When I find myself feeling unsure of my identity in God’s eyes, His Word offers me plenty of assurance about who I am in Christ. Ephesians 2, especially, gives me this helpful and hopeful reminder:
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. — Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV
This is who I am, and I still need to be reminded of it. If I believe what God says about me is true, I should be willing to double down on my belief at every opportunity. That means in times of discouragement or doubt or testing — or in times of joy or blessing or peace — I will choose to surrender to God by acting as if I am who He says I am, regardless of my circumstances.
My most recent success or my most recent failure does not define me any more than yours defines you.
The world may say so, but that’s not what God says. When I disappoint someone I love (and I do), I am not a disappointment. I am still a woman who is completely loved by God. He shows mercy to me whether I succeed or fail, whether I disappoint or please. When I sin (and I do) I am not defined by my sin, doomed to repeat my worst mistakes again and again. I am a beloved child of God who sinned, who can confess her sin and be forgiven, and who has the power not to sin again through the Holy Spirit who lives in me.
Each time I act as if what God says about me is true, I trust and honor him and defy the devil.
In every circumstance of my life I can choose to take Him at His word. But again, the choice is mine to make.
You know what I love about God’s Word? Not only does it give me deep doctrinal passages like Ephesians 2 to help me understand my true identity, but it also gives me stories that let me see His divine principles at work in real people’s lives! Better yet, most of those people seem a lot like me: their lives are messy, their hearts are not always strong, and their actions reveal some very human flaws.
Remember David? Ruth’s great-grandson? The shepherd boy who became Israel’s second king? I like his story a lot. He was an underdog (nobody picked him to defeat the giant Goliath), a singer-songwriter (check out the Psalms), a bit of a late bloomer as far as careers go (he was Saul’s “understudy” for what must have seemed like forever), and a guy with a few skeletons in his closet to say the least (see, oh, Bathsheba and Uriah, for starters).
We hear both about David and from David in Scripture. Books like 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles report the facts of his life: son of Jesse, runt of a litter of boys, dreamer, musician, shepherd. Selected by the prophet Samuel to become king of Israel long before the current king, Saul, agreed his time was up. Killer of giants, leader of men, warrior, adulterer, murderer. Yep. You read that last bit right. And through it all, a man after God’s own heart. How do we know that, based on the facts? Because we also have the Psalms.
Some of the psalms were written for gathered worship. Others read like a private, spiritual journal. In psalm after psalm, David pours out his heart before God. He praises. Confesses. Laments. Pleads. Rejoices. Promises. He holds nothing back! And why would he, anyway? He’s certain God already knows him through and through (Psalm 139). Two particular stories about David (and the psalms corresponding to them) tell me that even in his worst moments, David acted as if he believed and trusted God. As if what God said — and not what David saw and felt — were true.
It’s important to understand that David’s life was deeply intertwined with Saul’s. David served King Saul, playing music for him when the king was tormented and could not sleep. He befriended Saul’s son Jonathan; the two men were like brothers. He was married to Saul’s daughter Michal. But Saul did not accept the news that God had appointed David to become king in his place. Instead, he hunted David like a dog and tried to kill him rather than give up the throne of Israel before he was ready.
David fled Saul’s court when he could no longer stay there safely. He didn’t confront Saul and insist on a show- down, claiming that God had made him king. He ran. He hid among enemies. He hid in valleys and caves. And as he ran he gathered around him an army of misfits: disenfranchised men who were “in distress… in debt… and bitter in soul” (1 Samuel 22:2 ESV). They must have seen something in David they could relate to!
Two times while he was on the run, David had the chance to kill Saul and be done with the exhausting cat-and-mouse game the king was playing with him. Both times he refused. Would Saul have passed on an opportunity to murder David? Most surely not.
But David believed he was who God said he was and that God would do what He said He would do. Saul only believed in Saul.
If there’s anything more exhausting than running from your enemies, it must be running from your true identity in God. If there’s anything more dangerous than waiting on God, it must be refusing to wait and taking your future into your own hands.
Imagine you are on the run from the person trying to take your life. You know he’s on a rampage, and he’s looking for you. You are hiding out deep in a cave, hoping not to be found, when your rival wanders into the mouth of that same cave for a restroom break. Your men urge you to take him by surprise and kill him, and you could. What do you do?
David did nothing but creep up behind Saul and cut off a small piece of his garment.
