Another freedom our new identity affords us is freedom from the performance trap. How many of us measure our worth by our performance; or more specifically, by how others react to our performance?
Ryan Kwon writes, in the context of church planting, about the performance trap. “The gospel says, it was through Christ’s performance, not our performance, which makes our adoption possible. So now He accepts us as His own, and that is our primary and supreme identity. The world tells me, ‘I am what I do.’ But the gospel tells me, ‘I do what I am.’ For the Christian, our identity precedes our activity. So our identity is not based on winning, or losing, on a big church, or a small church. God can’t love us any more, and He can’t love us any less. He cannot give us a higher identity than the status of perfection. Through this gospel identity we release our insecurities and our turf wars. As a result, it releases the mission of God into our cities.”
“Our identity precedes our activity.” I like that. We so often get this turned around. We think we earn our identity by our performance. Take, for example, the gift of generosity. We think we earn the label of “generous person” because we give our money away. But in reality, if generosity is one of your gifts, then you already are a generous person because God gave you that gift. Giving money away is not to earn the label, it is the fruit of the gift. Are we splitting hairs here? Does it really matter which came first, the identity or the activity?
I think it does for this reason. When we recognize that our identity is wrapped up in who we are in Christ, we find our joy, our confidence, our self-worth in that new identity. We do not rely on the opinion of others to validate who Christ already says we are. When we find our value in what we accomplish in our activity…our joy, our confidence, and our self-worth are much more fluid being carried on the whims of what we or others think of our performance.
The world says, “I am defined by what I do, by what I have accomplished.” God says, “You do what you do, you accomplish what you do, because of who you already are.” Do you see the distinction? It is not an excuse for laziness or lack of accomplishment. God has given us plenty of good works to do. It is a matter of motivation. Stop seeing success as the key to your identity. Instead, see your identity as the driving force behind doing what you do. And when you do this, you will be set free from the performance trap.