Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-Based Acceptance

"All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied" (Eccl. 6:7 NKJV).

I never really knew how I would feel about myself if I lost my job until it actually happened -- and in an extremely painful and deceptive way. Yet, God has provided various income opportunities that have blessed me and kept me from having to make any real sacrifices so far. The loss of my job and the feeling of devastation that accompanied it changed what I did everyday for a living. As a single person with no children, I can see now just how most my identity and worth was tied up in what I did for a living.

I believe that one of the schemes that satan has used in my life was to get me to view my value primarily based on the type of work I did and how well I did it.

This is clearly a mix of performance-based acceptance and fear of man. It says "As long as I have a good job and I do it well, I will have confidence, worth, acceptance, and identity."

This is a "slippery slope" and can be used by satan to keep our focus on our performance versus Christ. I love to give 100% and excel at my work. Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude in my undergrad studies, Summa Cum Laude in masters prgram. I'm an overachiever because I like to do well and be approved by people I respect.

Yet, I also know that we are not supposed to find our value in what we do - on our role or function. Instead, our value is solely based on who we are in Christ. This is a truth I have been wrestling with for some time now, especially after about 200 applications I've sent out, that haven't resulted in the kind of job that I believe I could and should be doing. Instead, the Lord has seen fit to leave me with a number of humble opportunities -- and His provision has been sure and steady through it all.

The apostle Paul wrestled with shedding his notions of performance-based acceptance after he came to faith in Christ. He had grown to the top of his field as a Jewish leader, and wrote this:

"If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Phil 3:4-9).


I would have never really known the degree to which my identity and worth was rooted in my work and the approval of men, until my work was wrongfully removed. Combine this with the betrayal and abusive environment that I experienced by my supposedly Christian boss who I trusted and who lied to me and about me day after day, whenever she had the chance. I was so blinded by my belief that my hard work, dedication, and good performance would change her, would change the way she treated me, change my work environment, and that everything would turn out rosy. It was just like my thinking as a teenager, which went something along these lines: If I could be a good enough student or daughter or worker, then my mom would really love me. But, nope. God has other plans: teaching me that my trust in performance-based acceptance and the approval of man is a dark bondage that I must reject.

Contrary to the great tradition of the American dream, work IS not about what you do or how well you do it. It really is WHO you know that matters. And at the end of the day, when the bodies hit the floor, after the job has been removed and our 'filthy rags' (our righteous works) have been burned up as dross, the only thing left is knowing and being known by Jesus Christ alone. Yes, I'm learning...

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