- I Am What I Do
- Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, Ephesians 2:10
- Lyndol Loyd November 17, 2019
This morning we are going forward in our series entitled “The Lies We Tell Ourselves.” Today, we are going to talk about an incredibly common lie that way too many of us believe, and that is the lie that we are what we do. It’s the performance mentality lie that our worth comes from what we do. Some of us are plagued with believing that if I perform well, then I’m valuable, and if I don’t perform well, then I’m not valuable.
I had just turned thirty years old when I planted Mountainside UMC in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, and I found myself a victim of believing this lie. If things were going well with our church plant, then it meant that I was doing great. If things were not going well, it meant that I wasn’t doing well at all. My identity wasn’t coming from who I was in Christ. My identity was enmeshed in my job.
The crazy thing is that the people I was surrounded by were experiencing the exact same struggles, but at a different stage of life. Hot Springs Village is a resort/retirement community, so my church was full of people who had done well enough in business that they had been able to retire, in many cases taking early retirement in their 50’s.
I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations I had with people who struggled to know meaning and purpose in their lives because their identities had been wrapped up in their careers, which they no longer had. They had built their dream homes, played multiple rounds of golf each week, and drove expensive cars, but they didn’t know who they were because they had bought into the lie of “I am what I do.”
If you connect with this lie, then you are not alone. You are actually in excellent company. Solomon was like this in the Old Testament. He was the wisest person who ever lived, and you would think he should have figured it out. In Ecclesiastics 2:10, Solomon says, “My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.”
In other words, “Look what I’ve done. I’ve built this great kingdom, and I’ve got all this money, and these buildings, and I’m like, the guy! And this is good.” Then, he said in verse 11, “Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” If we believe the lie, “I am what I do,” then our identity wrongly comes from several places.
I want you to be really honest about some things that chances are, you don’t want to be honest about, and neither do I because sometimes the truth hurts. I am going to raise three different areas and just ask you to admit if your identity wrongly comes from any of these areas. First area, if you’re taking notes, is this. When we believe the performance lie, our identity wrongly comes from what we have accomplished.
For me, it started in grade school. If I got perfect attendance, or the conduct award, or won something in UIL, I felt good about myself. You might say, “Well, I was a letterman,” or, “I won awards,” or whatever it is. “If I accomplish something, I feel good about myself.” In the real world, it is this way, “I was the top producer in my company last month; therefore, I feel valued. I didn’t do that well last month; I feel like a loser. I got a promotion; I feel good. I’ve accomplished this sort of income; I feel good about myself. I have a job that has a lower income; I don’t feel that valuable.” Then, when it gets really sick is when we start receiving our worth from what our children or grandchildren accomplish. If you know anybody like that, you know it sounds something like, “My kid can do a round off, flip-flop back handspring, and your kid can’t even do a cartwheel … ha.” Right? When our children are behaving really well, we feel as though we are a good dad, or a good mom. When they’re screwing up, we think, “My spouse is just a bad parent.” Right? Because if I don’t want to admit it, I feel bad about myself.
Back in the day, parents would put a bumper sticker on their cars that read, “My kid is an honor student.” Remember those? Then there were parents who were mad at those other parents and put up the one that says, “My kid beat up your honor student.”
Be honest, how many of you would say, “I don’t want to admit it, but I wrongly received worth from what I’ve accomplished, from what I do”?
Another area, this is even more difficult for me to admit to, but a lot of us, our identity wrongly comes from is what we have. “Look at the car he drives. Look at her in her car.” Now, this may be difficult to admit to, but so often, we define our worth by things.
We get the nice car, with the leather seat, turn the radio on, put our expensive shades on, “Look at me, even though I financed this for seventy-two months, I’m upside down if I ever try to sell it, but I’m cool.” Right? “Do you know what neighborhood we live in? We live in such and such neighborhood. Have you seen the clothes that I wear? The places we take our kids? The vacations we go on?” It’s hard to admit that some of us wrongly get our identity from what we have. How many of you would say, “I don’t want to admit it, but yeah, it’s true?”
Let’s talk about another area, and that is, our identity wrongly comes from what people think about us. “If I preach a good message, you will say, ‘Good sermon, pastor.’ If I preach a bad message, you’ll walk out and say, ‘Have a good weekend, pastor.’ Oh, I failed and so much identity is wrapped up in that.” My oldest daughter is in her first professional position out of college. One of the things she was sharing with me about the people she works with is that there is almost a competition in her office to be able to say who stays at work the latest. Now being a hard worker is a noble thing. I appreciate having a strong work ethic. But why would you be competitive about who works the latest? It is wrapped up in what people think of me.
How many of you say, “Yeah, I often wrongly get my identity from what people think about me?” Remember this, and never forget it: you are not what you did. You are not what you do, and you are not what you are going to do. You are who God says you are. We have to let that truth settle in our hearts. We are not our performance, or what we accomplish, or what we accumulate, or what others think of us. We are who God says we are.
Now, for those of you who are Christ-followers, who are you? Well, you may say, “I’m a carpenter, or a banker, or a teacher, or a stay-at-home mom, or an executive assistant, or a lawyer.” No, no. That’s what you do.
Who you are is a new creation in Christ. The old is gone; the new has come. You are the beloved of God. You are a joint heir with Christ. You are seated in heavenly places. You are a child of the king. Who are you? You are who God says you are. It’s important that we don’t mix up the who and the do. I don’t want you to think that what you do is not important; it is. Look at Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” God wants us to do the right thing. We are created to do good works, but God prepared, in advance, for us to do what? To do; what we do is important, but the motive in which we do it is even more important.
