“It turns out that what you really think about Jesus is revealed by what you do after you find out that you don’t have to do anything” – Dallas Willard
In the first installment of this series here we answered the question of whether or not we are called to produce. The conclusion? Abiding in Christ and faithfulness in our sphere of influence are our callings, which can help relieve much of the pressure we feel. But this is only step one.
Step two is determining where the pressure to produce comes from. There is truly only one source.
The root of the problem?
I call it the “push.” The push to do more so that I can be more. In order to sense that I am making a difference and that I have significance I need to write more, post more, be everywhere more, see more results. I validate my calling and even my very existence by my productivity. Let me be clear – doing good work, discerning how to be effective, learning to be a bit more efficient – all of these are good things. But when they spiral out of control it usually is the result of trying to squeeze my identity and sense of calling out of things that were never meant to provide them. Like the old English Proverb of trying to get “blood out of a stone”, we cannot extract what isn’t there to begin with.
Some may say, “Well, really, the pressure I feel comes from all of the expectations other people have of me!”- both legitimate and unrealistic. I am convinced that any external pressure I feel from others is usually the result of their internal pressure projected on me. For example, the oft expressed concern about how many people are attending our services is most likely the result of fear and someone’s own sense of needing to see results. However, like temptation that blossoms into sin, it often finds something to connect with in us. We give it permission, and the pressure builds.
This is nothing new. To be a fallen human being means to carry with us the button that Satan so easily pushed in the heart of our first parents. “You can be more…” was the bait; and we took it. Jesus faced the same fishing expedition on the part of the evil one when He was tempted in the wilderness. The effort to get Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple was the “push” – do more than follow the Father’s plan of simplicity and daily investment in a rag tag bunch of fishermen. Get the agenda going! Make your mark! Validate who you are!
I hold out hope for myself because Jesus, as the Second Adam – my representative – refused!
Discovering and holding on to our sense of identity and calling is no easy feat. If we want to work hard, this is one area that will demand it. But, as always, it begins with the work of God’s grace in our hearts. It begins with the simple but sublime prayer, “Change my heart, O God. Make it ever new!” From there, here are some suggested steps that I have found helpful:
Do a thorough examination of the inner motivations of your heart. Why am I pushed to do more? Take that question at least 5 levels deep before you quit.
Meditate regularly on Scriptures that help you see that the outcomes truly belong to God. Here are a few to begin with: Psalm 1; Matthew 13:1-8, Mark 4: 26-29; 1 Corinthians 3: 1-14
Daily ask the Holy Spirit to remind you that Jesus loves YOU more than what you will ever do FOR Him. Never forget that Jesus died for you, and not your ministry. Let the Gospel wash over you daily.
Create the rhythm of Sabbath rest. This weekly rhythm is probably one of the surest ways to untether ourselves from the idea that productivity defines us, as we rest in the grace and love of the Father.
Pick some companions who will remind you who you are, of who Jesus is, and who ask you “Are you pushing?”
Refuse celebrity, like Jesus! 90% of Jesus earthly life was spent in the obscurity of the ordinary, and the other 10% was only briefly noteworthy from the world’s perspective. Yet He could say that He had accomplished all that the Father gave Him to do at the end.
If you need help unpacking any of these steps, contact us at [email protected]
As you begin to see a change in your understanding, the final question becomes “How do we change the metrics of success in our churches?” Let’s look at that in our final installment of the series.