How to Free Yourself from the Constant Pressure to Perform

What Are We Trying to Prove to God When We Overcommit?

If there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” why do we Christians so often feel like we’re just not good enough? Why do we try to do more, to overcommit ourselves to accomplishing more than we ever could, as if God’s love for us depended on our accomplishments?

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In my experience, to know Christ is enough and to live like it are two different things.

No matter what I may have accomplished in the past, I sometimes (more often than I’d like to admit) find myself thinking–and sometimes even saying—I don’t think I have much value to God.

I’m not worth much to Him. I haven’t done much for Him lately.

Why would he—or anyone—love me when I haven’t performed in the way I thought I could?

And so I try to do more—to help more, to take on more, to carry my weight.

I don’t think I am alone.

In my experience, mature Protestant Christians stumble and fall in this area more than almost any other.

I make a point to say “Protestant” Christians because we are rightly adamant that salvation is by grace alone, apart from any works that we can do.

Although we say that our salvation is by grace through faith alone, we live as if we still need to prove our worth to God.

Every. Single. Day.

The Sin that So Easily Weighs Us Down

When we overcommit, we often do so out of a twisted sense of duty, or a quest to demonstrate our value apart from His redeeming love.

We think we must do more to feel like we’re earning our keep.

We know better than to claim our works qualify us for membership, but we strive to pay our dues anyways.

One of the heaviest sins that weighs us down in our faith walk is the belief that we are not “enough” in Christ.

But the truth is this: God’s love for me is not connected to my performance for Him.

Let that sink in, because I am confident that few of us really believe it.

Paying Our Dues

My pastor Dr. McKay Caston uses this example: We Christians tend to think of God’s love like a country club. God has paid the entry fee, but we have to keep paying the dues.

We know we could never merit salvation– “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” But to stay in his good graces, well, we need to do a little something to prove we belong. Or rather a lot of somethings–or we’ll lose our pool privileges.

  • We’ll technically still be members, but not in good standing.
  • We’ll still get to heaven, but won’t have as much access to the throne room.
  • We’ll make it to glory, but not be all that happy about how we get there—unless we do more to prove we’re worthy of those privileges.

It’s a lie from the pit of hell and it smells like smoke.

God loves all of His creation in a general sense. But He loves those whom He has adopted in a special way, as only a Father loves His children.

As the Just Judge of all men He has declared His children to be righteous, perfect, and complete, solely because of the work that Christ has done, “not of works, lest any man should boast.”

So it’s not on you to prove your worth to merit the relationship in the first place.

Most of us get that—at least in theory, but not in practice.

His ongoing love for us does not depend on our performance. That’s why it’s called grace.

Distract and Flee

Warning: Right here is where we like to veer off into an argument about whether we can lose our salvation or lecture on the importance of sanctification.

We like to point out, “Sure God loves us no matter what we do, BUT… if we’re truly saved we will do good works.”

Implied in that true statement is a subtle pressure to continually perform, to crank out “good works” on a consistent basis to prove that we are truly in good with God.

That pressure can leave us with a “what have you done for God lately” attitude as if we must merit His ongoing love.

Sure he gifted a membership to us, but if we don’t pay the annual fee (it was in the fine print of the inscription on the cross), our membership can be suspended.

Not cancelled, mind you, just sort of downgraded.

Maybe we won’t be allowed to eat in the restaurant or play the golf course, because we haven’t met our quota.

We lost it with your spouse, we stumbled into sin, we failed to give generously enough—the list goes on.

There is no shortage of ways we all fall short—yet God still loves us anyways.

He saved us to become the righteousness of God, not because we do the righteousness of God.

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

God loves those who are in Christ, because they are in Christ.

When I look at me, I see failure. When God looks at me, he sees perfection.  Because I am in Christ.

There is nothing I can do to be more or less in Christ.

It’s not as if He has given me a green card for a conditional stay or that my status can be revoked for bad behavior.

I do not have to prove myself for God to keep loving me. I do not have to do more to merit more of His love.

And neither do you.

He loves us because He loves us. Period.

Live in that freedom today.

Question: How do you struggle to live in the freedom God has purchased for you? How might your story be different if you truly rested “in Him”? Share your thoughts by clicking here.

Photo credit: bohed

The True Cost of Saying YES Too Often

Is Your YES Really a NO to What Matters Most?

“Let your YES be YES and your NO be NO,” Jesus said. The context was the making of vows. If you say you’re going to do something, be sure to do it. But how often do we say YES without realizing the true cost?

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Every time we say YES, we also say NO.

We can’t do it all.

As finite beings, we must make trade-offs.

If we say YES we will serve at church on Sunday morning, we cannot also say YES we will spend that morning with family.

If we say YES we will take on another work project that requires us to work on the weekends, then we say NO to helping our children with their projects on the weekend.

