Friday, January 11, 2008

Comparatively Speaking...

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse:
John 3:27, “And John replied, ‘God in heaven appoints each person’s work.’”(NLT)

It is so hard not to compare ourselves with others, isn’t it? The enemy can certainly use it to undermine our confidence in the Lord when we play the comparison game. After all, there will always be someone smarter, someone prettier, someone with more influence, someone who’s richer, someone who has more talent, someone who has better toys, someone who’s more patient, someone who knows more Bible…the list could go on and on. If we continually see how we stack up, we’ll continually see that we don’t.

The disciples of John the Baptist found themselves playing the comparison game, too. In John 3:26, they approach John with this issue: “Teacher, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you said was the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us.”

I find the last two words of their complaint very telling; “to us” indicates a focus on themselves, as if they were being cheated of something because people were now gravitating towards Jesus. It doesn’t sound so much like they were concerned for the people’s benefit as much as their own decline in popularity.

But John knew his role, his purpose in the Father’s will. He responds to his disciples that he never claimed to be the Messiah, and that he was there to “prepare the way for him—that is all” (v. 27-28).

Imagine how his followers felt upon hearing that. The one they’d followed, put their stock and reputation in, was now saying there was someone else more worthy of following! I can just see the factions dividing now! Some remained loyal to John, some washed their hands entirely of the whole business and may have even lost faith, but some took to heart the words of John and began to take on the cause of Christ. From John-ian to Christ-ian—not easy, for sure, but nothing worth having ever is, is it?

John continues in verses 29-30: “The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom’s friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom’s friend, and I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

It’s worth noting that John’s ministry didn’t stop there. People still needed him to point the way to Christ. I can see folks coming to him, talking with him, looking for direction, and John telling them about Jesus.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

We’ve heard the cliché dozens of times—It’s not about us! We agree in theory and claim to believe it, but boy is it easy to get off track. Our ministries become so ingrained in who we are, that we start to think who WE are is what’s driving the ministry. And then because we’re human, comparisons set in. Then insecurity. Then frustration. Then the enemy can have a real field day.

But when we follow John’s example and make pointing the way to Jesus our over-riding goal, does it really matter what “the numbers” look like? If we’ve been faithful in answering a call, and we trust the Lord that He has us there for a reason, then we rejoice over the success of others. It’s all for the extension of the Kingdom, right?

Confession: See, the reason I’m serving up this particular lesson is because it was recently served to me. A woman I met at a conference in ’06 has just had her first book published, and has signed a contract to do two more. This woman was in a peer editing group with me and had never written before. But I encouraged her, gave her some suggestions, and went away happy I met such neat new friend.

But later, when I found out she’d been signed by the same agent who’d expressed no interest in me, I’m sorry to say that I did not rejoice in her success. Jealousy (read: comparison!) set in with a fury. In fact, I threw quite a little fit for a few minutes and had some words with God. I knew it was wrong, but I just had to get it out of my system, ya know? Then, ashamed, I gave it over to Him, asked Him to forgive and correct me, and to accept that He alone appoints each person’s work. That was a year ago.

Girls, when I gave that over to Him, it was permanent and freeing. I am truly happy for her now and blessed that I was able to encourage her and that we’ve kept in touch. She just emailed me last week about her first book signing and now I can’t wait to buy her book because it deals with neck and back pain and how to heal our temples. And you know what’s also cool? She's seeking my advice about blogging! (That cracks me up!)

What a lesson! Less of me and more of Him equals peace, extension of the Kingdom, and blessing. John’s disciples were comparing their ministry to Jesus’ ministry, resulting in selfish concern (I mean, who can stack up to THAT?). I was comparing my writing ministry to my author friend’s, and the immediate result was also selfish concern. But as John encouraged his followers to rejoice in the success of Jesus’ ministry, the Lord encouraged me to do the same with my friend. Not only has He equipped me to do that, but in hearing how frenzied and busy she is right now, I don’t envy her one iota! God knew I’m not ready for that.

John knew his appointment and gladly accepted it. And he compared himself to the only One worthy of comparison. Let’s resolve to do the same—less of us, more of Him.

Father, we ask You to help us be joyful and satisfied in our appointments. We need Your continual help in not comparing ourselves to others and staying focused on You, reflecting Your joy for others’ successes. Decrease us, Lord, so that You may increase. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In what areas of your life do you find yourself making comparisons with others? What has resulted from that? Resolve to turn every comparison over to God. Ask Him to clarify your appointment and to help you keep focused on the path marked out for you.

Power Verses:
Psalm 86:8, “Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.” (NIV)
2 Corinthians 10:12, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”(NIV)
Matthew 3:11, "I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I'm a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He's going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."(MSG)

1 comment:

M. Milbourn said...

good word there Kath-I