Mercy Falls Like Rain

Performance Trap (July 17, 2017)

2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Paul is writing this letter while imprisoned in Rome. As history portrays, he had expected to be released but with his circumstances before him, he is now looking forward to his death.  He was alone except for the disciple Luke with him. The books of Timothy were written to encourage, particularly Timothy, his spiritual son. He had invested much time and teaching into Timothy, wanting only to duplicate himself and encourage Timothy to go beyond even what Paul was able to accomplish for Christ.

Remember the Paul before his conversion and love for Christ? He killed many believers and followers of Christ and was certain his actions were exactly what the Heavenly Father wanted of him. Had it not been for the divine intervention and conversion, his life would have continued down the road of murder for the sake of his cause. Paul’s life, conversion and transformation is an extraordinary example of the God of second chances in the way of “mercy.” Was Paul’s performance and character in life without flaw? Absolutely not! That is clear from what we know of his before Christ and after Christ actions. His heart and soul had become tender and submitted to Christ’s leading. Basically, it took Christ speaking to him asking him why he was being a murderer. Paul knew without a doubt it was the voice of Christ. Then the Holy Spirit proceeded to knock him down from his transportaion and the light of Holy Spirit was so bright he was blinded by it for three days. Now that is one way to get someone’s attention that’s killing others. Why do you suppose the Heavenly Father would choose such a man as Paul to lead others to his Son, Christ? Was he worthy? Was his character flawless? Was is performance at his job (as a murderer) well done and appropriate? Was his heart tender and compassionate? If Paul were alive today and you could ask him yourself these questions, his response may be something as follows:

“Absolutely not!! Although, I did exactly what I thought was right. Based on what knowledge I had of God and my destiny, I performed my job well. My zeal to perform well and my mindset of what I thought was right overshadowed Truth. My upbringing, learning and culture influenced me in such a way I was absolutely convinced I was doing the right thing by killing believers of Christ. It took God himself speaking to me, being knocked to the ground and blinded for three days to convince me I was a scoundrel and definitely not doing what the Heavenly Father wanted of me. I knew after that awakening I better get my act together and listen to what the Heavenly Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit wanted instead of being driven by my own zeal, passion and what I thought was right. I knew if I had not heeded that experience and taken it seriously, my life may have ended quicker than necessary.”

Now the above reply of Paul is of course my own impression of what he might say if asked today and it may not be exactly, but it’s probably fairly accurate at least in concept. The trap of performing well in whatever we do and making our performance the security we rest our character, identity and destiny upon is nothing short of dangerous. It was dangerous in Paul’s era and it’s dangerous in today’s society. But we promote the “performance mindset” all the time. Now doing a great job and your best is by far the goal, however the trap we get into is the security of our identity and view of self being based fully on our performance.  This should not be so. Our character is far more important to the Heavenly Father than our performance and our identity is based on what Christ says and thinks about us. Just read the love story of Song of Solomon and you will see this more clearly.

Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 again. Paul states who he is because of what Christ did for him and who Christ says he is. This is apparent when he says “I fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I’ve kept the faith and the crown of righteousness is laid up for me.” So a murderer submitted his life to Christ and allowed his love to lead him, transform his heart attitude, break his mold of performance trap, turn his mindsets upside down, and plant a heart of compassion and tenderness where there was murder and condemnation. We all need a good reality dose to look at ourselves from Christ perspective and ask him to show us where we have allowed “performance to be our anchor, stability, security, identity rather than what Christ perspective and identity is of us. Clearly, from the story of Paul, we will and do make mistakes. There is forgiveness and mercy for us. He does not define us by a wonderful performance or our horrible mistakes. He reads our heart and washes over us with his mercy and love. He is Perfect Love and when you are touched by such a love as Christ, it compels you to do your best because he leads well and you want to please him and be more like him. He does not condemn you when you fall nor say you will never have another chance. Look at Paul! His life of transformation, correction, mercy and love is someone we can learn from.