Men these days shoulder expectations that are both exhilarating and soul-crushing.
"I’m grinding when you’re sleeping," tweets one prolific writer and entrepreneur.
“Wake up! No one is going to save you. No one is going to take care of your family or your retirement. No one is going to 'make things' work out for you," exhorts another.
Billionaires who are transforming the way we buy groceries, drive to work, or even go to the moon are extolled as superheroes, the "Iron Men" of our times.
The commitment, passion, focus, and "hustle" they embody can all be good characteristics for a man to develop, especially when compared to sloth, aimlessness, and passivity. However, these same attributes that typically mark one as a "high-performer" can also mask a spiritual drought and simmering dissatisfaction with life. The message of achieving more and more leads to anxiety and burnout.
While you're driving hard, heads down, you may realize only after it's too late that you've just scored for the other team (check out the associated football clip) while playing a game you didn’t sign up for.
Because we have bought into the world's fundamental premise, detecting there's a problem in the first place is especially hard. That problem? The performance-driven mindset draining your soul — slowly, subtly, yet surely.
In a show of His grace, Christ warns of this very risk:
Matthew 16:26 (NLT): And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
But it is this risk which many of us take every single day.
What Would Undermine the Gospel?
If you had to pick a strategy that would defeat the Good News of God’s unmerited grace, what would it be? I would imagine a successful approach would be subtle, widely encouraged, and seemingly virtuous and Godly.
To dangle the lures and rewards of being a high-performer.
Imagine how buying into this promise can affect you:
- Your self-worth would increasingly depend upon your external achievement.
- Imperceptibly, you would slowly begin to evaluate others by their performance and by how much they help you reach your own goals.
- Soon, you may begin to equate your acceptance by God with how well you perform, serve or give.
None of this would be overt or deliberate; but if you were to let enough of the world’s beliefs go by unchecked, subconsciously, these thoughts will take root.
The underlying world belief is the opposite of Christ’s freedom:
Galatians 4:9 (NLT): So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?
In the next session, I’ll talk about what it could look like facing the performance mentality head-on to start being in the world but not of the world.
Most men understand conceptually that righteousness before God is not dependent upon works. At the same time, the world still abides by the rule that, if you don’t perform, you don’t get rewards and praise.
We can’t change those expectations. No one can go to their managers and ask for freedom from performance. No one can build a company without delivering results.
But is that world-view winning over your soul, your self-worth, your deepest priorities, and your most valued relationships?
I hope you'll embark with me on this teaching series: Mighty: Thriving in a High-Performance World Without Losing Your Soul.
In the next devotional, you will learn about what the alternative in Christ looks like.