Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 45:5, 7-8

5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

I have to admit, I feel perplexed by how much mercy and forgiveness Joseph is showing. How can he say that his brothers should not be grieved for what they did?!

But perhaps that is what makes his mercy so exceptional, the fact that it defies the natural, human reaction. Undeserved grace is hard for our fallen hearts to accept, but it is an essential piece of God’s plan for us.

What Jacob’s sons did to Joseph was wrong. Totally wrong. Yes, being sold by them into Egypt ended up working out for the greater good, but that still doesn’t justify them for doing something evil. At the same time, though, it really was a good thing that Joseph was sold into Egypt, as it got him where he needed to be to save his life, his family’s life, and the lives of countless others.

So how does one resolve these two things: an evil action but a good outcome? How does one demand justice for the evil, but also remain grateful of the good? Well, perhaps you don’t resolve them together. Holding gratitude and vengeance in one’s heart at the same time is impossible, so you just have to let go of one in order to hold to the other. And between the two, clearly the better choice for Joseph is to let go of worrying about the injustice so he can fully praise God for the arc of redemption.

Yes, the brothers did something wrong, but that’s between them and God now. As far as Joseph is concerned, all he can see is the beauty.

Dealing With Failure- Summary

This has been a very helpful study for me. Actively striving to be more Christ-like has been a wonderful experience where I have seen found real growth and increased happiness. Many behaviors have organically improved all on their own, far more easily than I ever would have thought possible.
But while there have been areas of quick growth, there have also been other areas that are far more difficult to grow in, and behaviors that have proved far more resistant to change than I had expected. And in response to those complications I have seen the rise of my old, familiar inner critic.
Through this study I have found some important lessons for how to deal with these growing pains, and having this understanding has already brought me a greater sense of peace. I guess this was just another area I needed growth in! Here are the main points that stood out to me from my study.

Keep Pressing Forward)

I have never had a time where I didn’t want to improve myself, but there was a period where it was more of an idle wish than an actual intention. And even that idle wishing was incomplete, because only some flaws did I care to improve on, while others I just didn’t care about.
Eventually I was woken up to my desperate need for God and a path to follow. I realized that my existence was lifeless, and would remain so unless I was actively chasing for a better me. And at that same time I realized that if I was going to give myself over to this journey, it needed to be all the way. Now I knew that I must improve myself in every area.
It simply wasn’t going to cut it to overcome lust and deceit, but leave myself a guarded recluse. Nor would it do to only build meaningful relationships, but not improve the way I cared for my body.
And the outcome of this is that I can take glory in the failures I experience, because it means I’m actually trying. It means I’m no longer accepting a half-lived life. Friction, after all, is not felt until one starts moving.
Luke 9:62- And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:14- Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Be Direct, But Kind)

One of the most surprising epiphanies that came to me through this research was that the healthy way to treat someone else when they let me down is the same way I should treat myself when I let me down. It seems such a simple concept that I’m honestly embarrassed to say that this was a revelation, but really it answered so many of my questions and frustrations.
Or to put it another way, the golden rule flows both directions. Yes, I should do unto others as I would have others do unto me…but also I should do unto myself as I would have others do unto me!
If I do something to let someone else down, I would not want them to scream at or hurt me. Nor would I want them to deny that it was wrong of me, either. I would hope that they could be honest about their frustration, express it without hate, give clear direction as to which of my behaviors is causing the pain, and still reassure me of their unconditional love.
It takes effort to do that. It can by very hard to get into a mental state that can be so vulnerable and kind. And I am sure that there will be many who never treat me that way. But at the very least, I should.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:43- Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
Galatians 6:1- Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Ask For Help)

The final takeaway from my study was the need for surrendering. My default behavior is to believe that I have to do things myself. I am reluctant to ask for help, or to accept kindness when it is offered. Even when I was at school and didn’t understand a difficult concept, I was more likely to beat my head against the wall trying to figure out on my own instead of raising my hand and asking a question.
It seems a simple logic that if I got myself into this mess, I should be able to get myself out of it. If I was able to do the behaviors that led me here, I must also be able to do the opposite behaviors to get myself back.
But that just. Isn’t. True.
Yes, some steps can be undone, but some make you fall down a hole that you don’t have the gear to climb out of. And it isn’t a question of if this will happen, Adam and Eve set the pattern for this Fall and each of us will follow it. We will all be down in that pit in life, in fact we’ll be there several times.
So I will do my best, my absolute, genuine best. But then, as always, I will rely on grace. For there are many parts of my heart that are too deep for me to reach, and only God can change them.
Psalm 55:22- Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
1 Corinthians 2:5- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
2 Nephi 25:23- For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Dealing With Failure- Isaiah 53:10, Psalm 55:22