Hear this, what we do should be a result of who we are. What we do doesn’t define who we are. It is a result of who we are. It doesn’t define who we are. If we think that we are what we do, we end up being human doings instead of human beings, and all of a sudden, we miss the most important point. You are not what you did. You are not what you do. You are not what you are going to do. You are who God says you are, and since God is the author and source of our call, since He is the author and source of our power and our strength, we should let God define some important things about our lives.
Let me tell you right now, those of you that deal with the performance lie, the next few moments could be, and I pray that it will be, life-changing for you. Let the Spirit of God work through my feeble attempt to get these words right. Let God speak to you. Listen to the voice of the Spirit of God and let God define two things for you. The first thing is this: let God define what I call, “The do’s and the don’ts.” Let God define what you will do and let God define what you won’t do. Let God define the do’s and the don’ts.
Why is this so important? For those of you with performance mentality, let me tell you what’s going on in your life. You are overcommitted. You are stressed. You are freaking out. There’s so much going on, you are wondering, “Can I keep it up?” You say, “How do you know that?” The reason I know that is because when you believe your worth comes from what you do, you do too much trying to prove yourself, and you are actually doing more than God wants you to do.
Hear the words of Jesus, Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Some of you don’t know what rest is. He goes on to say this, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Most people I know would say, “My yoke is hard, and my burden is heavy.” You know why? Because, “I’ve got to get to the PTA meeting, and I’ve got to get the house ready for my Bunko Group, because I’ve got to make sure it looks right so everybody will think we’ve got out life together,” and then, “We’ve got to get the kids to soccer, dance, ballet, and karate. And then we’ve got a tournament this weekend, which is on Sunday, so we won’t be able to go to church, which is the Lord’s Day,” but it’s a whole other subject I wish I had the time to deal with, but I’ll save it for another day. “We’ve got the project at work, and we’ve got the project of the home. We’ve got to keep the yard.” Right? “We’ve got to do all these things, and we’re overwhelmed because we’ve got so much to do.”
Jesus says if you’re yoked with Him, if you’re joined with Jesus, and you are doing life with Him, the yoke is easy. The burden is light. He will empower you, it will be a joy-filled journey empowered by His spirit, and if there’s too much going on, you’re doing something God doesn’t want you to do.
Can you see that? Jesus said, “I only do what I see My Father doing.” In other words, “I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone, Myself, or otherwise. I only do what God tells Me to do. God, define the do’s and the don’ts. I’ll do what You call Me to do, and I won’t do the rest.” To really be useful, pleasing, and effective in serving God, to really say, “Yes!” to His best, we have to learn to say, “No!” to the rest. Some of us really need to learn to say no. Be honest, how many of you have a hard time saying no? Raise your hands high.
No, honestly, I have a hard time saying no because I wrongly believe that my worth is based on your opinion, and if I do enough, maybe you’ll like me, and I end up doing so much that I stop doing what God called me to do. Some of you need to learn to say no. I’ll tell you right now, your “no’s” will make some people mad. I say no all the time. I say no to a lot of good things that people want me to do in order to say yes to the best things.
How many of you have a to-do list? I do. Don’t you feel good when you check something off? Yes! Okay, maybe you need what I call a “to-don’t” list. These are the things that I am not going to do anymore. I used to, but not anymore. “God, you define what I do; You define what I don’t do.” I used to think that to be a better leader, I had to do more. I found out that to be a more effective leader, I actually had to do less and do it better. Same with you.
Maybe you need to add something to your “to-don’t” list. In our Life Groups this week, we will talk about what we should add to the “to-don’t” list. So many people I know are so busy, they are missing the main point. Let God define what we do and what we don’t do. Proverbs 20:25 says it this way, “It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly.” “Sure, I’ll do it,” only later to consider his vows. Before you say yes, let God define what you do and what you don’t do.
Thought number one, “Let God define the do’s and the don’ts;” thought number two, “Let God define the when and then.” For those of you that live with the performance mentality lie, “I am what I do,” you have a list a mile long and a trail that goes years behind you of whens/thens. “When I get everything where I want it, then we’ll start living. When I accomplish this goal, then we will start whatever …” When, then. The problem is, for the performance mentality, we have so many when’s, but the then’s rarely come.
James said it this way, James 4:13-14, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” When/then.
Mary and Martha, Luke chapter 10, is a classic example. Mary was living in the then. Martha was living in the when. If you don’t know the story, Martha had Jesus to their house. Mary sat down at the feet of Jesus and enjoyed His presence. Martha was in the kitchen doing what I would have done, and most of you would have been doing as well, making preparations, getting everything ready, getting ticked off that Mary wasn’t helping, so much so, she ratted on her and said, “Jesus, tell her to help out.” In her mind, I can guarantee you what was going on because this is my mindset, “When I get everything in order, when I make all the preparations, when everything is just right, then I’ll get to enjoy Jesus.” Jesus said to her, “Martha, you’re upset and worried about many things. Mary has chosen what is better. It will not be taken away from her.”
How does this play out in everyday life?
- When the kids get older, then we’ll spend time together.
- When we get our career established, then we’ll get married.
- When we get financially where we want to be, then we’ll spend some time with our kids.
- When we get this paid off, then we’ll start to tithe.
- When we get settled down in life, then we’ll start serving at church.
The then never comes. The performance mentality means that there is always another giant to kill, mountain to climb, and task to complete. There is always another goal just around the corner.
Don’t let the things that you think are most important steal from you the things that truly are the most important. For the sake of the one who gave His life for you, pursue the things that are the most important.
You are not what you do. You are not what you did. You are who God says you are, and we must live in that. All that being said, I close out with this scripture from Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”