You know the voices.
I’m doing too much. I need space, air, rest.
I’m not doing enough. I need motivation, discipline, strategy.
We’re flung in circles by this mental merry-go-round until we’re dizzy with life — drunk on contradiction and condemnation. It’s tempting to lean into one voice or the other, or even to step off the ride altogether, abandoning action for the existential.
I can’t do anymore. I’ll just be.
Writing from his house-prison far away, the Apostle Paul celebrates two things about the Colossian church: “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ (Colossians 2:5).”
He rejoices in the doing — the external — the good order of working and walking in the ways of Jesus.
He rejoices in the being — the internal — the firmness of their faith in Christ.
There’s no way around it; we need both doing and being if we’re going to be followers of God. James 1:22 says it plainly: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (The word “deceiving” here happens to be paralogizomai, the “near but not” we discussed in the last post.)
But to stop dancing to the voices in our heads, we must change the way we think about doing and being, uncovering eternal truth underneath them.
And that truth is this: doing too much and not doing enough are both weeds that creep out of a cracked foundation, the false and crippling belief that our doing should produce certain or successful results.
Christians aren’t commended for results.
They are commended for obedience.
God calls us to obey. He never asks us to produce outcomes.
Again and again, God asks His people to act on His word but leave the results up to Him. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Esther, Moses, Jonah, Ruth, David, Hosea, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Christ’s disciples, our Colossians writer Paul. Even in Jesus’ most outcome-centered story, the Parable of the Talents, the servants are commended for their faithfulness, not the amount of return on their investment (Matthew 25:14-30).
Jesus himself said we’re not only not required to produce results, we can’t. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5, emphasis mine).”
And what does it mean to abide in Him? “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10-11, emphasis mine)
This is how your joy can be complete, Jesus says. No more killing yourself to produce results, He says. No more lying awake wondering if it’s going to come right — wondering if fruit will grow, He says. If you abide in me — obey me — the fruit I want to see will always come, because that’s My job, and I cannot fail. The fruit that glorifies My Father will be borne, endlessly and exponentially on the branches that tie themselves into Me (John 15:8).
Fruit is not our joy. Obedience without the pressure of fruit is our joy.
Obedience itself is our outcome.
This is how we balance do and be. This is how we are both captive and liberated at the same time, how we have been “set free from sin and have become slaves of God (Romans 6:22).” This is how his “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light (Matthew 11:30).”
Our doing is to obey, to daily surrender our hours to the will of the Father.
Our being is the firmness of faith in Christ to shoulder all of our life’s results, not just the eternal ones.
This has profound implications on my to-do list, my mothering, my marriage, my ministry. When I get wrapped up in outcomes over obedience, I not only have my work to do, I have the weight and worry of every potential result of that work.
I lurch past obedience into manipulation, trying to manufacture the bar graphs, the heart-change, the fizzy-bubble feelings.
I compare my fruit to the fruit of others, though they did not produce theirs either.
I do too much because I don’t see enough fruit, or I stop doing because my fruit doesn’t taste like I expected it to. I believe I can be filled up by fruit — by results — when Jesus says it’s not grown for me at all, but for the glory of His Father. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
We stop our spinning round and round with truth. Our hands are made to just do the work of simple obedience to Christ. Our hearts are made to rest — just be– not in ourselves or false authenticity or idleness, but in the infinite wisdom and grace of whatever He might do with our faithfulness to His glory.
This is how we measure. This is how we balance.
This is how we walk in good order and firm faith, doing and being for the glory of God.
Read the next post in The Colossians Project.