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved


Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed
If you’re like me, you struggled to accept the notion of God’s forgiveness being free. I wanted to pay Him back for the things I had done wrong, overcome my addictions by my own pure grit, and earn my place in salvation. After I failed to do this many times over, I finally humbled myself, and let Him win the victory for me. At long last I felt clean again.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee
And if you’re like me, once you were washed clean you went straight back to believing it was only up to you to keep yourself clean. I had accepted that I had to rely on God for the “big” stuff (forgiving serious sins and healing very deep wounds), but I was still on the hook for the “smaller” stuff (day-to-day obedience and managing stress).
But this verse in Psalms simply says to “cast thy burdens upon the Lord,” with no qualifier for only the ones of a sufficient size. Slowly I’ve been realizing that God wants me to surrender the “small” stuff too.
And I need to. Because when I rely on myself I fail at the “small” stuff all the time. I try to grip tighter and tighter, but still slip, and wonder why I can’t make myself do it right. And you know what? I don’t think that’s a question I really have to answer right now. I think right now I just need to accept the fact of it and surrender it to God.
I need to say “I really can’t make myself do it right. Simple as it seems…it’s beyond me. So I’ll stop trying to do it alone, and open up my heart to you, God, instead. Will You please come inside and win this battle for me? I will let it be Your victory now, not mine.”

The Need for Law- Alma 11:37, Helaman 5:10-11

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.


And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins.
The Lord should come to redeem his people, but not to redeem them in their sins.
It is important to note that the gift of Christ’s law, which rescues us from the condemnation of divine law, does not give us free license to sin and carouse about without a care for the welfare of our soul.
We often make the mistake of thinking of law as simply being a set of punishable rules, but really it is a guide for living a purposeful life. We obey the laws of our nation not only to avoid being thrown into prison, but also that we may establish a community that is nurturing and safe. Imagine if we could break the laws and steal and cheat and kill without punishment. Yes, we would avoid imprisonment, but also our societies would disintegrate into utter chaos.

Not to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely cosmetic. It does not take sinners, who remain sinners, who indulge in sinful thoughts and actions as a way of life, and then stamp them with a “fit for heaven” label that doesn’t belong. Rather it takes sinners, and it teaches them how to live purely.
Obviously there is a delicate line here. Because even those who are sincerely trying to follow the gospel are going to make wrong choices along the way. And I don’t just mean ignorant mistakes, I mean that they will willfully and intentionally do something that they know is wrong. And for these sincere-hearted, but imperfect souls, there does need to be grace. There does need to be some degree of understanding and pardoning of guilt.
To what degree? Well, that isn’t for me to judge. That falls under the purview of Christ himself, and he alone can tell us how aligned we are in his eyes.
What I do know, though, is that he intends for us to repent when we have these shortcomings. Even knowing that we are sure to slip again, he does expect us to keep moving. And when we do commit to try again, he gives us a purer heart that wants all the less to sin. He is saving us from our sins, slowly moving them apart from us until we have no more desire for them.

The Captive Heart- Romans 5:12, 15; Revelation 21:4

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.


By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men
Previously we discussed how each of us have come to recognize that our world is harsh and unfair. The way of this earth is that we come to misfortune, even when it is not our fault, even when it is no one’s fault. We don’t have to succumb to sin or be abused by others to already know sorrow. It comes and finds us where we are, and no amount of doing good will prevent it.

For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain
Yet in all this there yet remains grace. For though we suffer undeserved sorrows, through Jesus we also receive undeserved joy. Today we are given rewards that we do not have the merit for, and in the next life all the agonies of this life, even the ones we did deserve, will be purged away by God, Himself. And then dismay will be counterbalanced with joy until the scales have been made right and order restored. But even then the blessings will still continue, tipping forever further into the good.

