A relatively new song has been getting a lot of airplay on Christian radio lately. Every time it comes on I feel a little spark of irritation and today I think I’ve figured out why. First, let me share the lyrics of the chorus with you:
Don’t try so hard
God gives you grace and you can’t earn it
Don’t think that you’re not worth it
Because you are
He gave you His love and He’s not leaving
Gave you His Son so you’d believe it
You’re lovely even with your scars
Don’t try so hard
from the song “Don’t Try So Hard” by Amy Grant
So, on the surface, I guess, there isn’t anything too striking about these lyrics. If anything, they are a little banal. The tune is the same, just catchy enough to get it stuck in your head all day but not very original or exciting. In all, it’s kind of a ho-hum song.
Then why is it bothering me so much? On the one hand, I agree. God does give us grace and we can’t earn it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “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.” There is nothing we can do, no way we can possibly earn God’s gift of grace.
I guess what bothers me is the message that we shouldn’t try so hard. At the risk of sounding legalistic, I guess my response to God’s free gift of grace is to try even harder. Not because I think I can somehow earn that grace but because my response to such a great gift is to want to praise and honor the Giver with actions that are pleasing to Him.
I think the message of “Don’t Try So Hard” cheapens grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote extensively about the concept of cheap grace in his book The Cost of Discipleship. He said,
“cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”
Bonhoeffer then followed up by describing costly grace:
“Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “
The Bible also talks about these concepts. Philippians 2:12 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and, of course, we can’t forget James chapter two. I am especially convicted by verses 18 and 19: “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Believing in God and accepting His grace should cause a person to work even harder, not because they are trying to earn something but because that work just flows out of their desire to love and serve God.
I guess what I’m saying is: Try Hard. Try harder than anything you’ve ever tried before. Not because you are trying to prove yourself worthy or because you think God will be mad if you don’t. Try because every fiber of your being wants to be more like God, wants to serve Him and love Him with all of your abilities. Because serving God is the one thing we should be trying the hardest to do.