Meditation–Bearing Fruit: Obedience or Performance?

God has commissioned us to bear fruit on His behalf, to be the shepherds of His flock, the teachers, the helpers, the baptizers, and even the foot washers, if necessary. But unlike men and women who see our outward acts of service as, perhaps, godly and obedient, God sees into our hearts and judges our motive. Are we acting out of graciousness and a desire to contribute — or are we just fulfilling an obligation we made or looking for commendation? The difference is important to God … and should be for us, too.

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Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

“[Jesus] did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” (John 2:25 NIV)


67.Jesus_Welcomes_AllJust imagine: He created the world and everything in it. His greatest creation was mankind, which He made in His own image. Now, He watches with dismay as His creatures, filled with pride, disobey His various commands, all intended to help them live lives of abundance.

Then, in earthly form, He joins His fellow Jews in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, where He performed “miraculous signs” to show His divine nature and saw, in response, that “many people” believed in Him.

But Jesus was not fooled.

In the account that John gives us, we read: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (John 2:24-25 NIV).

While the rest of us are buying into the superficial, Jesus is drilling into the core. While we see the smiles and handshakes, He sees the darkness and doubt.


THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR: God knows our hearts, even though our compatriots are fooled by the veneer we project and often hide behind.

Susan Maycinik presented in Discipleship Journal a comparison chart between “Obedience” and “Performance,” where Obedience meant following God’s plans for our lives and Performance meant the rote carrying out of tasks, mostly to please others or convince them of our holiness.

“The line between obedience and performance can be a blurry one,” she wrote, but we know from reading Scripture, such as the passage from 1 Samuel 16, cited above, that while man sees the outward show, God sees the inner workings. We see the performance; He sees behind the curtain.

In this adaptation of her chart, where do you see yourself?

      • Obedience — Joyfully seeking quiet time with God
        • Performance — Reading a quick devotion to avoid guilt
      • Obedience — Meditating on God’s Word and using it in prayer
        • Performance — Scanning a Bible passage quickly to check it done
      • Obedience — Inviting guests to your home for dinne
        • Performance — Fretting over how well the evening will go
      • Obedience — Following God’s prompting to start a small group
        • Performance —Reluctant to share leadership with anyone in the group
      • Obedience — Doing your best
        • Performance — Wanting to be considered the best
      • Obedience — Saying yes to whatever God asks of you
        • Performance — Saying yes to whatever people ask of you
      • Obedience — Following the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit
        • Performance — Following a list of manmade requirements
      • Obedience — Springs from fear of God
        • Performance — Springs from fear of failure



Many times — more often than I should admit — I cross that thin line between acting with a servant’s heart and acting out of self-righteousnessJ10.JESUS_WASHING_FEETjpeg

Yes, I can tell the difference. When I am acting as Jesus did when He stooped to wash His disciples’ feet, I can feel the love in my heart and the joy of making a difference in someone’s life.

But when I’m busy serving my self, I’m looking for the applause, the acclaim, the recognition, and I lack the joy. I’m focusing, instead, on the sacrifice I made.

The Bible says,

“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!” (Psalm 128:1 ESV)



I want to give my all to the Lord as He calls me into service. I want to do so because He gave His all to me to reclaim me — my life, my future, my eternity — for His own.

That is where you want to be, too.

If you don’t know Him yet as your Savior, please ask Him what He wants of you and then open your heart to His unending love.

If you have done that already, then you know exactly what I mean by saying, “I want to be obedient to the Lord, not to perform for man’s approval.”

68. Holy_Bible_CrossPRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, please forgive me when You’ve called me to a task and I give it half-hearted energy or complain while at task or look for commendation from other men. Lord, You are the One who called me to task, and You are the One who will judge my heart. I owe all to You, my Savior. Thank You for the gift of life. Please lighten my heart as I seek to obey You. In the name of Jesus, Amen


  1. How often do you fulfill an obligation for a good and noble cause and (a) wonder if you’ll get the proper recognition you deserve from the organizers  and fellow volunteers or (b) feel the joy in your heart because you’re helping out where you believe God is calling you?
  2. Do you ever feel like Jesus can see right into your soul, and He knows that you really don’t want to be doing this job right now, even while you’re trying to convince everyone else you do?
  3. Can you fully embrace the instruction Jesus gave us in Matthew 25 when He said that however we treat “the least of these,” those who cannot do for themselves, we’re doing for Him? Does that give you greater joy in the task at hand?

Author: Ward Pimley

Journalist/Author (retired) Evangelical Christian, Politically Conservative. Eager to share God's Message of Salvation and Grace.

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