All or Nothing- Summary

Half-hearted discipleship is a terrible limit on one’s soul, our own tepidness would forever hold us back from becoming the people we were meant to be. And I know this, because I have spent a great deal of time in this state! This study was absolutely meant for myself, a reminder for why I need to recommit myself body, mind, and soul every day. I’ve lately started a morning ritual where I reflect on the upcoming day, the temptations I am likely to face, and then make resolutions for how I will stand a little taller.

So much of it comes down to just living intentionally, not allowing myself to slip into autopilot mode. But to do that requires constant engagement, and I find that I cannot maintain it unless I am diving all in.

Anything that compromises me in one area, will tear down my defenses in all areas. I cannot try to be mostly good, I have to try to be all good. And though I will fail to be all good, just because I sincerely tried, the grace of Christ will come in to make up the rest.

Partial Commitment is No Commitment

God loves us and fights for us whether we are entirely devoted to Him, partially devoted, or even if we are not devoted at all. When He calls on us to be fully invested in His gospel, it isn’t because of His ego. It is for our own sakes. He knows that “all in” is the only way that discipleship can work for us. I spent years trying to live a double life, frantically filling my coffers with good deeds, to try and make up for the indulgent vices I was also doing on the side. It didn’t work, the vice robbed the coffers, and every good thing I tried to do felt hollow and insincere.
We know that Satan entices us to be full-blown sinners, but he is also perfectly content with part-time Christians. Both groups are left within his power. If we think that we are serving God and the world, in reality we only serve the world.
Lest it sound like I am demanding perfection, I wish to stress that our actions will inevitably be flawed, forever falling short of the ideal. But even if we never measure up to perfection in action, we can be perfect in picking ourselves back up again after each slip. Our commitment can still be complete, we can be invested in always trying once more. That is enough. That much God is able to work with.
Matthew 6:24- No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Luke 9:62- And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

The Gospel is as Valuable as You Make it

But what does it take to have a full commitment? Nothing less than the promise of all things. Only the assurance of every eternal happiness will compel a man to sacrifice all that he has. The question arises, then, do you believe that every happiness is offered within the gospel? Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you only see it as able to offer some insights and some pleasantries, but not necessarily as the end-all-be-all ideology. If that is the case, then you will not be able to follow it wholeheartedly.
That doesn’t have to be the end of the story, though. One can work from this point forward. First and foremost is to accept that all things are promised by the gospel. Whether or not you think they can be delivered is another matter, but let there be no doubt that the gospel claims to be able to provide you with every eternal blessing.
Then the question is whether those promises of the gospel can be trusted or not. And to determine that, one only needs to test its various parts. Really lean into prayer and see whether you feel the presence of something eternal or not. Really dive into the scriptures and see if they are alive with an unseen Spirit. Really adhere to the commandments that you can and see whether you experience the promised change of heart. Test the gospel in enough areas, see it bear the fruit that is promised in each, and soon enough you’ll have faith in it all. But do your testing sincerely. Be all in each step that you take.
Luke 15:17-18- And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Without the Gospel You Have Nothing

Who is willing to make such an experiment, to sincerely commit to something so demanding, and all on only a sliver of hope? Well, usually none of us until we are first broken and desperate. Most of us have to try and live without the gospel first, find ourselves in dire straits because of it, and only then become willing to try the things we had previously scorned.
But let’s back up a bit. At the outset, the world offers many things, and the pleasures it promises make it very easy for us to dismiss the gospel. Entertainment, recognition, diversion, stimulation…these are all pleasant things, and the first tastes of them are so intoxicating that we believe they will forever be enough. When you have enjoyment like this, what need is there for things like resurrection, grace, eternal life, and forgiveness? We are content without them.
In time, though, all the getting still leaves us wanting, the pleasures grow stale, some of them are even taken from us on a whim. Eventually we realize that the everything of the world means nothing to us anymore. And the spiritual things we considered to be nothing now mean everything. The soul grows desperate for the eternal, and one becomes willing to sacrifice everything of the world, just to obtain any of the grace that God is willing to measure out to them. And God, of course, is willing to measure out all of it.
John 6:68- Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Matthew 13:45-46- Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

What Kind of Disciple Are You?- Summary

A wonderful, if difficult, aspect of writing this blog has been examining my own spiritual nature. I have written about principles that I feel strongly about, only to realize that I am not living them as fully as I could. There are many things I know well enough in my head, but that I am still awkwardly trying to follow with my feet.

