The expectations and standards imposed on modern men are both exhilarating and soul-crushing at the same time.
"“I’m grinding when you’re sleeping," tweets one prolific writer and entrepreneur.
“Wake up! No one is going to save you. No one is going to take care of your family or your retirement. No one is going to 'make things' work out for you," exhorts another writer extolling his "10x" rule.
Real-life billionaire entrepreneurs, transforming the way we buy, drive, or go to the moon are extolled as superheroes, the "Iron Men" of our times.
The call for commitment, passion, focus, "hustle" are all good things, especially when compared with sloth, aimlessness, and passivity.
Doing transformative work, being diligent, showing courage and taking purposeful action can be attributes of men who are walking with Christ and giving glory to God.
However, these same surface attributes can be easily hijacked by the world. Your career, your aspirations, even your own internal demons can redirect your strength and your momentum.
Those lures and lies can spin you around and, while you're keeping your head down driving forward, you realize only after it's too late that you've just scored for the other team (check out the associated football clip).
The struggle is real. There's no shame in facing the truth.
But the battle is lost the moment you believe there is no struggle to begin with.
Think of it this way:
Wouldn't a great strategy to defeat the message of sovereign grace cancelling out your innate depravity be to seduce you into the rewards of conforming to the ways of a high-performance world?
To slowly shape how your see your worth through the eyes of others who dangle carrots for leaping higher and higher?
To influence how you evaluate others by how well they perform in the world and how much they help you reach your goals?
To equate your obedience to God and your transformation through Christ with how much you achieve and how well you perform?
This devotional is written for those few brothers who want to tackle the challenge. They are both willing to step into the fray and be the initiators, the pioneers, the leaders, the creators that God has designed them to be.
Yet they also are willing to see the potential dangers of living for performance, when Christ's message has been to free us from performance and its false rewards:
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
The idea for this devotional emerged from reading about Gideon's 300.
According this passage from Judges, God whittled the men who would fight with Gideon from 32,000 to only 300.
The way God picked these 300 men was not based on performance attributes -- how big they were, how many people they've killed, how many battles they have won.
He looked at those whose hearts were not in the battle, who were "afraid and trembling," and let them go. He weeded those who kneeled to the water or lapped like a dog, instead of bringing the water to their lips with their hands, keeping only those who faced their enemies eyes wide open.
But why did God do this?
To remove the temptation that comes with performance, which is to boast the following: "My own power has delivered me."