I have served as a coach and trainer of athletes throughout much of my life, so I am well acquainted with the performance treadmill. In many ways, the treadmill is important and valuable. Athletes are measured by their performance; their performance keeps them in the game, and peak performance often leads to victory. The performance treadmill also comes into play in the business world. Run hard—perform well—and you climb the ladder of success; perform poorly and you can find yourself looking for another job.
However, when it comes to our walk with the Lord, we must not confuse “do” with “who.”
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:9)
Jesus came to take us off of the performance treadmill . . . seeking to find our acceptance and approval from God by what we do. We are already accepted in the beloved. We are already approved of by God. And all of this is because of Jesus’ performance, not ours. God required a perfect, unblemished Lamb to be sacrificed, One who would take away the sins of the world. So Jesus came into this world and lived perfectly and sinlessly; He fulfilled the Law of God completely. As He said, He did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it.
His final perfect performance was His death on the cross. And God was so pleased with everything Jesus accomplished in His perfect life and sacrificial death, that God put His stamp of approval over the life and performance of His precious Son by resurrecting Him from the grave.
Think about it for a moment: do you really believe that there is anything our pitiful, sin-filled performance can add to what Jesus has already done on our behalf? Anything at all? When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant what He said! It is all finished; He lived the life we can never live and then went to the cross and paid the debt of sin we could never pay . . . and He paid that debt in full. There is nothing we can add to perfection, so we mustn’t try!
So does that mean we just sit at home on the couch? Heaven forbid it! What our performance does do is witness to the truth that we belong to the group Peter talked about in his inspired epistle—we are part of “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” Our performance flows out of our position in Christ. When we keep that truth in view, we will not confuse “do” with “who” we are in Christ. Whether we perform well or poorly, our standing before God does not change. This truth is what frees us from running on a performance treadmill that seeks to gain acceptance and approval from God. We are free to perform as a result of our salvation, not as way to try to earn it.
Make no mistake, we live in a world where our performance will constantly be measured. And that is a good thing! Hard work is a good thing. Giving maximum effort is a good thing. Getting up early and staying up late to do the job well is a good thing. It brings glory to God and good to others. But when it comes to our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we must get off the performance treadmill, knowing that whether we are having a good day or a bad day, our relationship with our Redeemer never changes.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!