It’s Not About Your Performance
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Perhaps the most misunderstood story in the New Testament is Mary and Martha’s in Luke 10.
While in Bethany, Jesus and the disciples visit these two sisters. Martha, whose name can be translated as lady, greets her guests with great warmth.
As a capable hostess, she buzzes around the home. … On previous visits to one of his favorite families, [Jesus] likely oohed and aahed over her meals, expressing gratitude for her hard work.
As Martha slices and dices, Mary sits rapt at Jesus’ feet. ...
As an affable hostess, Martha becomes distracted or overoccupied by the tasks at hand. Most likely fuming, she calculates the best way to address the rabbi. …
“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me,” she said (Luke 10:40). ...
“But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41–42).
Martha’s desire to flourish had led to a multivolume to-do list. Rather than answer her many concerns, Jesus whispers her name twice in loving gentleness. He knows Martha better than she knows herself; he loves Martha far better than she loves herself.
Ever so tender, Jesus identifies the core issue behind Martha’s frustration. … [She] has become panicky. …
While some translations suggest Mary favored the “better” part, the original Greek word means “good.” Jesus does not pit Martha against Mary nor compare the two sisters. …
I always read Jesus’ words to Martha as a rebuke for becoming distracted and inattentive, but now I see them as a loving invitation.
Tucked in Jesus’ words is a call to simplify and slow down. “Only a few things are necessary, really only one.”
I always thought Jesus, here, compares Mary to Martha. So often we try to behave like one and not the other. Instead, Jesus doesn’t shame either sister, even though we may be tempted to, but he extends an invitation to abide in him. …
Jesus never appraises us by how we compare, but according to grace.
When I fully abide in Christ, then I am not trying to be like Mary or Martha. I naturally resemble the Messiah.
When this is my goal, I’m in power to quit comparison with others altogether, and I root myself in a liberating truth: What matters is not what I do but what Christ does for and through me.—Margaret Feinberg1
In a world where love and acceptance are so often performance-based privileges, it seems love must be earned … and once earned, it must be kept. Love from the world comes based on your status or what you have to offer. And if you have nothing, you receive nothing.
Because of the conditions placed on the world’s version of love, it can be easy to evaluate our relationship with God based on how well we do. If we can say things are basically under control, we feel good about ourselves. We decide we’ve done enough to come to God’s throne and ask things of Him or enjoy His presence.
But when we look around and see chaos and one mess after another, we decide we must be doing something wrong. We determine God isn’t available to us—or He’s waiting on us to figure it all out before we can approach Him.
God’s love is very different than human love. God isn’t waiting for us to get it right to approach Him. Just as God extended the miraculous birth of His one and only Son, Jesus, to a group of shepherds on a hillside, He extends His gift to you today.
The angels announced. The shepherds responded. And when they went, they met the Savior, Christ the Lord.
Let’s stop trying so hard to impress God, and simply be impressed by Him.
You may have heard this story many times before, but have you responded? Today, let’s exchange our efforts to earn God’s love for the invitation to encounter Him right where we are.
Dear Jesus, I admit that in the rush of the season, I can miss Your miraculous entrance to earth. Forgive me, Lord. Today, I pause from all of my efforts and accept the invitation into Your presence. Refresh me with Your Word and renew my thirst for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen—Katy McCown2
I love you regardless of how well you are performing. Whenever you’re struggling with performance anxiety, bring those feelings to me. … Your mind has already unmasked this robber of peace many times, but the rascal continues to clutch your heart when you let down your guard. …
When feelings of failure weigh you down, look up to Me. Let the light of My Love shine upon you, dispelling the darkness, lifting you closer and closer to Me. The nearer you are to Me, the better you can see My smile of approval. As you bask in this unconditional love, you gain strength to break free from performance anxiety. Even if you slip into old habits again, you can turn back to Me anytime. My unfailing love is always available to restore you, because you belong to Me forever.
My death on the cross for your sins was sufficient to open My door to you permanently. Ever since you trusted Me as Savior, your standing with Me has been eternally secure. So you need not fear that on a day when your performance is below par I might shut the door in your face. With my help you can break out of that narrow enclosure of performance anxiety. I designed you to flourish in the wide-open spaces of My grace and glory, where you are free to celebrate My Presence exuberantly. Stand tall and shout praises to Me, remembering that you are royalty in My kingdom of never-ending life.
I want you to realize how utterly safe you are—in My perfect, persistent Love. You understand that the strength of your love is insufficient to keep you connected to Me. You know you cannot rely on your own faithfulness. That’s why you must depend on My unfailing provision. Love and faithfulness meet together in Me; moreover, through the sacrifice of My blood, righteousness and peace kiss each other.—Jesus3
When everything is about your “performance” and trying to be good enough, that can result in so much pressure, comparing, and introspection. Not only can these things be a waste of time and an emotional drain, but they can undermine your faith, and result in sadness, a kind of spiritual impotence, because you don’t really understand that it’s about My goodness, not yours. Don’t let your walk with Me become part of a works trip that you try to attain to. Realize that you’ll never attain. Do the best you can, and be humble and accept that you’ll fall short, and that’s all right.
Realize that I’m not measuring your faults with a measuring stick. I love you, and every experience you go through in this life is meant to draw you ever closer to Me. If you place your trust in Me as the author and finisher of your faith, you’ll begin to see all the ways I am at work in your life, no matter how well you perform or don’t perform.
Your goodness and worth are not what merit the gift of My unconditional love. Don’t keep trying to be worthy. You’re already worthy because I made you worthy. I gave you My worthiness when I died for you. It’s a done deal. Your part is to believe and strengthen your faith and walk with Me. There’s so much more awaiting you. There are obstacles on the horizon, but these are not worthy to be compared with My glory that will be revealed in you (Romans 8:18).—Jesus
Published on Anchor January 2023. Read by Jon Marc.
1 Margaret Feinberg, Flourish (Worthy, 2016).
3 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).
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