All of us are dramatically shaped by how we view ourselves. Some have too low a perspective, some too high. To be imbalanced here is harmful in either direction.

The apostle Paul summed up his self-awareness in one important sentence as he wrote to the Corinthians:

By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Corinthians 15:10 NASB).

The Work of Grace

A proud man believes that he has made himself. He loudly boasts of his accomplishments so all may know what he has done.

Paul, one of the most significant men in history (he wrote two-thirds of the New Testament), did not view his life that way. He realized everything that had been accomplished in his life happened by God’s grace.

Grace is unmerited favor. It is God giving you what you do not deserve. It is also God’s enabling power. When faced with extreme difficulties, Paul said that God’s grace (enabling power) was sufficient.

He wrote earlier in the same letter to the Corinthians a similar thought that was the foundation of his self-awareness:

If everything you have is something you’ve received, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 paraphrase).

Everything means everything: our mind, our body; the food we eat and the clothes we wear; the house we live in and the car we drive; the job we have and the friends we enjoy. All of it is a gift from God.

“Well, I worked for all this!” you might proclaim. But who gave you air to breathe and lungs to expand? Who gave you the capacity to think? If you trace everything in your life, its genesis is in God.

And for a Christian, the forgiveness we have that makes us able to have a relationship of peace with God, the Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering us, the good Shepherd guiding and providing for us, and on and on, are all gifts of God’s grace.

Grace That Is Not in Vain

In light of this grace, Paul worked humbly but aggressively. He didn’t take what God had done lightly, so he gave himself fully to the task.

But all that came from his labors—everything that was good and effective—he still saw as the work of God within him and through him. He was rightfully grateful for his work, but aware that it was all fueled by an Unseen Hand.

There was a legitimate pride and joy in his accomplishments because it was all tempered by the understanding that none of it could have been done without God.

How do you see yourself?

A mature man has come to the humble knowledge that he is nothing without Christ and everything with Christ. He is a mere branch on a glorious Vine, but he has been fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made by the Creator, designed for great achievements by God’s grace.

This wise balance allows him to live powerfully … but dependently … in life.

Father, thank You for Your great work in me. Thank You for designing me to be a useful tool in the hands of a mighty Savior. Thank You for all You have done and could do through me. Help me remember that without You, I am nothing. Thank You, Lord, for Your matchless grace that enables the fulfilling of my destiny. Please keep me humbly aware and eternally grateful.