Why? As proof that he meant his king no harm. As evidence that he would not seize for himself what God promised but wait for it instead.
When Saul was again a safe distance away, David held up the proof of his refused opportunity and called out to him:
Why do you listen to the words of the men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. — 1 Samuel 24:9–11 ESV
David didn’t need to kill Saul. Why not? Because he trusted God to work out God’s plan on his behalf. To make good on his promises. He believed the same God who chose him to be king would set him on Israel’s throne in His perfect time:
May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you… After whom is the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand. 1 Samuel 24:12–15
David finally became king of Israel when he was thirty years old, and he reigned for forty long years. Saul was killed in battle a short time before by an enemy army.
David performed well in adversity, but he stumbled in prosperity. After he became king, he slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, arranged for her husband’s murder, and married her himself! (Please note: Even God’s people can blow it — badly.) Confronted by a storytelling prophet named Nathan, David still had enough conscience left to condemn acts very similar to his own. Nathan’s story of a man with many sheep who stole another man’s only lamb highly offended him, and he called for the punishment of the supposed thief. When Nathan politely told David he was pointing the finger at himself, David was crushed:
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David,
The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die. — 2 Samuel 12:13–14 ESV
David saw his sin as an affront to God. And because he loved God, he repented and ran to Him for forgiveness. When we’re God’s children, we turn to God — even when we’ve betrayed Him. David did not believe that his actions cut him off from God or that God was forever done with him. He believed he had sinned against a Father who loved him, and he sought forgiveness from the One he’d wronged.
He experienced the consequences of his sin, yes. But he was not abandoned by his God. Not ever.
Friend, your mistakes don’t define you any more than your victories do. You and I are defined by what God says about us (all those wonderful things in Ephesians 2!), not what the world says.
When we’ve messed up, when we’ve hurt ourselves or others by our own selfishness, we should run toward God, not away from Him!
When we need mercy, we should go where mercy is found:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love;
according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment.
… Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of Your righteousness. — Psalm 51:1-4, Psalm 51:14 ESV
Even when he did wrong, David got it right. Those of us who belong to God can be just as confident as he was about the Father’s steadfast love for us, about His good intent where we’re concerned:
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
I will thank You forever, because You have done it.
I will wait for Your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly. — Psalm 52:8–9 ESV
Two more big as-ifs help me to surrender myself daily to God. Maybe they’ll help you too. I try to live as if His mercies really are “new every morning” and as if the end of all things is good and true, no matter how messy the meantime gets. Most of the psalms aren’t written from the other side of hardship. Just the opposite! They’re cries straight from the middle of distress and danger and doubt. That’s what makes them so powerful! David counts on the mercy of God always being available to him, and I count on it too. He counts on the providence of God to weave all things — including hard things — together for his good and for God’s glory. So do I.
If my identity depended on how well I perform in my many roles — wife, mom, friend, coworker, writer, performer, musician, daughter — I’d be sunk every other day! My track record is more inconsistent than I’d like in every circumstance. I can see plenty of room for improvement.
If I didn’t believe God would keep showing up in my life, that He’d keep on demonstrating His crazy-good mercy to me, I might become overwhelmed by life’s trials. But I do believe it, so even when life gets crazy and I get a little lost, I press on by pressing into Him. I believe Him when he says I am His precious child, His workmanship, His beloved. And you should too.
Excerpted with permission from I Give Up by Laura Story, copyright Laura Story Elvington.
* * *
He is who He says He is. And, you are who He says you are! Beloved, forgiven, chosen child of God. Today, let’s surrender by acting “as if” even when we don’t feel it right now. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!
Join the Online Bible Study with Laura Story
You're invited to join the I Give Up Online Bible Study with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and Bible teacher Laura Story to discover the peace and joy that can be found in living a surrendered life.
In this study you will learn:
- What it means to surrender in the Biblical context
- What exactly God is calling you to give up
- 10 aspects of Jesus' life and His humble surrender to inspire your own journey
and much, much more!
When you join, you'll get FREE access to Laura's five study videos, FREE downloads of the first chapters of the I Give Up book and study guide, printable Scriptures and affirmations, and other goodies!
Study dates are October 7 - November 10 and you can watch the videos and go at your own pace. You'll also gain free access to a private Facebook study group and other engaging community discussion activities and chat opportunities! You don't want to miss this!