I work for a living - how about you? Every two weeks, a direct deposit hits my checking account in the form a what others call a paycheck. For the work I have performed, I receive payment, a form of "reward" for what it is I do for the company I work for. Notice, the payment is a reward for something I have done. It is a result of working toward something - not a gift. If it was a gift, I could go about my own business and just goof off as much as I wanted, not even going into work at all on days when I didn't feel like it. Some individuals do what is referred to as "piece work" - their payment is solely based on the number of widgets, garments, or items they produce in the given amount of time. The more they produce, the better their payment. Others have a set income based on fair market analysis of what that job is worth to the community the individual serves. Still others have negotiated what they believe to be a fair compensation for the services they offer to the company they work with. Regardless of how much we are paid for what it is we do - we are the ones "doing" and then someone else is "paying" us based on our having done it. God does not exist in a "payment for" mode - he exists in a "gift given" mode!
Money paid to workers isn’t a gift. It is something they earn by working. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him. In the Scriptures David talks about the blessings that come to people who are acceptable to God, even though they don’t do anything to deserve these blessings. David says, “God blesses people whose sins are forgiven and whose evil deeds are forgotten. The Lord blesses people whose sins are erased from his book.” (Romans 4:4-8 CEV)
Acceptance is something we all strive for at some point in our lives. As young children, we wanted to be part of our neighborhood circle of kids. We played hard and often struggled to feel like we were being accepted into that circle. If we weren't accepted at first, we'd almost bend over backwards to do the things they were doing so we'd get invited into that circle. It didn't matter if we wanted to play "house" or "tag" - if that was the going thing, we did it so we could play with them. In school, we might have looked for acceptance from our teachers and parents with grades which reflected we were doing well and focusing on our studies. We looked to be accepted by the good looking guy or gal who seemed to catch our eye and hold our heart. It stands to reason we would bring a little bit of this struggle for acceptance into our adulthood, doesn't it? If we don't get it worked out in our childhood, we might just struggle with acceptance long into our adulthood - some even taking this struggle to the grave with them!
In the most literal sense, acceptance means we have won the "approval" of someone. We are acknowledged as worthwhile. We are welcomed into a group or community. We receive recognition from another. It is like we get "the nod" from someone and we then feel like we are on the "inside" of something we strove to achieve. It stands to reason that if we struggle so much with these things in the relationships we have on this earth, we might just struggle a little with these things as it comes to how we think about our relationship with God, as well. Acceptance or approval from God is more than "receiving the nod", though. It is a life-long entry into a place of safety where performance doesn't matter. We aren't in the relationship because of our "doing", but because of our "being". We are the delight of his eye and the only thing we "do" is allow his faith to envelop our hearts and trust him with those hearts. It is a big step, because we have learned from our relationships on this earth that trusting anyone with our hearts is a big deal! They might just misuse that trust and we might just get hurt, so it is hard to let them have total control of our hearts.
We will never know how fully we can trust God until we actually begin to trust him to take control of the areas of our lives we have held in reserve trying to figure out if we can really trust him! God's blessings and his love are not based on our ability, but on our capacity to trust him fully with our hearts. When we let go long enough to fall deeply into his arms, we begin to experience something we can only describe as internal peace. It is like the commotion and chaos of having to "perform" has finally stopped and we are free to just be ourselves. God isn't looking for us to be something we are not - so we can stop trying to perform the religious piety we have been working on for all this time! We can just rest in his ability to transform us into what he has created us to be - sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Trust is the opening of a door to obedience - the opposite of performance. Obedience is not "performing well" - it is doing something because it has become the desire of our heart and the focus of our will. I can "perform" many tasks with proficiency, but you will notice a definite difference when I do them because I find my reward not in the doing of them, but in the joy I see it bring into the lives of those I am doing them for. There is a heart motivation with the latter, something missing when all I am doing is focusing on "having to do" anything. Obedience isn't "having to do" - it is doing because we have made a heart connection with the one who can be trusted with our heart. Yes, obedience might just be viewed as a form of "work", but it isn't for a reward - it is out of love and dedication to the one who has become the object of our affection and whose love is beyond whatever we could "do" to reciprocate or earn! Just sayin!