The Performance Treadmill


In every area of life we are measured by our performance. It starts happening at the very beginning of our life. How soon we sit up, talk, walk, or achieve some other milestone implies something about our abilities, attitudes, and aptitudes. It multiples when we enter school, become involved in some sport or form of the arts. And it keeps on going into any and all areas of employment.


We measure ourselves by our performance.


We must perform in order to achieve success, or a good grade, or a promotion. We must perform well in order to have others think well of us. We step on the performance treadmill in every area of our lives. We also fall prey to believing all we are is our performance. Additionally, we struggle with the reality that our performance in any and all areas varies from day to day so we can become even more driven.


The sad truth is this same habit can bleed into our spiritual lives as well. We rejoice in the grace extended to us at salvation, but falter on the shoals of disappointment because we cannot keep the new standards we now want to live by and the ones too many other believers set for us. We start trying to become a “successful” Christian who performs consistently, never tires, rarely (if ever) falls, delves into every spiritual discipline with fervor, and becomes a great prayer warrior. We believe somehow the Lord will love us more and grant us greater favor or blessings if we perform well.


We have missed what it means to live by grace and grace alone. Too often our discipler, mentor, or small group leader doesn’t mention this topic or spend much time helping us understand it.


We knew (as Jerry Bridges says) that we were spiritually and morally bankrupt when we first came to the Lord. We know our performance cannot gain heaven for us, but we suspect or believe that we can earn more favor or blessings from the Lord by our performance. When that performance falters as it always does, we doubt the Lord’s love for us and the joy of His grace can get eroded bit by bit.


We have lost hold of a foundational truth:


Our debt (past, present, and future) has been paid in full. The Lord does not keep a scorecard on each of us based on our performance to grant or withhold blessings.


Too often we buy into the lie that it is just the opposite. We are set up for that because of all our experiences in life before salvation as well as how our culture esteems success. The enemy also loves it when we do because he has distracted us from the truth. If we stay distracted long enough, he may seduce us into giving up on the Christian life, walk away from fellowship with the body of Christ, dismiss the truth of His Word as not applying to us, and decide we are too unworthy to even utter a prayer.


I wish this statement by Jerry Bridges would be given to every new believer at the point of accepting the Lord:


“Grace does not first rescue us from the penalty of our sins, furnish us with some new spiritual abilities, and then leave us on our own to grow in spiritual maturity.”


We are justified by grace and ultimately glorified by grace when we leave this life to live with Christ. But we forget our life with Him, our Christian life, is also based on grace, not on works.


Grace is the heart of the gospel. But in our efforts to do well, “make the grade”, prove our faith is what we say it is, we can miss the biblical truth of grace.


“Grace is always the same, whether God exercises it in saving us or in dealing with us as believers. In whatever way the Bible defines saving grace, that same definition applies in the arena of living the Christian life day by day.” Jerry Bridges


And that is freedom in Christ…that is what allows us to rest in Him as He walks with us through the progressive work of sanctification. It is what nurtures our relationship with Him and holds us steady in the midst of the storms of life.


It’s all about grace, not only at salvation but also for every minute of every day after that.






20 thoughts on “The Performance Treadmill

  1. Pam, I was having a similar conversation with a friend this morning. It’s so easy to get on that performance treadmill! Thanks for reminding us we need His grace every minute of every day!

  2. Grace for salvation, interesting concept. It is just a state we grow more and more into as a part of salvation which to me is an ongoing process, I always need saving from something. I have been concerned that people abuse their grace, that may be what happens if people accept grace for salvation. I never like treadmills anyway, but we all need grace upon grace.

  3. Hi Pam ~

    The point you made about our leaders don’t emphasis grace enough is superb. Looking back it seemed like there was such an emphasis put on performance i.e. numbers, excelling, succeeding, bigger, faster, higher.

    Thank you for putting the G word on the table. I wonder what our churches, families, workplaces, neighborhoods would look like if we were more liberal in dispensing it, living it, owning it.

    Appreciate this post, appreciate you, friend …


    1. Thanks so much, sweet friend! The book review of Transforming Grace earlier this week got me “on a roll” and my next few posts continue with more about this G word. Guess I thought I would jump in where leaders too often don’t.

      Love and hugs to you!💕

  4. Hi Pam! I read a little essay by Richard Rohr that tried to explain how hard it is to understand how we are all connected in the divine. We keep trying to ‘think’ how that can be true, but really, we can’t ‘think it’ at all. We have to believe and trust and use our spiritual selves to really appreciate how much we are connected to each other and loved by God.

    I think it’s the same with trying to ‘earn’ our salvation. Or earn being considered ‘good’ by God. We are already good! We have the divine in us, and we are loved so dearly. Hard to understand with our heads, but using our spiritual way of connection to God, it makes a lot of sense.

    May we all use our graces to realize how precious we are to him, and to each other! Wonderful post 🙂

    1. Hi Ceil! Thanks for your reflection and comments on this post. Grace is such an incredible gift that God grants us as His children. His righteousness becomes ours from the sacrifice of Christ for us.

      Thanks for your affirmation!!

      Love and hugs to you!

  5. I like the Jerry Bridges quotes and it’s so true that it’s easy to fall into the performance trap. This is a great reminder that grace is not a one-time thing but something we need each day.

  6. Isn’t true (and sad) how fully, and easily, we can accept grace for salvation – but feel we must continue on the performance treadmill in order to live out our faith? I’m wanting to embrace His amazing grace more in 2018!

    1. Yes, it is sad that we can all fall prey to this deception. Prayerfully, we can grow in encouraging each other and speaking the truth about living by grace into our own hearts as well as with those we love.

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