Posted by: mikenicholsblog | July 13, 2017

Performance-based living

Performance-based living is the norm in our 21st century culture. And make no mistake, almost everyone is caught in the performance trap. From a very young age we are all challenged to succeed, which is a noble aspiration. But often, the desires to perform well and succeed become primary ways in which we value ourselves. When our value is based on what you or I do, there will always be disappointment. Why? Because good can always be better, and inevitably someone will outperform us. And graduating from childhood to adulthood doesn’t lessen these desires for performance or success. We see it in every facet or corner of our lives – even spiritually!

With full candor, I can tell you that if I am not careful, performance and winning can be too important to me. I hate to lose at anything. If I’m playing golf, winning is my goal (although I lose more often than I win). In business, I am not interested in being second. Having a healthy desire to achieve is noble, but performance-based living can too easily consume us all. When I take inventory of my spiritual journey, I have often seen too much focus on performing well and too little emphasis on resting in Christ. Performance-based living in the spiritual realm is an adversary of the restful soul. Rest is available and essential for all Christ-followers.

Recently, I have been reading a book entitled, Thirsting for God by Gary L. Thomas. His writing captured my attention concerning a quiet heart, and living in a relationship with God that is not performance-based. See if the quote below gives you a sense of the problem that we all face.

Undo fretting leads to “soul sadness,” or despondency, or, as Francis de Sales put it, “inquietude.” Soul sadness is the result of a performance-based holiness, and it often plagues those who most want to serve God.

DeSales wrote that true holiness is cultivated with “patience, meekness, humility, and tranquility, expecting it more from the providence of God than from [our] own industry or diligence.”

Patience, meekness and tranquility are not the fruits of performance-based living. God’s grace in salvation is through faith, not works. Those of us who know Him should not live or serve with a performance-based mindset … as if that was a way to win His favor. He already loves us, wants us to enjoy His rest, and undoubtedly will guide us to His definition of successful living if we seek Him. Unfortunately, we too often turn serving, giving and helping others into performance-based holiness.  The result?  We experience “soul sadness” (as de Sales describes it) because our performance is about gaining favor instead of resting in our God who loves to favor us. Serving, giving and helping others should flow from the well-source of our relationship with Jesus as He guides our choices and actions (performance).

Performing well and living with patience, tranquility and meekness are challenging things to achieve. I still want to win at golf and do well in business, but those things should never define me. When my (your) relationship is honoring the Father, rest will come, and our performance will cause “soul gladness.” If you are a serious Christ-follower, think about what drives your performance.


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