This post is an excerpt from the book God With You at Work by Andy Mason.
Performance and Identity
Performance is intimately connected to identity. If I don’t know who I am or Whose I am, I will perform in order to obtain identity (value). I can only live from rest if I am secure in my identity of knowing that I am a child of God and that He is my source of increase. Typically, people obtain value or identity by what they do. Notice when you meet someone for the first time, the most common question is, “What do you do?” We judge who people are (identity) based on what they do (or don’t do). The harder someone works or the higher ranking the position, the more value society places on the individual. We even establish our salary and pay systems on this basis. In my role as a bank manager, I had performance-based compensation. The more results I achieved, the more I was paid. This is not necessarily bad, but it reinforces an internal culture that my identity is based on what I do.
In a partnership with God, it is different. I get to work from rest, not for rest. I live from identity, not for identity. What I do comes from who I am and Whom I am with. Before I even get out of bed in the morning to start my day’s work, I am already loved, accepted, valued, and significant because I belong to God.
The Original Partnership with God
Look back in the book of Genesis and check out which came first—morning or evening? (See Genesis 1.) God set in place evening first. What do you do in the evening (especially when electricity had yet to be invented)? Not much! The point is, God’s “day” for creation starts with the evening; rest comes first in the day.
Now check out the creation of man on the sixth day (see Genesis 1:24–31). God made us, then declared we were good, then had another evening and morning to bring about the seventh day—when God rested from all his work (see Genesis 2:2, 3).
So what was the first full day of the week for man? That’s right, it was the seventh day—the day of rest. God’s plan was for us to work from rest, live from rest, and start our week with rest and intimate connection with Him. Adam had connection with God and found his identity in that fact before he even had a chance to do anything. When we live from that connection, everything starts to flow with Heaven’s backing.
The same identity stamp of approval was applied to Jesus before He even did a single miracle. Prior to any public ministry, the Father shouted from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matthew 3:17).
And everything Jesus did and said was to reinstate that original partnership of man with God. There was nothing we could do on our own effort to reinstate that relationship or make us right with God. We were saved by grace, not of works, lest any of us should boast. Salvation is a gift (see Ephesians 2:8).
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 NKJV
So, I rest myself into work. I rest myself into the miraculous. I rest by first knowing who I am—Whose I am—and receiving what He has given me. I then get to work from this place of unshakeable identity. Regardless of what happens when I begin to work, my identity is unchanged: I am a child of God; I am a friend of God; I am in partnership with the Creator of the Universe.
My Journey: From Performance to Rest
My own journey of learning to live from rest has taken decades, and it’s not finished! To give some context, I tend towards more of a Type A personality. On the DISC behavioral assessment, I test at 70 percent Dominance, 100 percent Influence, 70 percent Steadiness and 4 percent Conscientiousness. According to Jason Hedge of LaunchableLeadership.com, this means “my performance style is fast paced, active and I’m driven to action in order to influence my environment and those around me.” That means I don’t naturally find it easy to sit still. Work is fun for me.
Add a religious upbringing to all that, and you get performance on steroids. Religion without relationship drives you to attempt to work for something that is a gift. I had the unconscious belief: “If I work hard and perform my best, I will succeed, be accepted and feel good about myself.”
Initially, my external results reinforced my internal performance-based identity. I left school at 17 and did a two-year cadetship on a large training farm in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (with 20 farm cadets, some horses and dogs, 12,000 sheep and 500 cattle). During this time, I won the prize for “Top Junior” and then “Top Academic Senior.”
I went on to university, where I performed to obtain first class honors in agricultural science, specializing in agricultural business management. During my final year, I won a scholarship that led to employment with New Zealand’s leading agricultural consultancy firm at the time.
The consultancy business had what was called a “One Ton Club,” which was recognition for consultants who reached a certain amount of net chargeable fees. I hit this by year three, and my boss was super impressed with my performance; I just needed to “do the time” and acquire a few gray hairs for my influence to grow in the industry.
Not satisfied with waiting around for my influence to grow, I changed occupations to become a relationship manager with New Zealand’s leading agricultural bank. My job was to manage the needs of a portfolio of agricultural and horticultural business clients. Within three years, the portfolio doubled from $50 million to $100 million as the economy was booming. I was also chosen to be a participant in the Kellogg’s Rural Leaders Program that develops emerging agribusiness leaders to help shape the future of New Zealand agribusiness and rural affairs.
On the back of my rising business performance, I was also growing in influence and responsibility in my local church. I was on the board of trustees, led worship, and ran a finance course as well as a men’s discipleship group. I was also doing mission work in Uganda, helping develop microfinance and orphan programs, as well as leadership development in a regional network of churches.
If that’s not enough, at the time my wife and I had three children under the age of five. I married well!
But then things changed. In spite of believing in faith, doing my best and confidently telling my work colleagues a promise that God had spoken about increased business for the year of 2005, I lost one of my biggest clients—a $2 million deal. The next year, I lost a $4 million client. Even though I continued to get performance bonuses and recognition from the bank, I was starting to wake up in the night anxious about the results.
