The Pressure to Perform

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If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36 (NIV)

I once knew a man who was very active in the church, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, and serving on committees. A former music teacher, he often filled in when the choir director was out of town. And when a new Christian school was launched, he donated his time to give instrument lessons and form the fledging musicians into a band.

Arden was a man I looked up to, but not because he was so involved and had such a dynamic personality. He challenged me to think, to dig deep and analyze why I believe what I do. He didn’t offer pat answers to the questions of life or spout Christian clichés and platitudes that miss the mark and don’t satisfy.

And he loved God. He didn’t have to say it, you just knew it from how he lived his life. Nearly every time I saw him, he exuded energy and was bursting with joy.

Then one year we almost lost him. Doctors determined his heart was weak and, without a transplant, there was nothing that could be done. So Arden spent many months at home, resting.

I missed him. I missed his energy, his ever-present smile, his outspokenness, his way of getting me to think and not accept things just because someone said so.

But God worked a miracle because Arden eventually returned to church and was able to do much more than doctors had predicted. I asked him when he returned if the recuperation time at home was difficult for him.

“Weren’t you just itching to be busy?” I asked.

“No,” he answered. “I could truly relax because there wasn’t any pressure to perform.”

The pressure to perform. Arden passed away several years ago, but I never forgot that statement. I use it to gauge my motivation for doing what I do: Do I teach Sunday school because it’s expected of me or because I love to teach, I love God and His Word, and instructing others fills me with satisfaction and joy? Do I write a weekly column, produce a daily radio program, and speak to groups to feed my ego and glorify myself? Or because it’s a way of telling others about the God I love? And because I believe teaching, writing, and speaking are callings from God?

Do I go to church every Sunday because it’s expected of me or because I want to worship God with other believers? Why do I try to set aside a quiet time everyday? Because that’s what was told I should do or because I hunger and thirst after God?

The list goes on. Sometimes the introspection reveals that instead of seeking after God, cultivating a relationship with Him and serving Him out of love, I’m merely playing at religion.

God’s Son died to give us freedom – freedom from sin and from the shackles of religion, from the pressure to perform.

He longs for a growing relationship with us. We cultivate this relationship, first, by seeking Him, then by serving Him.

“You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all of your heart,” He tells us (Jeremiah 29:13). We seek Him when we talk to Him (prayer); when we read, study, and think about His Words to us (the Bible) – and it doesn’t have to be a read-the-Bible-through-in-one-year thing; and when we are still before Him, listening in the quiet for His voice.

Then, we serve Him by serving others, using the talents He’s given us to reach out to a hurting world.

Don’t succumb to the pressure to perform. Seek a personal relationship with God first, then serve others with a heart full of love overflowing – just like Arden.

Help me, Lord, to truly put You first in my life. Free me from the shackles of empty religion to grow a loving, fulfilling relationship with You. Amen.

Read and meditate on Galatians 5

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Clean Out the Closet!

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! –2 Corinthians 5:17 TLB

I knew I was overdue to clean out my clothes closet when I tried on three outfits for church one Sunday morning and none of them would do.

My wardrobe included three pairs of polyester slacks I’d worn nearly every week for ten years (I exaggerate not) and were coming apart at the seams, missing buttons at the waist, and were way too baggy since I’d lost some weight. My sweaters were fuzzbally, nearly transparent in places, or had shrunk in the wash. Most of my skirts, blouses, and dresses were tired and lifeless and looked like I felt. And most everything was way outdated.

Over the years, I’d added a piece or two to my wardrobe here and there, but, instead of removing anything to make room in my four-foot-wide closet, I simply shoved the old stuff back where it was hard to reach. My dresser drawers weren’t much better. I had to iron anything before I wore it.

Finally I decided it was time. No more hanging on to stuff in case I lost weight or in case I’d want to wear it someday. No more “fat” and “skinny” wardrobes.

My tastes were changing, too. Instead of prints (usually flowers), I wanted solids in shades that complimented my coloring and in styles that complimented my body shape.

So after a daylong shopping trip and another daylong closet-cleaning session, I had fifty empty hangers, two empty dresser drawers, a healthy donation for Goodwill, and an equally healthy donation for the garbage man—and a feeling of being set free.

Every time I wear one of my new outfits, I feel like a new woman, lighter and happier than I’ve felt in years. Amazing how hanging on to useless old things can bog us down.

We do the same spiritually, don’t we? Those old sins are hard to let go because we have a hard time believing we are truly forgiven and so we refuse to forget. We won’t forgive ourselves, so we carry around a load of guilt, thinking this is our penance.

Is that what God does? No!

When we asked for His forgiveness and accepted His Son, we were changed inside. Not patched up, like a garment that needs mending. We were born again (John 3:16), given new life—His life in us. We became not fixed-up versions of our old selves, but brand new persons!

We were washed completely clean (1 John 1:9). All our sin-stain was bleached out entirely by the Son, and our hearts are now as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:2,7). All the garbage of sin and guilt was flung as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and God remembers it no more (Jeremiah 31:34).

So why do we? Perhaps because we feel unworthy? But God considered us worthy enough to send His Son to die in our place and open the way to Heaven.

So, Christian, clean out your closet and toss the fuzzbally attitudes, oversized guilt, outdated shame. Don your new clothes—clothes as clean, fresh, and new as a spring morning—clothes that will make you feel like a new person—because, Child of God, you really are.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Amen. (Psalm 51:10,12)

Read and reflect on Matthew 9:14–17.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Image 600-02377761 © Lisa Brdar