If we say YES to seasons of intentional rest, we say NO to other opportunities to make more money.

Trade-offs. They’re everywhere.

They are real, not imaginary.

And they are not bad things.

The Value of Trade-offs

Unfortunately, we tend to avoid making the tough choices because we don’t want to disappoint others. We fear what they will think, what they will say, and worse—what we think they will say when we project our fears onto them.

In the end, we run from a monster that often exists only in our imaginations.

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety. –Proverbs 29:5 NLT

When God commanded us to keep the Sabbath Day holy, he was instituting margin into our lives. (Interestingly, 10% of a week is 16.8 hours, about one day, not counting time for sleep.)

He knew we would tend to lose our focus on what matters most—Him—and skip rest in our quest to do more.

He knew that, ultimately, our pursuit of more would consume us, so he forced us to choose.

Jesus also said that we cannot serve both God and money. We must choose.

He challenged the rich young ruler with a trade-off—love your stuff or follow me.

He warned us to count the costs before tackling a new direction, even the costs of following Him.

Our relativistic culture preaches a different gospel—you can have it all, do it all, be all things to all people.

It tells us we can bend the meaning of words to fit whatever definitions we desire and reality will bend with it.

Not true.

Gender doesn’t change because we want it to. Marriage doesn’t change because a court redefines it. And time doesn’t bend to our wishes simply because we say YES too often.

For every YES, there is an equal and opposite NO.

When we realize this truth, we can better evaluate the cost of saying YES.

Ask this Question

The next time you find yourself ready to say YES to something—no matter how good it may seem or how pressured you may feel—push pause.

Ask yourself this question: If I say YES to this, what am I saying NO to?

Remind yourself of these immovable facts:

  • I cannot do it all.
  • The more I do, the lower the quality of all I do.
  • I can choose what I will do well and what I will not do.
  • My story will be written by what I choose to do well.

The true cost of saying YES without recognizing the NO is that we let someone else write our life story.

Bonnie Ware, a nurse who cared for people as they neared the end of this earthly season of their story, shared “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.” 

The single greatest regret she heard expressed by those facing the reality of death was this:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

Put another way, I wish I’d had the courage to say NO to others expectations of me so I could have said YES to what mattered most.

Make your story worth telling where and when it matters most.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to discern the true cost of the choices you make.

Share your thoughts by clicking here.

What are you saying YES to today—and what is it truly costing you? [/Reminder]

4 Questions to Ask When You Feel Overcommitted

Why Is Everyone Always Expecting too Much from You?

Don’t you hate it when people demand too much of you? When they pressure you to deliver more than you ever could? When they expect more from you than you could possibly do, even if you had 36 hour days and 9-day weeks?  Who do they think they are?

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It’s people like that who make you feel guilty isn’t it? They make you feel frustrated and anxious, stressed out and on edge.

They make you feel resentful eventually, bitter that you’re being forced to do what they want instead of what you want—and it’s all their fault!

Ok. That may be how we feel sometimes, but it’s not exactly true.

I’ve been writing posts lately about the importance of saying NO (I’m calling it The NO Initiative), because it directly affects the quality of the story we live.

The truth is that when we have too much to do, it’s because we have chosen to do too much.

We Choose to Be Too Busy

A little more than a decade or so ago, I was in a busy season of life.

I was teaching a full course load of high school classes. I was running the entire athletic department for a school that was growing quickly with almost 20 different sports teams.

I was overseeing the student body, basically the one charged with dealing with all student-related stuff and discipline issues.

Oh, and we had four kids and two more on the way. (Yes, my wife IS a saint.)

In the midst of all of that, I decided to head back to school to earn my Masters in Business Administration (MBA).  During which time, the fifth and sixth children showed up.

It was busy, to be sure. Sometimes I became discouraged, overwhelmed, and came home with a “why are they doing this to me” attitude.

But no one was doing anything to me. I had chosen to take on every single responsibility. 

Sometimes the frustration was because I need to learn something. Sometimes it was because I should have said NO but didn’t.

Sometimes it was because I lacked the clarity to focus on the essentials and allowed non-essentials to fill my schedule.

So every parent that drove me crazy complaining about an issue with their children–I chose to deal with that.

Every sports team that had an issue with facilities that I had to iron out—I asked to do that.

Every student who need help understanding why Odysseus did what he did—I agreed to help him or her understand.

And all the kids at home? Yep, I had a role to play in that, as well.

The point is that I was super-busy because I chose to be super busy. There was no one to blame for that frustrating season but myself.

All those “bad” people “forcing” me to do things were simply doing what I had given them permission to do.

4 Questions to Clarify Your Responsibility

Zig Ziglar famously asked four questions that I’ll revise only slightly to fit this discussion.