Many of these disconnects I was happily ignorant of before starting this blog, but that is the nature of spiritual study: it illuminates your areas for improvement. As has been said many times before, the gospel comforts the afflicted, but afflicts the comfortable!

As awkward and frustrating as this self-realization has been, I do not regret it in the least. If you will allow me a moment of personal pride, I believe that I am a better person now than when I started this blog, and a good portion of the credit goes to this self-awakening. Throughout this study I have expressed some of the self-delusions I was suffering from, and hopefully you have felt encouraged to honestly examine your own soul as well.

You Are a Mystery to Yourself

It is commonly accepted that those we are closest to can surprise us with who they really are. We think that we know a person for years, and then one day they defy every assumption we had made for them.
What is more of a surprise, though, is that this person whom we have known for years and still surprises us, might be our very own selves. We are immortal beings, with traits and tendencies that we do not fully comprehend. We have weaknesses we did not know were there until tested. We have strengths we did not know were there until tested, too.
Beyond these hidden traits, there is also the self-delusion that so many of us employ. As part of our instinct, we observe the behaviors of those around us, and identify ourselves as having the same distinctions. But imitation does not reveal identity. Because this imitation is so natural to us, we play it very effectively, so much so that even we are fooled…at least until we take a closer look.
Matthew 26:33, 74: Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

It is Okay Not to Know Some Things

When one realizes that they have been wearing a spiritual mask, they may start to recognize that many around them are doing the same. However one should not make the mistake of assuming that all people are being insincere. There truly are spiritual giants in the world today. Individuals whose conviction is not pretend, ones who have truly witnessed the things that they bear testimony of. I have met some of them, and in their eyes the Savior is reflected.
This is not all, I have heard spiritual giants testify that once they were as second-guessing and weak as me! Never forget that Peter was not always Peter, once he was only Simon. And Paul was not always Paul, once he was only Saul. These men were weak once, and then afterwards they were strong. If we are still weak, then it is alright. All of us are born weak, and there is no shame in having to be refined. What matters is that we are seeking that refinement!
Also, there is no shame in feeling that the refinement is hard. It simply is, and is so for everyone. Never forget that even Jesus, the Son of God, had to grow into the role he was meant to fill.
Luke 2:52- And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Isaiah 28:10- For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.

There is No Progress Until You Are Honest

So long as you maintain that you have no growing to do, well…you will have no growing to do! I know this firsthand. For a long while I was unteachable because I already knew everything. Then I experienced a miserable failure, and finally admitted that there was still a thing or two I needed to learn.
When Peter affirmed that he would follow Jesus to the death, Jesus prophesied that this was not actually true. Peter stressed that no, he really was totally committed to the cause. Like me, Peter had to fail miserably to see things honestly.
There is a term for these sorts of miserable failures: they are humbling. Or at least, they are if we allow them to make us be humble. And then, if we are humble, we are teachable. And then, if we are teachable, we are growable. Will those closest to us be disappointed to learn that we aren’t so magnificent as we pretended? Honestly, yeah, they might be. But now you are finally on track to authentic magnificence.
Luke 22:61-62- And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Ether 12:27- And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Service to Others- Matthew 5:38-41

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.


An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth
Our carnal tendency is to give as we have received. Not to give as we would like to receive, such as the golden rule recommends, but only to give as we have already received. As such, we have no mortal motivation to show a kindness to another unless they have already shown a kindness to us first. The problem with this approach is that then no kind act can ever be performed, as it requires an initiating factor. The whole pattern must be begun by one who does a kindness without reason, having received no kindness of their own. To the carnal mind, this is inconceivable.
What is conceivable, though, is an initiating unkindness, a moment where someone takes advantage of another for their own benefit. This would then start a toxic chain of retaliation unkindness through all humanity, and there could never be an end to the series because it requires a terminating factor. The whole pattern could only be closed by one who receives an unkindness and then, without reason, chooses not to retaliate. To the carnal mind, this is inconceivable.

