. 

Finally, Martha thought Jesus didn’t care about her. ‘Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” After recovering from my lengthy illness, I found out in my absence that my position at church had been given to another leader. Now, I’m not saying that this move was the correct way of getting me to resign from my position, it did rub me the wrong way, I can tell you! But my complaint to Jesus of, “Don’t you care about me? Tell them!” was probably the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn with letting go of the try-hard life. I believed that my sister in Christ, who had taken on my role, was my friend, and I quickly realised that all those coffee dates had a hidden agenda attached to them. Just like Martha, I felt abandoned by my ‘sister’. Know this, Jesus takes some things away from us for our good. It tough and it’s hard and it feels unfair, but Jesus is into the long game, not the 100m sprint where you’ll burn out quickly.  I believe I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I stayed in that role at that church. I don’t get rubbed the wrong way quite as easily now. Jesus did care about me, and He cares for you too.

God’s Kingdom requires us to live an all-in life. But Jesus also reminds us of the dangers of being rubbed the wrong way by choosing to impress God with a try-hard life. ‘Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.” [Matthew 11:28-30 TPT] 

The cure for a try-hard life? Leave your ‘to do’ list for a moment, and come to Him.

Wendy xo 

Do you let the list of things you need to do get in the way of spending time with Jesus?


Wendy Parker

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