I challenge you to ask them to yourself right now—and answer honestly:

  1. Do you believe there is something specific you can do in the next three weeks to make yourself feel more overcommitted?
  2. Do you believe there is something specific you can do in the next three weeks to make yourself feel less overcommitted?
  3. Do you believe the choice to do or not do that specific thing is yours?
  4. Do you believe that every choice has an end result?

If I answer YES to these 4 questions, as I think we all must do, then a simple but empowering truth becomes clear.

There is something I can specifically do right now that will make me feel either more or less overcommitted–and the choice is all mine.

“You cannot escape responsibility for tomorrow by evading it today.” –Abraham Lincoln

We all need the humility to realize we cannot do it all and the courage to say NO, even when we would prefer to say YES.

When we acknowledge our responsibility, we empower ourselves to change.

What will you choose to do today to take responsibility for being over committed and spread too thin?

Your story is being written either by you or for you.

You can choose today which it will be.

Photo credit: Monoar

Why You Should Say YES to Saying NO

When Helping Others Isn't Helping at All

Do you struggle to say NO—especially when people ask you for help? I do. As a Christian, I think it’s even more difficult because, after all, aren’t we called to be like Jesus and serve when moved with compassion?

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The problem is this: when we let other people’s priorities write our story, we end up with a jumbled tale that no one would ever want to read.

And here is the harsh truth: it happens because we let it happen.

Do You Have the Faith to Say No?

When Doing Less Requires More Faith than Doing More

The writer of Ecclesiastes said there is a time for everything. Unfortunately, I tend to think that I have time for everything.

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When I stepped out from my role of running a Christian school in Ohio several years ago, we went for almost a year with no income. I tell more about the story in my book A Story Worth Telling, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t easy.

Six kids to feed, a beautiful wife to provide for, a mortgage to pay, and nothing but the belief that God had called me to write and minister to His Kingdom-at-Large.

Eventually opportunities began to surface as I kept moving forward, stumbling and learning as I went. We moved to Atlanta to position myself for maximum effectiveness.

And it all began to come together.

Now I have a different problem.

What happens when you move from having nothing to do to a place where you have so much to do that you feel overwhelmed?

The Question of When to Say When

That’s the question I’ve wrestled with for the last many weeks.

Untitled-8As you may have noticed, I took August off to focus on the Ziglar Family project. I’ve sent you a few emails of late to be the first to experience the new course and to  give you an opportunity to help your family at a significant discount.

But August turned into September. And now it’s October. And I am still feeling over-committed.

I have a few key projects on my plate in addition to the Ziglar Family effort. I LOVE what I do and more people need more help than ever.

I confess, it’s intoxicating to know people need you. It certainly is better than the year I spent wondering if I would ever be of any help to anyone ever again.

But here is one thing I’m in the process of learning–it takes faith to say no.

I really do not like saying No to anyone.

If I can help, my auto-response is that I should help. I suspect that is partly due to my personality and mostly due to a mindset that infects much of Christianity–a misunderstanding of service.

We tend to pour ourselves out for others–and think that the more spent we feel, the closer to God we are. But it just isn’t true.

When we spread ourselves too thin, we actually help less than we could have, because the quality of our help declines. The people we’re called to serve the most–our families– suffer the most.

We think we’re doing more, but we’re actually doing less–and none of it is as good as it should be.

The tough truth  I struggle to embrace is this: I can’t do it all.

I know that may seem an obvious truth, but I often think that I CAN find a way to pull it off.

But the truth is that Jesus came to the world for one purpose. His ministry remained focused on his purpose. And the same is true for me and you. If we’re not clear on our purpose, we will end up scattered and ineffective and overwhelmed and–quite frankly, worn out.

What I’m Doing about It

When I recognized my struggle with being overcommitted, I reached out for help.

I enlisted the guidance of my life coach who steered me well through my transition several years ago.

516txpkm6l-_sx332_bo1204203200_He recommended I start by reading a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I HIGHLY recommend it if you have every felt overwhelmed by life (I suspect that is everyone).

I ordered it from Amazon immediately and had read it within two days of receiving it. Then I began to re-read it. Powerful and effective book.

I put up some boundaries. I set up an autoresponder in my personal email account to let people know I may not be getting back to them ASAP because of the projects on my plate. I didn’t like doing it, but it is reality. If I don’t protect my time to write and create, no one else will. And I will fail to fulfill my calling.

I enlisted the help of my wife. My wife is a guardian and better able to tell people no–or at least to tell me to tell people no. So I’ve enlisted her help with planning (an area of strength for her), which also increases accountability.

I began telling people no. I do NOT like turning down projects or telling people I can’t help them. But I began to do it. And guess what–the world didn’t end. (Ok, I confess I am still afraid that it might, but….)