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also
So would acting charitably mean giving unfairly and forgiving where it isn’t deserved? Quite frankly, yes. And that is the ultimate ambition. It is just that sort of charity that brought our Savior to lay down his life for us, even though we did not deserve any such kindness. And so charity is a principle in direct contrast to that of an eye for an eye. It is an uncomfortable principle, one that goes against our natural sense of indignation. But it is the only way to ever end a dance of abuse and counterattack, and the only way to ever start a dance of benevolence and generosity.

Sow and Then Reap- Summary

This was a smaller study, and kind of an offshoot from my previous one. That is the beauty of pursuing answers, one tends to find even more questions along the way. There is no shortage of truths to discover, and it is beautiful to see how they all combine into one whole and support and expand upon one another.
Also these truths can be found anywhere, and they can especially be found in nature, as in the case of this study. God has designed the basic pattern of our human survival so that it clearly teaches lessons of patience, faith, and reward.

Reaping What You Sow Can Be Either a Blessing or a Curse

There is a common pattern noted in many different cultures and spiritual teachings. Karma, what goes around comes around, get what you deserve, etc. Though in the moment life may indeed be unfair, over time things do tend to balance out.
This truth is a great condemnation to the wicked and a great liberator to the innocent. While some are crushed by its momentum, others are wise enough to use it to their advantage. Be patient and persevering in doing good, and soon enough nature itself will work for your triumph!
Galatians 6:7- Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Matthew 7:2- For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.

Cultivating a Soul Takes a Season

Nothing good comes easy. In other words, the measure of a thing’s value can often be found in the difficulty by which it was obtained. By that standard the purification of the soul must be the most precious treasure of them all!
Achieving this position is so difficult, in fact, that only God can do it for us. Not a single one of us can purify our own selves, we simply do not have the power to do it. What we do have the power to do, though, is stop God from cleansing us. He loves us too much to force any blessings on us that we don’t want. The more I interact with God the more I realize that all He needs from me is to stop shutting Him out and then He’ll take care of the rest.
Simple as that may sound, it takes everything I have to manage it. It takes constant effort. Every day I have to diligently water my “love of self,” I have to weed out any “feeling unworthy of forgiveness,” and I must carefully prune any “harmful exercises of free will.” I have to be diligent, and I have to do it for as long as this mortal field is mine. If I am faithful, though, God will make my garden grow.
2 Nephi 25:23- For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

We Are All Workers in the Field

As difficult as it may be to just work our own field, if that is all we do then we have not met our calling. We are meant to work in the fields of others as well. In fact, our own cultivation of the soul cannot ever be completed without the cultivation of other’s.
We are kindred spirits, and our fates are entwined. The Savior gave a clear warning that we were not to “hide our light under a bushel,” nor were we to “bury our talent.” Our injunction is to “Let [our] light so shine before men,” (Matthew 5:16). To be born of Christ is to be called to the work.
We are nearing the final harvest and there is still a great deal of reaping to be done. There is sufficient rest for all of us at the end of the season, for now we must lean into this work with all that we have.
Matthew 9:37-38- Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

Sow and Then Reap- James 2:17-18, Ephesians 2:8, 2 Nephi 25:23

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.


Faith, if it hath not works, is dead
By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God
There is a famous debate in the Christian world, whether our works are necessary for us to be saved or not. Surely none of us believe that we “earn” our way into heaven, but doesn’t God expect something from us? James tells us that “faith without works is dead,” which suggests that works are necessary for the cultivation of faith, if nothing else. Meanwhile Paul told the Ephesians that they were saved by grace through faith (which remember James says exists by our works), though he stressed that that only came as a “gift from God.”

It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do
But rather than debate about which of these scriptures is wrong, why not accept that both of them can be true? Going back to our farmer analogy, the sower needs to do his part to plow the soil, plant the seed, and fend off the weeds, but still he depends on God to bring the rain, prevent the early frost, and divert the insects and diseases. More than anything he depends on God to even put the miracle of growth into the seed to begin with.
We do need to do our part. We need that sense of having put in our all. We need to try and fail and try again and feel ourselves becoming better. We need to overcome, surmount, and triumph.
And then, after all that, we need to be in awe of the fact that none of it is enough without grace. Our obedience is simply how we open the door to allow for God’s grace to bring us to heaven. And who appreciates the grace of God more than those who run out all their strength, falls short, and then feel God carry them the rest of the way? That is faith and grace.