The movie Chariots of Fire tells the story of two world-class British sprinters in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Lydell and Harold Abrahams. A quotation from each represents their different motivations about racing and about life. Eric Lydell says, “God has made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure.” Contrast this joy with Abrahams desperate comment: “I have 10 seconds to justify my existence.” One identifies with whom God has made him to be; the other by his accomplishments. One man is free; the other is enslaved. One man lives by grace; the other by works.
This season in chapel we are addressing things that we would like to change. These quotes from Chariots of Fire represent what I would like to change for myself and for everyone else—that we would be freed from having to justify our existence in making a name for ourselves and be freed to live out our calling by God’s grace in making a name for Him.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, the apostle Paul captures these divergent ways of living, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We all recognize that boasting has an arrogance about it, but there is also a desperation to it—and God wants neither of these to exist in his people. When we boast about something, we exaggerate our strengths and hide our inadequacies, trying to stay “one up” on others. This is what often motivates the public behavior of the school-yard bully or the domineering manager at work, but we all have a tendency to do this. Why? Because we try to build an identity based on measuring yourself against others. Someone’s success (moving “up”) or our failures being made known (moving “down”) threatens our identity. I see this in my own life by over-identifying with my children’s success or failures or by over-identifying with praise or criticism in my professional work.
But God’s grace—His loving acceptance and commitment to us—can change all that. When we learn to find our identity in him, comparison with others or living up to others’ expectations becomes more and more unnecessary. God’s grace humbles—it is a gift that cannot be earned. And God’s grace frees—it releases us from the desperate ladder of justifying ourselves to a new identification and calling. Paul goes on to say in Eph 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” My hope for us all is that we walk in these good works—not out of compulsion or desperation but out of joy and freedom.
Campus Crusade for Christ