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If you have any history whatsoever of growing up in church, you may have sung a hymn that I also sang in church as a child, whose original lyrics have fallen out of favor. In fact, they are so politically incorrect that some hymnbooks have changed them. The hymn to which I am referring is entitled, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?” and was written by Isaac Watts, and the old lyrics are as follows:
“Alas! And did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that Sacred Head
For such a worm as I?”
Later versions have changed the objectionable lyrics “for such a worm as I” to “for sinners such as I?” Because nobody in this day and age of promoting self esteem and positive self images really gets off on being called a worm.
But I would submit to you that this “objectionable” choice of lyrics is not really so very objectionable.
And maybe, after you hear my thoughts on this topic, you, too, might find yourself thinking that being a worm is not such a very bad thing, after all.
My dear friend Hannah loaned me a book she owns, called TrueFaced. This book was written by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch, and the thoughts I am going to share today came directly from their writings, but I’ll retell them in my own way. So, if anything I say here today resonates with you, go buy their book if you can afford it, and help those guys pay their mortgages. (I couldn’t afford it: but maybe you can!)
Hannah brought the book to our Friday Friends group, and read to us a portion of Chapter Two that deals with how Christians make a choice in their lives between two roads.
The first road is labeled “Pleasing God”, and the second road is labeled “Trusting God”. These roads represent the primary motivation of our hearts, and as they both appear to be good roads to a pilgrim traveler, it is difficult to choose between the two. But whichever road we as fellow pilgrims choose will determine the actions we will take, so the choice is significant.
Without retelling that whole excellent section of the book, the point the author makes is that if, as Christians, we choose the path labeled “Pleasing God” as our primary motivation, we set ourselves up for a life of striving – striving to be good enough to please God. Striving to overcome our sin. It is a performance driven path. And even more dangerous, if we surround ourselves with like minded performance driven people, we all eventually end up wearing masks, almost before we know it, because we can’t let the other people who have also chosen the “Pleasing God” path know how terribly far short we are falling. Likewise, we have no idea what our brothers and sisters in Christ are really going through, because they all have their masks on as well, so that we cannot see their struggles.
It is NOT a bad thing in any way to want to please God. It is a lovely thing to want to please the heart of God. But if that is our primary motivation in life, as fallible human beings, we are doomed to failure, for we can never be perfect enough, never holy enough, and all our self-effort leaves us despairing in the end.
The other road, marked “Trusting God” focuses not on effort, but on grace, on believing what God has said about us to be true, and trusting His grace to enable us to mature.
To illustrate its point, the book gives the example of a caterpillar: those green, squirmy, and I hate to say this, but kind of ugly little things that just look like, well, worms.
But if you examined the worm/caterpillar’s DNA, any scientist would tell you that this, my friends, is indeed, a butterfly. True, it doesn’t exactly look very much like a butterfly at this point in its life. And so, if I spent time berating the caterpillar for not being very pretty, or not flying, or for its very worminess, well, he wouldn’t fly any sooner, would he? I might end up hurting his little caterpillar feelings, and causing him caterpillar angst, guilt and shame, but he would fly no sooner.
In II Corinthians 5:17, God tells me that I AM a new creation, because I am IN CHRIST. (Despite my wormy appearance.)
And I know that I am in Christ, because Jesus tells me so. He says in John 5:24 “if anyone hears my words and believes him who sent me, that person has eternal life, and will not be condemned. That person has crossed over from death to life.” And I’ve done that.
So, because I am in Christ, I want to take the road labeled “Trusting God”. I am going to choose to absolutely trust Him, that what He says about me is true: that I ALREADY AM a new creation, with the brand new New Creation DNA that He has given me for who I am in Christ.
That (and here’s been the sticking point for me in the past) DESPITE EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY (because in many ways, I still look and act very much like a homely caterpillar/worm/sinner – I sin, I stumble, I’m selfish, prideful, arrogant, etc.,) my New Creation DNA says that I am a beautiful new creation! I am who God says I am, despite evidence to the contrary!
Hebrews says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him”. And it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of trying to please Him by being good enough. By trying with all my might to get rid of my caterpillarliness. By believing the lie that because I still stumble and sin and mess up and very much resemble a worm, that I probably AM just a worm, secretly. “Why, oh why, oh why can’t I fly??? I’m so ashamed, God!!!” When all He really wants out of me is a little faith, that what He says about what He’s done for me is the truth. To trust Him, and His grace, as sufficient: He really doesn’t need all my self-effort. It is my very FAITH that pleases Him, my trust in Him that He is able to help me mature. So “Pleasing God” is a by-product of “Trusting God”!
“For such a worm as I”…well, I DID used to be a worm. But now, no thanks to me and all my efforts to please Him, I’m a new creation. And my heart longs to travel the path marked “Trusting God”. I want to trust Him to complete the good work He’s begun in me. To grow me up to look like my big brother Jesus. I want to walk this road of trusting Him with other pilgrims who are also tired of trying to look good enough, and who are humbly thankful for the work that’s been done in us, Who are willing to tell it like it really is, and who are ready to shed their masks..
I can’t tell you how grateful I am that God is, in fact, providing me with people who are ready to make this walk with me. Friends who are ready to leave their masks behind, and show their true faces.
Saturday 10th of December 2022
Are you in the Word much Susan?
Sunday 11th of December 2022
I'm not sure what constitutes "much" for you, Rand, but almost daily, yes.
Monday 18th of January 2021
Dear Susan, To know the Lamb of God is to know why i would be compared as the worm such as I!!! That is not the way God sees us, God sees us as precious in HIS sight!!! But the writer is spot on when he writes these Lyrics because he recognizes the Greatness and Magesty of a King of the whole world that would give HIS life to see us saved from the wickedness of this world! Thats the account of HIS love for every person born to the planet!!! It was complete ignorance in the knowledge of God to change these Lyrics! Who ever changed them or ageeed to change them is following the wrong god!! That devil who tries to raise his throne above God by trying to change everything that The True Living God set Forth!! But clearly never will. And all will be put to rights the Mighty Lord Jesus Christ who stold the keys of death and hell from the devil when HE died on the cross!!! Amen!!!
Monday 18th of January 2021
"It was complete ignorance in the knowledge of God to change these Lyrics!" I'm not sure I'd go quite THAT far, Susan. :) "Complete ignorance in the knowledge of God" is a pretty big leap. But I understand your point, that God is high, holy, and far above us. I'll let God make that judgment. It's above my pay grade. Maybe whoever it was just needs a kind, loving person to come alongside them, and help them see things more accurately. We're all in process: in our own process of sanctification. God patiently helps us as we stumble, and seek to know Him better. And He wants us to be like Him: rich in mercy.
And that wasn't really the point of the post; hope you enjoyed the rest of it, as well.Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Monday 30th of November 2009
Great post Susan! I just ordered the book. This issue of pleasing vs. trusting is something I struggle with a lot.
P.S. I just made your cheesecake this weekend for a friend's birthday. WOW. YUM!
Susan in the Boonies
Wednesday 25th of November 2009
I'd be honored, Michael Ann.
Wednesday 25th of November 2009
Wow. What a beautiful truth, Susan. Thank you for sharing this! May I post a link to this post on my own blog?