I am a list person. I try to organize my life by keeping a running tab of things I need to do. My lists are organized into categories like work, home, kids, ministry, prayers, etc. With every item that is scratched off, I feel a sense of accomplishment and relief. One less thing to worry about. I've done what was needed to do in order to feel that sense of relief, that freedom in knowing I got the job done, the reward that comes after the hard work.

I don’t always follow my lists to a T and sometimes I dread the sight of them. Some days, I don’t feel like working on certain projects for work, running certain errands, cleaning and doing laundry yet again, or following up with tasks for the ministry. After I finish having my temper tantrums, I get over myself and start plugging away at what needs to be done. I want the relief, the freedom, the reward even though my heart is not in the task itself.

This past Friday, I was leaving the amazing Catalyst Conference with a friend and she and I starting sharing some of things going on in our lives. It dawned on me that we both tend to have this checklist mentality. We are plugging away at life, crossing off things on our checklist, waiting for the reward and satisfaction that comes with completing the tasks. We realized that we tend to treat our relationship with God the same way. We go through life with our checklist of things to do and not do in order to get that same sense of satisfaction and reward from God. What once started off as a heart felt desire to please God, it has now become a desire to do things for God in order for Him to bless us.

“If I serve in the church, God will be pleased.”

“If I give tithes and offerings, God is going to bless me financially.”

“If I open my home to someone in need, God will grant me extra favor.”

“If I guard my heart and stay away from sin, God will give me a great husband.”

“If I don’t have sex before I get married, I am going to have a great marriage.”

James 2:17 NKJV says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Faith without works is dead. I realized I am pretty good at the works part. I have my trusty checklist of things I do so that God can see my good deeds and bless me accordingly. Yet, I realize, I am missing the faith part. I have allowed myself to feel like I have to work hard in order for God to see me. I have to check off my list of accomplishments so that I can feel like now, I am deserving of this or that. I have reduced God to nothing more than a system of cause and effect. If I do this for God, then God will do this for me.

Faith without works is dead. But works without faith and heart behind it…what’s that?

I welcome this wake up call about where my heart is. It hadn't dawned on me before that I had allowed myself to slip into this works mentality, treating God like a genie who should fulfill my wishes because I was a good girl. I don’t deserve anything. I am not a good girl despite with my completed checklist says. I am a sinner, saved my grace, through faith. Faith. The missing link in my works.

I don’t have to do in order to receive. There is no amount of work on Earth that I could do to repay God for all that He has done and the sacrifices for His son. God loves me despite my sin, despite my checklist of accomplishments. If I never do another good deed again, He will still love me. I can stop trying to earn something that is already readily available. I can stop trying to do this or that so that God will hold up His end of the bargain. He doesn't want me to do for others out of a selfish place in my heart. He wants me to do for others out of a place of love and gratitude for Him. He is faithful in His promises because His heart does not change. My level of sin or service don’t make Him love me any more or any less.

I will keep the checklists that keep my life organized but I can let go of the checklists that keeps me working without faith.