I refocused on my relationship with the source of all wisdom and strength. When we get busy, one of the first things to go is our time with God and His word. I got intentional about protecting that time–and expanding that time to meditate, pray, and think.

I am slowly coming to terms with the reality that I cannot do it all. I am realizing that if I am to keep the main thing the main thing then I must turn down a lot of really good opportunities. But it is still very much a work in progress.

If I am to live a story worth telling, I must choose certain, specific paths and not try to explore all of them at once.

I believe that to be true. Now I need to act on what I believe to be true.

I’ll let you know what I discover, just in case you’ve ever felt overcommitted and overwhelmed.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve ever felt this same pressure to please and overcommit.

I’m hoping I’m not the first person to struggle with saying no.

Why August Will Be a Quiet Month

A Few Things that Might Interest You

Well, it’s August. And that seems to always be an incredibly busy time of year for me. When I ran a school, it was back-to-school time. Now it just seems a lot of things come together in August that require my creative attention.

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So if you were wondering why I haven’t released any new podcasts or posts recently, there you have it. Life has gotten extremely busy.

You may be interested in what I’m doing.

First, I’ve partnered with the Zig Ziglar group to help launch a new venture called Ziglar Family. Our aim is to build on the timeless faith-based wisdom of Zig Ziglar to apply his principles to today’s families in fresh, relevant ways.

I encourage you to get connected with this effort by asking to join our closed Facebook group or by claiming a free eBook and adding your name to the email list. We’ll keep you posted, get your input, and offer some discounts and other cool stuff.

The first course for families is coming together now. Exciting stuff. Here is the logo and a course visual:

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Families need support, now more than ever. Which brings me to my second item.

My latest book You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe is now available on audio CD.

Click the image to check it out. The attacks on families are increasing. And the coming elections offer no hope of any change thus far.

Lord-willing, I will offer some perspectives on all of it when podcasts and posts resume in September. I appreciate your patience and understanding. Follow me on Twitter for my most current perspectives on the political scene.

Which brings me to the third item. In addition to the Ziglar Family project, I am collaborating on a few more book projects that I believe will be a benefit to many.

I am also planning a new course to help Christians figure out life direction and make wise decisions about what God would have them do next.  So a few things going on. Oh, and I am launching a new business.

Your prayers are much appreciated in this busy season.

I have received so many questions from so many readers of late that I am running a little behind in replying to you all. Please forgive the delay but know that I pray for each of you as soon as I receive your emails.

I’m looking forward to addressing them in posts and resources going forward.

So until next time, walk by faith, my friend, and I’ll see you out on the trail!

The War on Faith Forces Pharmacy to Choose: Conscience or Compliance

Interview with Business Owner Kevin Stormans and Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom

A few weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court declined to consider a case on appeal from Washington State. As a result, a family pharmacy run by the Stormans for generations must choose between conscience and compliance.

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Episode 25 of The FaithWalkers Podcast addresses a recent attempt to force Christians to put their faith in a box.

I bring you up to speed on the recent ruling and why it matters, then share an exclusive interview from last year in which I spoke to Kevin Stormans, an owner of Ralph’s Thriftway in Washington state.

He is joined by his legal counsel, Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of legal services for Alliance Defending Freedom.

It is one of the most chilling religious liberty cases out there because it is unthinkable that anyone could be forced to participate in what they believe to be murder.

Episode 24: The Challenge of Walking by Faith in the Here & Now

An Interview with Morgan Rogers of Campus Outreach

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep walking by faith when you’ve almost reached your destination. In spite of God’s previous blessings, why is it the mountain in front of us in the here and now always seems to be the biggest one we’ve ever faced?

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In this episode, I share a conversation with Morgan Rogers, a young lady whose life has been transformed in the last several years by the Gospel. As a student heading out of college with a business degree, she sensed God calling her to serve with Campus Outreach.

What to Do When Your Spouse Disagrees about Your Calling

7 Reminders to Help Get on the Same Page with Your Spouse

You think you know the direction God would have you to go. You believe you have clarity about your next steps to do what God designed you to do. You may even want to leave your current job and step out in a new direction. But your spouse doesn’t see it. What do you do?

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A reader actually sent me this question recently. It’s one I receive fairly frequently from Christians trying to figure out God’s best for their lives. And it is an important one.

Episode 23: What Limiting Beliefs Keep You from Enjoying God’s Best?

5 Areas of Life Where Limiting Beliefs Live

Sometimes I think God doesn’t tell us how great heaven will be because we wouldn’t believe Him. Seriously. What keeps us from experiencing God’s best in life—from stepping out and walking with abundant faith—are the limiting beliefs we allow ourselves to embrace.

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In this episode I take  a more casual approach, sharing what’s on my heart in connection to the things we all believe that keep us from moving forward.