“You’re not doing enough!” Ever hear that nagging notion? I have. In fact, I admit that I’m often at battle with a voice that blares: “You’re not productive enough!” “You’re not achieving enough!” and even, “You’re not accomplishing enough for God!”
There’s a great chance that you can relate. As I reveal in my book, Silence Satan: Shutting Down the Enemy’s Attacks, Threats, Lies and Accusations, the greatest fear of people today is living a life that doesn’t make a difference. Today’s generation passionately leads church groups, community organizations and campaign for causes that we believe in. We long to be world changers and life givers. Possibly more than those before us, we believe we were each brought into this life for a radical mission.
The Devil’s Trap
It sounds laudable to be concerned with making a difference in this world. But the tendencies of driven people are to get incredibly frustrated if we feel we’re not making constant headway towards the mission.
Satan wants to set each of us on treadmill of works to wear us down and burn us out.
It’s almost pathetic. I’ve made myself feel guilty for watching TV or laying down for nap, regardless of what I “achieved” that day. I could have preached a sermon or authored an article that impacted thousands, but still a voice will nag: “You COULD be doing more.”
This is the devil’s trap! Satan wants to set each of us on treadmill of works to wear us down and burn us out. While we’re expending so much energy to reach our goals, he moves the proverbial “dangling carrot” further and further into the distance. We become consumed with where we think we need to be, and anything that doesn’t contribute to getting there, such as watching a movie or taking a vacation, is a distraction that we’re made to feel guilty about.
5 Truths to Escape the Treadmill of Works
Thankfully, there’s a way out of the madness. Here are my top 5 go-to truths from God’s Word that I force myself to meditate upon when I realize I’ve slipped back onto the treadmill of works. (Notice that these are truths to remember, not things to do!)
Truth #1: You can never “do” enough.
God sent Jesus to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.
You must accept the reality that you can never “do” enough. And that’s OK! In fact, this is one of the fundamental reasons God sent Jesus. For thousands of years, humanity’s approval before God was based upon upholding a complex set of laws; that is, a whole bunch of “doing.” But the people always fell short.
God sent Jesus to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. And Jesus’ work on our behalf was more than enough—forever. Don’t let the devil convince you that more has to be done.
Truth #2: Your worth isn’t in your work.
It’s crucial that you look to God to define your worth.
Admittedly, this is something I frequently battle. As a child, I didn’t excel athletically, nor did I have much social status, and so, I worked hard to be noticed through other achievements. Now as an adult, I’m predisposed to find my worth in professional success. This is dangerous. So-called success ebbs and flows. And if that’s the basis of your significance, you’ll find yourself always on the pendulum somewhere between extreme highs and extreme lows.
It’s crucial, therefore, that you look to God to define your worth. Here’s truth: You are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 129:13–16) and chosen as His even before creation (Ephesians 1:4). Your worth is that God considers you His friend (John 15:15). Nothing you do will add to the magnitude of that.
Truth #3: It’s OK to be unproductive!
This is a hard truth for me to write. But it’s a fact: God created us to rest.
Hear this: God says it’s OK to take a break!
Early on in humankind’s history, God instituted a law of rest. He knew of the people’s tendency to find identity in their work. This was true especially in the days before Jesus, when works were the basis of one’s acceptance by God. But He instituted the Sabbath to force people to rest. Jesus later revealed, the “Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people” (Mark 2:27, NLT). That is, God knows that we need some down time.
I’m not talking about becoming a sluggard. I doubt anyone reading this struggles with laziness. Rather, this is permission to have completely unproductive moments and not feel guilty about them. Hear this: God says it’s OK to take a break!
Truth #4: You aren’t going to miss out on anything.
God ensures that you’re in the right place, with the right people and at the right time.
Perhaps one of the greatest fears that drives me to overachievement is that I might miss out on my destiny. This might sound silly to some, but the “fear of missing out” is paramount among today’s generation. Many have a compulsive concern that they’ll miss an opportunity, and so, they worry they’re not seizing every moment.
But here’s truth that eases me when I’m in “what-if-miss-out-on-something” mode: “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23, NLT). Remember that it’s God who directs your steps. He ensures that you’re in the right place, with the right people and at the right time. There’s no need to fear that you’ll miss out; you are right where God wants you!
Truth #5: God has a unique plan for you.
God is excited about the unique plan He has for you, and you should be, too!
Every day, through social media, we see the highlight reels of hundreds of our closest friends. On Facebook and Instagram, everyone seems to be living his or her best life now. Of course, what’s presented there is often far from reality. Nonetheless, for driven people, the pressure to compete—even in ministry—can be intense. And so, we feel we must work harder to catch up to our peers.
But God’s plan for each of us is unique. Allow God’s Words to the prophet Jeremiah to transcend time and speak to you today: “I know the plans I have for you … plans for good … to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, emphasis added). It’s crucial to find contentment in the plan God has for you. We each are given grace to do different things, not to copy each other. God is excited about the unique plan He has for you, and you should be, too!
Your Greatest Purpose
We must be careful that our tasks don’t define us. Jesus didn’t die to set us on a treadmill of things to do, as world changing as they may be. First and foremost, He came to restore the relationship with God for which we were primarily created. Check marks on your to-do list don’t determine your value. The number of heads bowed at the altar call doesn’t either. To be God’s friend is His greatest purpose for you! And if you do nothing else, that’s enough.
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