16 December 2012

I... Must... Perform

Many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the emperor of China although he could not play a note. Whenever the group practiced or performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play but not making a sound. He received a modest salary and enjoyed a comfortable living Then one day the emperor requested a solo from each musician. The flutist got nervous. There wasn't enough time to learn the instrument. He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn't fooled. On the day of his performance, the impostor took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language: “He refused to face the music." When you're living a lie, eventually "your sins will find you out."

An increasingly common lie that way too many of us believe is that “we are what we do” – the ‘performance’ lie.  

When we buy into the notion of the performance lie, our identity comes from what we have accomplished, and wrongly so.  Last month, you may have been the top producer at your company, and now you feel valued. Or, maybe you didn't do well last month, and now you feel like a loser.  Perhaps you earned a raise which left you feeling good about yourself.  Or, on the other hand, the job you have doesn't pay as much as you think it should and you don’t feel very valuable.  This ideology gets really twisted when we start receiving our worth from what our children accomplish:  “My kid can do a round off, flip/flop, side-spring, and your kid can’t even do a cartwheel.”

When we believe the performance lie, we identify who we are by what we have.  We find ourselves dissatisfied, wishing, “If only…I had that car he drives.” This mentality can land us upside down in debt, a slave to payments for the next 72 months. But, at least you got the cool car you drive to define you instead of being able to give back to God what is His.

When we believe the performance lie, we also gain our identity wrongly from what people think about us.  Remember this, and never forget it:  You are not what you did.  You are not what you do, and you are not what you are going to do.  You are who God says you are.  You have to let that truth settle in your heart.  What people think about you is secondary to this.  And, if you believe this, you’ll lose concern for what people think about you.

As a Christian when asked who are you, how do you answer? You may say, “I’m a carpenter, or a banker, or a lawyer.”  The problem with that answer is that’s not who you are, it’s what you do.  You are this: “…a new creation in Christ.  The old is gone; the new has come.”  You are the beloved of God.  You are a joint heir with Christ.  You are seated in heavenly places.  You are a child of the king.

It’s important that we don’t mix up the ‘who’ and the ‘do.’  Let God define those.

If you are stuck in the performance lie right now, it is easy to find yourself over- committed, over-stressed, and even freaking out.  There’s so much going on, you may be wondering, “Can I keep it up?”

When you believe your worth comes from what you do, you expend too much energy  trying to prove yourself, and you are actually doing more than God wants you to do.  Hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Most people I know would say, “My yoke is hard, and my burden is heavy.”  You know why?  Because, “ I've got to make sure everything looks right so everybody will think we've got it all together!”

Jesus says if you’re yoked with Him and you are doing life with Him, the yoke is easy.  The burden is light.  He will empower you, it will be a joy-filled journey led by His spirit, and if there’s too much going on, perhaps you're doing something God doesn't want you to do.

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