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

How We Can Help Syrian Refugees this Christmas

3 Things We Can Do Right Now to Make a Difference

Many of you FaithWalkers know I have been critical of how our nation has handled the Syrian refugee crisis. But that does not mean I do not care about the families who are running for their lives from the evil that is ISIS.

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It has been challenging to know what to do to help them where they are. But I am proposing some simple steps we can take as we head into Christmas.

We can make a difference right now for these refugees in the name of Jesus by doing 3 things.

Click here to read my post at Patheos and discover what we can do.

I took some down time with family and friends last week and so my posts have slowed briefly. Look for more in the coming weeks and helpful resources in the coming year.

I am excited about the journey ahead and especially about the new FaithWalkers podcast coming in January.

Thanks to all who have responded to my emails to give input on topics and questions to address.

See you out on the trail….

How Is Your Relationship With God?

How is your relationship with God? Have you ever been asked this question? Maybe you’ve asked the question of others. How should it be answered? Is there a right or wrong way?

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I recently heard Randy Pope, author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church (Leadership Network Innovation Series) share an account of how he has often posed the question, “How is your relationship with God?” to men in his discipleship groups. He often gets answers such as, “Well, I’ve been traveling for two weeks so it’s been really hectic. I haven’t read my Bible as much as I should. I probably am not in a good relationship with God right now.” His response in those situations  essentially  is to ask, “What does that have to do with what I asked you?”

What Is Faith?

What is faith? We Christians talk a lot about it, especially as it concerns our salvation. Truth be told, we like to leave it there at the point of conversion, confined in the Salvation Box we’ve created for it.

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And yet we’re called to walk by it, to live “from faith to faith,” and to ensure our faith is evident to all.

But it would seem to me to be difficult at best, impossible at worst, to engage something we can’t define. I would suggest one reason we Christian don’t walk by faith all that well is that we don’t know what faith is. That’s not the only reason, of course, but it is a foundational one.