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How the Gospel is a Remedy for our Performance-Driven Culture

Jim Denison | Denison Forum | Updated: Jan 07, 2016

How the Gospel is a Remedy for our Performance-Driven Culture

I hate Twitter. It's a great tool for communicating, but it makes me limit myself to 140 characters. Being a perfectionist, I labor mightily over the best 140 characters to encapsulate the profound thought I think I'm thinking.


Twitter feels my pain. The company has announced that it will soon allow me to write as many as 10,000 characters in a tweet. You'll get the first 140 characters, then have to click and expand to see the rest of my text. But I'll be able to write as much as I want to say. My perfectionism is pleased. 


We evaluate ourselves constantly, because we're constantly being evaluated. Classes are beginning, with tests not far behind. The NFL playoffs start this weekend, with the most intense competition of the season. The People's Choice Awards were last night (I'm glad The Martian won for Favorite Dramatic Movie), just one of many awards shows this time of year. And the political season is heating up, as the candidates tell us why they are better than their competitors. 


In The Preaching Event, John Claypool described his seminary as "a community of grades rather than a community of grace." We've all been to that school, haven't we?


Dr. David Seamands, a missionary and counselor, spent his life ministering to performance-driven people. In Freedom from the Performance Trap, he identified typical symptoms. See if any of these are familiar:


  • A continuous sense of guilt, condemnation, and the judgment and disapproval of God.
  • A sense of worthlessness, with feelings of low self-esteem and recurring inward assaults of self-belittling and even self-despising.
  • A sense of phoniness and unreality, a feeling of being an empty fake.
  • Negative emotions, especially anxiety and anger, which result in irrational fears, smoldering resentments, outbursts of rage, excessive mood swings and depression.
  • Difficulties with interpersonal relationships, especially where intimacy is involved.

Seamands fell prey as well. Shortly before his death in 2006, he admitted a moral failure that began with what he called "the sin of pride." Like him, many in our culture are proud, driven people. 

What's the answer to our problem?


In Psalm 6, David dealt with people he called "my foes" (v. 7), "workers of evil" (v. 8), and "enemies" (v. 10). Did he try harder to impress or defeat them? Here's his wise response: "Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love" (v. 4). "Steadfast love" translates hesed, which means "mercy, kindness, grace." It is the Hebrew equivalent to the Greek agape; both describe God's unconditional love for us.


David asked God to save him "for the sake of" his hesed. He prayed for divine intervention not because he deserved grace, but because he needed it. Not because he had earned God's favor, but because he could not.


With this result: "Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer" (vs. 8–9). Because David asked the God who is love (1 John 4:8) to extend love to him, he knew that the Lord heard and answered his plea.


How performance-driven are you today? As a friend once pointed out to me, you are a human "being," not a human "doing." The God who gave hesed to David offers the same grace to you. Not because you deserve his help, but because you don't. 


Why is that fact good news for you right now?



Publication date: January 7, 2015


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How the Gospel is a Remedy for our Performance-Driven Culture