Results Oriented Thinking (And Why It’s Bad)

It’s not often that I write posts inspired by a gaming podcast (I don’t think I’ve ever done it before),  but the crossover between what I’ve heard on one particular podcast, Limited Resources, and something that was said at church today on my Discipleship Year (by my housemate, Ed, no less), was too obvious to ignore. So here’s the crux of this whole post: don’t fall into the trap of results oriented thinking.

What is results oriented thinking? It’s the idea that your future actions and attitudes are shaped by the results of your current actions, regardless of whether or not those actions were correct. Say you’re playing a strategy game that still has an element of randomness, and you make every decision correctly, but something happens by chance that means you lose (like, you’re winning Monopoly by miles but you happen to land on your opponent’s Mayfair hotel three times in a row). With results oriented thinking, you assume that the way you played must have been wrong, because you lost.

Or the inverse can be true – you could play a game terribly, but win one way or another, so you assume that you must be making the right decisions. The problem is, results oriented thinking is a recipe for disaster, because it prevents you from improving. Obviously, there needs to be some attention to the results, because we normally play games to win, but if you want to win and keep on winning, then results oriented thinking is just going to lead you to a dead end.

So how does this cross over into Christian life? Active Christian faith is all about getting out there and expecting to see God do stuff. In my Christian faith, in the faith that is expressed at the church I go to, we expect to see healings and miracles and to see God changing people’s lives, because we believe that the work of God didn’t stop with the Bible. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that we’re doing something wrong when we don’t see God doing amazing things: results oriented thinking.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve prayed for people to get healed and it hasn’t happened, and the amount of friends that I’ve prayed for who haven’t become Christians. I’m sure the same is true for many other Christians out there.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re doing anything wrong.

Sure, there might be underlying problems, perhaps. If we’re not putting ourselves out there and taking risks, then we probably won’t see God do as much. But it’s so easy to pray for something, not see it happen, and get disheartened. We can then start questioning our faith, and asking if we’re doing something wrong.

That’s the trap of results oriented thinking. We need to get this out of our heads, and replace it with Jesus oriented thinking (forgive the cheese). This is the kind of thinking that says that no matter what happens, I trust that Jesus is in control. Why didn’t that person get healed? I don’t know, but I believe that Jesus knows. Why didn’t my friend become a Christian after that great conversation we had? I don’t know, but I believe that Jesus knows.

We are called to obey Jesus’ commands, not to take Jesus’ place. That means we pray for our friends, we pray for the sick, we tell people about Jesus, but it doesn’t mean that we are responsible for what God does next. You are not responsible for anyone’s salvation. It is not by your power that someone will be healed. Jesus saves people and Jesus heals people. We are asked to be faithful.

Let’s face it, we don’t live in a perfect world. We ask for God’s will to be done, but the simple truth is that we live in a world where it’s not always done. It is not God’s desire that anyone should die without knowing him (1 Timothy 2:4), but it happens. We live in the now and the not yet, where Jesus has come and done all that needs to be done to save us, and millions of people are works in progress, growing closer to God and seeing him do amazing things, but billions of people still don’t know him, and the will dominating their lives is their own. There is still sin and brokenness in the world. It is not perfect.

It is not perfect yet. We have a hope for the future. If Christians should care about any ‘result’, then it is the ultimate result of what Jesus did on the cross – securing a future for ourselves at his side. Don’t build an identity on how many healings you’ve seen, or how many people you lead to Christ. Build your identity on Jesus. Let him be the centre of everything that you do and trust that he has it under control.

Be humble – give all glory to God. If you pray for a broken leg and it doesn’t get healed, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray for the next one. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. You just need to keep on praying. Keep giving it back to God and trust that he knows what he’s doing.

Results oriented thinking in Christian life is a recipe for disaster. It leads to feelings of inadequacy, doubts and a lack of faith. Fix your eyes upon Jesus instead, because the only result that matters is the life that he won for us on the cross.

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