It is in our DNA to strive. When God said to Adam in Genesis 3:17- 19:
17 Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground
God built into us a desire to work. It is part of our flesh, and our flesh needs to work. The desire for a sense of accomplishment, praise, recognition or credit drives mankind to strive. But as a part of that nature, We also want to strive either against God, or to earn His favor. We cannot earn favor from God by our works or our striving.
Galatians 5:4 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
It all depends on your motivation. If your works are meant to please God or earn favor, then they are in vain and you need to change your motives. When you walk with God in love, your love in turn will result in good works that are of the right motive. To do this you need to die to the law, die to your own selfish desires and die to your guilty conscience.
I have been crucified with Jesus Christ representatively. In God’s sight my evi nature is dead. My sin was put to death on the cross of Jesus Christ and my sins were paid for. I was released from the bondage to sin. (Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans, 1994)
But now that we know that we need to die to self, and live only for Christ, how do we prevent that from becoming a type of works. Our flesh always wants to take over.
The way we do that is to meet Christ daily face to face, and to let His love wash over you, and you will respond to his love. That is not works, and it will result in a life that exhibits God’s Love to others, because when we comprehend God’s love, it manifests itself in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.