Then in 2007, I lost my largest client ($6 million portfolio). They were purchasing another property and chose to go with a competing bank. I was shocked. It didn’t make sense. This was personal. This client was the training farm on which I had been a cadet. As a consultant for them, I had developed and implemented a government-funded training program that significantly upgraded the previous training. They were my friends! In spite of hearing them say it was just a business decision, it meant more than that to me. I took their decision personally.
My thoughts were going wild. “If God is with me, how can I be losing? How can it be that I am walking in faith and right relationship and working with excellence, yet not performing?”
Cracks were appearing in the foundation of my identity. I was waking up in the night anxious about my performance. Anxiety is evidence of an inferior kingdom. Evidence was being revealed that my identity was based on what I did rather than who I was, or Whose I was.
One evening after about three months of this, as I was getting into bed and again complaining to my wife about my performance woes, she said, “You need to sort this out!”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“You need to get with God and sort out why you are taking this so personally,” she responded. Apparently she had been saying this to me for the last three months, but I’d only just heard it. So I listened to my wife and went back into the living room to “sort it out” with God.
Initially, I just paced the floor and started to tell God all the things that had happened and how I felt so ripped off. “Where were You when these things happened to me?”
The next thing I knew, all this pent-up emotion started to come up from within me and leak out my eye sockets. “What was wrong with me??!!” It was like I was experiencing each of the moments of “loss” again, but this time as I knelt on the floor, I could see the feet of Jesus standing beside me and feel His Presence with me. He was with me! I suddenly had a revelation that He was with me.
The lie I was believing
This exposed the lie that had been hidden under my anxiety. I believed that God is good and is the source of my success, so if I’m not succeeding or performing, God must not be with me. Wow, that sounds really stupid now, but that’s the case with most lies that we believe. The truth is God is with me, period. In spite of being a follower of Jesus for over 20 years, I’d just had the heart revelation that God is WITH ME—it even happens to be one of His names (Emmanuel)!
You cannot fully experience that God is with you until you have the opportunity to experience the opposite. You cannot learn to trust God until you have the opportunity not to. For you to be more than a conqueror (see Romans 8:37), you must have some monumental challenge to overcome. I was coming to terms with this fact that very night!
When I finally got to bed, nothing had changed externally, but I finally had a greater peace inside.
During this time, I was reading John Wooden’s book Wooden on Leadership. He took a University basketball team to national victory ten times in twelve seasons. Everything changes in twelve seasons—the players, the conditions, even the rules. So what John Wooden did was legendary. He understood the principles of performance and success. Yet he made this statement that rocked me: “My value is not based on winning or losing but in knowing I gave my best.”
I had been basing my value from my winning or losing. I was now having a revelation about my identity. My significance, satisfaction and security—my identity and value—come from being with Father God. It is His Presence with me that gives me value.
So do I not care about losing a client or something that doesn’t go to plan? No way! I give my best, period. I expect increase. I expect the miraculous. But I am unmoved. My value is not based on the external results but on my internal connection with my Father, God. As King David said (paraphrased from Psalm 16:8):
I have made my resolve to set my heart continually on Heaven;
because I am continually aware of Your Presence, I WILL NOT BE MOVED.
King David (Psalm 16:8)
My internal shift was so significant that people around me noticed. Within two months, a brand-new role came up at the bank: a regional new business manager. The role involved travelling and leading the region in training and acquiring new business. Would you have promoted the individual in the branch who had lost the most business? Probably not. Yet, God has a sense of humor in that I was given the promotion and new role. Not only that, but in between accepting the role and actually starting the new position, a $10 million deal basically walked into my office. Did I look good or what?!
But no longer was my identity based on the outcome; my identity and value were based on the fact that God was WITH ME.
I am still on a journey of learning to live from rest, but the life I now live is well beyond what I previously experienced. The favor, connections and influence astound me. My expectations for the future continue to increase exponentially compared to what I could have imagined five years ago. But in all the highs and lows of the journey, I’m learning again and again that my significance, my Source and my satisfaction are found in His Presence. When I live from that identity, knowing I am His and He holds me and that I get to live from rest, then literally nothing is impossible!
Activation—The Performance of Rest
- When performance doesn’t go as planned or you are restless, how do you respond? Where do you turn for comfort? What does your response tell you about your identity? What does your response tell you about what you trust the most?
- Ask God what lies you believe about your identity and performance. Offer the lies to Him in exchange for the truth. What truth does He want to say to you about your identity and performance? How much does He want to be involved with you in your business?
- Anxiety is evidence of an inferior kingdom. What is the Father offering or inviting you into instead of fear and anxiety? Make a plan to be more aware of what you do when you feel anxious. What could you do instead? What will you do instead?
- Invite God into a greater measure of partnership with you in your daily work life. Make a plan to protect your rest—your awareness of God with you every moment of the day. How could you practically do this? How could you set aside time? How could you remind yourself?
Andy Mason comes from New Zealand and has 15+ years experience helping individuals and organizations discover and align with purpose, then develop practical steps to make dreams a reality.He has worked for a national consultancy firm and leading financial institution as well as investing in international community development.Andy is the director of Heaven in Business and together with his wife, Janine, leads Dream Culture – a movement catalyzing people to discover and live their dreams. Andy and Janine live with their four children in Redding, CA. For more check out the AndyandJanine.com