Change Requires Some Work on Our Part
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
Addiction medicine inherently involves quite a bit of mental health care. Those addicted to chemicals have a high rate of depression and anxiety, and when they first get sober, they frequently struggle immensely with feeling anything for the first time in a while. So, I often see them in clinic where, like everyone else, they simply want a pill. It’s often appropriate to seek medical care, but I have the same discussion with everyone. I can’t fix your life problems with a medication. I can’t solve your chemical problems with another chemical. Perhaps I can give you a push, but if you depend only on a pill to do everything for you, you will fail. Change requires a lot of hard work on your part.
I remember being there. If, seven years ago, you’d have offered me a pill that made me sober, I’d have taken it. I’d have wanted it to replace all the hard work I had to put in to find recovery. I’d have wanted the pill to take the place of treatment and radical life changes. I’d have wanted the pill to do all the heavy lifting – and I’d have failed miserably.
I see this frequently now. We do have medications that can help with recovery, but all too often, the addict wants only the pill and doesn’t want to do anything else. It’s the same story with obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. The one afflicted doesn’t want to radically change his life. Rather, he just wants a prescription and as physicians, we’re often all too happy to give it.
We frequently approach God the same way. We ask for transformation and we expect that it happens by simply sitting back, basking in grace, and making no effort. We believe we’re not saved by works and so we expect that we must do absolutely nothing.
In today’s passage, Paul dispels such absurd thinking. He said that because he was one of the worst sinners, he had to work that much harder to turn his life around. Yes, he gave credit to God’s grace, but he acknowledged that he had to do his part. If he’d have sat back and done nothing, nothing would have changed.
Transformation happens when God works in us and we respond. God always does his part. We must do ours. Often that involves very hard work. It’s usually only through our obedient response to his grace that we experience the miracle of change.