By Elisha Lawrence
I have some pretty embarrassing stories from my childhood that I can laugh about now, but I wasn’t laughing when I was 11. I loved sports growing up, but I wasn’t a natural. Unlike Allen Iverson, I needed practice. I went to a basketball skills competition in the fifth grade.
At the beginning of the day, all the kids signed in and we went through all these drills. Each drill you got a certain number of points and the kids with the most points were the winners. At the end of the day, all the kids sat in the court together as the winners were announced. There I was with my friends when the guy announcing the winners got to second place in the elementary girls division. He announced, “Second place for elementary girls…Elisha Lawrence.”
The dudes adding the points up thought my name was Elisha, the girl’s name, not Elisha the male prophet from the Bible. As you can imagine, it was a rough day. Not only did I get placed in the girl’s division, but I got second in the girl’s division. That’s what made it a really rough day! There was a girl that was better than me. You better believe I started practicing more after that.
I don’t do a lot of basketball skills competitions as an adult. But since I became a Christian, I somehow end up in all kinds of competitions and I often get second place.
I can be enjoying my time with God and the things he is showing me, but then someone shares an insight I didn’t find. I can be sharing my faith and feeling the pleasure of knowing I’ve walked by faith, but then I hear that a friend led two people to Christ. I can be trying to counsel other guys and help them grow, but then I hear about someone boldly challenging someone to make a big decision. I go from feeling great because I’ve obeyed the Lord to feeling like a failure and like I am not doing enough.
Rather than rejoicing in the gifts that God has given me, I focus on the gifts that others have. Rather than rejoicing in others gifts, I end up envying them. I can’t preach like Trevor, I can’t lovingly confront like Jeremy, I can’t provide wise counsel like Whitney, I can’t work it on the dance floor like Dustin.
Teddy Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Ain’t that the truth. There are times when I am walking with God and I’m obeying Him as best I know how. I am fighting sin in my life. And yet, because I am so worried about how I measure up against other Christians, I am robbed of the joy of fellowship with the Lord.
Paul warned the Corinthian church of a group of false teachers saying, “…But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12). After pointing out the foolishness of comparison with others, Paul adds that he “will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to” him. (2 Cor. 10:13b) Paul understood that every person is designed by God and that each person has an “area of influence” that God assigns. Each Christian has a gift “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:11-12). There are several truths that I forget when I compare myself with other believers.
- The Spirit gives every believer a gift
- He is the one who gives to each one as He decides
- All these gifts are meant to build up a local church together
The best sports teams are the ones that have coaches and players that understand their roles. The Chicago Bulls won three consecutive NBA championships two separate times from 1990-1998. And of course, they had Michael Jordan, the best player of all time. But he couldn’t have done that by himself. He had another top 50 player of all time in Scottie Pippen. He had a hall-of-fame coach in Phil Jackson. In each championship run, there were great rebounders like Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant. There were solid point guards like BJ Armstrong and Ron Harper. And there were great three-point shooters like Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr.
The Bulls were able to accomplish such an amazing feat because they had players willing to fit into specific roles that made the team better. Would the Bulls have been able to accomplish this if Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman decided they should shoot the ball more than Michael Jordan? Or if Michael Jordan shot every time and refused to pass the ball to others? Of course not!
In the same way, each believer is meant to be part of a local church where they serve as one body. A body needs every part. Eyes can’t be jealous of ears. Hands can’t be fighting with feet. The body won’t work. Comparison among Christians makes little sense. There are things that every Christian should be doing: reading Scripture, praying, sharing the gospel, being vulnerable with other believers, fighting sin, etc. But that doesn’t mean that every believer’s life will look the same or should look the same.
My biggest struggle is accepting the gift that God has given me and serving Him while not having envy of others wanting their gifts instead of mine. It’s hard for me to focus my energy on building up the church with what I do have rather than beating myself up that I am not doing it like one of my brothers or sisters in Christ. Instead of experiencing the joy of a body working together to build everyone up, I’m robbed of that joy.
I compare myself with others because I want to see if my life matters. I’m still trying to work my way out of second place. I forget what the gospel story says about me. Jesus doesn’t love me because I can preach great sermons. Jesus doesn’t love me based on the size of my community group. Jesus doesn’t love me based on how many people see me as a spiritual giant. I’m accepted by God based on Jesus resume, not mine. Walking with the Lord and serving Him now are about obedience.
It doesn’t matter if I am the most powerful teacher or counselor. It matters if I am obeying the Lord by the power of His Spirit working in me. If we all focus on obeying the Lord together, then we can be the church that God desires. God has designed the church to be more like a basketball team than a skills competition. That person you are comparing with is on your team. If God uses them, you’re winning…because He is winning. When my greatest delight is God being glorified, I won’t be jealous of another’s success. I’m with Teddy Roosevelt on this one. I want my joy back.
I want to rejoice that people are being blessed by our church, and other churches. I want to rejoice in other’s victories because all of our small victories are actually the Lord’s victories. And when Christ returns, there won’t be a party for me, but for Him. My hope is that Christ will win and that means every Christian wins. And that’s something to be excited about.