Time and time again, our expectation is this:
that if we only try harder,
if we are willing to sacrifice more,
then God will give us whatever we ask.
There is a word for this approach, and the word is ‘legalism’ – living under law.
In contrast, God’s concern is grace: he wants to give us good gifts, not because we deserve them or have earned them, but simply because he loves to love us.
So often, we choose not to receive the grace that God has for us, because we would rather earn the grace he has for someone else instead: why can’t I have what they have; why can’t I be what they are? Indeed, we are unable to receive grace while we hold on to law, and so we miss out on enjoying the good things God has given us.
Later, Jesus tells his disciples that they may ask for anything in his name, and he will do it (John 14:13, 14). James and John called him ‘Teacher’ (Mark 10:35) – the one who explains the law. Jesus called himself ‘Son of Man’ (Mark 10:45) – the one who received grace to lay down his life for others. When we receive the grace God has for us, we receive everything that is part of that grace. But while we strive to be someone else, the things we ask for evade us.
Here’s the kicker for legalists: the voice in our head tells us, “If only I can try a little harder to receive grace, I will receive it...” The problem is not that we don’t try hard enough; the problem is that we try too hard.